Thursday, August 18, 2005

Havana City Tour

We were picked up from the hotel by our tour guide first thing the next morning and begun our tour of Havana. Spending a couple of hours driving around in the mini bus, gave us a real feel for the size of the city and how the different areas fitted together. Havana is built around a harbour, with the old Colonial part of the city (la Habana Vieja) to the West of the harbour.

One of the things that you’ll notice when you are in Havana, or any other Cuban city for that matter, is the crumbling buildings. These once magnificent Spanish colonial style buildings are now falling apart and propped up with makeshift scaffolding, with paint peeling off of every wall. At the beginning of our tour we drove along tree lined wealthy residential streets, filled with two storey mansions, faded, but beautiful

Our first stop on the tour was Revolution Square. This square has been Cuba’s political-administrative and cultural centre since 1959. In the photo below you can see the Ministry of the Interior Building. The ironwork on the building is of Che Guevara, who was the first Minister of the Interior appointed by Fidel Castro.


Ministry of the Interior Building, Havana


In the next photo you can see the José-Marti Monument, which was completed in 1959 and the 109 metre high column.


Revolution Square, Havana


After a quick wander around in the scorching sunshine we got back on our air conditioned bus and headed towards la Habana Vieja – the old colonial part of the city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This was a beautiful part of the city and many of the buildings have been restored to their original splendor. Despite this fact, the majority of the buildings that I saw in the city were crumbling.

We walked around the colonial part of the city for a couple of hours, taking in the many fantastic Spanish style colonial buildings, grand Plazas and wandering through the cobbled streets, watching people go about their day to day life. The tour guide was very informative and explained a lot about the history and the ways of life of the Cuban people.



Square in Colonial Centre of Havana


In the photo below you can see the Opera house


Opera House, Havana


At around 11.30 our tour guide took us to a bar and recommended that we try a Mojito – a famous Cuban cocktail made from Rum (or Ron as its known in Cuba), Fresh mint and soda. We normally have a no alcohol before noon rule, but decided to make an exception in this case and ordered a Mojito each.


Mojitos in Havana


I was a bit shocked when I saw the huge quantity of Havana Club that the barman poured into my glass and expected it to taste really horrible and strong – but I was wrong. It was a very refreshing drink. I’ll definitely be having one of them again!

In the afternoon we split up from our tour guide and took a wander round the city. We started off trying to find a restaurant for some lunch. I must admit – this was a little difficult. It seemed that all the restaurants were serving the same kind of food e.g. rice, beans and meat. We settled on a restaurant with a little patio outside and had our creole style rice, beans and meat meal. It wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t like to have to eat out here often!

After a wander, the next stop of the day was the Capitolio building.


Capitolio Havana


This magnificent building was built in 1929 and was modelled after the Capitol building in Washington DC. Unfortunately we missed the guided English tours of the building, but went inside for a wander. Below you can see a picture of the dome, looking up from the inside of the building.


Inside the Capitolio Dome, Havana


After our visit to the Capitolio we caught a little yellow “taxi” in the shape of an egg back to the hotel and spent a couple of well earned hours relaxing by the pool.

We taxi-d it back into the centre later in the evening for dinner and again struggled to find a nice restaurant. I don’t know if we were just unlucky at finding decent restaurants or if there actually aren’t very many nice restaurants in Havana. In the end we found a Pizza place, so that kept us happy.

The following day was out final day in Cuba and we made the most of it by taking a trip to the Museum of the Revolution in the morning. The museum is held in the former palace of the dictator Batista and houses various newspaper clippings, photographs and artefacts from the revolution. It was a very interesting museum, but I struggled as the place was boiling hot with no air conditioning and the sun blazing in through all the windows. The photo below is of the museum from the outside.


Museum of the Revolution, Havana


We had intended to visit the Museo del Ron (Museum of Rum), but we were so overheated and dehydrated that we ended up going back to the hotel for a swim and chilled out for a while in preparation for our long flight home later that day.

