A day with rum & World Heritage in Havana, Cuba!

Everyone says: go before it’s too late! I did, and I came home hoping it would change sooner than later. And it did, because I went to Havana before Castro died, and Obama opened the door! But that’s no reason not to go!

This old and beautiful town is well worth a visit. A lot of the buildings in the old town are only standing thanks to UNESCO funding. But I guess as tourist start pouring in, so will the restoration. At least that’s one good thing about tourism. The city is relaxed and Caribbean, but with a lot of poverty and hopelessness – at least back then.

THE BACKSTORY

In Havana and many other places we stayed with a local family, since there were at that time only a few expensive state run hotels. We lived in their main bedroom and they stayed in the attic. This was quite normal and they need a state permit to be a tenant. Luckily my husband speaks Spanish, so this was a great way to get to know the country, it’s people and the culture better.

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This was a typical housing building. We stayed with a family in an apartment like this.

I went in 2009 with my then 4 year old son and husband. We almost didn’t meet any other tourists except for a few backpackers and some older men looking for younger women. We took a 3 week backpacking trip through the middle and Western part of Cuba starting and finishing in Havana. We arrived in November just at the end of hurricane season, but still had a lot of wind and clouds during our stay as some of the pictures show.

WHAT TO SEE IN HAVANA

King Philip II of Spain granted Havana the title of City in 1592. The city and Cuba became the most important gateway to the new world and the conquest of countries like Mexico.

The Malecon

One place everyone goes -tourists and locals – is the boardlwak along the water called the Malecon. The Malecon was build to protect the city from the sea.

 

Here you can see the old Hotel Nacional de Cuba from the Malecon. A great place for a drink.

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Looking over the city a lot of the buildings are worn down, but for someone who’s only visiting, it looks kind of picturesque. But probably when living there.

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In early 19th century many new and expensive mansion were build for the growing middle-class.

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They have beautiful pastel colours in many of the old colonial style buildings.

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Waiting for the bus. Notice the school uniforms.

El Capitolio

The dome inside El Capitolio was the seat of government in Cuba until after the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Its design is compared to that of the United States Capitol, but is not a replica of it.

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The dome inside El Capitolio

The fortress

The Spanish turned Havana in to the most fortified city in the Americas. Havana began as a trading port, and suffered regular attacks by buccaneers, pirates, and French corsairs.

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The fortress

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We didn’t see many kids, since they were all in school all day. But here we found a street football game.

Chinatown

Very surprising to me, there is a vast number of descendants from Chinese immigrants in Havana. The Chinese came around 1850 to work in sugar fields and Havana’s Chinatown is one of the oldest and largest in Latin America.

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Street sign

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Pictures and revolutionary graffiti everywhere.

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Many buildings were falling apart and in desperate need of restoration.

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Gran Teatro de La Habana from early 20th century. In 19th century Havana was know as the Paris of the Antilles.

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I am so impressed when people just work with what they’ve got.

Granma

You can see the actual boat Granma on which the revolution came sailing in on in 1956. It has it’s own memorial.

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Yes this is a bad picture…

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Palacio de los Capitanes Generales

Dear Peacock. Thank you for standing right there on the steps of a statue of Christopher Columbus in the courtyard of the old palace from colonial times.

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And when the sun goes down, my son and I find the cards for a small game, while my husband and I order some margaritas and watch the beautiful, but very used city.

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Has Havana changed since 2009? Let me know.

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