Sunday, March 5, 2017

Day 2 - Havana - City Tour and Car Ride

We woke to the smell of fresh coffee and a breakfast table set with fresh fruit, sliced meats and cheeses, juices, breads, pastries, and eggs prepared the way we asked.  Becky and Leo were amazed.  We were used to this is guest houses and even we were impressed.  We were not supposed to stay here at all.  A guest where we were supposed to stay had gotten sick and had been hospitalized.  he and his wife needed to stay another night so this place was a substitute...and what a charming diversion to our plans.

After breakfast we packed up and were ready to move on.  Ana, our local guide met us at exactly 9AM ready to head out on a full day walking tour of the city.  She was about 40, lovely, a university graudate in English, spoke eloquently, and was an absolute delightful angel.  She answered all of our questions honestly and directly, offered insights into things we didn't think to ask about, and immediately altered the itinerary to meet our particular desires and interests without a bat of the eye.

We wandered the streets for hours, stopping at important buildings and monuments, at plazas and schools, we visited an emergency room, a school, and stopped to chat with the local folks.  One of our first stops was at a pharmacy dating back to the 1700 and the bottles were original.  Leo is a pharmacist and this was added into our itinerary.

The city was founded in 1522 and many of the building date back to the 1700's.

Notice anything familiar?  The capitol builidng of Cuba is a duplicate of ours in Washington DC.

A ocal school.  All children and adults receive free education, uniforms, books, supplies, from grade 1 to and through all of the university.  

The main cathedral dedicated to St. Anthony.  The tower climb cost $1.

The entrance to Havana harbor.  That's Florida in the distance...J.

We took Ana to lunch with us.  She would have sat outside and ate a snack from her bag.  We would not have heard of it.  The $13 lunch we treated her to was equal to a full week salary.  She was lovely and very grateful for the opportunity to share a meal with us.  It was humorous to watch her check her email and texts.

After lunch it was time for a ride in one of those amazing American cars.  Nothing older than 1959 could be seen.  There has not been an American car newer than that since the embargo.  We say a few Fords that were new.  Our guide informed us that they were brought in from Europe and probably cost well over $60,000 each.

Bobbie and I got a 1951 Chevy BelAir convertible.

Our driver, Mohamed.  Yes, Mohamed.  Becky and Leo got a Chevy.

The monument to the Missles of October.  Yep, those missles.  The actual rockets and launchers that sent most of our generation under our desks at school during those awful days.

A new statue of Jesus overlooking the harbor.

The tunnel linking the military overlook with the city.

  Revolution Square.  Che and Fidel.

 The largest cemetery in North and South America.  40 km (25 miles) in circumference.

Old homes of the rich and famous, confiscated after the revolution and turned into multi-family apartments, schools, and government offices.

At the end of our day Ana took up to the next home where we said goodbye to our sweet lady and gave her a $100 tip. She was swept to tears as were we and we hugged, exchanged emails, and promised to see each other again.  We settled into our new guest house overlooking Plaza Vieja.  King beds, mosaics tiled bathrooms, two bedrooms and private salon.  The lady of the house served us fresh coffee and we sat on the balcony.  The music and smells were overwhelming.

Dinner that night at a local restaurant.  Two mojitos, an appetizer, main course of meat, chicken, pork, and fish, three side dishes served family style, dessert and coffee.  $15 each.  We left a $20 tip.

Sites and sounds from the plaza.

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