So early on a Friday morning we caught a taxi to the bus
station in Varadero for the 08.00 departure. The comfortable
air-conditioned coach (made in China) cost only $10 each for the two
& a half hour journey to Havana. Although not fans of this mode
of travel it was good to be high up to appreciate the scenery as we sped along
the coast, called into the airport, through the town of Matanzas and on to the
suburbs of Havana. There was a pit-stop along the way where other local
& tourist buses pulled in for a break, the usual cafe, gift shop & loo
stop with the addition of a Pina Colada bar complete with
musicians. The mix was poured into a glass with the bottle of rum
on the counter for you to add the alcohol content at your own discretion
- dangerous, but a good idea at this time in the morning!
Getting off the coach near the old part of town by the
port we were immediately approached by all sorts of people offering
accommodation, taxis, horse & cart rides, restaurants, cigars, rum, good
music & more. The four of us strode purposefully off in the
direction of a Casa Particular our friends had previously stayed in scattering
the hawkers in our wake. The side streets were busy, noisy, colourful, a
little bit dirty, a little bit smelly but somehow the exquisite architecture
both restored & in ruins made up for it all. Havana buzzed.
But you needed to watch your step!
The Casa was full. The owner called another one run by
a friend & walked with us to the busy back street. The building was,
well, a little older, not actually charming or bijou nor in the best area but
it would do. The very narrow stairs to the second floor were dark and
dangling with electrical wires.
However, the rooms were reasonably clean & Maria made a
very nice breakfast despite communication being not that easy
with our limited Spanish & her little English - thank goodness for sign
language. The shared bathroom sandwiched between the two bedrooms each with an
access door to the facilities was a challenge. A keen ear was
required from each room as the bathroom could only be
locked from our side of the door, whereas when we were in 'residence' we could
lock their access door from the bathroom side. But apart from one time when
Phil opened the bathroom door thinking Tom had knocked and finding Chris in
teeth cleaning mode and nothing more sinister it all worked pretty well
Bags deposited safely we set off to explore.
Actually that's what we did for three days. In short we walked miles,
took hundreds of photos, drank gallons of Mojitos (THE drink to drink whilst
in Cuba), ate fantastic food, watched & heard brilliant live
music, saw excellent art - in fact a complete sensory overload. In
the time allowed we couldn't hope to 'do it all' but certainly got the flavour
of Havana along with copious lungfuls of choking exhaust fumes from the
elderly car engines that belched smoke consistently.
Our pictorial memories of this unique city are broken
down in successive posts as there is simply too much to capture
and place in one blog. Old colonial architecture, people,
art in many forms, transport and something you certainly don't expect to find
in a city.........