A Travellerspoint blog

Habana

aka Havana, Cuba

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 +/-.
Chevy BelAir

Chevy BelAir


Habana has some of my favorite things:
Museums:
For example, The Museum of Fine Arts
Museo Reflections

Museo Reflections


and the home and farm of Ernest Hemingway
The Bano of EH

The Bano of EH


The Boat of the Old Man

The Boat of the Old Man


In the Cabana of Ernest H

In the Cabana of Ernest H


Unfortunately, the Museum of the Revolution was not on our agenda.
Museo de Revolucion

Museo de Revolucion


I did get to watch the guards march off their shift.
Hup Dos Tres

Hup Dos Tres


Music
Dance Performance

Dance Performance


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.
La Musica a El Palacio de Artesenia

La Musica a El Palacio de Artesenia


Public Art:
Modern Art 2 in Viejo Habana

Modern Art 2 in Viejo Habana


Pancho Along the Path

Pancho Along the Path


The Buddy Bear exhibit has contributions from countries around the world. I checked for some countries I have visited.
Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan


Cuba Buddy Bear

Cuba Buddy Bear


Then, I looked for the one representing the United States.
No US between Uruguay and Venezuela

No US between Uruguay and Venezuela


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!
Estados Unidos Of Course

Estados Unidos Of Course


A seashore:
Sunday Fishing on the Malecon

Sunday Fishing on the Malecon


Fishing or Fleeing

Fishing or Fleeing


Necropolis Cristobol Colon A Cemetery:
Funeral Walk for Policeman

Funeral Walk for Policeman

Funeral Taxi

Funeral Taxi


Tomb of Amelia Goyri

Tomb of Amelia Goyri


Good Restaurants:
Restaurant I Was Not Expecting

Restaurant I Was Not Expecting


Excellent Habana Restaurante

Excellent Habana Restaurante


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.
Typical Street

Typical 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.
You Could Take a Cruise

You Could Take a Cruise


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.

Posted by pscotterly 14:55 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

My "Firsts"

Things I saw for the First Time in Cuba

My First View of Habana

My First View of Habana


My First Che

My First Che


My First Cuban Guide

My First Cuban Guide


My First Red Convertible

My First Red Convertible

My First Pink Convertible in Habana

My First Pink Convertible in Habana


My First Cuban Mojito

My First Cuban Mojito


My First Hotel Room in Cuba

My First Hotel Room in Cuba


My First Cuban Flower

My First Cuban Flower

My First Local Artist

My First Local Artist


My First Cuban Palador

My First Cuban Palador


A palador is a privately-owned restaurant instead of a government-owned restaurant. These have been allowed only for about the last ten years.
My First Cuban Starter

My First Cuban Starter

My First Cuban Piscado

My First Cuban Piscado


My First View of the Malecon from My Window

My First View of the Malecon from My Window


The malecon is a broad roadway following the coastline. All Cuban towns on the coast have a street they refer to as the malecon although it might also have another official name.
My First Cuban Musicians

My First Cuban Musicians

Posted by pscotterly 14:42 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

Getting to Cuba

Getting out of Miami

For two years, I have been thinking about and researching travel in Cuba.
Finally, about six months ago, I signed up for a Road Scholar tour. Although as a rule I am a solo traveler, I thought I would not be successful at finding local resources and friends if I went alone.
I squeezed my eyes tight and clicked the button to confirm a group tour.
I really wanted to go someplace where the US government did not want me to go.
Then just two weeks before my tour started, Obama announced actions to lift the Cuban embargo. Now, my excursion seemed even more like something old, middle-class Americans were supposed to do instead of something one would do to show "the government" how futile their policies are.

Only slightly daunted by this journey being an Authorized Tour, I made my way to the DoubleTree Miami Airport Convention Center.
By the way, they charge $7 a day for parking. If you stay one night at the La Quinta North - and maybe even the East or West, you can park for free while you travel out of the Miami airport. The rooms sure aren't as nice as the DoubleTree, but you can decide which is best for your budget.

I have never stayed near the glitz of beautiful Miami. This is only the third time I have traveled out of/into Miami on trips to other places. I guess that is why I am not a Miami fan - traffic, poor restaurants, consturction - yuk! But this time I did get a real good mani-pedi in the strip mall next to the La Quinta North!

As of now, Americans can still only visit Cuba if part of an officially sanctioned, people-to-people tour. Road Scholar encourages you to pack donations for some of the schools and community centers we visited. Because of the embargo, many basic items are scarce and expensive throughout Cuba. For example, school supplies, over-the-counter medicines, flash drives are requested.
Our tour spend the first night at the DoubleTree. I had left my car back at the La Quinta, so I walked over two miles to a store to buy 40 pounds and $50 worth of art and school supplies for the Cuban children.
Fortunately, a public bus came along that went by the DoubleTree.

During our orientation, I learned we were responsible for bringing the donations into Cuba. I guess I didn't read the literature closely enough because I thought Road Scholar guides handled that. We were only allowed 44 pounds of luggage total, and I already had 30 pounds of personal luggage. I didn't care how much any cute little kids needed art supplies, I wasn't going to pay almost $100 to get some paper and markers to Cuba.
I found some others with light luggage and we distributed the pens, etc among us. I left the paper with a porter at the DoubleTree who said he knew several employees who had children who would enjoy the paper.

A few people said, "I don't see what the big deal is about paying a couple of dollars more." However, none of them offered to carry the paper for me.
However, that might have been because it was 3 AM and none of us were too sharp.
Does This Look Like a Fun Group or What

Does This Look Like a Fun Group or What


3 AM Depart to Miami Airport

3 AM Depart to Miami Airport


Waiting for the Cubana Special

Waiting for the Cubana Special


When we got to the airport, I saw what was meant by taking goods and donations into Cuba.
Shrink Wrap All Your

Shrink Wrap All Your


Every day, hundreds of Cubans visit family laden with everything from art paper to watches, flat screens to tools on frequent flights to Havana and Santiago.
Por la Famalia

Por la Famalia


Even with the $2 per pound charge, the Walmart purchases were what folks needed and could pay for in Cuba.
Foot by Foot Hour by Hour

Foot by Foot Hour by Hour

$2 per Pound Over 44

$2 per Pound Over 44


Our Cuban-American guide said the first time she went to visit her aunts, uncles, and cousins her luggage bill was over $300.
2 More Hours til Flight Time

2 More Hours til Flight Time


Although many griped about getting to the airport at 4 AM for a 9 AM flight, it was more efficient to get through the line early than to scramble with all the shrink-wrapped push carts.
This was definitely a time when I realized the benefit of a tour. They took care of all our luggage and weight all our carry-ons collectively and then let us walk through security smoothly. One of the few times I did not throw a hissy fit with a TSA agent.

Posted by pscotterly 19:41 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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