Havana Memories

I recently returned from a very special trip to Cuba.  Prior to 1959, Cuba was a huge tourist destination before Fidel Castro, along with Che Guevara overthrew Batista.  Because the US imposed an economic and trade embargo, restrictions have limited travel there by US citizens.  The history is fascinating and I am not knowledgable enough to do it justice.  I did watch a good movie before I left which helped me to understand something of the struggle. As with all things, nothing is ever black and white and there are many truths and lies to filter through.

Times are changing and I had an opportunity to visit and spend some time in a place that I can only describe as magical.  For me, it was a living museum with unbelievably beautiful architecture, historic fortresses, wonderful old cars, spectacular statues and art,  political billboards, fusions of new and old music, trendy restaurants , smiling people, and of course, cigars and rum.

I traveled with a girlfriend while Dennis held down the fort at home.  We each had a private room and bath in a lovely old ‘casa particular’, which happened to be located adjacent to a jazz cafe.  Nightly wine, soft breezes and smooth jazz made for perfect evenings and breakfast on the balcony made for perfect days.

We opted to stay away from the touristy area of downtown Habana Vieja and I’m so glad we did.  Being in a home, in a lovely neighborhood, really opened my eyes to what Cuba is all about…the people.

Of course, we took in as many sights as we could and took several day tours which helped us to see what daily life is like.  It was very easy to get around and we managed, in a very short time, to see quite a bit.  No trip to Cuba is complete without exploring Old Havana, visiting the home of Ernest Hemingway  and his favorite haunts or spending time in the nearby towns of Vinales, Cien Fuego, Trinidad, and Santa Clara.  We walked the cobble stone streets of Trinidad and saw  an old Spanish colonial home that was painstakingly restored to its original splendor.  We visited a small place where the Santeria religion, practiced by many Afro Cubans, is popular.  We hiked the Escambray mountains, viewed caves, watched cigars being rolled, and swam in mountain waters.  We missed seeing at least half of the country, so I guess I have an excuse to return.

Along the way, we met so many delightful folks.  Katherine, from Paris, the boys from Holland (I am not even going to try and pronounce their names) , Maria from El Salvador,  Anna and Myrna from Mexico,  Aida from Nicaragua and Nancy and Papa from Chile.  We formed a fun group and shared stories while Jano, our guide, tried to keep track of us and take care of us.  Actually, Cuba was the safest place I have traveled and is an experience like no other.  I hope they will benefit from better relations with the US, while at the same time, keep their beautiful Cuban spirit.  The new generation is optimistic that life will be much better.  I am, in no way, political, but I am a humanitarian.  Cuba has been locked in a time warp, charming in many ways but limiting in others. A new day is coming and Cuba is excited.

“THERE IS NOTHING TO WRITING.  ALL YOU DO IS SIT DOWN AT A TYPEWRITER AND BLEED.”  Ernest Hemingway

Boquetenos head out of town!

 

 

Dinner with the group

Dinner with the group

State store where you can spend your $30 a month salary on limited stock.

State store where you can spend your $30 a month salary on limited stock.

Jano and Aida start the party

Jano and Aida start the party

Santeria practitioner

Santeria practitioner

Giant rock mural

Giant rock mural

Hanging out with John Lennon statue near my casa

Hanging out with John Lennon statue near my casa

Aida, Maria y yo

Aida, Maria y yo

Cool ride!

Cool ride!

My first Cuban cigar.  Very smooth.

My first Cuban cigar. Very smooth.

Saint Francis Square

Saint Francis Square

Friendly Havana gentlemen

Friendly Havana gentlemen

Beautiful architecture everywhere

Beautiful architecture everywhere

Revolution Plaza

Revolution Plaza

Buena Vista Social Club Revue (not the originals)

Buena Vista Social Club Revue (not the originals)

Loving all the old cars

Loving all the old cars

Old cars for rent by the hour

Old cars for rent by the hour

At the Sunday Art Fair on the Malecon

At the Sunday Art Fair on the Malecon

Young boy in Havana Centro.

Young boy in Havana Centro.

Hanging out in Centro.

Hanging out in Centro.

Hotel Nationale.  Visitors included Micky Mantle, Sean Penn, Rita Hayworth, John Wayne, Peter Framton, so many more...

Hotel Nationale. Visitors included Micky Mantle, Sean Penn, Rita Hayworth, John Wayne, Peter Framton, so many more…

Cafe Madrigal Jazz Bar

Cafe Madrigal Jazz Bar

P1030083

Gran Teatro de La Habana

Meeting up at Cafe Madrigal

Meeting up at Cafe Madrigal

Hemingways favorite hangout bar.  (And the answer is yes.)

Hemingways favorite hangout bar. (And the answer is yes.)

Hemingways library in his home in Miramar

Library at Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s home.

Abuelo lived upstairs.

Abuelo lived upstairs.

Afro Cuban street art

Afro Cuban street art

Happy domino players

Happy domino players

About Rona True

Welcome to my blog. My name is Rona and I live here in Boquete, with my husband, Dennis. I've been keeping an online 'journal' of our adventure moving to Panama as a way to stay in touch with friends. As the universe is wont to do, my path crossed with some serious bloggers who have been encouraging me to step it up a bit with my technology, and so here I am; a novice blogger with a penchant for the spiritual path. Panama is a perfect place to recover the pieces I left along the way as I raised a family, had a career in teaching, and generally followed the 'responsible' road. I travel a new road now and each day brings a new awareness. Panama is a land which brings the senses alive. The culture, warmth of its people, sights and sounds are the stimulus for my journey. Without my incredible husband, this would not be possible. We breathe the same air on this adventure and I invite you to come along for the ride.
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4 Responses to Havana Memories

  1. Very cool! I want to go there too, even more now after seeing this 🙂

  2. Rona True says:

    You will love it. Let’s get together soon!

  3. Great report. We just discovered your blog… We plan on Cuba next year!
    Cheers,
    John & Susan

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