Salsa in Havana

So somehow we had saved two of the things we were looking forward to most to our last day, a drive around town and a salsa lesson.
First up was the salsa lesson and Piata had recommended a place she had been going to which was in one of Havana’s classic streets in central. We walked very slowly in the incredible heat there enjoying taking photos of all the classic cars and houses and eventually arrived at quite a cool little dance school.
It was full of girls I am sure re enacting their “Dirty Dancing” with a whole host of good looking young male salsa teachers. One girl had in fact just stepped off the plane and gone straight for a lesson!! Our hostess Mercy balked at the 12 cucs we were paying for our lesson but it had come recommended and we got an instructor each for our hour and were guaranteed progress. (For me any result would have been progress!)
The lesson turned out to be a lot of fun and we both felt as though we were getting the hang of it by the end thanks to some great instruction and patience from our teachers. Although we only had time to learn the basics we reckon we are ready for the dance floor and the lesson was great!!
The best was the setting as it was in this old building with mirrors on both walls and as we took a break to look out the window the view took us back in time. The only downside is the constant attempts to get money out of you and it was just assumed that we were carrying on for another hour but to be fair they took it pretty well when we stopped. Certainly some more practice required for us but we didn’t step on each other’s feet and Sarah will have to learn to follow my lead (apparently!)
It took us quite a while to cool down afterwards before we headed off to pick our classic car for our trip around the sights. We had decided that we wanted a convertible and set about finding one. It wasn’t going to be too difficult but on the way we got caught by the guy who had taken us on our tour the day before.
We tried to politely say no but he was pretty pushy and as we walked away he followed us and eventually I had to tell him that this was my last negotiation in Central America and I knew exactly what price I was paying and what I was going to get. Noses were a little out of joint but the chap driving the 1946 Ford Deluxe convertible found it amusing when we chose his car over the others and soon enough the music was blaring and we were driving around Havana.
It wasn’t the most informative tour but we were both grinning like idiots the whole time. There is something very very cool about those old cars. The main site we visited was the plaza de la Revolution which was an absolutely massive square well over 100m wide and maybe the same long, and completely empty. Two huge murals of Che and Camillo were on two of the buildings bordering the square. All the buildings in the area are involved in the national security of Cuba and el Jefe works in one of the palaces too.
It was the scene where Fidel has made some of his historic speeches and you could only imagine him working the huge crowd up into a fervour!!
The tour finished with us cruising down the Malecon and we were both very happy!! We stopped at the end to see a building site where our driver told us there was to be a new hotel built. The beginning of the end or the start of something better? Only time will tell but I have a feeling ours might be some of the last views of the Malecon in the slightly run down, brilliant state it’s in now.
For dinner we treated ourselves to some delicious food at the rooftop bar we found on the first night. It was a shame it wasn’t salsa dancing but to be fair we found the salsa pretty difficult to find so instead we embraced the new Cuba. To be fair for the standard of food and drinks the prices are pretty reasonable and the location just perfect.
Cuba we will be back and I hope the Cubans are strong enough to retain some of what we experienced on this trip. Fingers crossed. T


Dance lesson number 1, I think we both had a great time.

The view out of the dance studio window.

Our walk back to the casa.  It’s interesting to note how little traffic there is in any of these streets.


And now follows the choice of cars we had for our tour.  It wasn’t like we had to search them out they were all around town.




The one we chose, and Ford Deluxe 46.

Abraham, our guide, driver and the mechanic.  Not the owner though.  He is saving and saving to buy his own I hope he does.

Great fun cruising around Havana.

The Plaza de Revolution.  A very symbolic square in the centre, it would have been very impressive to have seen this full of people listening to one of Fidel’s speeches.


The view from the top of the plaza with the murals of Che and Camillo on the intelligence agency buildings.

Back in Havana

It was good to be back in Havana. It’s just such a unique place. I usually categorise cities into two columns. Ones like Rio or Sydney that are pretty and you dont really need to experience the underlying culture to get a lot out of it. And the second column, cities like Melbourne and Buenos Aries where you really need to know where to go and what to do and spend a bit of time there to really get it. Well Havana somehow sits firmly in both columns. It’s stunningly attractive but yet we feel we are only really scratching the surface of what it has to offer.

