Today was a busy, busy day. All 35,000 steps worth.
After some morning coffee and chatting with another guest at our casa particular (and found out how lucky we were because it took them four hours to clear immigration, customs and get their bags), we started out in La Habana Vieja, strolling through street after street appreciating the fading colors from another era that is disappearing by the minute — this time not by decay, but by renovations all over the area. While the “new” is something that is much needed, it’s a bit sad that the “old” is going away. For those of us not born in that era, it’s an opportunity to go back in time and see it before our very own eyes.
Some great spots include the Taller Experimental de Grafica, which is an artisan shop where you can see art being created, as well as take classes. Another would be La Factoria Habana, featuring artworks by Cuban artists. The creativity is alive and well here.
We then walked along the Malecón over to Centro Habana into the neighborhoods to see Cuban life in action. Then it was looking for architecture frozen in time like the Edificio FOCSA and the Habana Libre hotel. The latter was originally the Hilton Havana until the revolution, when Castro took over the building and he had occupied the top floor of the building.
A short walk after that and we were on La Línea, which is the boulevard that begins the Vedado neighborhood. One of the pieces of architecture I wanted to see was the Teatro Mella, which was the Teatro Rodi before the revolution. This art deco venue is still in operation. Diagonally across the street is the Teatro Trianon.
From there we were back on the Malecón for the sunset near the Hotel Riviera. This is a must-see in Havana. It’s another reason to love this beautiful city like no other.
Practical information: while walking around we were approached by a few Cubans. After some small talk, some pushed restaurants, others rum and cigars, and another “didn’t have anymore water” so he asked for 1 CUC. The latter was quite “lucky” as we actually had water so we shared some… then he thanked us and walked away. It’s good to talk and smile and just say “no, thank you” and move on. No one was pushy. We’ve also had a woman and child smile saying hello in passing.
On Internet access, I was able to buy the scratch cards from the national telecom company’s service booth outside of tourist areas for 2 CUCs each. Normally you’d have to stand in line if you’re in touristy areas, or just buy one from a peddler for 3. Once purchased you just need to find a WiFi hotspot — they’re quite easy to find as you’ll see many people on their phones, especially in the evenings. Just connect to WiFi, put in your user name and password, and you’re online. Make sure you do log out by going to 126.96.36.199 in your browser, otherwise the hour you had just purchased will continue to count down til it reaches zero.
But if you can live without the Internet for a couple of days, it’s been okay for us as we’ve used only 15 minutes so far. We bought three of the access cards (for three hours of access) just in case we needed them, or if we accidentally forgot to logout.
More to come tomorrow!