On our first full day in Cuba, we hopped on our bus and headed toward Central Havana, about twenty minutes away. The first stop was the Plaza de la Revolución, a vast space surrounded by government buildings. The central area features a sculpture of José Martí, a 19th century Cuban poet, journalist, revolutionary and hero.
Famous images of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, 20th century revolutionaries who fought against Batista, are prominently displayed on the sides of the buildings (and we were later to meet the artist!).
A number of old cars, well polished and looking swell, were lined up for the tourists.
Once we arrived in old Havana we began exploring on foot. The streets here are narrow and paved with cobblestones, and just as in Malta, the streets curve away at the end, making it harder for enemies to attack.
Buildings are in various states of repair, painted in lovely pastels. I’m especially fond of the mint green ones.
We also enjoyed the street art, whether tiles or decorated doorways.
Ed spotted this pieced fabric (not quilted, but ready to be!) in an open doorway, the closest I came to a quilt on this trip.
We also passed by several elementary schools; the children wear white shirts and red pants or skirts, with red bandannas around their necks, and here is what they’re taught:
Lunch in the old town was very nice, starting off with a Cuba Libre (as usual)
and progressing to little shrimps, a small salad and a very good rice and beans combo, followed by a tropical custard.
Back on our feet, we walked by the Floridita, first opened in 1817, and site of the first Daiquiri. It was made famous by Ernest Hemingway, who drank many, many Daiquiris here for more than twenty years, starting in the 1930s.
Our last stop of the day was at the venue for the Buena Vista Social Club, where the others will listen to music tonight. Like so many buildings in Cuba, it looks a little battered but it has great bones.
Our final stop was through the tunnel under the bay to see the forts, originally built by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, with great views back over the city.
Back to the hotel for a lie-down and then back on the bus to dinner, which was very fun. Live music made it hard to hear each other, but the ambiance was festive (and the bathroom signs unforgettable but I failed to take a picture!). Had a good chat with Cressie, our organizer, who hadn’t been back to Cuba since the pandemic and has found it very changed: many fewer tourists, for one thing. He finds the food fine but not great (I agree) but loves the culture and the people.
We dropped the group at the music venue and I stayed on the bus to go back to the hotel. Though I briefly entertained the idea of going to the music after all, I was pretty beat by the time dinner was over and happy to tuck into bed around 10:00.