We spent the morning walking around Central Havana which during the day would be my favorite part of Havana. The buildings are all old and crumbling, far less tourists and the people are real. Not a place I would spend a lot of time walking around in at night but I think that is just my own uncomfortableness rather than an actual risk something would happen. The street lights are yellow and too few and everyone sits outside on their pavements which gives it a bit of a eery vibe. But during the day the streets are just a never ending movie set. It’s a place I don’t think I will ever fully understand but we continue to try and figure it out.  

For example we still can’t figure out where the general population get stuff like toilet paper or butter or milk. We pass a shop selling one thing only like bread or meat or eggs and occasionally a tienda that sells a few things together. But each counter is separate. So for example we wanted water and icecream but the man wouldn’t sell me icecream from his counter, I had to go to the next counter. But we still have not seen the shop where they buy toiletries or canned tomatoes etc. Also we hadn’t seen a lot of veggie or fruit grocers yet the restaurants have vegetables. Do they get them delivered? We just can’t figure out how the general population are making things work. It’s very frustrating not speaking fluent Spanish as we have so many questions and so few answers. 

We were recommended a restaurant right in central and upon arrival you think it is just a dilapidated old building with people living in it. But you walk up two sets of stairs past washing hung out to dry and end up in this really fancy restaurant. So completely different from the surrounding area where everyone is quite poor. We sat down to eat but unfortunately the heat was uncomfortable so we abandoned that idea and ended up eating right on the waterfront. 

That afternoon we had decided to go for a tour around Havana in one of the classic cars. We found a beautiful old Chevy 53 and agreed on a price with the pushy slick tour guide. Unfortunately we couldn’t do the two hour tour as our apartment only has its water on for a specific period of time which is 8-8.45am and 12-12.45pm and 6-6.45pm. Crazy I know but I suppose it is a good way to conserve water! So we decided on the hour tour of the fort, lighthouse and St Christof statue that are all on the other side of the river bank. You access this by an tunnel built by the French in 1931.

The first stop was the statue which afforded us great views of old Havana. The statue was also right beside Che’s residence when he was minister of finance. We then headed to another fort. Nothing too spectacular here other than reinforcing the fact that the port would have been heavily defensible. Our last stop was the lighthouse and fort right on the mouth of the river. Great views back along the Malecon and of our apartment complex we were staying at. All in all we didn’t learn anything from our tour guide but we enjoyed cruising around in the beautiful old car. We decided we would hire a convertible tomorrow though! 

We headed out again in old town. We definitely decided that we enjoyed the city more during the day. We had both imagined salsa clubs lining the streets and music and dancing spilling out on the road. Although we have heard some amazing music, it’s mainly aimed at the tourists and we haven’t got the authentic experience we were after. Piata went to a salsa club with the dance school and said it was fantastic and mostly full of locals but we never made it that far out of town. It’s easy to understand though why the locals don’t go out to restaurants and bars as they don’t have the money. Also Reggaton has taken over here with the younger generation. We commented that the salsa music we heard they all play a lot of the same famous songs. I don’t actually know how much original music is being composed. But I could be completely wrong and maybe they are just playing those songs because it is what the tourists want to hear.

I think as a tourist you are also supposed to go to a salsa show here. But they are very expensive and it wasn’t really the experience we were after. So we didn’t go. Still that night we found a restaurant with live salsa music so sat down with our mojitos to enjoy the show. 

The other frustrating thing about Havana at night is the hustlers. Well they are there during the day but I feel they are worse at night. They start off starting a conversation with you asking where you are from. We always try and be polite so don’t ignore anyone, knowing full well that they are trying to sell us cigars or take us to a crappy restaurant where they get commission. It’s really annoying as you kind of just think everyone is out to con you. So when you do meet someone bring genuinely friendly you might just walk away from them which doesn’t give us tourists a good reputation. S

The statues scattered through Havana really are impressive. This one was just down the road from us.

One of the best up old taxis we got to take. Notice the Cuban and American flag on the front.

More street shots. As you can see the buildings are a little more decrepit and crumbling than those in old Havana but for us it just feels more real and raw.

