aka Havana, Cuba
31.01.2015 - 03.02.2015
When in Cuba, call this city Habana, the Spanish spelling and pronunciation.
However you call it, I think you will like it. I did. In fact if I were ever to return to Cuba, this is where I would probably spend my time with a couple of side trips to the nearby countryside.
Habana city is it's own province - one of 14 in this island nation. The province is comprised of various municipalities, much like any metropolitan area in the USA you can't necessarily tell where one area begins and the other ends. Building architecture and age are a good clue - along with a good street map.
Of course, 1950s American cars are what everyone associates with Cuba. The best and the most are in Habana.
For +/- 75 CUCs (more about the currency in another posting), you can hire one to drive you around the city for an hour +/-.
Habana has some of my favorite things:
For example, The Museum of Fine Arts
and the home and farm of Ernest Hemingway
Unfortunately, the Museum of the Revolution was not on our agenda.
I did get to watch the guards march off their shift.
This was special- a children's troupe was performing in the art museum. All the Cuban parents and grandparents were gathered around with their phone cameras and video cameras just like in the USA.
Every restaurant and hotel has performances. You can even get a night club review at the Tropicana or National Hotel.
Clubs abound and there are free, impromptu, or organized concerts and dances in the public plazas.
The Buddy Bear exhibit has contributions from countries around the world. I checked for some countries I have visited.
Then, I looked for the one representing the United States.
When I couldn't find it my reaction was to huff and think "Of course, we would not provide one to be displayed in Cuba."
Surprise! As I wandered backwards through the alphabet, there it was next to Ethiopia. Of course! This is Cuba and my country is Estados Unidas!
Necropolis Cristobol Colon A Cemetery:
If you want to skip the escorted tour that is still required out of the US and fly direct from Canada or Mexico to Habana on your own, you would be able to find your way around Habana. Everyone you meet will be helpful and friendly. Many will speak enough English to help you find what you want. Get a hotel or particular reservation before you leave. Buy a Lonely Planet guidebook and go - You will need a visa, but don't apply through the US. Check with a Canadian travel (not tour) agency.
Of course, there are dozens of government-authorized tours from the USA to Habana. However, the US is still pretty strict about making the tourists stick with the guide. The Road Scholar program allows you to sign a waiver on any day of your tour indicating you don't want to participate in the activities. We also had two free-time afternoons and evenings and every night after dinner was free time.
However, Cuba doesn't care if you wander around on your own. In the past, Fidel was against this intermingling. Currently, you are embraced by almost everyone on the street.
I had no fear walking around alone, taking a taxi, or traveling around in small groups without a guide. Use some common sense, of course, but it seemed to me the "danger" opportunities were fewer than in any European big city tourist or back street area.
To see more pictures from Habana, click on my travel map. Enlarge it to see the Havana link. Click on that and the photos linked to Havana should display in the gallery.