I´ve always wanted to go to Cuba and finally we went there. We only stayed there for two nights, we also spent our Christmas there. So how did I like it? After we got to our hotel – The Quinta Avenida hotel ***** – my immediate thought was that I want to leave straight away, the hotel was awful and I was so scared that there´d be roaches as well, luckily I didn´t see any of them. But yes, this was what I was thinking. The first night we spent at the hotel, because we arrived there about 16.00-17.00 and Christmas dinner started at 18.00. The hotel was quite far from Havana centre, so we decided that we´ll explore around Havana the next day.
So a little about Havana from Wikipedia:
Havana is the capital city, largest city, province, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of 728.26 km2 (281.18 sq mi) – making it the largest city by area, the most populous city, and the third largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean region.
Contemporary Havana can essentially be described as three cities in one: Old Havana, Vedado and the newer suburban districts. The city is the center of the Cuban government, and home to various ministries, headquarters of businesses and over 90 diplomatic offices. The current mayor is Marta Hernández from the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC). In 2009, the city/province had the 3rd highest income in the country.
The city attracts over a million tourists annually. The historic centre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. The city is also noted for its history, culture, architecture and monuments.
In May 2015, Havana was officially recognized as one of the New7Wonders Cities together with Vigan, Doha, La Paz, Durban, Beirut, and Kuala Lumpur.
Well, I must say that I really enjoyed the city itself, though I think I wouldn´t go back there any time soon. The hotels are not that great there yet.
Because it was Christmas time, all the hotels were totally booked, so we only had one choice – The Quinta Avenida hotel *****. I would have wanted to stay in The Hotel Nacional de Cuba *****, but unfortunately it was also fully booked. Why did I want to stay in this hotel? Well, all my Cuba fascination started from a movie called “Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights” – I loved that film, and the hotel Oceana, where the family in the film lived in, was modelled on the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.
So where did we go and what did we see? Of course we walked around in the vicinity of El Capitolio, which was really beautiful.
El Capitolio, or National Capitol Building in Havana, Cuba, was the seat of government in Cuba until after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, and is now home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences. Its design and name recall the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.. Completed in 1929, it was the tallest building in Havana until the 1950s and houses the world’s third largest indoor statue.
When we walked around there, we saw the cool cars and of course there are lots of people, who are offering the rides, so we took one car with a driver for an hour. He drove us around the city, in addition, we also saw the Plaza de la Revolución.
The square is notable as being where many political rallies take place and Fidel Castro and other political figures address Cubans. Fidel Castro addressed more than a million Cubans on many important occasions, such as 1 May and 26 July each year. Pope John Paul II, during his 1998 first visit by a Pope, and Pope Francis in 2015, held large Masses there during papal visits to Cuba.
The square is dominated by the José Martí Memorial, which features a 109 m (358 ft) tall tower and an 18 m (59 ft) statue. The National Library, many government ministries, and other buildings are located in and around the Plaza. Located behind the memorial is the Palace of the Revolution, the seat of the Cuban government and Communist Party. Opposite the memorial are the offices of the Ministries of the Interior and Communications, whose facades feature matching steel memorials of the two most important deceased heroes of the Cuban Revolution: Che Guevara, with the quotation “Hasta la Victoria Siempre” (Until the Everlasting Victory, Always) and Camilo Cienfuegos (sometimes mistaken for Fidel Castro), with the quotation “Vas bien, Fidel” (You’re doing fine, Fidel). It is also the site of several cultural institutions.
The car with a driver (there were five of us and fitted perfectly in the car + the driver) was 40 Cuban pesos, which is 38 euros. And I think we got ripped too. 🙂 So, very OK. Taxi from our hotel – The Quinta Avenida hotel ***** – to the old town was 12 Cuban pesos (not the cool one, regular car).
At the end, the driver recommended us a restaurant to eat at, so I wouldn´t choose this option, or I´d let the driver to take us to a restaurant that I have picked out myself before. Why? Well, it was such a tourist trap, the food was not good, it was nice though, but a bit pricey. The restaurant was called El Guajirito (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g147271-d1633948-Reviews-El_Guajirito-Havana_Ciudad_de_la_Habana_Province_Cuba.html).
Where should you go for dinner? Well, I have the perfect place, it´s called La Guarida – http://www.laguarida.com/en/ – I think it is supposed to be one of the best restaurants in town. Unfortunately it is always fully booked, so you definitely have to book a table, when you want to eat there. So of course, we hadn´t made a reservation. We got to see around the restaurant though and the staff took us to their rooftop bar/lounge, where we could order some food and drinks. This rooftop bar/lounge was amazing!!! We got to see the sunset there and the feeling was amazing. Definitely go there!!!
In addition, before dinner we had drinks at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba´s bar outside the hotel, it was pretty cool too with an amazing view!
So some more information, where to buy cigars? We were told that the best places are cigar shops, so you´d know you get the real thing. The cigars we got were quite big and 10 USD a piece, rum was 7 USD a bottle (maybe it was 75ml?).
WI-FI and internet in Cuba? Well, I cannot say that I had any problems with that, it was even free in some restaurants, so I couldn´t complain. At the hotel it was for charge, it was pretty expensive though, but totally understandable. I guess it will get better from now on.
I guess this is it about Cuba, it was a really cool trip and I´d go back there in a few years or so, if it is more developed, but I´m glad to see Cuba in Castro´s era.
Cuba is pretty amazing with its beautiful architecture, so sad, that the buildings are worn and tired, but you could imagine how beautiful they were when they were built! The people are pretty nice and friendly, lots of them chilling in the streets. 🙂
So it was finally time to move on to Mexico!