Havana Journals

hidden havana

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A March 2002 trip to Havana by alex b

Quote: Geographically, Cuba is an island but culturally it is a harbor. Only 90 miles south of Miami, Havana presents a striking juxtaposition of old world grandeur, revolutionary conviction and a curious yet critical take on its northern neighbor. The embargo places heavy restrictions on travelling from the U.S., yet students and those providing medical supplies will find an easier journey through the red tape.

hidden havana

Overview

Quote:
The Malecon should the first place you go when arrivng in Havana The winding boulevard runs the entire length of Havana along the ocean at the nothern edge of the city. It connects the three main districts of Havana: Vedado, Centro Habana and Habana Vieja Quick Tips: Best Way To Get Around: Spend the majority of your time in Havana on foot. Much of the beauty of the city lies in discovering the hidden details of every street corner. You will however be drawn to the old 1950s style cadillacs and inevitably the peso taxis that still operate from these classic automobiles. Be wary, these drivers are restricting from giving rides to tourists, though the law is not highly enforced. ...Read More

El Balcon del Eden

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Restaurant

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El Balcon del Eden is one of the many Paladares of Havana. These privately owned restuarants are usually run out of the homes of the owner which give a warm and personal touch. Daisy, El Balcon's owner, is a charasmatic Cuban woman whose personal flair is reflected in the lavish decorations of her paladar. Located on the balcony on the top floor of a beautiful spanish style building, El Balcon can be spotted a block away because of its red lights and the rows upon rows of hanging beads. El Balcon is advertised as being open 24 hours, but don't be surprised if you find yourself ringing the buzzer in vain. Don't be discouraged Daisy and her family live here and deserve some time to themselves. If y...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 3, 2002

El Balcon del Eden
Calle K b/w 19 and 21
Havana, Cuba

Vegas (Las)

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Attraction | "Cabaret Las Vegas"

Quote:
Pablo Herrera is a Hip Hop producer who has recorded tracks for the U.S. label Papaya records. He has been featuresd in Time magazine and has performed in New York. He is the epicenter of the small, but talented Hip Hop scene in Havana serving as the promoter for showcases of local acts held every few weeks. Cabaret Las Vegas, located in Vedado, is a small intimate setting with a stage and a fairly good sound system. The bar is minimally stocked with cans of beer, but the musical fare is worth the price of admission. As is the case throughout the city, the price in pesos is not congruent with the dollar value which fluxuates with who is working the door. Herrera's hip hop showcases dr...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 2, 2002

Vegas (Las)
Infanta 104 entre 25 y 27
La Habana, Cuba 10600
+53 7 707939

Plaza de la Revolucion

Attraction | "Plaza de la Revolution"

Quote:
Two heroes of Cuban independence, Jose Marti, the champion of Cuban nationhood who rallied his countrymen during war for independence in 1898 and Che Guevara, whose face has become synonomous with revoltion worldwide, are both honored in monumental proportions in the Plaza de la Revolution. A granite statue of Marti hangs thirty meters above the square. A highly stylized engraving of Guevara faces in the opposie direction from the ministerio del interior. This is the place where Castro makes many of his speeches to a sea of onlookers. A good snapshot, but the because banal architecture of the plaza one not linger here.

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on September 3, 2002

Plaza de la Revolucion
Vedado
Havana, Cuba

Casa de la Amistad

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Restaurant | "Casa Del Amistad"

Quote:
The story behind this rose colored mansion is that an old Spaniard living in Havana in the 30s met and fell in love with a local Cuban woman. So strong was this love that he built her this house complete with marble floors, crystal chandeliers, a spiral staircase, a magnificent garder. However, as Casa del Amistad neared completion, the young woman fell ill and soon died. Grief stricken the Colonel returned to Spain leaving the Casa to all its uninhabited splendor. Located on Paseo in the Vedado district, Casa de la Amistad is one of the many archetectural highlights you'll see while strolling this tree lined boulevard. Casa de la Amistad is run by the Cuban government as a "friendship house...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 4, 2002

Casa de la Amistad
Calle Paseo 406, esquina de Calle 17
Havana, Cuba
7-830-3114

Playas del Este

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Attraction

Quote:
While city of Havana has enough sites, culture and history to occupy a lifetime of travel, the weather ain't so shabby either (you are on a Caribbean Island after all). If a little surf, sun and sand are on your agenda and you aren't gung ho enough to jump off the banks of the Malecon into the ocean Playa Del Este is the perfect afternoon activity. While the beaches to west of Havana are said to be more aesthetically pleasing, they are the property of the resorts that were opened during the country to bring in more revenue through tourism. Cubans are restricted from these areas and the resorts are known for their shady racial politics. Besides, if all you wanted was to sit on a beach with oth...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 4, 2002

Playas del Este
Avenida Máximo Gómez a Vía Blanca
La Habana, Cuba 19360
Not available

Tourist apartheid

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Story/Tip

Quote:
Castro and his government have made it very clear that tourism remain separate from the everyday lives of Cubans. Cubans are not allowed to congregate on resort beaches, hotel lobbies, and tourist clubs. A special licence is required for taxis to accept foreign passengers (hence the difference between toursist taxis and peso taxis). Since 1990 at least 22,000 hotel rooms have been built on the island. Critics of Castro's tourist policies claim that he is systematically cutting off the country from its own people with laws, they claim, that are nothing short of "tourist apartheid". To add to this already tricky situation, the tourist industry has often been accused of practicing blatant racis...Read More

Bring medical supplies!

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Story/Tip

Quote:
There is a dangerous lack of basic medical supplies in Cuba. Hospitals find themselves overstaffed (the medical education in Cuba is top notch) as their are more doctors than medicine. Items that we take for granted, band aids, condoms, asprin, are not readily availible on the island. Keep this in mind when packing for your trip. Giving out extra medical supplies is as valuable as giving out money. I found it best to do this discreetly. Approaching someone on the street and handing them a box of condoms may not be a great idea (just imagine yourself on the recieving end in your home). If you are staying in a hotel, when you check out, leave the supplies on your bed. The staff will much appr...Read More
Quote:
Cuba needs dollars! There is very little purpose in converting your money to pesos. You will be hard pressed to find anyone who will accept Cuban pesos from foreigners. The Peso is of very little value against foreign currency (the exchange rate is rather instable due to the black market, but the official data in march 2002 was 21 pesos to one dollar). Places that deal with large amounts of tourists (hotels, car rental agencies, resorts) take most internation currency. Everywhere else will only take U.S. dollars ATM machines are few and far between and chances are your bank will not transfer money across the lines of the embargo. Bring cash, but be wary of pickpokets especially around the major...Read More

The Malecon

Story/Tip

Quote:
The Malecon is the major throughway of Havana, connecting the city's three major districts-- Vedado, Centro Habana and Habana Vieja. The wide boulevard runs along the ocean at northern edge of the city. This is where you will find one of the more spectacular views as the sky and ocean open up in a painterly horizon. The ocean view brings a cross section of tourist and local life. Musicians are everywhere, waiting to serande you with their guitars and claves. You will undoubtedly hear versions of Guantanamera, Hey Jude and everything in between. It is possible to walk from Vedado to Habana Vieja in under an hour. If you're looking for a quicker method, I recommend taking a Cocotaxi. These bubble...Read More

About the Writer

alex b

alex b
Brooklyn, New York