Count resist the arty shot.

We had read in our guide book that there was a street covered in murals Calle Callejon de Hamel. To top it off there was live Rumba. The murals all depict Afro Cuban deities and it was really fascinating. But unfortunately ridiculously hot so we height tailed it out of there. 

We stopped off at the cigar factory which was unfortunately shut as it was Sunday. But the security guide took us in and tried to sell us “real” Cohibas for a third of the price. We knew the offical store was the next door over so went in and had a look around and politely refused as we wanted the real deal. This picture is in the real shop at their bar. The lady in there was really lovely and gave us lots of info. Tim mentioned he was buying our 5 cigars to smoke with his brother and brother in laws and that there was 8 of them. She gave us an extra 3 which are not proper Cohibas but were rolled in the same factory for a different company. Very nice of her.

One of the levels underneath the fancy restaurant. As you can see the locals live here too.

A few of the local boys excepting the heat playing dominos.


Our car for the tour.

View from the statue looking over Havana.


The view from the lighthouse looking over the Malecon.

Taxi back to Havana

We woke up fairly late after last night’s shenanigans but all we had to do was catch a taxi back to Havana where the plan was to have a quick nap and then see what Havana had to offer on a Saturday night.
Yamilka and Ariel at the casa sorted the taxi out for us. In fact over the three days they had sorted everything out for us and our hosts Mercy and Pachi had done the same in Havana too! We didn’t quite know what to expect from the Casa Particulars but it has been brilliant. There is a standard each room must reach which includes having ensuite facilities. Breakfast has been on offer everyday and has been huge and they have been so helpful with sorting out taxis and excursions. They have been so welcoming it’s been such a delight staying there.
But anyway back to the day.
It’s fair to say we were a bit disappointed when our taxi turned up as it couldn’t have been further from a classic American car if it tried. A daewoo. Well we had little option so we helped strap the bags to the roof and just about managed to squeeze inside. Sarah’s window would open and we were just about to pull the pin on the trip but as we picked up speed it turned out it created a good wind tunnel and we were all fairly cool.
We asked the driver to stop for a picture and he stopped at just the perfect point for a view over Vinales and then as we got back in I tried to break the ice and start a conversation with our driver. Music is always a good place to start and he was a big reggaeton fan so he played me some tracks from some different countries and we began chatting.
I started by asking him about his car which it turns out actually belonged to his grandmother. She was a doctor and therefore able to leave Cuba in order to earn some extra money and then return and buy the car. Cars certainly don’t come cheap as this was a 1994 daewoo tiny thing and his family bought it second hand in 2000 for 15,000 cuc (1 cuc = US$1). Which is an absolutely huge amount of money especially considering that the average wage is 25cuc a month!! 
This amazed me. He went on to say how he used to be a teacher and like doctors and other professionals his wage was controlled by the government and restricted to 25cuc a month. For an example this is how much it costs to stay in a casa for the night. A Mojito costs between 3 and 4, a beer between 1.50 and 2.50. So obviously it doesn’t leave a lot of free spending money!!
He said that he has switched to taxi driving where he claimed he earned 100 cuc a month and this was only possible as he had access to a car. Most of the money paid went to the government. I unfortunately couldn’t push him too much on how he felt about the matter but he did say that he would like to earn more money, obviously.
He also talked about the dramatic increase in tourism. Ten years ago there were hardly any tourists going to Vinales whereas today the place is full of tourists. Ten years ago there were hardly any casas whereas we reckoned every single house had a room to rent. He laughed that everyone had turned to doing something towards tourism as the money that it offered was so much greater than anything else they could do.
I asked him how he felt and he said it was difficult because on the one hand it has spoilt what used to be a lovely little village but on the other hand it has brought in a huge amount of money. He said on the most part is was nice having the tourists about (except for the Israelis!) and when I asked him about the impending arrival of thousands of American tourists he claimed that Cubans are stronger and therefore there will be no change. That should be interesting?!
We were driving at the time though a small village, more just a collection of houses. People were lounging about on rocking chairs and on the floor outside and in the shade just passing time. That is Cuban life he said…tranquilo. Meaning relaxed and he went on to say how wonderful he felt Cuba was. Especially because of the lack of drugs and violence and what a safe place it was.  
Unfortunately I couldn’t get more out of him but it certainly got me thinking.
He dropped us off at our Casa and we had a little snooze before getting ready for Saturday night in Havana. We had decided to try and explore an area called Verdado near where we were staying and had marked out a few places to try.
First stop was a small restaurant on the Malecon to watch the sunset. This is a very Cuban thing to do and from sunset until the early hours the sea wall is full of people relaxing and chatting.
We were expecting a bit of salsa music to accompany our dinner but alas no but we were starving so demolished our toasted sandwiches. The sunset was beautiful and we were certainly having a nice relaxing time enjoying it. We then set off to find somewhere else where we might enjoy some music but unfortunately it wasn’t exactly a buzzing area.
In fact it reminded us a bit of English suburbia. The houses were all a bit more stately and the bars were few and far between and the one we found wasn’t starting until 11:30. Whoops, not exactly the salsa extravaganza we were expecting.  
Never mind though we had a contingency plan in the form of a place called FAC. We arrived by taxi to a place which had a bit of buzz about it. It was a converted Electricity station and was a mix between a nightclub and an art gallery!! So for example we arrived and bought some cocktails and then proceeded to wander around two floors and various rooms filled with artwork! It was really quite a cool and different experience. There were three rooms set up for bands and a main central room which was showing a Metallica concert on a huge screen.
It was one of the more surreal experiences we have had. Everyone seemed to be wandering around looking at stuff and being cool. I have to admit it was a really interesting place/venue and also really interesting to see what the young Cubans are enjoying now. No Buena Vista Social Club in sight, instead walls lined with posters of Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, etc etc.  
It was interesting that not many people were drinking and the entry was on 2cuc so in fact the place was pretty accessible, I dread to think what a place like this would charge of it were in New York, London or Paris. In fact we decided that we could really be in any city around the world.
Not exactly what we were expecting for our Saturday night in Havana but a very interesting experience nonetheless. T

