Cuba - Summer, 2012

Monday - Outbound and arrival

Our flight to Havana was with Virgin.

We had an easy bag drop (having checked in online beforehand and arranged bulkhead seats as Ryan had broken a collarbone a week or so earlier.

Virgin Atlantic 747-400 to Havana

It was a pleasant flight on a Boeing 747-400.

The first thing we noticed on arrival was the heat. It was very hot on arrival, but not especially humid. Customs was a bit slow, but incident free.

Reception at the Sevilla

After a short bus ride, we reached our first stop, the Hotel Sevilla. The hotel had loads of character, it was built by the American Mafia and featured many famous (and some infamous - Al Capone, for example) people in photos on wall in the reception area.

Bar at the Sevilla

Our rooms were quite small and without views, but comfortable. I slept really well after quick stroll locally around hotel and dinner in a restaurant, not much more than someone’s front room, on the Prado.

Hotel Sevilla

Tuesday - Havana

We were up fairly early and enjoyed a good buffet breakfast in the hotel's restaurant.

A less glamourous part of Havana

Our first stop was for a 'welcome meeting' at the Parc Centro Hotel, where we enjoyed views over the city from 8th floor pool.

Kids cool off in the Parc Centro's rooftop pool

Street view from roof, lots of 50's cars everywhere

After that, we took the 5 CUC all day, open top bus to Marti Memorial at the Plaza de la Revolucion. A guide showed us around and filled in our sketchy (at best) knowledge of Marti (a hero of the war of independence, from the Spanish). At the top of the tower we witnessed Turkey Vultures swooping around and roosting on outcrops.

Mandy and Ryan on opentop bus

Jose Marti Memorial

Kids at Marti Memorial

Another hero of Cuba

We hopped back aboard the Bus and it took us around many of the city’s residential areas. At the end of the route (we went the wrong way and had to return back the same way, but it was no real hardship), we saw a hotel we were to have stayed in, which was miles from the city centre (and devoid of character) - We made a good choice to swap!

Mark and Lauren on the bus.

Capitola building (based on US Capitol Building)

We got off the bus near the Real Fuerza fort and enjoyed tasty fried chicken in a waterfront cafe for about 3 each.

Canal splitting Havana from coast to Veradero

Real Fuerza fort on edge of Havana old town

After lunch we toured the fort, which lies on the edge of the old town and then walked through the Obispa back to our hotel.

Entry to the fort

View of canal and Cabana Fort from Real Fuerza

Dinner that evening was in an open air, garden restaurant close to the seafront on the Prado. We had very good food and it was quite affordable in cool and pleasant surroundings.

Relaxing after dinner

Ryan and Mark relax in the Sevilla's lovely pool

Wednesday - Havana

After breakfast, we walked past the Capitola building and a yard full of rusting trains (one being craned in or out) into the ‘Chinatown’ district. This proved to be pretty disappointing (There are, it seems, no Chinese people in Cuba these days!) and then we walked back out into the old town, passing lovely building and little plazas and gradually down to the sea front to find the craft market in an old shed by the sea.

Exploring the old town

Capitola again

Yard full of old trains in centre of town - A museum in the making?

Entrance to disappointing 'Chinatown' area

Scene inside one building, possibly a school?

Jose Marti born here

This was mostly tourist stuff (T-Shirts, Straw hats, carved horn ornaments, hundreds of humidors) but Lauren wanted a painting so we bought one of those, some were very good and we saw a few people with paintings (some quite large) at airport.

We ate lunch here where there was a little breeze from the harbour.

Lauren enjoys iced coconut

From there, we took, a rather expensive (but still less than a tenner), taxi under the canal to the Cabana fort

Our first ride in a 50's taxi.

This was the most basic taxi we traveled in - Note no roof trim!

We walked around for some time, stopping in a small cafe where an elderly man was hand rolling cigars - Turned out he holds the world record for the longest cigar ever - The Cigar, certificate and photos were there to prove it - He even had an eerily real waxworks of himself in the shop (either that or he’d embalmed his twin brother!).

Havana from the Cabana (hey, I'm a poet!)

I sense a crisis...

We saw Missles from the famous ‘crisis’ period and walked down to the end of the fort, looking back across to the city.

Forts abound here.

Our trips to and from the castle were in old 50s cars. These were very numerous, even in the countryside, the first was a borderline wreck with no interior trim except the seats (clearly not original)! The Return trip much more comfortable (and half the price - although it was much closer).

More of the Fort

Tunnel to Fort at end of canal

We ate dinner in a small cafe with mostly locals, just around the corner from our hotel and walked down to the sea front, which was full of locals enjoying themselves by the sea as people do everywhere.

Cannons defending approach to Havana

A rest after a long hot day

Got ‘tricked’ into buying a couple of rounds of very expensive drinks in a bar with a Cuban guy and his very pregnant wife.

Our Cuban friends got us to buy them some very expensive drinks, but only by Cuban standards

Still, they were entertaining and friendly and we had a laugh (and Lauren a dance), so the 30 I paid wasn’t too painful for 10 drinks.

Read more about our trip to Cuba