Monday, 20 October 2008

Our man in Havana

Well not quite, but internet is pretty hard to come by in Cuba so have only just had chance to update the blog.

Havana almost started badly. I had booked somewhere to stay the first night as the cycling tour I was doing started the next day and I wanted to look around Havana. I had booked it through Hostelworld and it had good ratings but when the taxi dropped me at the building it was a 20 storey block of flats with the front boarded up, looking like it was about to be pulled down soon. No answer on the phone and I was going to have to come up with a plan B, but luckily someone inside saw me and pointed me in the direction of the 13th floor where my lodging was. It wasn't a hotel, it was just a family's apartment and they let the spare rooms out. This is quite normal for Cuba as pretty much all hotels are state owned. The family were great and were very helpful, and within ten minutes of me meeting them they were handling my dirty boxers as they offered a laundry service! The views from their balcony were pretty good too.

Wandered into Havana and randomly met Eric, a local, who started talking to me. Ended up going to a few bars and having some mojitos with him. Obviously the catch was that I was buying all the drinks but it was hardly breaking the bank and it was interesting to talk to a Cuban about Cuba. Walking around Havana was interesting too. Half of it looks like its about to fall down yet most of the architecture is beautiful, with lots of grandiose colonial buildings. Must have looked amazing back in the day. And people seem to almost live on their doorsteps, with all the streets full of people.

The vehicles are good too. There are lots of big old 1950's American cars around, along with loads of ladas, a real contrast. Must have some of the best mechanics around to keep these cars on the road after so many years. Probably a job if you fancy it Richard! Don't know how they get parts though. They also have stretch Ladas, but I couldn't quite tell if it was one car or two bolted together.

Another cool thing about Havana is the Malecon, the road that goes right next to the sea. People just go and sit on the sea wall to chat, chill out, fish, or in the case of some kids, take a run up from the middle of the road and hurdle the wall into the sea. It was a good hours walk from my lodgings to Old Havana and Centro Habana where most of the shops, cafes, bars, restaurants etc are but it was a nice walk along the Malecon.

But after a couple of days in Havana it was time to get on with the real business of cycling round Cuba.

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