Monthly Archives: January 2009

Castles, Rum and strangers.

Havana, Cuba – January 26 2009

Another good day. I took a taxi to El Morro. The only way to get to the castle is by an underwater tunnel that is only accessible by car.

Like a lot of museums and historical places here in Havana it has the potential to be great but is underdeveloped and in need of money, time and effort to restore it fully. It has a great view of old Havana and the gulf.

I made the trek to San Carlo de Cabaño. Well after I walked ½ mile down the wrong road, then had to walk back the way I came then ¼ mile up the hill to the fort. Aside from the view of Cristo de la Habana on Casablanca and the Canon blast at night there wasn’t really anything to see that was of interest to me. There was a lot of construction going on.

I made my way down the hill back to El Morror declining the offers of unlicensed taxi and took a look at the stalls set up in front of the castle. The sellers whistle, hissed and made puckering sounds anything to get your attention and buy something. One ambitious seller went as far as trying to put a beaded bracelet on my wrist telling me it matches my shirt.

There was only one licensed cab waiting outside but refused to take me into old Havana claming he was not free. A man approached me as I walked away.

“Taxi?” He asked pointing to his car. He was an unlicensed taxi. A Cuban who transports people in their personal car and illegal (for the driver) to drive foreigners in their car.
“Erm are you official?”
“Yes, official. El Morro.”
“Do you have meter?”
“No, no meter.”
“I’ll wait for an official cab.” I said pointing to the red Cubataxi who refuse to take me earlier. I walked across the street to wait for another taxi – an official taxi. Not to say I don’t have a sense of adventure but getting into a random and complete stranger’s car doesn’t scream good idea to me.

Minutes passed as I waited for another taxi. I watch the driver of the unlicensed taxi get out of his small black car and walk across the street. Hesitating for a moment while a jeep full of soldiers in their green uniforms drove passed.

“Where you going?” He asked as he approached.
“Museo de Ron.” I butchered the pronunciation. He stared at me confused.
“Rum Museum.”
“Ah Yes! Five Pesos.” I look around and still saw no sign of another taxi. The thought of me possibly standing out front of the castle for hours on end crossed my mind.
“Ok. Five pesos.” I help up 5 fingers. The driver smiled and nodded leading me to his car.

I slid into the back seat regretting my decision thinking of how stupid I am for getting into the car.

I held my breath surveying the best escape route incase it went bad. I exhaled when we finally pulled in front to the rum museum a few short moments later.

The museum with its’ English guided tour was by far the best museum in Havana yet. It ended with a taste test of 7 Añeo Rum. Very strong. But went down easy.

I carried my two big bottles of Rum as I walked back towards to Plaza De Armas and Calle Obispo. On the way I stopped in Plaza San Francisco again. It reminds me of the many plazas I’ve seen in Italy.

Tomorrow I’m not sure what I am going to do. Possibly Hemingway’s museum.

Only 3 more days.

I booked my sun wing pickup for Thursday from the reception of the hotel. They’ll be picking me up at 5:30pm in the lobby. This leaves me wondering what to do between check out at 2pm and pick up at 5:30pm.

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Karma will break your camera.

Havana, Cuba – January 26 2009

Now this is a day! So, so, so much better. I got up for breakfast feeling a lot better. My feet still battled wound from the fight with El Malecón and my flip flops but no where near as a bad as on Friday or even Saturday.

I took a cubataxi to Museo de la Revolution. It was 8CUC fix price. Although it only cost me 6CUC coming home. It was an interesting museum housed in the old presidential palace. However it was a very bias museum and to sum up the message of the museum. First it was the Spanish Colonizers’ fault then the American’s, and then Batista’s then once again the American’s. The Russians played a tiny part in it. This kind of bias is expected out of a Communist country, that historical fact wasn’t havanacubajanuary2009-064 havanacubajanuary2009-069present from both sides to avoid bias.

After the museum I walked down to the El Capitolio. The outside was great. Walking up those steps left me huffing and puffing a bit. Inside was bland except for the statue when you first walk in. Mostly an art gallery gift shop then anything else.

havanacubajanuary2009-102

Latter I back track the way I came to walk up the pedestrian street Calle Obispo. I was hit up by three beggars along the way.

“Please, Please, modena, modena.”

Before reaching Plaza de Armas, there was troupe of colorful street performers on slits performing for the crowd. I took a few pictures outside of El Templete. Watching a little boy squeeze his body through the gate to retrieve his ball. I had wanted to take a look in Museo de la Ciudad. However it was close. I wasn’t ready to go but was running out of things to do aside from wandering the streets I went into the National museum of Nature.

It wasn’t worth my time. Mostly poorly taxidermy animals. I walked back down Obispo pass Hemingway’s favorite bar and home of the daiquiri; The Floridita and back up to the area around Museo de la Revolution where I was taken in by the prettiest brown eyes in the world. They happen to belong to a white mare attach to a carriage with her driver lazing away in the back.
The driver didn’t speak English and my poor attempt at Spanish got us no where. So he called over another man to help with the translation. Once the details of what I wanted – an hour drive around Old Havana I climb in. The man (forgot his name, sorry) hopped on to be my guide. For 20CUC I got a private hour long horse drawn carriage ride tour of Old Havana with a guide. The guide took two pictures of me in front of San Francisco Church and Square. Going along he pointed out the sights to me in broken English. I struggle my best to understand him when he spoke Spanish.

