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Trip Start Jan 01, 2014
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Trip End Dec 31, 2014


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Where I stayed
Iberostar Parque Central Havana
Read my review - 5/5 stars
What I did
Parque Central lobby bar

Flag of Cuba  ,
Sunday, June 17, 2012

Map of Cuba
 














 
JUN 15: Where do I begin this blog? Alaska Airlines canceled their flight from San Jose to Mexico City, and that created huge problems that seemed impossible to overcome, because I had hotel reservations in Mexico City, and my flight to Havana was for the following day.

But let's skip that horror story, and begin with my arrival at the Parque Central Hotel in Havana two days later after much panic, stresses, and contact between myself and Alexander by email who coordinated everything with his travel agent in Mexico. Alexander and I both lost some sleep.

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The format I'm going to use for this blog is to provide a summary of our itinerary and activities, then post my pictures at the end with some descriptions of the more important venues, artworks, and restaurants. The picture format has nine pictures per page, and each page has a theme that more-or-less summarizes what Cuba is to me. The theme for this set is
“Transportation.” .    
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You can enlarge the picture by clicking on the nine-picture set. I've also included a few videos.

The descriptions when provided will follow this sequence: top row as 1, middle row as 2,
and bottom row as 3, left row as a, middle row as b, and right row as c. ex., “1a” is the top left picture, and “3c” is the bottom right picture.
 
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Parque Central Hotel is located on the left side in the middle of the map. Obispo Street (highlighted in pink) is the main pedestrian street with many shops, restaurants, and
hotels between Plaza de Armas and Floridita, the bar/restaurant made famous by Ernest Hemingway. Hanoi restaurant on the lower left side is a good seafood restaurant. La Bodequito del Medio located on the upper right side is another famous bar that was frequented by Ernest
Hemingway in Havana. * Plaza and square are the same.

 
 
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1a: Nacional Hotel 1b: Musicians at Plaza Armas
2a: Capitol building 2b: El Morro Castle
 
HAVANA
JUN 17: This was my third trip to Cuba, and this time we had ten in our “tour” group. After my
transfer from the airport to the Parque Central Hotel near the capitol building, I saw the group sitting at the lobby bar (a usual group venue). Alexander, my roommate, greeted me first, and
welcomed me with a Bucanero (local beer with 5.4% alc) after I gave all the women a hug and a handshake to the guys. I was really happy to have finally arrived!

We talked to several people at the bar, and met a professional basketball player from Russia. We exchanged email addresses, so I'll be dropping him a line in short order.

There wasn't much more we could do today, because we were leaving for Santiago tomorrow morning.  

NOTE: We spent three nights in Santiago between our stays in Havana from June 18 and returning to Havana on June 21.   On June 27, we took a two day bus tour to Trinidad, and had accommodations at two different B&B's upon our return.  



HAVANA
JUN 21: We returned to Havana and the Parque Central Hotel for two more nights. At the hotel's lobby bar, we met Yuriandri (Yuri) the pro-basketball player from Russia. He is also manager of his team.




JUN 22: I spent most of day alone, because Alexander had some business to attend to, so I walked to Plaza de Armas, Plaza de San Francisco Asis, Havana Club for a drink, but they were closed, and went to Dos Hermanos to look in but nobody was there at the bar. I was able to roam around Old Havana, and took many pictures of the old US-built cars, restaurants, marques, statues, artworks, buildings and people. Stopped into the Ambos Mundos ' bar for a Bucanero and to take pictures. Had ice cream in a restaurant, and generally enjoyed a
slow-paced walk around Old Havana.




JUN 23: The others in our travel group left for home today. We said our goodbyes at the Parque Central Hotel lobby at 11AM. After our goodbyes, Alexander and I took a taxi to a B&B where we stayed for three nights. This was a good location, because it's located across the street from one of our favorite restaurant, La Guarida, where we had several more meals before departing for home. After checking into the B&B, we retraced many of the streets I covered on the previous day, but as with revisits to locations already visited, one sees more after subsequent visits, and it was true this time. We walked on Obispo
Street to Plaza de Armas, back to Plaza de San Francisco where I took pictures of the cathedral and statue of Junipero Serra with an Native American boy by his side.


