Havana Times

In slow motion I could see the small boy run across the road to his family on the other side. The family screamed out as a classic 1950s Cuban taxi screeched to a halt, just in time. The small boy ran into the arms of his dad, who promptly told him off. The taxi driver slumped his head into his hands and then onto the steering wheel. Not because he was hurt, he was just relieved. I could see he gave himself the church cross, before he paused some more, and drove off. It wouldn’t be good for his career as a taxi driver in Havana if he ran over a tourist and especially a child. I crossed the road and promptly told off my son, as well.

Havana reminded me of Paris, although a little more crumbly and dusty. We had just come from a week’s holiday in Paris with the sister and parents in-laws. Like Paris, Havana was full of wonder and things to photograph. Everywhere I looked was another photo I had to take. So much was so different to home and I wanted to take a piece of it home with me. I’d love to be able to upload more of my photos to Instagram to share the beauty of Havana, but like Paris, internet data is sketchy in Cuba. Our Casa Particular Casa Colonial yadilis y Joel (home stay) isn’t authorised to allow Internet access to it’s guests. It’s now Wednesday 27th June.

I’ve been taking photos on my Olympus XZ-1 plus the iPhone. The latter iDevice I will be uploading photos to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Just in case you wanted to know.

Nigel and I have been accustomed to taking early morning walks in Paris, so it goes without saying as the kids are up early they come too. What we didn’t budget on was that as soon as the kids started walking hunger hits them. Suffice to say, a few stray snacks found in the depths of my bag abated their hunger till breakfast was served back at our Casa Particular. Today had a wonderful walk and found the Museum of the Revolution with a collection of tanks and military jeeps. We will try and visit that when it’s opened in a few days. We were surprised to see old canons used as bollards. It looks like a Spanish thing, which given the Cuba’s history does not surprise me.

We loved walking down the Malecon which is a long esplanade on Havana’s waters edge and very popular with tourists and locals. We will come back for a sunset one day. Along the Malecon are a collection of buildings in so many states of decay. Many have been roped off that I hope are destined for renovation. The Cuban government knows they have the making for an European style restaurant and hotel strip on the waters edge. There is already a number of large buildings already under renovation and I suspect they will be hotels. I wonder though how different the Malecon will be in 10 years.

One of the noticeable things for me are the 1950s style buildings that are in various states of use or not. It shouldn’t surprise me given that the classic cars of the 1940-50s are everywhere. Seeing the 1950s buildings and cars together I have these visions of a 1950s classic American hamburger joint where the waitresses roller skate out to cars parked with food and drink on a tray. Lots of neon lights and music blaring from the speakers. I’ve blogged about the Buildings of Cuba.

The first smell Matthew smelt in Cuba was watermelon. I smelt the cigars. There is also this damp mildew and bottle gas smell at times too. The drive into Havana city from the airport Havana reminded me of North Queensland with a touch of Darwin.

Yes there are a lot of buildings in rubble. Lots of plants growing out of the buildings nooks. A lot of dust but also a lot of character.

Today we visited the four plaza’s in old Havana and they are full of quaintness, charm and tourists. Many bars and establishments are cashing in on being one of the favourates of Ernest Hemingway. In Plaza Vieja we visited the Camara Oscura a 360 degree camera that sits in a 35m tall tower and reflects on a dish below the live view of Havana. The guide gave in Spanish and English an explanation of all of the buildings in view. One of the largest buildings in Havana is Capitolio Nacional which has a similar style dome to the US White House and is holding the library of science and technology but is currently being renovated.

It was from our tour guide at the Castillo de la Real Fuerza (fort) and maritime museum where we heard about the Spanish influence on Cuba. Apparently Cuba didn’t have gold or other valuable minerals like South America but mahogany wood. So many of the Spanish fleet in the 1600-1700s were built here. The Fort itself was built in the 1500s. The kids were engrossed, it had guns and stuff.

We were taken by a local jinteros couple for an expensive drinks round (50 CUC = $AU50) plus purchased powered milk (26 CUC) for their kids. At first I wasn’t aware about the milk till my husband mentioned it when drinks round two came out. I then knew we were caught. I had read all the swindles in my Cuban research so I should have been prepared. But these two ‘seemed’ sincere plus we were travelling with our kids, would they really swindle us? When I realised we were caught, I looked at our waitress but she avoided my eye contact. Eva the female of the couple played dominoes with one son but looked bored. Luis played disappearing coin tricks with my other son. Nigel almost fell off his chair when the bill arrived. We paid, smiled and said our goodbyes. Lunch later that day at a really ‘nice’ restaurant and for 43CUC where we ate seafood, chicken, salad, bread and drinks. So that shows you the swindle a little more. Doh!

We were a Cuban day wiser the next day.

To view a larger picture and photo gallery, click on any image below.

10 responses to “Havana Times

  1. Pingback: Eating in Cuba | Croissants & Cigars·

  2. Wow Corinne, what an awesome time you are all having. I just love your commentary, the details, i can picture you guys there from your descriptions, without even looking at the photos. I am so proud of you for sacrificing and taking your boys on the trip of a lifetime.

  3. Whew! Glad Matty or Damo made it across the road.
    The photos are great and it sounds fascinating and very different. Do you feel conspicuous as a tourist? And are the kids asking lots of questions you can’t answer? (“Why is there a tank there? Why is that building falling down?” etc etc

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