Old Havana

Trip Start Mar 19, 2008
Trip End Apr 03, 2008

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Flag of Cuba  ,
Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The next day we explored Old Havana on foot. We found the perfect breakfast spot with a lovely, courteous old waiter and a beautiful woman playing the piano, and it was nice to just sit and people watch for hours on end. The architecture reminded me a little of New Orleans, with the upper level balconies and stone buildings. We wandered to the Hotel Florida where Hemingway had his favorite Pina Coladas, and on the way stopped in a bar where there was a small band. Of course the man at the bar approached us and soon I was dancing, as that's what one does in Cuba: dance! There was music everywhere, all the time. That night we found a place with an all girl band and met a nice couple, then were befreinded by Andres, who was to become "our man in Havana". As hard as we tried, we could not lose him, but in the end it was good to have someone to show us around, take us through Cental Hanvana and along streets we might not otherwise have braved going down (although it is pretty safe everywhere we went, it just looks run down). Andres was a character, and I learned a lot about Cuban life from him. He was uncensored in what he told us, some of which we were shocked by. We didn't know that Cubans couldn't go into just any restaurant, hotel or bar, which we learned when we suggested sitting down at an outdoor cafe. Andres would have been chased away. He also told us that most of the beaches were for tourists, and Cubans weren't allowed on those beaches. They could not buy cell phones, computers, or dvd's (which changed soon after we were there, as well as Cubans being allowed in all hotels and on all beaches and beginning to be able to own land to farm), and once when Andres was walking us home, the police stopped him and interrogated him. There were cameras everywhere. But, everyone has an education and health care.....Just shows me once again that life is complicated. I am happy I live in the "free" world, but how is it that the richest country in the world also has an appalling infant mortality rate, or that people are homeless on the streets, and that so many people are illiterate?? I felt I wanted to really know Cuba and its ways, but I also knew it could never really happen. It was still too scary, too secret, too closed, which made me sad, because it was truly showing itself to be a country of incredible people, beautiful and passionate.
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