Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Our man in Havana - Part Two

So first day in Havana. 

Opened the curtains and this was the view...

Not bad at all. 

We had to meet Antonio, the rep from the firm we had booked the holiday from. He gave us a few tips of where to go, how to get there etc...

The first thing we had to do was find a bank. As previously mentioned, the only place you can change Euros to CUC is in Cuba, at the hotel reception, or at a bank, by either going in or using the ATM (but only a Visa card is accepted). This went without a hitch, although as I will allude to as the holiday progresses, this would be the ONLY time.

The FOCSA building as seen from the hotel room
 We then needed water so tried the nearby supermarket. This again, was an experience. First off, I was stopped from entering as I had my rucksack with me and bags must be left with a security guard at the door. In any way it was pointless as there was no water to be seen (a problem that would rear its ugly head throughout the holiday). 

So we decided to take a stroll to the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.
 This has played host to a number of stars from stage and screen over the years. But sadly, Fred Dibnah does not count among them.

After wandering around the tunnel system designed to stave off Uncle Sam, we wanted to walk towards Old Havana along the Malecon. This is where we first encountered the phenomona which is Jinetero. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it is basically used to describe a pest, someone that offers to show you the way, where to buy the best this, that and the other, chat to you etc....all in exchange for money. 

Our first guy was affable enough, but I replied with mono-symbollic answers and was just about to tell him to jog on, when he said "You don't want to talk to Cuban people?". Had he had said "me" instead of bringing nationality into it my riposte would have been negative. I think he got bored with my grunting replies and buggered off.

We went about a kilometre and turned back for our hotel. Opposite was a jazz club, which had an outdoor restaurant. So obviously a beer was the order of the day. 
It's from Barbados!

After checking out the rooftop pool it was time for me to do a little urbexing/stadium visiting combined and what better way than a derelict stadium?

To get to said stadium we walked along the famous Malecon. I am not sure what I expected but it is like a stroll along the M25. Yes, the Atlantic Ocean is to your side and sometimes the spray hitting the rocks can be spectatular. But the noise and smell is off putting. It is in places 6 lanes wide, no crossing facilities, and the Cubans have a bit of a hooter fetish, which means they beep their horns every 15 seconds. Coupled with the fact that the vintage cars are obviously not run on lead free petrol, and the smell can be overpowering.

Back to the hotel for some cliched drinks (cuba libre and penis colada served in a pineapple) and then off to bed, wondering what tomorrow will bring. 


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