Trip Start Jan 16, 2007
51Trip End Mar 01, 2007
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Where I stayed
Our new casa in a 1940s art deco apartment block has a balcony looking over the Hotel Nacional gardens across the street. Huge room, great fixtures, private bath. The shower, with one of those high-flow '40s shower heads the size of an elephant's trunk -- and real hot and cold taps and a bar of soap-- is worth the night's price alone. I feel clean for the first time this trip; Julie comes out a changed woman
We discover a different Havana in our stroll to a restaurant for lunch. The sidewalks are less crumbly. The buildings are still eroding but they're from the 40s, not the previous centuries. Many streets have trees. At night, the sounds could be from any city. The musical cacophony of central Havana has been replaced by the hum of air conditioners.
Out for ice cream later at Bim Bom, we watch six children and four adults pry their way out of one car. Are we just acting like precious Norte Americanos being so obsessed with seatbelts? It's so easy to lose your compass on that kind of thing travelling.
We spend a lot of time in the lobby of the Hotel Nacional, not just because its cool seats and dark-beamed ceilings contain the ghosts of the past, but because we need services. My parents are due down at an all-inclusive in Varadero this coming Sunday, and Julie strongly desires to meet them there. Her dream: a relaxed week with extra hands to hold children. Unfortunately, I discover over scratchy phone lines and expensive Internet connections that no rooms are to be had, either through my folks' travel agent in Victoria, through websites, or the tourist desk in the lobby.
One great discovery I make in the Nacional's lobby is our casa-mate from Trinidad, Susanne. Over a mojito, she tells me about the challenges she found travelling solo around the east end of the island, and how hard it's been meeting people
The next day, Jonathan, strapped to my chest, works his magic once again. An amazingly helpful woman at the Hotel Nacional takes one look at him and adopts our cause as her own. She tries to book us into the resort next door next to my parents (the only option available), only to discover they don't allow children there. We leave for Vinales tomorrow, returning to Havana next Saturday, hopefully en route to Varadero. The woman promises to somehow get us a room, at the best price she can. This is for family, she says.