When the tour was over I came back to the hotel and got pizza again.

Downside of the day was somewhere between the end of the carriage ride when I put my camera away in my day pack and when I got back to the hotel and try to look at the pictures from the day my camera broke and I am pissed. It’s not even two years old. However I have been looking for a reason to upgrade from a digital point and shoot to DSLR. [Again with Synchronized Swimmers!] I guess this was it. I just wish it lasted until the end of my trip.

It was nice to call my parents and not ball my eyes out this time.

I came into my room to find a towel swan and a hand written note welcoming me to the hotel from my maid. Great personalized touch.

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Poor Fishy and the CoCo Express

Havana, Cuba Day 3 – January 24 2009

It is shortly after 1pm and I am back at the hotel again! I hate to say it, but this trip is starting out to be a dud.

I woke up completely sore as hell from yesterday. My feet are blistered and torn apart. Far worst then I thought they were last night. My hips feel the worst.

I got up and dress and went to go eat something at the included breakfast on the second floor. At this point I got a good look at the other guest as I made my way around the buffet. Mostly, well actually all of the guest are forty-five and over. I really hate that no matter where I go I am stared at by everyone especially then men – of all ages. It is unnerving.

I took a cab to the Acuario Nacional shortly after it open. I paid the 7CUC admission fee.

Before leaving I had great hope for the aquarium. However when I got in I was really disappointed. Even though Frommer’s said it had been renovated although no sea world it was warn down and dirty and had me worried for the few animals they had there.

The walrus entrapment was smaller then most people’s pools and had four at least 500 pound walruses in it. Swimming around in circles because that’s all they could do. The dolphin show was a little better. However the tank is very small. The dolphins looked very unhappy and they showed a lot of wear and tare on their bodies. I left afterwards.

havanacubajanuary2009-052havanacubajanuary2009-053I had the girls at the information booth call for a taxi for me. I was warn that it would take 30-40 minutes for the taxi and was given the advice to grab any taxi that showed up even if it’s not the one they called.

I waited only a few minutes outside of the gates when the yellow motorized Cuban version of a rickshaw called a coco taxi showed up. I waved it down and go in. I filmed the ride back to the hotel. The driver took the long way back but charged me 5 CUC the same amount it cost me when I took a regular taxi there.

The taxi driver jumped out and offered to take a picture of me in the coco taxi for me.

“Would you like a picture in the taxi?”
“Ah sure.”
“No, no, sit in front like you’re a taxi driver.”

I only had a 20CUC bill on me. The driver said he didn’t have change so I gave him the entire bill. That was a 15CUC tip I gave him. A lot for me, seeing how I don’t normally tip ever.

Since being here I’ve only eaten pizza from the pizzeria at the hotel. I’ve always been a picky eater. Even more so since becoming a vegetarian in October. Here in Havana I have seen very little restaurants and even less in the vegetarian variety.

For dinner I am going to try the other hotel restaurant and see what I can get there. If not pizza again. Blah!

What would make this trip more enjoyable? Probably speaking Spanish or at the very least remembering anything I learned in the two years of Spanish classes I took six years ago so I have more independence. Not being so klutzy and accident prone would help too.

Tonight I will be calling home.

6:53pm

I called my parents and began crying the moment my mom pointed out that I didn’t sound like I was having much fun. I’m not and I am. I am hopping tomorrow will be better. My feet and hips are starting to feel much better.

I’m tired thought. This hotel I tell ya at times trying to sleep is like trying to sleep in the middle of a nightclub and a parking lot. Outside the balcony I can hear cars putter up and down the street and the constant use of their horns. Outside my door coming from the pool comes a blaring mix of Cuban music and top 40 hits from once upon a time ago. A lot of Celine Dion. YUCK!!!!!!!!

I left my room to get dinner [pizza at Mi Patio again] only to see a squad of synchronized swimmers practicing in the pool. REALLY?!?!?!

The plan for tomorrow is the Habana Veija: Museo de Revolution, Parque Central, the Capitolio building, strolling Obispo to the Plaza de Armas then El Templete.

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“Please, five minutes, one mojito.”

Havana, Cuba Day 2 – January 23 2009

 

I’ve been back in my ro

om since 2pm. It’s now 8:31pm. It has been a bit of a rough day. From the get go I didn’t want to get up and do anything today. I finally got up at 9 even though I set my alarm clock for 7am. Once I finally got ready I walked from my hotel in the Playa district of Havana to Cementerio de Colón. I had heard nothing but good things about this place. However I was left with something to be desire.

 

It was also the start of the looks, stairs and hissing from men that seemed to follow me through out the day. It wasn’t really expected as I wore a t-shirt and jeans and no make up my hair tied in a pony tail.

