Around the ‘Hood

Havana is a city of 2.1 million people. The Old Town begins at the city’s harbor and appears to end roughly at the Capitol Building.


The red X marks the location of Casa Venezia, our Casa Particular. We didn’t realize it at the time but Oficios street, where we were,  is a primary connecting street for all of the Old Town.


Since we had some time before the first tour, we decided to get lunch and check out the area. Right around the corner, toward the docks, we had passed a nice looking restaurant. Soon we were settled in. It didn’t take long for the music to start.


At almost every restaurant we visited, live music was part of the experience. And, these people were excellent musicians. For a few pesos, well worth it. The food was also quite good and very reasonably priced. About 8 USD’s will get an excellent meal in Cuba.


The lobster is not from Maine. Still tasty but a little, shall we say, firm.


After lunch we checked out the neighborhood. We soon found that three large plazas were within easy walking distance. The first was the Cathedral Square:




Nice place! However, as we approached the square I saw, hovering near the entrance, several ladies all dressed up in their dance hall finery. The oldest trick in the tourist book. John was a little behind me when I blew past those women. Then I knew that, just like a calf in a buffalo herd, the wolves had gotten him. Sure enough:


To his credit, he was able to talk them down from their original exorbitant asking price to just a few CUC’s. It was hard bargaining. All in all, a small price to pay for the Cuban Tourist Education Program.

Later in our travels we encountered one of several tour groups. None were American. Many were Canadian. Judging from the flight board at the airport, about a third of all air traffic was from Canada, about a third from Europe. The rest were Middle East and Africa and one American. Us. It appears there are strong ties between Canada and Cuba. You would think they would be investing, but I imagine the commies have some kind of issue. Who knows?


We then went up one of the streets leading to the Capitol building. These were busy, lively places to go.


Then to the Plaza Vieja.


This is a plaza surrounded by nice shops and some homes. Since Cubans can now own property, if they can’t afford to pay for the entire cost they are able to set up businesses, like this upstairs cafe’.


Also, along the way, we passed multitudes of street vendors, all declaring their friendship with us:


After the Spanish were driven off the island, there turned out to be an excess of cannons. At first, nobody could figure out what to do with them. Then somebody had the bright idea of using them to close off streets to traffic. Worked like a charm! But, when it’s time for street repair, they have to come up:


Not often you see a bunch of cannons laying around. And these are real, too!

At the Plaza Veija there is a famous work of art called “The Power of Women Over Men” There is, of course, the fork. The rest is self-explanatory:


By the time we had taken in all these sights, we had wandered somewhat far from our home. We had to be back there by 2:00 for our first tour. Since it was now quite a hike, we decided to hire a tri-cycle with a very cozy seat. Off we went. When we pulled up to our place the guide was already waiting. The driver charged us 40 CUC’s, which was an outrage. Here is a classic blunder: Always set the price BEFORE you go. We had to cough it up. To our credit, this was the only time we got snookered down there, although many tried. So, it was a better track record than usual.





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