Not exactly a classic but the story more than made up for it.


The view of Vinales and the surrounds.

Some more gratuitous shots of classic cars and scenes on our return to Havana.

The beautiful sunset we shared on the Malecon.

Cayo Jutias

Another beautiful morning in Cuba and another enormous breakfast courtesy of our hosts then it was off in our classic car to what was meant to be a superb beach about an hours drive away.
We were happily cruising along in our classic once again enjoying the spectacular countryside while listening to the driver’s cd which unfortunately was power ballads for gringos. Phil Collins, Bryan Adams etc etc. Still it was hard to wipe the smiles off of our faces.
We weren’t sure what to expect but the view that greeted us was nothing short of amazing. The sea was absolutely beautiful and the sand pretty amazingly white too and we wandered up the beach to find our own piece of paradise. We soon found a spot and settled down to enjoy a day of swimming, reading and blog writing. Just a ridiculously perfect existence. Amazing.
The shoreline was littered with driftwood almost seemingly placed there deliberately for photos and in between there were gaps to set up camp for the day it was all so perfect it seemed manufactured. So far Cuba seems to be the most perfect of holiday destinations.
The water here is just perfect for swimming and relaxing in. Just cold enough to cool you down and so clear its ridiculous. How it gets that turquoise blue colour I don’t know but it’s properly spectacular.
So far food has been a bit of a mixed bag in Cuba so we went for a ham and cheese “Cuban” sandwich for lunch. Which is effectively a ham (which Sarah calls spam ham and refuses to eat) and cheese toastie not overly cheap but it fills you up. Accompanied by the view though made the whole affair pretty memorable.
Our taxi picked us up on time and we cruised home, this time listening to some salsa which was a bit better. The countryside was so green once again and dotted with farms. The soil must be pretty fertile here and I think because we are here in the rainy season we are seeing the best of it. Either way, very beautiful countryside and very amusing to see the incredibly slow pace of life the locals lead here!! There seems to be a lot of hanging around just chewing the fat.
We decided to see what the back streets of Vinales had to offer, not that there were many options but we did find a nice looking place on a corner with some bbqs and outdoor seating. The food was pretty bland but to be fair just what we were looking for to rest our stomachs from the spicy abuse of Mexico!!
We had a bit more energy tonight but still the same two options to go to so off we went to our now local to listen to the band play some salsa while we sipped on Mojitos. This time we arrived a little later at the second bar and the place was packed, it was standing room only.
The band soon came on and the dance floor was packed!! It’s an outdoor dance floor with a covered area around it but it was a pretty hot and sweaty affair. It was really great to see everyone dancing from those who had obviously just had a couple of lessons to those who seemed as though they were born on the dance floor! I love the salsa music and watching the dancing was even better, Sarah and I even managed to pick up a lesson from the waiter at the restaurant we had been to which was quite amusing!!
We watched the dancing until fairly late before going home and finishing the evening off on the roof terrace of our casa having yet another great chat about all things with Piata!! T