 

Afterwards I walked up to ave. 12 and made my way to El Malecón. The sea side walks way. I underestimated how long and grueling the walk is. Being klutz that I am I had tripped over some ripped up side walk causing my thong flip flops to cut me deeply in between the toes and along the side of my feet.

 

I was determine to keep up with the itinerary I had predetermined and keep walking. It seemed that every man that I walked by hissed and yelled cat calls at me. Along the way I stopped to look at my map when I was approached by a man and asked me to take a picture of him for him. We began talking a little. His name was Michael who said he was dance teacher who also study in Canada. He tried convincing me to get a mojito with him. At this point I wasn’t going any where but back to my room. My feet, my hips everything hurt. I turned him down for the mojito and even turned him down to walk together. He whipped out his tourist visa, trying to convince me to go. Finally gave up after a few minutes and I kept walking down the street waving a taxi down to go back to Kohly.

 

I got Pizza again at the pizzeria attached to the hotel.

 

Tomorrow I plan on going to Acuario Nacional.

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Mr. Cuban Nose picker.

havanacubajanuary2009-0111Havana Cuba – Day 1 January 22, 2009

 

Hotel Kohly Rm. 308

 

Christopher Columbus said that Cuba was the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen. And I agree…. Next to Venice that is.

 

I arrived here a few hours ago after spending almost four hours on the transfer bus by Sunwing. They dropped passengers off at just about every hotel along the way. I was the last person to be dropped off.

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The view from my room is amazing. From the balcony facing north I can see the water and from the door of my room in this open concept hotel is a view of the pool and palm trees. While a nice hotel, it is in need of renovations. havanacubajanuary2009-025

 

The flight to Cuba was okay. My hand luggage was searched because I forgot to remove the liquids from my bag. The check in line for Sunwing was long and snaked and stretch down the hall.

 

After landing in Cuba I made my way to customs, where I noticed the agent was very handsome. I waited for my turn. It was long before it was. I bent down to get my luggage and then looked up to see the agent picking his nose. So much, I thought that he might give himself a nose bleed. I reluctantly handed him my passport, and was quickly on my way.

 

Anyways I am very tired. It’s only 4pm, but I am poop! I am going to try to sleep even though the music at the pool is blasting.

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Hola from Havana

Just a quick post from here in Havan. Had a bit of a rough start after the El Malecon and my thong sandles teamed up kicked my ass. Follow by my camera breaking Should be home soon. Stay tune for full details of my trip.

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20 hours before departure and is it just me?

20 hours before departure and is it just me? I spent the last several months counting down the days to my trip to Cuba. I have been nothing but excited. Yet now, less the 24 hours from departure the excitement has warn off a little. A lot really. Before it was woohoo Cuba! Now it’s yuck! another plane and another airport. But you know what I’ve always felt this way right before a trip.

 

I get excited right up to the date I have to go, then the day before I don’t want to go anymore. However I always get on the plane and come the day I am suppose to come home, I never want to come back. It’s funny how that works out like that.

 

                                                            On to my next adventure….

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Songs To Listen To When You Miss Someone While Traveling: The Extended List

A new year, a new post and a new play list. A while ago I posted my top ten songs to listen to while missing someone when you’re traveling. The last few days I have been compiling what will be an on going and extensive play list of songs.

Here it goes….

  1. Incubus -Wish you were here
  2. Movies – Alien Ant Farm
  3. Blink 182 – I Miss you
  4. State of Shock- Best I ever had
  5. Faber Drive- Summer Fades to Fall
  6. Fergie – Big girls don’t cry
  7. Nickleback – Far Away
  8. Pearl Jam – Last Kiss
  9. Plain White T’s – Hey There Delilah
  10. Faber Drive – When I’m with you
  11. The Carpenters- Please Mr. Postman
  12. Every Avenue – Story to Tell your friends
  13. Brand New – Jude Law and a Semester Abord
  14. Lynard Skynard – Sweet Home Alabama
  15. Every Avenue – The Hell back home
  16. Cold – When Angels fly away
  17. Marianas Trench – Cross my heart
  18. Pink Floyd – Wish you were here.
  19. Ill Scarlett – Life of a Soilder
  20. Silverchair – Miss you love.
  21. John Travolata and Olivia Newton-John – Summer Nights
  22. The Eagles – No more walks in the wood
  23. Summer Obession – Wake me up
  24. April wine – You don’t dance with me
  25. The Beatles – Hello goodbye.
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Ready Set Go

I am just under 2 weeks left before I board a plane headed for Havana Cuba. My bags are packed and ready to go. Carry on only! I took the contents of my coin jar to the bank today. I will be bring only cash to Cuba instead of praying to Cuban ATM gods hoping it will accept my card and not eat it as a sacrifice.

I have a good feeling about this trip. Nothing to date has been a canary sign for the trip. Money is good, plans are good, no signs of civil unrest of unclimate weather.

Looking forward to some sun and R&R!

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