After the events of the previous day our final day in Havana was filled with a hop on hop off bus tour, amazing cocktails and an evening in an art gallery.
Our day began with a Havana Bus Tour which we picked up from Revolution Square. The square itself is MASSIVE and could fit thousands and thousands of people, mainly used for state speeches, and the occasional public mass by a Pope! It really is a space to see.
More famously are the images of the revolutionaries in the walls of the surrounding buildings – Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos and the statue commemorating Jose Marti.
The Jose Marti memorial consists of a 358 ft tower and 59 ft statue. Marti looks out into the square with the government building behind. Pipped as the father of modern Cuba, Marti is held in almost as high regard as Fidel. I’ve since learnt that you can go up the tower for an amazing view over Havana – one for the next trip I think!
The steel images of Guevara and Cienfuegos were installed by Fidel in memory of his revolutionary comrades. Although the story of Cienfuegos’ end may make it appear like guilt…
Our bus soon arrived and we headed up to the top deck for a good view. The bus itself was pretty run down, as you’d sort of expect in Cuba, but it did the job. The tour took us all around Havana and out into some of the outer suburbs. An interesting experience.
We were hoping to get off somewhere near the Hotel Nationale but as there were no route maps it was hard to pinpoint. The bus doesn’t stop anywhere near the hotel. Instead we found ourselves on a 90 minute detour out into the western suburbs where the ‘zoo’ and the old mob hotels were located.
It was an interesting use of a morning, we didn’t really get to see that much but it was interesting to see the other areas of the city. Cuba is also not made for open top buses, the branches and electric wires were so low you spent half your time ducking to avoid being face planted!!
Once we’d finished with the surrounding areas the bus took us back into old Havana where we again took an interesting route circling the same section 4 times. It gave a unique perspective on the daily lives of Cubans, plus being above all the cars you got a great view down into all the classic cars.
The tour finished in the main square where we jumped off in search of some lunch. On the whole I’d recommend the bus, it’s a great way to see some of the areas you may not visit. I wished we had longer to spend wandering at the stops but with only 1 pick up every 90 minutes that can make it difficult.
We decided to grab a taxi and head to the Hotel Nationale for lunch after a failed attempt at lunch in the famous Hotel Inglaterra (zero atmosphere, plastic chairs and VERY overpriced.)
I felt like we had walked into one of those awful tourist traps filled with cruise ship passengers (sorry) with bad food and expensive prices. However, Cuba doesn’t seem to know there is a category for that. We sat in their outside restaurant and had one of the best meals we had in all our time in Cuba. Grilled chicken with rice, vegetables and black bean soup. Simple but really damn tasty.
After lunch it was time for a cocktail, feeling more confident we weren’t going to get diddled with bad cocktails we ordered a round of a Pina Colada and a Ron Collins plus a second round of frozen Daiquiris which were both excellent! Sat in the grounds of the hotel overlooking the Malecon and the ocean it was easy to see why everyone has had such an obsession with Cuba. It’s full of beautiful places and beautiful people.
The hotel itself is renowned for being the home to a large shoot out during Batista’s era, home to American gun sellers and casino’s. It’s had its ups and downs, been left to disrepair but it does seem to be finding its feet again. I wouldn’t recommend staying here but definitely swing by for a cocktail or two in the garden.
Our day in Havana was almost done and after those cocktails in the sun I needed a nap! We were planning to spend one last evening ‘out’ in the city before heading off to our next location in the morning so we ambled back to our casa (after getting lost) for a rest.
Our evening at Fábrica de Arte Cubano is worthy of a post all of its own so check back soon for the details! It really is one of the best ways to combine art and nightlife I’ve ever experienced.
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