Richmond Castle, Yorkshire
Richmond Castle, Yorkshire
  • Holiday Photos
    • 14/05/2016


Yeah i think i've got them all (well a small selection) on Flickr now, you can see here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/stuartpinchin/albums
  • Habana
    • 14/05/2016
HAVANA

Touching down in Havana, people are ignoring the seatbelt signs and rushing to get their personal items from overhead lockers before the wheels even touch down!
And why rush? Bags don't start appearing on the luggage conveyer for about an hour!
Bureau de change, then overpriced standard fare taxi into the city.
Immediately jaw hits the floor. Big 50's "classic" americna cars everywhere, mixed with slightly newer soviet hatchbacks, horse and cart, bulging buses and trucks with people riding on the back.
People
People everywhere on the street, outside every building, going places, sitting around
Occasional billboards and murals reminding "the revolution is forever" and "socialism or death!"
Getting closer in to old Havana, the taxi weaves down narrow streets lined with crumbling colonial town houses, dodging potholes, piles of rubble, street carts, oblivious pedestrians.
People on every doorstep, kids playing football in the street, people queuing at unsigned windows to buy food or whatever random thing is being sold.

My brain is struggling to keep up.

In Havana i stayed at Rolando's Backpackers, which claims to be Cuba's first hostel.
I chose that over one of the many more beautiful casa particulars simply because it guaranteed meeting other foreign tourists, which really helped in terms of orientation,
since there were people there just finishing their trips who could pass on their experience and advice, and other people just starting out who wanted to team up to do things.

So i spent the next two days wandering around Old Havana, with two Ozzies, Maarten and Kristen. Colourful and splendid.
No development since the 60's means things can be somewhat dilapidated, but every building has unique intricate details, and glancing through open doorways reveals luxurious courtyards, tiled floors, or more rubble!
But intense, partly because you can't walk ten metres without being offered a taxi, or being approached by a cuban with some sneaky story, they always have a brother or a cousin in whatever country you are from, know where a special salsa festival is happening, can give you special tour of a cigar factory, or need money to buy baby milk, etc etc.
Saying that, they never push the point or force the issue after you say no gracias...

Musee de la Revolucion
Housed in the old Presidential Palace, 8CUC, An interesting chronicle of the events prior to, during, and after the revolution, with accompanying newspaper articles, photos, and a somewhat bizarre collection of supporting relics, such as "the fountain pen owned by X", "the tie worn by Y", "a chair from a house used by the security forces", and TWO spoons.
Although to be fair ONE of the spoons apparently saved its owners life by deflecting a bullet!!!

Gallery of Cuban Art
In a purpose built, modern, very nice building, a large collection of works from colonial times through to present day modern art. Well worth a look and several air conditioned hours.

At one point i turned a corner to find the street filled with people on their laptops and mobile phones.... what? It's one of the only WiFi hotspots in the city, 3CUC per hour to get online.

Nights Out.
There are a couple of guys in the hostel who have been there a while and met some Cuban students. They invite us all to their bar, which isn't officially open yet, and is accessed via a nondescript house door, up some stairs, and a special knock!
Its a trendy looking place, using old floppy disks for coasters and walls covered in front pages of the newspaper "Granma" in what i suspect is an ironic manner.
The Cuban students all speak perfect english, have macbooks and lament the fact that despite them saving and spending hundreds of dollars on visa applications, other countries won't let them in even for holidays, as they are considered high risk of illegally staying...
Many mohitos later...

Next night someone suggests FAC, a cool nightclub they heard about. So at 10:30pm, everyone in the hostel piles in some taxis and heads down there. I am sceptical since i have an 8am bus to catch but think what the hell.
So we arrive at this huge old industrial bulding and the queue to get in is massive. 2 hours. Three hours we hear, as touts work the line claiming they can get us jumped to the front for an extortionate fee.
I nearly go straight back home to sleep. But a mere 1 hour later we are in, and it's worth it.
First up something i haven't encountered before but apparently is standard in Brazil, rather than paying for drinks as you go, they write the cost on a piece of card, and you pay your tab on the way out - the catch being that if you lose the card you pay 30CUC. (vs 2CUC per drink)
Anyway, the first few rooms are a labryinthial art gallery, modern works superimposing american brands on photos of old havana in a scary glimpse of the future, and a series of photos of a group of naked cuban women, showing the diversity in size shape and colour in the country i guess.
Meanwhile the whole building is reverberating to the beat of many drums. Before we can find the source though the performance finishes and is replaced by a 30ft high projection of a tina turner concert.
From another room floats the sound of a jazz band. Across an outdoor patio, a warren of shipping containers houses bars an chill out seating, next to the main dancefloor, with a stage at the end where rappers are spitting lyrics i wish i could understand.
Then house music till 3 am. Bed at 4. Bus at 8.


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