Cuba Libre

We took off out of Santa Clara a little behind schedule, but with very full stomachs. Within half an hour of being on the highway, we blew a tyre. In true friendly Cuban style, more than 4 cars pulled over to help, it was insane. The driver wouldn’t accept our help, and instead did the whole thing himself. Unfortunately his spare didn’t have a lot of air in so he had to nurse the car to the nearest fuel station to top it up.

After the morning of fuel stations and blown tyres, we arrived back in Havana and back at Felipe’s, our very first host in cuba. He led us around to our accomodation for the night which belonged to a friend of his, George. The room and casa where fine, not the same sort of home feel as our previous places though, which is to be expected in such a densely populated city like Havana. The location however couldn’t be beaten.

That day we headed to the revolutionary museum and spent a few hours looking around the huge, beautiful building. There was a lot of information, and although not the best layout, it was still very interesting. The museum is set in the former presidential office, last of which was Fulgencio Bastista, and hosts personal belongings and is built around a timeline of the Fidels revolutionary history.

Perros De La Calle @ La Habana Vieja

The Cuban government (along with more than a dozen institutions) are taking action to help the stray dog situation in Cuba. According to The Associated Press, in Cuba’s Central Bank, state institutions are giving dogs official IDs and name tags. They are also providing housing, sterilisation and medical care.

After our walk, we managed to pick one of a hundred bars with live music to sit and have a drink. We had forgotten how beautiful Havana is, and how much we needed more time here to explore.

Beautiful Habana @ La Habana Vieja

Habana Streets @ La Habana Vieja

That night we ate at 341 which is an awesome little tapas bar hidden away in a little corner of a street. 341 had some great food but was let down by only having large groups of tourists, which would have been fine if the wait staff hadn’t refused to speak Spanish because of it. We were sat next to a big loud group of young Americans spouting nonsense about nothing in particular but seemed to be engaged in a game of who can be the loudest, most ignorant wanker in the bar.

The next morning we had breakfast served by George, who was overly attentive and wanted to make sure we were going to write a nice review on trip advisor. We were slightly confused by his worry, but in the nick of time, Felipe showed up to move us to our last casa of our Cuban holiday. We had to have two different casas because we hadn’t booked early enough ahead to reserve two nights in one.

For our last day in Havana we walked around Vedado and Habana Viaje for literally 8 hours. Vedado is the once notoriously known as the mafia run district; full of hotels, restaurants and a nightlife bursting at the seams with history and a story to tell.

We walked around the classic Mafia area and saw some historic buildings including Havana Libre and Habana Nacional. Habana Libre was made famous (and got its name from), when it was taken over by Fidel Castro’s revolutionaries in 1959 after it had just been open nine months previously. Fidel actually ruled the country from the 24th floor (for two years!) after he refused to take the presidential palace.

Habana Libre @ Habana Vedado

The Hotel Nacional was Fulgencio Batistas building, this is where Bastista led a coup with his sergeants that led to his victory over Gerardo Machado who, if you can believe it, seemed to have been an even worse dictator than Batista. Here, at Hotel Nacional, in 1946 was also the site for the largest ever “gathering” of the North American Mafia; who had come together here under the false cover of attending a Frank Sinatra performance.

Nearly every building we walked past had a story to tell, and 8 hours later our legs just wouldn’t carry us any further, so we headed to a bar to rest our feet and quench our thirst.

Havana is so beautiful, and we just never could have enough time here.

Street Signs @ La Habana Vieja

Who Needs A Ladder? @ Habana Centro

Dinner that night took us to Trattoria 5 Esquines; the top rated Italian restaurant in Havana, or one of. With our craving of pasta fulfilled, we headed back home to pack and rest before our final farewell to Cuba the very next day.

Our last breakfast was at La Vitoria on plaza Vieja, and in true Cuban style, it was far from boring. From a security guard standing on the street outside, to a woman who drew a characature of me while we had breakfast from across the street. To begin with, we thought she was just extremely strange, and once we had worked out what she was doing, I couldn’t do anything without feeling self conscious. My first characature, I never knew my elbows where so nobbly!

An Old Lady Selling Papers And Her Friend @ La Habana Vieja

PE Class In The Plaza @ La Plaza Vieja

Cuban Tuk Tuk @ La Habana Vieja

Felipe picked us up, told us many stories about politics and previous lifetimes in Cuba as he drove us to the airport. Our final farewells as we left Havana, and Cuba. We not only saw some of the most incredible historic markers and buildings, but we learnt such an incredible lesson in history. We were taken in by families who treated us as their own, who shared stories of heartache, struggle and valience. Cuba stole our hearts, and we had an experience far beyond our own expectations or imaginations.

Until next time, Cuba Siempre.

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