Sunday, March 19, 2017

Por Fin, Habana!!

7 February 2017

Habana!! (In Spanish, Havana is Habana, just check the band on your cigar or that bottle of Habanero sauce in the fridge.) For ten days Jim, José and Juan Antonio had guided us through the highways and byways of Cuba, now we come to the main event as it were, Habana. The big city, a world class capital and we are to have lots of free time. How will we manage? That thought briefly crosses my mind as we approach the city before I remember that we have navigated major cities around the world on our own. It will be fine.

And it is. The bus pulls into the car park just off Cathedral Square in Old Havana where we will begin our exploration of the city. But first lunch. Throughout the trip logistics surrounding meals have been a constant, so we get off the bus, troup across the car park to La Moneda Cubana a paladar just off Cathedral Square. This is definitely a tourist destination which means that the food is OK, but not up to the standards of the best Cuba has to offer, but it is touristy-charming and a pleasant introduction to Habana.
Our first look at Habana up close

The entry to La Moneda Cubana

Always music

From there we were set free to explore Cathedral Square, which in the 18th century was the last of Old Havana’s four central plazas to have been developed, but it’s most central and most spectacular.

After lunch our first free ramble through the city

The cathedral, La Cathedral de la Virgen María de la Concepcion Inmaculada de la Habana, a fine example of Spanish baroque

a restrained stripe of the baroque

La Casa de Don Luís Chacón, now the Museum of Colonial Art, the oldest and to my eye the loveliest building on the plaza

I was hot to see this gallery of experimental art

For you pen folk, as close to Waterman as I got

wonderful piece of street sculpture

paid to be colorful for the tourists

Then we got back on the bus to head out to the Colon Cemetery. By this time, having toured a couple of Cuban cemeteries, we knew what to expect, sort of. But this cemetery was even moreso.

these mausoleums were built to showcase the wealth and taste of  Cuba's principal families

some showcasing the art deco

As we were touring one of the shrines, Jim pulled me to the side saying "I want you to see something" Throughout the the trip whenever  José was leading us through the usual sights Jim wandered. This time he found this, which he had never seen before. His question was whether I was aware of Cuban involvement in Vietnam. I was not. But when I got back to the hotel I was able to look it up. (We had free and reasonably fast wi-wi at the Nacional.) As it turns out Cuba sent a token contingent to fight in socialist solidarity in support of the North in Vietnam

After that, a brief encounter with Cuba’s cars and we headed for our hotel. 
We've already done cars, so just two of my faves.

Originally we had been scheduled to stay at the Habana Libre, but, as we were warned, things change in Cuba and at the beginning of the trip we were informed that, instead, our hotel would be The Hotel Nacional. A cheer went up. Most of us knew the Nacional, and over trhe next few days that hotel fully lived up to its billing as Cuba’s premier hotel.

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