Amazingly for the first time on our trip, the Cubana flight was on time. We had a couple of final cocktails at the hotel, then left Havana for the cool climate of Scotland.

Overall I’ve had a fantastic holiday. It’s been good to spend most of it relaxing and recharging my batteries at Playa Pesquero, but I’m also glad that I spent 3 days in Havana and saw the real Cuba.

If you have any questions about the hotels that I stayed in or the places that I visited feel free to post a question below and I’ll try my best to answer it.

You can also read more Reviews of Attractions in Havana on Tripadvisor

7 Comments:

Blogger Cuba-Junky said...

Hi,

I will tell you about the quantity of Rum in your Cuba Libre ...
Officialy the Cuba Libre is the drink which was "developed" after the Spanish-American war in 1898.
Because America won that war they decided to make a drink that both countries connect, kind of bond between the 2 countries Cuba and America. 50% America (Coca Cola) en 50% Rum (Cuba)

:)
Ciao
CJ
www.cuba-junky.com

5:35 AM  
Blogger big al said...

The building occupied today by the Museo de la Revolucion was formerly known before 1959 as the Presidential Palace, not Batista's palace.
Batista and all former Cuban presidents had their office there.
Dictator Fidel Castro ( he was never elected to office in a free and democratic election as we known them in Britain or the US ) installed his office at the former Palace of Justice building which houses today the Council of State offices.

All the buildings at the Plaza de la Revolucion, known before 1959 as the Plaza Civica were built under the Batista regime.

From an architectural perspective they are ugly, boxy edifices with no grace or style.

Mussolini built the same kind of buildings in Italy ( and other countries like Albania, which Italy occupied before and during World War II ). You find this kind of buildings also in Buenos Aires, Argentina, built during the late 1940s, 1950s Peron era.

I've heard the term " fascist architecture " when referring to the style.

I don't know if it is an accurately used term, but considering that fascism was a form of government which had no beauty in itself, I am not surprised that a phrase " fascist-style architecture" is used to describe the style you see at the government plaza in Havana.

In his farewell Catholic Mass in Havana during Pope John Paul II's 1998 visit to Cuba he referred to the plaza as the Plaza de Jose Marti, Cuba's most admired patriot.

Once Fidel dies and change comes to Cuba I think Plaza de Jose Marti would be the appropiate name for the plaza.

It will be a symbolic and complete break with the Cuba before and after 1959 which could pave the way for a new Cuba neither right or left wing, but tolerant, free and democratic like the United Kingdom is today.

Cheers,
al
Bedford, Texas

6:20 PM  
Blogger Björn said...

Nice Blog with wounderful pictures about Cuba. Perhaps you are interested to watch my pictures of Cuba (2007): Cuba Fotos

6:36 PM  
Blogger Fiesta senor said...

Hey ! the important thing in your Cuba libre is the quantities. Go to my blog and tell me that u think and enjoy the mojito recipe too !!

http://cubanadrinks.blogspot.com

4:10 AM  
Blogger Björn said...

Havana is one of the most beutiful cities I ever visited. Nowhere you will find more historical buildings than in Havana. Perhaps somebody is interest in watching my Pictures from a Cuba trip in 2007.

3:01 AM  
Blogger Feanor's Curse said...

Hi, that's a nice article about Havana! I recently visited Cuba myself and wrote my view of it. It's true, so many building are just falling apart :-/. I'd wish they had the means to fix this, but unfortunately I think this will continue for quite some time. Still, Havana is a beautiful city and has many things to offer, as we can see on your pictures. Did you go up the José-Marti Monument? You really have a nice view of the city there. But I wished they had glass floors up there, that would have been an amazing view ;).

Regards,
Daniel

12:49 PM  
Blogger C. Vaughan said...

I read about Havana at this site: http://www.havana-guide.com and would love to visit there someday. Your pictures make it look so beautiful!

Carla

8:36 PM  

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