This is a typical traffic scene in Cuba.

Another day, another classic car taxi ride.

Absolutely stunning first view of the beach!

Me relaxing in the beautiful sea.

Sarah getting up close with a couple of the locals.  When we were walking from beach to beach we had to pass just inland and you could hear the rustle of all the crabs rushing back to their lairs.

Driftwood shots a plenty on the beach.

Glad we didn’t swim straight into this one.

Difficult not to enjoy yourself in a place like this.

Lone Rangers in Vinales 

The way to get around the valley was to go by horseback. Which was going to be interesting as I haven’t been on a horse since I was about 12 and Tim never had been. Needless to say we were both a little nervous. Our guide William came and met us at our hostel. A big shy man he walked us through town to his little homestead and there we met our horses. Mine was a grey called Poddy and Tim’s was called Carmelo which is funny because it’s my Dad’s name. The horses were so well behaved and we managed to get on without falling off and soon found ourselves on our way to a tobacco finca (farm). The amigo who met us to take us through the farm was one of the brothers who owned the farm and you could tell straight away he was a character. He took us through the process which we have seen a few times but still interesting. We then sat down and smoked a few of their cigars and drank mojitos while he went through the process of rolling one.

We were soon back on our horses and heading off to another finca that grew coffee, sugar and fruit. We again sat down and had a cocktail made with cane juice, pineapple and orange juice, lemon and of course rum! We also sampled a liquor that they made in the region out of guava. I wasn’t a big fan but still didn’t taste too bad.

Once more on our trusty steeds we headed off to a cave. The area around Vinales has amazing hilly limestone formations called mogotes. All irregular shapes they are really quite beautiful to see. They were created by erosion which also create amazing cave systems. By this stage there were tourists on horses everywhere and we were not too keen on walking through the caves with about 20 others. So our guide William who by this stage had taken a liking to Piata guided us through a section of the caves by ourselves. Luckily Tim bought the phone so we had a light. The cave was really narrow at parts but nice and cool. We came out a different entrance and walked through a finca that had yucca and malanga. Definitely two plants we will have in our garden.

The next stop was a restaurant that served mediocre overpriced food but the beer was cold and the view was lovely over the valley looking at all the limestone formations. Just across the road we then went for a dip in a watering hole. Nothing special but it was nice to cool off.

We then headed home and William got the horses into a canter which was scary but so fun and exhilarating. We had gotten up to a trot on several occasions previously but that was not as fun as cantering. Back home a little stiff and sore from our ride we sat back and enjoyed the sound of rain on the roof while drinking a few beers. 

Almilka came out and joined us in the rocking chairs and we got to talking about Cuba. I was catching some of it but Tim and Piata were getting more. She was actually an accountant (or the literal translation from the Spanish word for that job is counter) who worked for a hotel. But she left to run the casa so she could earn more money. Same with her husband Ariel who was a teacher but now a guide. She also talked farming and how Cuba couldn’t manufacture their own sugar. Previously they got it to a certain stage and then sold and sent it to America for the final manufacturing process. When the trade embargo was enacted they lost one of their main sources of income. But then The USSR stepped in and all was okay. When the USSR disbanded that no longer happened. So Cuba no longer exported sugar. But what I didn’t understand was that she said that the sugar we were using in the morning was from Cuba and that was definitely processed. So maybe something was lost in translation. She also said all sugar was still cut by hand here. Crazy! 

