Road Trip and Tour of Habana (Havana for you Gringos)
Debbie coordinated with a friend for a guided tour of
Havana. The tour guide didn’t show up so
just Debbie and the driver Osmolly (sp?) ran the tour. It was a very windy day at the marina and we
were a little worried about our boats but the marina harbor is very protected
so we left for Havana.
Like most Cuban cars, our "taxi" was pretty interesting. It was a 1957 Ford Fairlane mini-van-like body on top of a Mercedes chassis with a diesel engine. Here is a picture as we were getting ready to leave on our tour.
ride from Varadero to Havana was mostly along the ocean. On this day there were 20-30 knot west to
north winds so the surf was very high.
We stopped at a “scenic view” and took a beautiful video. Click HERE to watch the video in a new window.
Approaching Havana from the east you drive into a long
tunnel under the harbor and emerge right into downtown. The driver let us out near a bar so we could
use the toilet before walking into Old Havana.
Lots of beautifully restored old cars here and I took a video of the
taxi stand that looked like a classic car show. Click HERE to watch the video in a new window.
We walked through several plazas and past old churches –
some were originally built in the 1600s.
This is a very beautiful part of the city but it was very crowded
because two huge cruise ships were in port.
The walk was interesting and very different from just about anywhere
else we had been. For example, sometimes
cities will put posts in the road to keep cars from the historic areas. In Havana, these posts were old cannons
imbedded in the cobblestone road. Guess
they had to do something with all the old cannons?
Along the way we passed a chocolate factory store. Of course the ladies wanted to go in and
shop. Bruce and I sat outside and
watched all the people go by. I thought
to myself, “Two months ago I would have never dreamed about being in
Havana.” After the chocolate factory we
walked passed the old, original fort that guarded the harbor and eventually
found our taxi bus.
This is a famous bar where Hemmingway hung out. Lots of people were standing in line to have a drink at the "Hemmingway bar."
The driver then took us back through the tunnel and up
onto the hills on the east side of Havana harbor. We had lunch at a private restaurant that was
totally Cuban. Beans and rice are a
staple in Cuba and were served as soon as we had our drinks. Chicken and pork were slow-roasting on the
grill. I had the chicken and it was very
good. After lunch, we visited a park
around the Christ statue that overlooks Havana Harbor. Click HERE for a video of Havana Harbor from the Christ Statue Park.
Next we drove to the western side of Havana down long, well-kept
boulevards. Don and Bruce wanted to
purchase some Cuban cigars and the cheapest place was supposed to be at the
factory. As we were walking into the
factory, we were approached by many Cubans wanting to sell us discount
cigars. “Just like in the factory!” Our driver told us that most of the discount
cigars were actually dried banana leaves wrapped in one tobacco leaf so it
smelled like tobacco. We didn’t buy any
of those even though they were very persistent.
It took many, “No, Gracias” to send them away.
Inside the cigar factory there were long counters of the
best Cuban cigars and shelves of Cuban rum.
The better cigars were $8 - $10 each.
We don’t smoke and I don’t know any smokers well enough to buy them a $8
cigar so we looked around and left. D
and Don bought a few for some friends.
After the cigar factory we drove by Revolution Square and
stopped in for some pictures. I think
this is where the Rolling Stones had their concert a couple years ago.
On the way back through Cuba, the winds had picked up and
it was high tide. We could see the waves
breaking on the seawall near the road in front of us. The waves were crashing and flying about
30-40 feet in the air, falling back onto the road. Police were redirecting traffic and we
proceeded slowly down the smaller streets because the main road was
closed. By time we were near the harbor
tunnel, the traffic was bumper-to-bumper and stopped. Our driver decided to turn south and drive
all around the harbor which extended our trip by a couple hours. But, it gave us more views of Havana and the
Cuban countryside so I didn’t mind.
This is a picture I snapped of a side street in Havana as we were driving by. I love the colors and old car.
We arrived back at the marina well after dark. As we walked down the dock to our boats we
could see that they were jumping around pretty good from the waves in the
harbor. Both boats had rocked so much
they had pushed our blow-up fenders up onto the dock so boat and dock were
rubbing directly against each other.
Second Wind faired pretty well as she is fiberglass. We had a few rub-marks on the boat but
probably nothing that couldn’t be cleaned up with soap and brush. Southern Cross is wooden with a light coat of
fiberglass over the wood. The dock had
rubbed through the fiberglass and into some of the wood. We quickly pushed the fenders back between
the dock and boats – adding more fenders at different heights.
After making sure the boats were OK, we all hit the sack early from a long day
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