Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Day One in Havana, Cuba

This is my first post here in Havana, Cuba and I'm doing it from the bar at a quite fancy hotel, the Saratoga. Wifi is only available in public spaces in Cuba, either a large hotel or a public park. We paid $10 for one hour access. Our flight only took an hour from Cancun yesterday arriving at 1 pm. Our Casa Particular, Casa Carmen, arranged for someone to pick us up and that was included in the rooms rate - $73 per night for a large bedroom, private bath and breakfast. Carmen is a charming woman who lives with her mother and son in a two floor apartment only blocks from the Capitol Building in old Havana. It's very central to lots of the sights. Carmen speaks only Spanish but employs a family friend in Miami, Leif, who does all the organizing through Airbnb - so this was easy to arrange ahead of time. Scott speaks quite good Spanish and I limp along so we've had fun getting to know Carmen and her family. Our first afternoon we walked around for hours, stopping twice for a drink and to listen to music. Then we met a fun young man who does tours with a flashy red Thunderbird convertible and he convinced us to take a one hour tour of Havana at sunset. What fun!!! He dropped us off a very good Cuban restaurant, D'Lirios on the Paseo del Prada, that he and Carmen had recommended (separately) where we enjoyed a typical dinner - good not great, although the ambiance was terrific.
Our room is in the center of the building, no windows, but it was very quiet at night. This morning Carmen made us a big breakfast and we spent a lot of time talking to Liam, a very interesting young man from Toronto who is staying there as well. Today we hope to buy tickets for a dance performance at the ornate State Theater and then manage the public bus to buy tickets at the main Bus Station to Viñales for Saturday. We'll spend one night out at this lovely rural valley with friends of Carmen and then return to Havana.
The Casa Particular we are staying in, Casa
Carmen - the middle two floors.

The next street over - mostly residential

The Capitol Building, under renovation

Hotel Saratoga where we can get wifi - and
where I'm posting this blog entry.

Scott pauses in one of the lovely porticos that line
some of the streets.

The National Theater - we hope to get tickets to a dance
performance this morning.

Walking around our first afternoon, we enjoyed this live
performance in the park, as did a class of young students.

Antique cars are everywhere in Havana and
they are so beautiful.

As is a stop at cafe for a rum and a cervesa -
Bucanero, very appropriate.

Wifi is either available in some of the larger hotels or in
public parks and spaces. You know where it is as everyone
is on their phone or computer.

This is the huge line for the public bus - the cost is only
I love this memorial to a Revolutionary Hero that also
protects a beautiful old tree.
In the park we saw several "counselors" available that appeared
to be practicing voodoo. You can tell this person is not
of the Santaria faith as she isn't all in white.
Very typical residential building.
We stopped for another drink and listened to this excellent
Cuban jazz band and bought their CD.
Then took a one hour tour in a 1954 Thunderbird around
the city with a very personable young guide, Moses.
We had to have our picture taken of course
In several views.
OK this was our third drink (and last) with
dinner at a Cuban restaurant that our host
Carmen recommended. It was a very fancy
The view from the balcony of our Casa Carmen
Carmen's mother in the living room. She appears to spend the
day watching television. There are three state channels and
one is soap operas, game shows and music. Another shows
mainly baseball but also soccer. And then there is a Spanish
language channel from Orlando, Florida.
There is the very steep narrow staircase leading
up to our Casa. Then another one inside it
 leads to 4 guest rooms with baths. My
fireman grandfather would have been horrified!
This is the only exit.

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