Day 2 – La Habana (Havana)

16 Mar

Where can you get a good night sleep, a cold shower and a breakfast consisting of strawberry custard, chocolate custard, vanilla custard and deep fried pork, hot dog and water, with crocodile and lobster shaped bread? The Hotel Plaza of course.

With the breakfast terrace on the fifth floor, but stairs only up to the fourth floor, everyone was guaranteed a guilt free escape in the lift after polishing off their section of the banquet. The fruit juice vending machine looking promising but every option dispensed water.

Following a leisurely breakfast we meet as a group of 18 for the first time when Ernesto briefed us on the important things in life.  And some not so important as well.  The brief introductions went well over my head and I think I remembered one extra name.

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Pre revolution cars

We then started a tour of Havana, starting on the bus to see two of the three main areas.  We finished with a walking tour of Havana Viejo, the old town.

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Revolution Square

The most modern areas from the 20th century were mostly uninspiring blocks,  some with a distinct Russian influence.  Functional yet depressing.  The older areas were undergoing a project of renovation, due to last until 2050, to bring then back to their Spanish colonial grandeur.

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Fortifications looking towards old Havana

Fortifications were apparent and we took a trip under the water (tunnel) to visit one of the three forts. Old canons pointed ready for the attacking Americans pirates.  Great views to appreciate how Havana has expanded over time.

We visited the hotel where Ernest Hemmingway stayed and took the stairs to the sixth floor for a mojito. Really should find out who he was.  He only met Fidel Castro once.  Totally starving but we were due at another place for the lobster.

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Hemmingway's favourite hotel

Everywhere we went we were tapped for a peso here and a peso there – for a photo taken, peanuts, a charicature thrust into our hands or just for looking foreign. All official of course.

Sweating buckets of course. Not quite adapted to the 27 degrees yet.  Must be hotter not in the shade. I don’t plan on being there much!

Following a lunch of lobster, fish and some very nice shrimps we headed our own ways to explore.  Charles and I decided to try the museum of the revolution.  But it had closed at 4pm.

After a few winks and a much needed shower I met up with Myck to have a quick drink in Sloppy Joes before meeting Charles to head to the Malecon.

It was a long walk and the seafront was a bit more alive than we had seen it this morning from the bus.  The sunset was due about 7:30pm and as usual when promised something spectacular, it just set. The walk allowed us to see a bit more of the crumbling buildings and some canoodling couples, but it was also full of fishermen, families and one brave swimmer.

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Old buildings on the Malcecon

We reached 23rd street and the National Hotel – built in the 1930s but realised that the ice cream shop would be closed.  So we tried to hail an old car taxi back. None passed.  We lowered our standards and tried for any taxi.  A lada taxi stopped and refused to take us to our destination. I wasn’t sweating that much, honest. We settled for a three seat yellow bubble taxi with a nice driver who tried to avoid as many potholes as possible and dogs with a death wish lying on the 6 lane road. And other cars, who didn’t notice us.

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In the bubble taxi with Myck and Charles

We ended up back in Sloppy Joes for some food.  Delivered in Cuban time.  I think they grew the potatoes freshly. Joined by two other couples Sadie and John from North Yorkshire and the Welsh couple – Jan & Rob I think.

Not party animals, so a 10pm night.

Probably needed as a long drive and early start tomorrow.

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2 Responses to “Day 2 – La Habana (Havana)”

  1. Simon Stewart March 30, 2015 at 8:02 pm #

    I would pay good money for 27 degrees Celsius right now. Well I would if I were back among the employed.

    Those cars – is that really a fairly normal sight over there?

    • tonymochan March 30, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

      Certainly is. Went for a ride in one on the last day. Not in the best condition though.

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