Havana

Harri and I flew into Havana via Madrid. We landed just after 2000 local time and then had to spend the next hour trying to get through immigration, probably the slowest passport control either of us has ever experienced. Finally, we managed to get through, had our passports stamped, signed a health form and handed in our import documentation and we were free to enter the Caribbean Island of Cuba.

We caught a taxi into Havana Vieja (the old colonial district) where we were staying, found where we were saying and dropped our bags. Our flight had been with Air Europa who had provided a small meal at the start of the flight with a drink and no other food or drink services throughout the flight so we were both very hungry and thirsty. We went out and explored a few of the streets near to our AirB&B and found a small restaurant in a side street where we ordered grilled fish, fried plantain, rice and black beans and salad. A huge portion which were able to order more beans and rice (which we duly did), washed down with a well deserved beer.

Our second day in Cuba started relatively early with breakfast on the roof terrace, basking in the sun which was just poking above the surrounding roofs. We had fresh fruit, an omelette and coffee before heading off and exploring. Havana isn’t renowned for its ‘sights’ however there are a couple of historical squares and the whole district surrounding them is crammed with colonial architecture, old American cars and colourful everything.

On our route to one of these squares we spoke to a local couple called Louis and Sonja, who we talked and walked with for about 10 minutes, they both made reference to how pale we looked… On arrival at Plaza Vieja we took a well earned break in Café Bohemia which over looked the square. The remainder of the morning was spent wandering, taking photos and soaking up the sights of the district, with us both thoroughly enjoying the temperature (high 20s). For lunch we had a similar meal to the previous night but instead of fried fish we had some over cooked lobster, possibly not a surprise at the price we paid for it (the equivalent of £10). The meal was marred slightly because when the bill arrived they had charged us 11% (£2) ‘tax’ and then a 35% (£7) ‘service charge’, we paid the tax but not the service charge and left.

In the afternoon we explored some more, walked along the sea front had a drink in a café and then hired one of the many old American cars to take us on a tour of the city. Ours was a 1960s, pink, convertible Chevrolet. Our driver took us to parts of the city we otherwise wouldn’t have seen and to some of the other ‘sights’ of the city. He dropped us back off to our AirB&B. I am running 5km every day this year and I was aware I hadn’t done my distance for the day so set off on a run whilst Harri stayed and read. My run was one of the hottest I have ever been on, I ran down to the sea and then along the promenade but it was over 30 degrees centigrade and I was sweltering during the whole period. Even after a shower on the coldest setting I was still sweating. We went back into the old town for dinner where we ate at a ‘state restaurant’, a traditional style venue with a great menu and some live music, we were sat by an open window and were able to watch the world go by whilst enjoying a delicious dinner. Afterwards we went to a local ice cream shop and a roof top bar which had an eclectic mix of traditional live Cuban music and also western club music, the vibe was odd and the two genres do not work together.

We left Havana today after breakfast on a bus bound for Vinales, the coffee and tobacco region of Cuba.

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