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July 3rd 2018
Published: July 22nd 2018
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Tuesday 3 July Day 5: Havana

We left Vinales about 9.00am after more failed attempts to access money but we were (almost) convinced that all would be OK with the ATMs back in Havana. We return to Havana driving through to beautiful western Cuban mountainous countryside before driving over the plains. We got to Havana at about 1.00pm where we did an hour walking tour with our guide Dany. We visited Plaza San Fransisco, Vieja and de Armas as well as Cathedral Square. For several of plazas, it was our second visit, but it was better hearing the history of the Plazas. We even saw a food-ration outlet where people still go to get their basic requirements at a very low price. This ensures everyone receives the essential food requirements.

During the Old Town walking tour, Tom tried the ATM and fantastic (!) it worked. We were delighted and planned to ensure we drew our enough cash for the rest of our time outside of Havana so that we didn’t have to rely on ATMS in rural Cuba. I said to everyone that I was pleased that we didn’t have to go find a job!!!!!

The bus driver dropped off at the previous hotel we stayed in before we went out west and then we had to walk for 10 minutes to our original Hotel D’Osbe as the street was too narrow for the bus. Dany was lovely and carried my backpack. I was travelling with 13.5kgs so it was pretty good.

After settling into our room that we stayed in for the 1st 2 nights in Havana, Tom & I went to the bar next door and watched a soccer match between England & Colombia. I was going for Colombia, just because I was going to visit the country on this trip!!! We didn’t stay to the end but later in the afternoon we popped into Sloppy Joe bar and the score was 1 all. We ate empanadas and spicy paddies over a couple of beers and coffee.

We then went back to the hotel wo get ready for our final dinner with this group. There were plenty of restaurant and bar options to celebrate this last night with our guide and Dany chose a place called El Rum Rum which was a bar and restaurant. We had our own room which was nice. The food was reasonable, and I finished the night with a chocolate mouse and Tom an Irish coffee.

While at the restaurant a guitarist, bongo drum & maraca players entertained us with some Spanish music. They were ‘seniors’ but the guitarist zipped his fingers over the strings like a 20 year old. We gave them some CUC for their entertainment.

We left the restaurant and said our goodbyes to Danny and 2 of the young Americans as they were staying in a different hotel. The 5 of us walked up our 1 ½ flights of stairs to our rooms.

Wednesday 4 July:

We had agreed to meet the others for an 8.30am breakfast. We had really enjoyed travelling with Lisa & Toby from NZ and Tracy from USA, so it was like saying goodbye to our new ‘family’. The New Zealanders were off to Italy for 2 month and Tracy was going back to work!!

Tom & I decided to catch the other Hop-on-Hop-off bus (T3 5 CUC) which went to the northern beached as well as the fortress on the other side of the peninsular. We got off at the last stop at Santa Maria and 2 other beaches. It was very hot, but the colour of the water was incredibly blue, warm and very clear. Ahh the Caribbean beaches! The sand was also white, but not as white as in Florida. We had some BBQ corn cobs and shared a tub of chocolate ice cream made by Nestle in Cuba.

We then caught H-on-H-off bus to the San Carlos De La Cabana Fortress. It was a massive site and in excellent condition. We paid 6CUC each and spent 2 hours there. A huge tropical storm hit us as we arrived on site so there was plenty of shelter for us. Thunder and lightening and a short shower with big spots of rain resulted. We looked around, walking along the ramparts and past 100s of garrison quarters as well as many, many cannons and cannon balls. At 9.00pm each night a cannon is blasted for the tourist. The view of Havana city was spectacular. The was the Norwegian Sun ship in port, a ship we saw in Vancouver as we were hopping onto our ship to go up the Inside Passage to Alaska.

We then hopped back on the bus to go back to Havana. We went through the tunnel which joins the 2 sides of the peninsular. Just as we were getting off the bus the rain started to pelt down. It was a typical tropical storm. We ducked into Parque Central Hotel, found a table, ordered coffee and sat and listened to a beautiful pianist for an hour or 2 while it poured with rain outside. After cheese cake, then later a local Christal beer, we caught to elevator up to the top floor where we found a pool and another spectacular view of the Parque Central where the bus had dropped us. The photos will tell you what we saw. It was impressive.

The wifi wouldn’t work in the hotel so after we finished there we went to Hotel Inglaterra where it did work – on and off!!!! Wifi has only been in the country for 2 years so it is VERY unstable – frustrating!

Dinner that night was at an Italian restaurant, but we broke one of our rules. We entered a restaurant that didn’t have any other person in it. This always tells a story, and yes, the food wasn’t exciting. After dinner we went for a long walk, sometimes around back street to see the locals living style. We have noticed a lot of people smoking, and not only cigars. We went from music out let to music outlet. Cubans love their music. Each of the parks had many people sitting on the bench chair, many of them accessing the wifi spots. The evening was beautiful and balmy, so it was very pleasant.

Thursday 5 June.