By the time we made it out for dinner we were all pretty knackered but determined to listen to some music so headed to a live music venue and were again blown away by the quality of musicians. The males voices are just so distinctive. You can’t learn that. Also the way that everyone in the band sings at certain points makes for some amazing tunes. We had heard of a salsa club just across the road so headed there and were met by a floor full of couples dancing away. There were varying standards but that was all part of the charm. The couples who could really dance were mesmerizing. It was great watching them in their really casual dress like denim shorts and a tank top and trainers twirl around the floor. We called it a day pretty early on for Cuban standards but vowed to come back tomorrow night for some more. S

Me and Poddy.

Just like in the movies.

Tim and our guide for the Tobacco Finca enjoying a cigar.

View from the farm. They also grow corn and alternated the crops. 

What a cowboy.

The machine the farm used to extract the sugar juice for their cocktails.

As you can see the area is a hotspot for tourists.

Tight squeeze.

The boys. They were well cared for by William.

Going a lift up.

The views from the restaurant.

Head ba into town. Notice the sign.Movmento 26 de Julio was name of Fidels revolutionary group trying to overthrow Batiste before the 1959 revolution. 

Not often you see a pair of parked oxen.

The music venue.

Off to Vinales

We awoke to a phone call from the embassy telling us that our funds were ready for collection which was excellent news as we were able to head off to Vinales. Well done Kelly, what a lifesaver.
We left a message at Piata’s casa to meet us at a bus station and headed off to pick up our cash and find a suitable classic car to take us on our 3.5 hour journey. We had been told to go to a certain bus station where we could find a car to take us to Vinales and as we pulled up there was a man there who sorted us out with a lift straight away. In a Cadillac!!
The car was superbly cool and sounded like a tank rumbling down the road and manoeuvred like a boat. Just what we were looking for. There was so much space inside we all spread out and enjoyed the scenery.
We travelled most of the journey along three lanes of dual carriageway all of which were more or less empty and the whole experience was just what we wanted. We stopped off after an hour or so at a tabacco farm where we had a quick tour and got to buy to cost price Cohiba cigars we were having the time of our lives.
Vinales and the surrounds are absolutely stunning scenery if a little touristy but we soon found our casa where Yamilka the hostess showed us to our fantastic rooms and set about making us feel at home. Just wonderful. She offered us dinner so we took her up on the suggestions and went off to buy some beers and rum to enjoy in the rooftop terrace.
It was at this point that we found out that our cigars might not have been exactly what we thought as the first was completely un smokable !! Still you win some you lose some I guess. Dinner though was a complete success as we had loads of lobster and fish all accompanied by malanga which is similar to a yucca and absolutely delicious how very lucky we were to have found such a great spot.
We soon forgot about our unfortunate purchase of the cigars and set about planning what we were going to do for the next couple of days!! T

No that’s a taxi!

Plenty of space in the back and plenty of excitement in the car from all of us.


The tobacco leaves drying in the farm we stopped at.

Another “movie set” shot in Cuba.  This was at the farm we stopped at to buy the “Cohibas.”

Along the side of the road we passed plenty of these propaganda signed just to remind everyone how good they have it!

Sarah and Piata relaxing on the rooftop of our Casa in Vinales


Since we wrote this it turns out that not all our cigars are duds!  Hooray!

