Tips on Havana

Tips on Havana

I visited Havana, Cuba, in January 2015. It was interesting timing, as about a week before I left, the US announced that it was working on thawing the 50-some year old frosty relationship it has had with Cuba. I am very glad I was able to see Havana before the American invasion, which I’m sure is imminent. Many of my Canadian friends are eager to get to Cuba before the Americans invade, as well. It will change the country in many ways, expected and unexpected. The good: Cubans will be able to travel freely to visit their relatives in the US. The bad… well that remains to be seen. Cuba is currently the safest Caribbean country, they have free education and health care, and a character that could not have been invented. Where else can you go back in time like that? American tourism will greatly strain the infrastructure of Havana and the beach areas, and hopefully the government will ensure that the money gets distributed amongst the people and not to foreign investors. Ya, right Beth. Okay so shut the hell up Beth, and give me some tips like you said. Money: ATMs are few and far between. It is a cash-based economy, and credit cards are not widely accepted. I would recommend you get a butt-load of crisp $100 bills and hide them in your safe in your hotel, if there is one. Otherwise carry it around in your money belt I guess. Always carry around small change to tip the buskers / wait staff / maids etc. I found I spent a lot of coin on very...
Last day

Last day

Slept like a log but woke up at 7:15 like clockwork. Shit! Wandered down for breakfast and had missed the gang at breakfast but saw Monique, this other guest who is staying at the hotel. Her husband Al likes to sleep in so I joined her for some bread, pancakes and coffee. We decided to go downtown together on the hop on/hop off bus. It’s only $5 for the day which is a good deal. I got home for free basically. Walked down Obispo street which is quite touristy and shopped for cigars. There was a good selection at the one near near the capitolo building. They cigars stores are all called “Havana Club” and they sell rum and cigars. The rum is so cheap! $7 for a large 1.1 litre bottle. Gotta get me some of that. I bought eight cigars for John. All the local touts by the way have rum on their breath. They’re a bunch of alkies. I wandered around the book fair again for a bit but couldn’t find that calendar I bought. I wanted to buy one for Phil too but no dice. I ended up buying him a Che cap instead. Ate some pizza at the Cafe Paris. The pizza was the same price as my Fanta, and they charged me a peso for a tip. Then there was some argument about giving me my change. I watched the bartender pour a mojito. And the rum seriously was 50/50. They must pour 3 ounces in a small glass. That’s why I got so wasted last night. Went to the museum de revolution and...
Havana – Santeria, night shoots and flamenco

Havana – Santeria, night shoots and flamenco

This morning we walked down to the ivy covered trees by the river. Mitch had warned us that it was sketchy, garbage everywhere. I didn’t mind. Before we got to the ‘park’, beside the road was lying a goat head, a chicken’s body missing the head, a gutted turtle, and a blood and feather covered gourd. Seemed like a sacrificial Santa Ria thing to me. I’d heard about this, but I couldn’t believe this was downtown Havana. We kept walked down to the river and started coming across animal bits, and bones, and feathers etc., and continued to see more animal bits. Vultures were circling around, and there was a weird smell in the air. We took lots of photos, being careful to step around the holes in the ground, which are tarantula tunnels. We saw some knobby knuckled tarantula legs showing in one of the holes. Mitch got a good shot with the flash. Mitch kept asking if we were sure it wasn’t a chicken foot or something. Kind of looked like that. At one point we saw the rest of the goat hanging from a tree branch. Super sketchy. Glad I wasn’t there alone. We also saw some leaf cutter ants doing their thing. Then we went back to the hotel, changed, and took a taxi to the beach. It was cloudy and a little chilly there, but we rented some umbrellas and chairs and sat there. I got burned even though I was very careful to stay out of the sun. I guess I misjudged. I went into the water a couple of times. It was...
Havana day 6? 7?

Havana day 6? 7?

I seem to be missing a bunch of days. I’ve been here longer than 7 days. Who gives a fuck. Yesterday was the bus trip to Viñales. We took a large bus since the other group (Mitch’s father in law’s language class) was coming with. They were pretty annoying. They’re a weird bunch. Some old Californian with sparkly t-shirts, an older woman with short wispy hair and way too much Botox, a strange slow-talker from Cowichan Bay who complained about everything, a tiny little flaky hippy woman. They were all pushing 60 or 70… our whole group is much more fun than these weirdos. So we kept trying to ditch them. And we took a long time cause we were photographing everything. We went to an orchid garden, which was very pretty. I bought a CD for $5 from the local musicians who were playing there. Then we went to this cave where we took a little boat trip around inside the cave. It was pretty cool. Then lunch at this outdoor place. I ordered a pina colada, and the waiter brought a little juice box with that written on the side. I laughed when he brought and changed my order to a beer. I’ve been eating a lot of rice. Rice and vegetables, rice and beans, and just rice. I caught the drummer staring at me while we were lining up for our table, so I smiled at him. He kissed at me. That is their way of flirting. I burst out laughing. At a cool vista, the bus stopped for a while. There were the standard outdoor tables...
Havana Day 4 – The Plazas in the old town

Havana Day 4 – The Plazas in the old town

Is it day four? Did I miss a day? Lol I don’t care any more. How do you say that in Spanish? Holy fuck I’m so mellow. I need to find a way to keep travelling forever. What did we do today? uhhhh I finally found some COLD milk for my cereal which was awesome because then my corn flakes did not turn into a disgusting mash (the coffee has hot milk coming out of a carafe which is fine for coffee but not so great for Corn Flakes) We drove in our air conditioned bus downtown again to Plaza del San Fransisco. At which point we went into the cathedral which was nice but I guess I’m all cathedral’ed out from Europe this summer. Took some photos. We then walked to the photography museum in Plaza Vieja which was nice. Just a single room really but we all chose our favourite image and our least favourite image and critiqued them. Mitch is really into the technical stuff so we didn’t talk much about art school juxtaposition and the meaning of life etc. More about what a crappy job the photo journalist / lightroom technician did with the dodging and burning. The photos were nice… a collection of images of Fidel, Che, some baseball players, some famous people, some guerrillas going to war etc. Then we had an assignment to take some black and white photos making it look like Havana in the ‘50s. Which is difficult… but not impossible. I think I got a couple good ones. I’ve decided to not post any of my best shots on...