Cuba Trip: Part 1 - Havana - Central Havana and Malecon
My husband Brian and I jumped at the opportunity to visit Cuba now that US citizens can travel there with more ease with some direct flights and general license. I personally had an additional reason to travel to Cuba. Growing up in the Soviet Union we thought of Cubans as our brothers. I also remember my childhood in a socialist country as a mostly positive one. So I sort of had this nostalgic feeling and wanted to experience socialism again.
We flew to Havana nonstop from Newark at the end of April for 10 days. As soon as we landed at Jose Marti airport, similarities with the Russia of my childhood struck me and made me smile. All of the lovely female Cuban personnel at the airport terminal were wearing mini skirts and black lacy panty hose that I associate more with escorts. In Russia women frequently used to wear their best and sexiest outfits whether it was appropriate for the situation or not.
We went through passport and customs control quickly without any problems. Our prearranged transfer driver Ricardo was waiting for us outside.
We climbed into a beat up old Russian Zhiguli car which I was very excited to see. I have to say Russian cars made me think of Russia but I had never seen these cars in such bad shape even in tougher economic times in Russia/Soviet Union.
For the first 30 minutes of our drive to the Casa I had an almost giddy feeling that we were in this exotic, previously forbidden location. Plus some buildings and cars transported me back to my socialist childhood.
I know some Spanish (I watch telenovelas in Spanish regularly just to keep up the language fresh) and I was happy to talk to our driver about his life. Again he reminded me of my fellow Russians by being willing to talk openly and directly about pretty much everything.
I hoped to talk to Cubans during our trip and the 3 drivers we had for our transfers were great conversation companions. I could ask any question about their life in Cuba and they eagerly answered.
Ricardo - talking about life in Cuba
Our Casa Particular / B&B was located in Old Havana / Havana Vieja on Aguiar street. We loved our location. It was close to all the sights in Old Havana / Havana Vieja as well as Malecon and central Havana. We were a couple of blocks from the Museum of the Revolution / Museo de la Revolucion where there were always taxis waiting when we needed one.
The Casa was just steps away from a lovely area with restaurants and our favorites Cafe Espada and 5 Esquinas.
We liked our Aguiar street because it felt authentic, right outside of the Casa you could see locals and their daily lives.
Neighborhood bakery & a schoolgirl
After we dropped off our luggage we grabbed our cameras and went to explore nearby Central Havana area. We knew that this is a less touristy area where one could see more real local life.
Street in Central Havana
I was always happy to see a Russian Moskvich car and in pretty good shape too.
I love the pop of orange of this classic car!
Walking in Central Havana looking for subjects to photograph
Rollerblading is quite popular among local kids.
Lots of buildings with interesting architecture that are quite in ruin. It was probably not so safe to walk around those streets, around such crumbling buildings :)
Unpicked garbage just laying in the streets could be seen fairly often.
It was extremely hot walking around for 2 hours even on the shady side of the street. We welcomed having a break on a bench on Prado/Paseo Jose Marti promenade. It's lined with trees providing such refreshing shade and benches to sit down and drink some water while watching passersby. It was our small oasis when we went exploring between Old Havana, Central Havana and/or Malecon.
Once we watched a line of classic convertible cars with people dressed for some kind of celebration - either prom or weddings.
Here's Brian taking photos of the passing cars on Prado
Classic convertible cars on Prado
We walked to Malecon afterwards. There are some beautiful buildings there facing the sea.
Buildings with columns and arches on Malecon.
Some simpler but colorful buildings.
It was nice to see Malecon from a cab as well.
We took some shots of ourselves on Malecon
Mostly only fishermen were hanging out on Malecon earlier in the day
As the night sky emerges so changes Malecon - more people, more music, more lights.
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