Havana 

Breakfast was had in the casa overlooking the ocean. Simple fare but delicious, eggs, fruit, coffee and bread. They have jams here that I would say are more like a puree but still delicious as they are all home made. We had to call the embassy to see if our money had arrived and were told it would be there by tomorrow morning and we could go and pick it up then. Things always to manage to work themselves out in the end!
We also had to sort some things online and in Cuba there are only certain places you can use wifi and you have to do it via a prepaid card so we headed to one of the fancy hotels and sat around with every other man and his dog. But they had comfy couches and drinks so can’t complain.
After that we literally just walked around for a while. It’s such an easy place to lose yourself. We keep saying we feel as if we are on a movie set. It is just so stupidly photographic. I think on three separate occasions we took a photo of the same street as every time it looked so picturesque. We also wandered around an old fort which still has its original mote. It kind of looked out of place in the city as it reminded us more of an English castle.
The heat really settled in and we decided to go for some lunch. It wasn’t long before we found a cafe with outdoor tables for people watching and a band cranking out salsa tunes. Not too bad at all even if the food wasn’t the best. 
We then headed to the Revolutionary museum. We didn’t really know what to expect and were interested in hearing the Cuban’s story. Before I go on I must admit growing up I only really saw Fidel as a dictator as that was all I really saw in the news. I have been reading a little about the revolution and suprise! suprise! America played a big part not only post revolution with the Bay of Pigs and the trade embargo but also Pre Revolution. So in the 40’s the country was run by a small percentage of very rich men under the presidency of Batista. Who was backed by the US. Even before Batista the country was not going too well with mass corruption and violence. There was mass poverty for the rest of the population and an estimated 50% of the population malnourished. After knowing this you can see where Fidel’s socialist ideas took root. I also didn’t realize that he only threw his lot in with Communism after America enacted the trade embargo and tried to invade, so Cuba needed an ally to trade with. That ally was USSR.
I am by no means saying that I am on Fidel’s side by any stretch of the imagination, just trying to see things from both sides. Illiteracy rates dropped to virtually zero and the healthcare system that was put in place was second to none. You really notice the difference from here to Central America where you constantly see cleft lips, club foots and bad teeth. Not here. On the other hand rules such as repossessing land over a certain amount at no cost, paying a ridiculously low wage and not allowing any private enterprise seem pretty dictatory to me. They also reclaimed all American owned industries, they are particularly proud of reclaiming the Hilton and renaming it Havana Libre!
So back in the museum it painted America in a pretty bad light. Even on one poster saying that they poisoned the clouds so the sugar harvest that year was low. I kid you not. A lot was not translated so it was hard to know what was going on but there seemed to be massive holes in the displays especially around the Bay of Pigs where it pretty much said America invaded and was completely defeated and around the Cuban missile crisis. Two topics we were really interested in learning more about from the Cuban point of view. 
That night we met up with Piata who was on the San Blas Adventures with us. She has been in Havana for a week and was absolutely loving it. It was great to catch up and swap stories about where we had been and what we had been up to in the last month apart. It’s crazy looking back on how much we have done in such a short space of time.
We ended up in a bar in old town solely because of the live salsa band. We sat back and sipped on mojitos and straight rum, smoking a cigar and listening to the amazing music. Occasionally one of the band members would come to the front and dance salsa with some of the ladies. Mesmerizing. It made Tim and I really want to learn. Funnily enough Piata has been doing salsa classes every day since being in Havana and has given us the details of the studio so we will definitely be doing some when we get back to Havana. We also discovered that Piata was heading in the same direction as us so we ended the night deciding on sharing a taxi to Vinales tomorrow. S

The view looking out our back window.

Tim poked his head out our window and captured this shot. A man fixing his Ford Mercury Comet. Such an amazing shot. We just kept saying we are in a movie set as it seemed as if everywhere you looked there was just the perfect shot and too good to be real life.

And here is another.

Sitting on the sea wall along the Malecon. That first high rise on the left is our apartment block where we are staying with Mercy.

This pedestrian street stretches from the sea wall right through the centre of Havan to the Capitol building. We walked this road to and from the old town and every afternoon there were kids on skateboards or rollerblades having a great time.

Couldn’t get enough of the old buildings and cars. As you can see from the next few shots! Makes you think you have been transported back to the 50’s

Daily flea market in one of the parks selling everything from old cigar cases to revolution books and posters.

The fort and moat.

Some of the books being sold at the flea market.

The cars! The fancy done up ones where the one you got for the city tours or hourly hire. The beat up ones whose doors didn’t open properly etc were the everyday taxis which you could get cheap. Especially if you got in a collectivo. I sometimes found the old beat up ones more fun! 

The Revolution museum which once was the Presidential palace and you can see bullet holes in the picture here of the failed 1957 assassination attempt on Batista the then president.

Quite a lot of this which was to be expected. Though intestinal you around Havana there are no statues of him but plenty of Che and a few of Camilo.

Enjoying a cocktail with Piata.