October 15 – Exploring Havana
A very relaxed start today as we had no real plans and were flying by the seat of our pants. We met our host Patrick and for a few tips ( or at least we thought we did) before hitting the cobblestones. It was hot and humid already.
Walked 10 metres and stopped for breakfast.
Walked 20 metres and stopped for WiFi (along with lots of locals and tourists alike!) Shadey seating was limited and highly coveted so we ended up on the ground at one point. The lengths we go to to stay connected.
From there it wa a short stroll to the Capitol Building and then a walk along the prado to the Revolution Museum.
I don’t really know much about Cuba’s history and didn’t really do a great job of researching before leaving (and impossible to do while here). If I took this Museum as gospel I would conclude that Fidel and Che are like Jesus – saviors of the people and that the CIA is super busy doing things to Cuba.
We ended up at the start of the Malecon and what seemed like a good idea at the time (a leisurely stroll along the sea wall) became a hot and sweaty drudge on the building side (so many decaying buildings that were once so beautiful in Havana’s heyday) to stay in the shade as there was no sea breeze. We saw Cuba’s famous Nacional Hotel invitingly perched on the hill and thought the two kilometre walk would be worth it when we were sitting overlooking the water and sipping on a mojito like the famous film stars and gangsters of the 30s.
Dying the whole way and no sooner had we cooled down in the gardens of the hotel, we were sweaty again from walking back out. And we didn’t even have the mojito because they were too expensive And we realized the place we wanted to go to next would be closed in an hour.
We decided to take a look at an area nicknamed Fusterlandia after the artist that mosaiced his house and then kept going into the houses and streets and bus stops around it.
“Where does art go after Gaudí? For a hint, head west from central Havana to the seemingly low-key district of Jaimanitas, where Cuban artist José Fuster has turned his home neighborhood into a masterpiece of intricate tilework and kaleidoscopic colors – a street-art extravaganza that makes Barcelona’s Park Güell look positively sedate. Imagine Gaudí on steroids relocated to a tropical setting.”
We caught a taxi and the drive took us through the leafy suburb of Miramar where wealthy Cubans live and the embassies are located. The Russian embassy looked like an air force base.
Fusterlandia was so over the top! Puts Deb’s little house in East Keilor to shame.
Our cab driver waited for us and took us back to our guesthouse. Josh thought the ‘2cuc per person for any cab ride in the city’ rule applied and gave the driver 10 thinking he was being generous. The cab driver shook his head ‘no no no’ and Josh got defensive believing himself to be in the right and thinking we were being scammed again. I thought the cab driver was acting too serious to be trying to scam (he even wanted to call his boss) and told Josh to just pay what he asked which was 40 cuc. The equivalent to the airport and back (about 25cuc each way). Anyway he gave it to him and stormed off declaring never to return to Cuba and flipping him the bird (most uncharacteristic for gentle Josh).
We got into our room and had a heated discussion which ended with Josh confessing he never wanted to come to Cuba and me shouting back I never wanted to go to Boston (or Nashville or Chattanooga for that matter). Well I ended up reading my book on the rooftop and waiting for Josh to calm down. He took his time. Turns out we were only ripped off maybe 10cuc. Our host thought that 30cuc would have been ok.
Roof top musings
And I spied a husky!
Ps I forgot to mention that I devoured some Cheetos (the American kind) while we were having this argument, because I was starving. This will be important for later…
Josh felt like lobster and the guide book recommended El RumRum so we headed there. We were much smarter at ignoring the food hustlers and after a short walk, we were ordering Cuba’s other famous drink – the daiquiri.
Josh ordered lobster and I ordered a chicken, pineapple and ginger dish as well as an entree of octopus and shrimp.
I started to feel a bit queasy as soon as I began eating. When the chicken dish was placed before me I knew I had basically ordered sweet and sour chicken! The ginger and pineapple sauce was delicious but the chicken not so great and my tummy was definitely turning. I recalled the Cheetos and realized I was reacting to the msg in the cheese flavour and was pretty sure that everything I was eating would be coming back up soon.
I was right.