Cuba: Part 2

After our first tour of the day we returned to the ship and ate a quick lunch. We had originally been scheduled for an art museum tour, but complications from the morning docking had us arrive too late to go on the tour. This gave us a few hours to do what we wanted until our night walking tour. 

Originally, before going to Cuba, we were under the impression that we needed to have a full schedule packed for every hour of our trip. It turned out to be a bit more relaxed, some people arranged their own tours off the ship, some people didn’t have any tours and just walked around. Unfortunately, it seems like all of that will be changing. We ended up spending the next few hours walking around the old colonial part of Havana.

Without a set goal in mind we mostly wandered around and focused on taking photos with my film cameras. We noticed there were very few signs on the buildings, and we found it difficult to know what everything was. A lot of things looked like the entrances to people’s houses, but also like a store front. We passed a few “grocery stores” which was mainly a counter with bread selections behind it. 

I don’t think there was ever a time we felt unsafe while walking around. We stuck out like sore thumbs when we started exploring the side streets, but most people were just hanging out and couldn’t care less. Along the way we saw more dogs than cats, and all seemed pretty nice. Also, honking seemed to be a major form of communication. A lot of taxi’s would honk to see if we needed a ride, but would also honk to say hi to people, honk to turn, and honk to have people move out of the way. There’s probably an unspoken honking language that you develop over time! 

At one point we ended up at a very large market along the shoreline. The entire market was filled with rows and rows of small booths of people selling goods. This was the only place during our whole walk we found a public bathroom. Restrooms in Havana are scarce, most don’t provide toilet paper, or have seats, and almost all of them have an attendant you need to tip (who will give you toilet paper beforehand). I’m sure the nicer restaurants and hotels would provide better stalls, but there will probably be an attendant wherever you go.

Our organized tour for the day was a night walking tour of the old colonial Havana. The tour guide was super friendly and energetic and our tour focused on three main town squares, followed by drinks and food. We ended up at an old bar that Ernest Hemingway drank at, and had virgin mojitos. Afterwards we ate at the original Sloppy Joes. Apparently this is a place mainly for tourists, our tour guide said most people in Cuba cannot afford to eat there. Unfortunately I couldn’t eat, but Harper was able to have a sandwich and said it was delicious! 

We passed by an interesting old square that President Obama visited on his trip. The Parque Cervantes is a historical park with a statue, and surrounded by old architecture. It was filled with stray dogs with small signs around their necks with adoption information. There was also an old street made out of wooden cobblestones because stones were too loud for the previous resident. 

Along the way we met a few characters. A lot of residents seem to be making extra money by dressing up in “Cuban” costumes for tourists to take pictures with. They didn’t come out and ask for money, but it was assumed. Two women smoking unusually large cigars, and a man with extra props (who was featured on National Geographic), followed our group around a bit. They were all friendly, but expect a tip of some sort if you take their pictures!

Our nightly tour concluded with our guide being asked why American’s call it Havana instead of Habana, his answer, “I have no idea!” 

The next blog post will cover our taxi adventure in a 1950’s Pontiac; where we stopped at the Revolution Square, saw a quieter side to Havana, and enjoyed the mafia life at the National Hotel!

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