Day 24, Havana: Strolling around in Habana Vieja, surrounded by colourful houses and cars, museums and Cuban rhythms.
It is my second whole day in Havana and while writing this I am sitting at the 6th floor rooftop terrace bar at Hotel Ambos Mundos, sipping a Virgin Piña Colada and admiring the panoramic view over the city. This is a hotel where Hemingway used to stay, after I finish I will go take a look at his room. The Piña Colada really comes inside a piña and here’s some pictures of the view:
Before writing about anything else, my breakfast this morning was wonderful! Tea, hot milk, bread, butter, guava juice and a selection of fruits (pineapple, banana, guava and papaya).
And this is the view from our balcony:
I’ve heard that the central Havana is actually quite small and can be divided in three areas: Habana Vieja, Centro Habana and Vedado. Habana Vieja is the historical part of the city, whereas most of the locals live in Centro Habana. Vedado is said to be the center of hotels, restaurants and active nightlife. My casa particular is in Habana Vieja so I have started with exploring this part of the city. I went to Plaza Vieja and Plaza Armas. I saw the cathedral San Cristobal de La Habana and I walked on the famous streets Calle Mercaderes and Calle Obispo. As some of you know, my sense of orientation is the worst ever (almost inexistent) but luckily Havana is built in a very simple way, in rectangular blocks like in the US. Y from my casa explained that the only thing to know is how to read the addresses. For example, I live at 553 calle Habana, entre calle Amargura y calle Brasil. The number is not really important, when someone gives me an address of a restaurant or bar for example, they write first down the name of the street and then the names of the two opposite streets between which the place is. So you always have three coordinates to locate a place and you never find yourself being at the wrong end of a long street. Very easy to orientate!
Habana Vieja is called historical for a reason: there is a museum at every corner of the street (not only arts but also Museo de la Farmacia, Museo de Navegacíon, Museo de Transporte Automotor, Museo del Ron, Museo de Bomberos...) and each building is an architectural wonder. I love taking pictures on the streets because everything is so colourful. And the cars, got to love them!
Even if the area is rather small there are also dozens of parks and plazas where to sit and listen to musicians play. Exactly what I did at Plaza de Simon Bolívar, and (no surprise) a man named Y, playing guitar, came to sit next to me. He was actually very nice and since I figured it wouldn’t hurt to practice Spanish, I let him take me for a walk around the quartier. We walked for a couple of hours, back and forth the narrow streets of Habana Vieja and he also took me to the seaside where the famous promenade Malecón starts. Besides the beautiful Habana Vieja that I discovered with him (I am now a lot less lost in this neighborhood than what I was yesterday morning) I already learnt many things about the Cuban culture. For example:
About Cuban guys that I shouldn’t trust. My guidebook warns in every chapter about “jinatero/as”, men or woman who trick money from tourists. I am always very protective over my handbag and other belongings but I know that I’m a bit naïve and I easily accept to talk to people on the street. So yesterday, first time walking around, a local guy came to talk to me and wanted to show me a place which was kind of a cultural center or something, it is called Casa Rosalia Castro. So I followed him there and yes it was an impressive and beautiful colonial building, with a nice open-air bar and a band playing traditional music. So we sat there and had drinks and of course when it was time to pay he just looked at me and said that he didn’t have money. So I had to pay for his drink and he didn’t even thank me. It was only 4 CUC (almost as much in euros) but I still found it very annoying. And after the drink he just left so he was clearly (luckily) not interested in spending any more time with me. I have to be more careful from now on so that I don’t get mislead into paying something more expensive.
However, I returned this evening to Casa Rosalia Castro to listen to a Buena Vista Social Club concert which I liked a lot. There were very good musicians, especially one lady who had been performing for more than 80 years (so she must be close to 100 years old!) and still had an amazing voice.
I'm Emilia, Finnish-Parisian, a recent Master's graduate. I'm currently traveling around the Caribbean and on a volunteering mission in Colombia. I'm passionate about writing, music and different kinds of sports. I can't wait to discover new places and cultures - and share my adventures with you!