We started out on the Wednesday by going to Plaza De Revelucion. This is a huge tower with a giant statue of Jose Marti in front. Marti was an early advocate of Cuban independance in the late 19th Century and despite being killed in an attempted revolt he is best remembered for his poetry. There are busts of him everywhere.
Next it was on to the Malecon in a coco taxi. The Malecon is a seaside drive leading into Havana from the West. From here you can lookout slightly to the right into the Atlantic Ocean or left for the 90 miles to Miami. A coco taxi is a little motorbike with a 3 seater bench behind it and the whole thing is encased in an open egg-shaped fibreglass shell.
Then we arrived at an Artist market, this place was amazing as there were many stalls selling paintings in a variety of spanish orientated styles, most of which had heavy Picasso influences but with a Cuban twist. The rest of the stalls were taken up with the usual schmonzas (Spanish for bric-a-brac).
The Market fronts an area called Habana Vieja (4.5 square km; pop. 105000) which is colloquially defined by the limits of the early colonial settlement that lay within fortified walls. What a find. The architecture was amazing as were the vibes one gets strolling around this ancient part of the city, very much alive teeming with locals who seem to spend most of their time sitting in doorways watching the world go by.
Also indicative of the area are the beatiful plazas surrounded by wonderful Spanish buildings which are in a variety of states from dishevelled to fully restored. As we left the area we found a great restaurant called the Hanoi which we remembered was mentioned in the Lonely Planet so we returned there that evening for dinner. They had a fantastic trio playing Cuban music and we were served a fantastic meal.
On the subject of music, I have to tell you it’s everywhere. Doesn’t matter where you go somebody somewhere will be playing bongos or guitars or trumpet ….we even had a guide play stalactites while we were exploring a cave! And it is wonderful…it is what gives this country vibrance….the music and the fact that everyone is always dancing, whether sitting in the street or in line at the bank…they are always dancing. I often get the feeling I am watching Buena Vista Social Club again it is very much like that…I am not disappointed at all.
Of course the other things Havana is known for is cigars, rum and hookers. I can tell you the Rum & cigars are first class and very cheap a review on the hookers will be in another blog:)
We finished the evening by going to a nightclub where a small floor show preceeded a 14 piece band playing rumba until about 2:00am.
Needless to say Thursday was a slightly slower pace with a sleep in and then a tour of the old fortress across the river. Later Adam & Deb went to the Muso De Revolucion (they have lots of *** De Revolucion) while I went to the Hotel Saratoga to use their internet and do some work. Later I met them at the Hotel Integrata which had a rockin’combo playing in the sidewalk terrace where you can sit and cool off with a mojito (rum, lime juice & mint leaves).
As this was our last night in Havana and it was Rosa’s birthday (the lady who ran the casa where we were staying) we took her out for dinner in Chinatown. It looked like Chinatown, it smelled like Chinatown….only thing was there were no Chinese and the food was suspiciously Cuban…oh well rice & beans by any other name….
The Friday was spent travelling by coach to Vinales in the west of the island….that report coming soon.