La Guarida Review (from Frommers) The most famous paladar in Cuba owes its renown in equal parts to the wonderful ambience, excellent cuisine, and the starring role it played in several scenes in the Cuban blockbuster film Fresa y Chocolate. The three small rooms of this converted apartment are reached by climbing three flights of steep, run-down, and poorly lit
stairs. The signed celebrity headshots allow a glimpse at the stars in whose steps you have just followed. Start things off with some seviche, gazpacho, or their signature appetizer of eggplant caviar, a tasty vegetable paste with the texture the name implies. Caimanero (fresh red snapper) might come in a white-wine, orange, or sweet-and-sour sauce -- all are good, as is the honey-mustard chicken and pork medallions in mango sauce. There's an extensive selection of Spanish, French, Italian, and Chilean wines. Just make sure you're not seated at the table between the kitchen and the restrooms. The ornate facade and balcony balustrades make this place worth a peek during the daytime.

  



 












 


From Wiki:
The Mission in Carmel, California containing Serra's remains has continued as a place of public veneration. The burial location of Serra is southeast of the altar and is marked with an inscription in the floor of the sanctuary. Other relics are remnants of the wood from Serra's coffin on display next to the sanctuary, and personal items belonging to Serra on display in the mission museums. A bronze and marble sarcophagus depicting Serra's life was completed in 1924 by Catalan sculptor Joseph A. Mora. Father Serra's remains have not been transferred to the sarcophagus.
 
The chapel at Mission San Juan Capistrano, built in 1782, is believed to be the oldest standing building in California. Known as "Father Serra's Church," it has the distinction of
being the only remaining church in which Father Serra is known to have celebrated the rites of the Catholic Church (he presided over the confirmations of 213 people on October 12 and October 13, 1783).

A gold statue of heroic size represents him as the apostolic preacher at Golden Gate Park in
San Francisco.
  Jane Elizabeth Lathrop Stanford, wife of Leland Stanford, governor and U.S. Senator from California, although not a Catholic herself, had a granite monument erected to honor Father Serra at Monterey.


  • In 1884, the Legislature of California passed a concurrent resolution making August
    29
     of that year, the centennial of Father Serra's burial, a legal holiday. Many of Serra's letters and other documentation are extant, the principal ones being his"Diario" of the journey from Loreto to San Diego, which was published in Out West (March
    to June 1902) along with Serra's "Representación."
NOTE: I have been to Loreto, and have visited the Nuestra Señora de Loreto Mission, built in 1697 by Junipero Serra, 


A statue of Friar Junípero Serra is one of two statues representing the state of California in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol. The statue, sculpted by Ettore Cadorin, depicts Serra holding a cross and looking skyward.  When Interstate
280
 was built in stages from Daly City to San Jose in the 1960s, it was named the Junipero
Serra Freeway
.  Along the freeway in Hillsborough, California, is a statue of Serra.  It stands on a hill on the northbound side and has a large pointing finger facing the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific.

 
 
For dinner, we went to La Guarida restaurant, and Susan Sarandon walked into our dining room, so Alexander recommended some choices on the menu.  After dinner, we walked to the Saratoga Hotel a few blocks from the capitol building for cocktails. Their bar is up on the second floor up curving granite steps. The pianist, Mario, played all the oldies and goodies, and even played Chopin when I made the request.


JUN 24: We took a taxi to wonderful, new, Mediero restaurant not far from the Nacional Hotel for lunch. The food was exceptionally tasty, and I told Alexander I wanted to return here for another meal. We had a bottle of Chilean wine with our lunch. We spent a few hours at Nacional Hotel to enjoy their patio-bar for drinks and a cigar.   While we were there, a film company from Boston was there to make a documentary with Wade Boggs about the US embargo against Cuba. After we returned to Old Havana, we walked through Plaza Vieja and to Plaza de Armas. We then walked to the Saratoga Hotel a couple of blocks from the capitol building, and we enjoyed a Bucanero on their 7th level open bar with swimming pool with great views of the capitol building and surrounding area.

