Havana, Cuba...

 

 

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An impressive bird's eye view of Havana

            After staying in Cienfuegos for several days, we decided to make some trips inland and see a bit more of rural Cuba. We rented a car for a week, packed up some essentials, and drove off north along the ‘autopista’ towards Havana…

            We arrived in the dark, after getting lost several times (we realized very soon that Cubans highly disapproved of road signs), and parked on the kerb by the waterfront. Mum, George and I walked into the dark backstreets in hope of finding some accommodation, for we had been told that there were many ‘casas particulares’ - family houses with rooms to let. While we were standing outside one doorway, wondering weather to ask inside or not, two Cuban women (Sarah and Clara as we found out later) walked up to us and asked ifIt says, "Guilty. The Government of the United States protect terroism". Their views are sometimes not subtle... they could help.

            “Si, estamos buscando una casa particular…”

            They took us to some friends of theirs who supposedly had rooms free, but of course, they didn’t. So we walked around another block to a building where a truckload of goats was being unloaded, and knocked on one of the doors. This time they let us stand inside while they told us that they didn’t actually have any free rooms either, but they would phone one of their friends to see if they had some…

            To cut a long story short, the next house we were taken to was empty and the owner (Marsiel) was happy to rent them to us.

            Later that evening we invited the two ladies to a meal with us as a repayment for their helpfulness. So we took them (and Clara’s husband and son- Pablo and Pablito) to a restaurant situated on a long and very beautiful boulevard. There are lots of old american cars in Cuba, most in this kind of conditionSoon we realized that we didn’t have nearly enough money to pay for us all so Grum, Pablo and I went of on a trip in search of a bank…

            Little did we know that in Cuba the locals aren’t allowed to be seen with tourists, so Pablo walked us half way around Havana, avoiding policemen, to a bank that was two blocks away…

            The following morning we met up with all four of them again and they gave us a mini-tour of the immediate area, showing us to the markets, and the gigantic ‘Capitolio’, and taking us to a local food shop.

            On our third day in Havana, we went to the ‘Museo de la Revolucion’ and spent several hours wandering the rooms and looking at the displays. AfterChe would be proud! the inside of the museum, we went outside to see the old vehicles, including an American aircraft that was shot down for violating Cuban airspace, and a tractor that had been converted into an tank by attaching metal sheeting and fixing a flame-thrower on the top.

            Also that day we had a tour of the cigar factory, seeing the whole process from sorting and counting the leaves, to making the boxes, to rolling the actual cigars (the average worker is expected to roll around 120 cigars in nine hours).

            In the afternoon, we drove out towards the famous Hemmingway marina along the Embassy road, and parked to take a walk along the dock. We were on the look out for the signature of our Polish friends on the path, and we spotted it on the way back towards the car. Afterwards, we sat down in the bar with some Bucanero beers and dad took a puff of a Havana cigar in Havana, looking more and more like a Cuban revolutionary…

Jack

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