We me a couple from Sydney at breakfast, who were living in Canada on a teacher exchange. They were travelling with Intrepid and were bussing it around the eastern part of Cuba whereas we were flying to Baracoa and driving back to Havana.

Checking with the communications office we found a SIM card was no more efficient for phone calls than through a wifi card and it cost 3CUC per day to hire a card. So we decided to continue to persevere with the wifi cards.

It was then onto a tourist information centre, first in Obispo Street and then onto one in Hotel Saville. We got information about how to get to Hemmingway’s home. Our choices were to go by taxi (50CUC) or try the local bus at 0.05CUC. As we like to try all the different types of transport and had been in an old 1950s car taxi, we decided on a local bus. Catching the T7 from near the Capitol building, we drove 40kms with the locals to San Franciscode Paula, a village outside the skirts of Havana. This took 40 minutes stopping to let the locals on and off. The bus played local music all the time. Fortunately, there was no smoking on busses so that was good. However, there was no air conditioning either!!!

We were told where to get off the bus by showing a young man our note written in Spanish which the tourist lady had given us. As we found out later, we ended up entering the back way. A security officer took our 5CUC x 2 and took us the back way to the home. We learned that the security guy had pocketed the 10CUC. Good luck to him. We had got in which was the main thing.

First, we saw the fishing boat the Pillar, which Hemmingway used. He loved hunting in Africa and there were animal heads on each wall in the palatial home. The photos will do a better job in showing what we saw rather than me explaining it, but we could only see through the windows and doors which were all open but blocked off. Hemmingway enjoyed cockfighting as well, so he was very much a ‘man’s man’.

We learned he had committed suicide. Perhaps we should now read the history of him. We visited the café in the grounds, but they had no diet drinks for Tom, so we left. It was a bit early for a beer.

When we arrived back into the city around 1.30pm we visited Parque Hotel which was becoming our favourite hotel to sit in. We enjoyed an icy cold beer, chicken salad, coffee and Tom had a chocolate slice with ice cream. It was then time to go back to our hotel to pick up another map which would remind us where next we should go.

The Natural History Museum was next on the list with its stuffed animals from all over the world. The Australia – New Guinea animals looked very sad, particularly the koala and kangaroo. There was staged maps of the movement of the world’s land mass as well as the stages of development of the homo sapiens. We missed the meaning of some of the exhibition as there was no English used.

That night we walked down to the waterfront to listen to the 9.00pm canon being blasted from Fortalez de San Carlos de la Cabana which happens every night. The evening temperature was beautiful with a lovely breeze.

15 DAY ORIGINAL CUBA TOUR – Travelling with Cuba Adventures

Friday 6 July Day 1: Havana

We were going to meet our new travel group at 6.00pm this evening, so we decided to catch the local bus again (because we were now pros at it!!!!!) to Plaza de la Revolution and the Colon Cemetery which we had driven past.

We found out the P12 bus was the one to catch. We probably should have go off at stop number 3 but only had a 10 minute walk back to Revolution Square. Again, the bus was packed with people, but not as much as when we returned to the city. We were crammed in so much that the door could only just close.

President Jose Marti was certainly the main feature of the museum which was in the base of the Tower. He was the President of Cuba in the late 1800s and was known for improvements to Cuba’s health, education and economy. All the interpretive signs were in Spanish, so we relied on the multiple photos which told us about the development of Havana and Cuba. The Jose Marti Monument was built in 1961. The museum showed 1000s of people attending the launch of the memorial.

The view from top of the tower was spectacular as was the air conditioning. We were drenched by the time we visited the Tower. It didn’t take us too long to cool down. The tower was made of beautiful marble and much of the inside walls were covered in mosaic tiles. There was a large conference room and smaller rooms, one of which was staging a musical recital which was lovely to listen to.

After a quick expresso coffee, we headed to the Colon Cemetery. Wow, that was massive and after paying 5CUC each as entrance fee, we only covered a small portion of the area. Because of the extensive Catholic population there were 100s of family crypts with incredible decorative religious statues. In the centre of the cemetery was a circular church for the funeral services.

We then visited the nearby village and had coffee and ice cream.

At 6.00pm that night we met Camillo our new guide, and Jessica from USA. David from Sydney (ex-Lebanon) had not arrived until later that night. The 4 of us went to the next door restaurant for drinks and dinner after Camillo gave us a briefing of our trip and what to expect. We learned that the flight to Baracoa had been overbooked or cancelled (not sure which was correct) and we were going to do the trip in reverse. This meant we would fly from Baracoa back to Havana and drive overland from Havana to Baracoa. It didn’t make to much difference except we were not going to visit the Bay of Pigs.

Additional photos below
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22nd July 2018

Wonderful trip.
Love seeing all your photos and following your travels east and west from Havana. A beautiful place Cuba, loved seeing the villages and caves and of course Havana itself, with the cigars ,Spanish influences, cemetery and cars. Keep cool in those hotels, look forward to reading more, love Sue and Dave. Xx
23rd July 2018

Thanks so much Sue. Great to hear from you.

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