NOTE: I thought Ray Boggs was a baseball player, but the only Ray Boggs I could find on the internet was the one born in the early 20th century, and he was a baseball player.
UPDATE: I found an article on Wade Boggs visit to Cuba.  It was never Ray Boggs; it was Wade Boggs.



JUN 25: Our travel companions were Alexander, Diya, Rolando, Alexander's friend and taxi driver, and yours truly. Today was another special day for me. Alexander introduced me to Carlos Robaina, father of Hiroshi Robaina, at Carlos' restaurant Quinta Qy 16, a well designed establishment with high ceilings, the name Robaina on the chair's leather backrest, and Robaino cigars as the columns supporting the upper parts of the building. I asked why he gave Hiroshi a Japanese name, and he said his son was born in the month they traveled to Japan in 1976. Carlos even spoke some Japanese. I enjoyed the lobster thermidore ($4.95) and a Bucanero.


A brief on Alejandro Robaina:
Alejandro Robaina passed away in 2010 at age 91. He was the dean of the cigar industry, and established his tobacco farm in Pinar del Rio in 1845 (We visited the farm last year in October, and that's when I met Hiroshi who now runs the farm). He grew the best wrapper tobacco in Cuba, if not the world. Hiroshi's father, Carlos, ran the farm until about three years ago, but now runs his restaurant in Havana, Quinta Qy 16, where we enjoyed lunch.

What is interesting about the Robaina tobacco farm is that the Castro regime wanted to transfer the farm into a cooperative after the revolution, but Alejandro refused.  Many years later, Fidel Castro presented Alejandro with an honorary medal of accomplishment for producing the best tobacco wrapper in the country (if not the world).

Alexander and I ended up at the Melia Habana's lobby bar, his favorite hotel in Cuba for drinks and a cigar.  The three of us had dinner at the Italian restaurant in Historico Havana, Dominica, not far from Plaza de la Cathedral. I had the spaghetti, and we shared a bottle of red wine – from Chile.

JUN 26: Another day spent in Old Havana by taking the two-decker tour bus for 5 CUCs ($5 for an all day pass).  The three of us got off not far from the Hotel Libre, the building where Fidel Castro established his base of operations. The irony about this once Hilton Hotel is that they are flying the American flag on the building. We had lunch at La Maraleja in the air conditioned dining room that allows diners to watch the chef cook at the outside oven. I had the pork that was very good. On our tour bus ride back to Old Havana, we passed by a Revolutionary Square with the Jose Marti Memorial tower, and Che's sculpture on the Ministry of Interior building. That evening, while the three of us walked through Obispo Street, Alexander saw a musician he had met earlier on this trip. The musician played his guitar and sang for us. Where else in this world can one experience such spontaneity. We eventually walked into La Bodeguita del Medio for mojitos and beer.
 
From Wiki:  La Bodeguita del Medio is a typical restaurant-bar of Havana (Cuba). It is a famous tourist destination because of the personalities which have patronized it: Salvador Allende, the poet Pablo Neruda, the writer Ernest Hemingway, the artist Josignacio and many others. La Bodeguita lays claim to being the birthplace of the Mojito cocktail, prepared in the bar since its opening in 1942, although this is disputed. The rooms are full of curious objects, frames, photos, as well as the walls covered by signatures of famous or unknown customers, recounting the island’s past.

Many artists have works of art that depicts this establishment all over Havana.

While sitting at the bar and listening to some music, I saw the bartender make up mojitos by the dozens every few minutes. It's not that large an establishment, but the mojitos were moving like gold.

We found a taxi to take us back to our hotel for 4 CUC's.




 





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