The greatest of Cuba's cities
07.02.2014 - 10.02.2014 28 °C
I'm back from the island.
I'm happy to be back, but some part of me is still on that magic island.
I arrived in Havana after a very long flight (so you can picture it, my flight from Paris to Havana flew over Canada, New York, Miami, etc), not so much jet lagged but tired of the trip itself. Waiting for me was Angel, a nice (and patient) cab driver, who took me my accommodation in Habana Vieja (the oldest part of the city). I stayed at a nice Casa Particular (the cuban equivalent to Bed & Breakfast - the breakfast was not included in the price though) where the owner Nelson and his family and staff welcomed me as a friend.
Old Havana at night is a bit odd place to visit, since the ill-paved streets and the almost non-existing street lighting can make you feel uncomfortable, so my first impression was not too good. Next day, all that started to disappear as I got used to the streets and saw everything by daylight. The neighborhood has a mystique of its own and the houses seem to be falling apart, but the people living there already seem to be so used to that they just don't care.
As you get close to the landmarks, the streets become nicer and the you start seeing museums and shops of all kinds and tastes. Havana is full of museums and if you the time (and money) to spare, they seem as they might be quite interesting. The colonial influence here is evident and one might get the impression of visiting Spain.
But Havana is not just Old Havana. The newer municipalities of Vedado and Miramar offer much different sceneries to the visitor, with both different architecture, many green parks and see views that will make many people envious. Vedado's great avenues and parks, along with Miramar's tall and luxurious hotels contrast with the poorer parts of the city. For the first time in my life, I took one those bus tours (costing 5 dollars/convertible pesos) and the bus went around the city, passing through some of the main touristic points. As we cruise along the streets, we see the old cars that are one of Cuba's most picturesque marks. American classic cars as well as Soviet Lada's and Polish-made Fiats (126p) make you travel in time.
I tried to maintain a "low profile" during my stay because when you look too much like a tourist people will always to sell you something or offer you their (paid) services. However, I met really nice people during my stay in Havana (some foreigners and some locals), and learned about their way of living and the different cultures.
My next stop: Santiago de Cuba