Saturday, 17 May 2014

And then we took the wawa

Havana was exactly as we were told it would be, and then some. There was music everywhere - we saw live music four days out of four and we didn't stay out past 9:30 pm, the food wasn't that great - we were warned, but the people and city were vibrant.

Our room was on the third floor at an intersection in Habana Vieja, the restored old part of town. We spent considerable time hanging out on the balcony, watching the old american cars go past, hearing the bells jingling from the horse-drawn carriages, pointing out the tourists with their silly hats and over-sized cameras, and mainly watching the many shades of florescent clothing that the locals wear, men and women alike. Sometimes we watched our neighbours in the building across the way, sometimes they watched us, I'm sure.

The view from our room.

The Captain, looking the other way from one of two balconies off our room.
We spent our time doing a lot of walking, to and from all of the free tourist sights we could reasonably cram in. We missed the museums (although there were many) but we did cover off several of the castles and old churches. As usual, the quest was for cheap beer (also mojitos since this was Cuba after all,) and the Captain was never happier as when he cracked the local food puzzle and we had $1 pizzas for lunch.

The seawall, which went 12 miles around the city.

Life size statues are a big thing in Cuba.  I even got fooled by one in Cienfuegos.

Mailbox for internal mail - seriously!

There were a few mishaps - we too looked like gullible tourists and paid WAY too much at a bar when we bought some friendly "locals" a drink on our first day. Food turned out to be a challenge, not only was it difficult to find good reasonably priced restaurants, but it was as hard to find grocery stores that had basics like milk and sugar for morning tea! We did have excellent breakfasts at our "casa particular" (bed and breakfast) each morning, and I had a lovely piece of chocolate cake and cup of coffee at a sweet little cafe around the corner from the Cathedral square.

It is a big city, Havana.

And well defended for hundreds of years.
One of the highlights of the city was on an afternoon when it rained and we were on our way back to our room to relax until it cleared up in the evening and we would go out for dinner. The showers were intermittent, but as we were walking down a cobblestone street near our room it started to come down pretty hard and I dashed for a doorway on one side of the street and the Captain went the other direction. We stood there, in our respective doorways waving to each other, but it was raining too hard to make a move. I stood waiting for 10 minutes or so, took some pictures of the pretty park across the street, and looked around at the store in whose entrance I was standing.

When I finally looked back at the Captain, I noticed he was watching something on the street. Two girls had come out into the rain and started to dance. But not just dance like jump in the puddles dance, but actually dance - improvising some kind of modern dance with moves that looked inspired by ballet. We found out after that they were Scandinavians in Cuba as part of a modern dance festival - and we got to see the free performance of "in the warm Cuban rain." There was no music, they just played with each other and the water gushing through the streets. Eventually their friend joined them, and near the end, they managed to lure in a good-looking Cuban man who had been watching with his workmates from another doorway, attracted by the pretty young women wearing wet summer dresses, but when he finally joined them he couldn't figure out how to dance with them, since this was not your usual Cuban salsa. It was a pretty magical half an hour, and the people in doorways all along the street clapped when the rain let up and the girls decided they were finished.

We are now back on Diva, getting ready to head out to the "Queen's Garden" archipelago that we visited a year and a half ago, and from there work our way back to Montego Bay. Most of the boats that were here in the marina in Cienfuegos before we left for Havana have gone, moving north or south to get out of the hot zone before the hurricane season starts in June.

The view from our restaurant the last night in Havana.  Soldiers in historical dress set off the canon at the fort every evening at 9 pm.

P.S. We also found the statue of John Lennon sitting on a park bench. It was a bit of a challenge since it was not on the map and when we asked for directions, a) locals weren't exactly sure where it was either, or b) we only understood enough Spanish to understand one part of the direction, and then when we got a little closer we had to ask again. But, did you know that there really is a custodian of John Lennon's glasses? The Captain had heard about this a long time ago, and sure enough, when we approached the statue, a woman came over from where she'd been standing nearby and pulled the round glasses out of her purse and perched them on Lennon's nose. After we took our pictures and walked away, we looked back and she had taken them off and sat down on a bench in the shade to wait for the next set of curious tourists!

Why just settle for glasses, Mr. Lennon, when you could have a cool hat?

Flames on the tree and on the ground.

P.P.S. The lovely lady who cooked our breakfasts told me that "wawa" is the Cuban colloquial for bus. It was 250 kilometers from Cienfuegos to Havana, not quite as much as the 250 nautical miles from Jamaica to Cienfuegos, but the 5 hour bus ride did feel long when we went through windy, back country roads. But it was worth it.

Fishermen and onlookers on the seawall in Havana.

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