Tour guides in Havana

Trip Start Jan 16, 2007
Trip End Mar 01, 2007

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Our car habits are becoming more Cuban all the time; we stuff everyone into a small cab for a quick trip to the head of the Prado, taking about half the trip along the still barricaded Malecon. We arrived yesterday to a cold wind creating spectacular water fountains along its length, and there's still quite a bit of water erupting over the seawall, but if no cop guards the top of any street leading onto it, by Cuban standards it's not "closed."

I've been planning various activities for Mom and Dad's time in Havana. This morning they get the Coles Notes version of our first week: a stroll down the Prado, a croissant in Parque Central, and the jostled walk along Obispo's pedestrian mall into Habana Vieja. After a fine set of Middle Eastern platters at Al Medina for lunch, we break new ground south from the Plaza de Armas, letting sudden views of squares and church spires lure us down sidestreets, through the Plaza de San Francisco de Asis, with its vast cloisters (now a concert hall and museum), to end gawking at the restored Plaza Vieja. All but one of the 16th century buildings here has been beautifully restored -- and the magnitude of the endeavour shows most dramatically in the unrenovated and still occupied crumbling edifice on the west side. Its beleaguered front facade, coated in drying washing and boarded up windows, couldn`t provide more of a contrast with its buffed, stained-glassed neighbours.

I discover later that we've almost replicated the walking tour of old Havana in the guidebook, but with our necks craned up at the facades and capitals we've managed to miss all the interesting stores at street level, including the chocolate museum! We'll get a chance to redo this walk with Julie's mom later this week. A quick stop at our favourite peso cremeria (ice creams for everyone for 60 cents Canadian), then home from our longest outing of the trip so far. Mom and Dad are really impressed with the kids' ability to handle a six-hour-plus outing. Jonathan of course just sleeps, eats and smiles in his carrier, but after a month on the road, Lucy can pull off 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. with rarely a whine. I really do her a disservice calling her a headstrong kid!
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