The last time I wrote about cruising we were enduring, OOPS, I mean enjoying the wind and waves from Hurricane Michael. We probably were somewhere below Cuba (in red). Sometime late Monday night we started sailing around the western end of Cuba, then east towards Havana, yes-yes-yes!
Welcome to Havana Harbor! Look at this map carefully. Feel free to come back to it. I’ll use it to give you some bearings for what you’re seeing.Do you see Central Havana? I think that’s where my pictures start as you head towards shore. Follow the coastline towards the 2 points of land. That’s your next landmark. Between those 2 points there’s a channel that leads to Old Havana. There where you’ll see more pictures. The last stop are those 3 rectangles to the right of old Havana. They look like an E sticking out in the water, and that’s where our ship docked. Now, climb aboard! Let’s cruise into Havana YES-YES-YES!!
This is my first view of the city. How can I tell? The city looks modern with tall blockish buildings. One of the things I remember was the sea wall. Water flies up and splashes over it. My sister-in-law said that movie makers use this backdrop for scenes set in Havana. One of the most famous…007...James Bond.
We’re getting close to the channel that leads to Old Havana. How can I tell?
Do you see the 2 points of land? That's the channel that leads to the heart of Havana.
This is an old Spanish fortress that’s on the eastern side of the Havana Bay. It’s in this picture and the next two. Here's its story: The Spanish arrived here in 1514. They named their settlement after an Indian chief, San Cristóbal de Habana. By 1538 they’d built a fortress, the Castillo de la Fuerza.
The Castillo wasn’t strong enough. In 1555 French pirate Jacques de Sores attacked and plundered Havana so the Spanish built a bigger, better fort. It took 40 years to finish. It looks pretty good to me.
But that fort still wasn’t strong enough. English ships raided Havana in 1622, 1623, and 1638. Here’s the link for my information: http://www.historyofcuba.com/history/funfacts/havana.ht
This is the western side of the harbor. It’s been settled since 1514, During its early years, it had to be moved repeatedly because of mosquitoes, and the diseases they carry. In 1519 the settlers found this spot away from those darn mosquitoes. They stayed!
This is the oldest part of Havana. I love the beautiful old buildings. Can you see the cruise ship in this picture? This is where our ship docked, by the E in the map of the channel.
Much better! BTW, this wasn’t our cruise ship. There was another one when we arrived, and a different one when we left. I’m glad people like to visit Havana!
I took this picture from the back of the boat looking across the harbor. It looks like wilderness, but it’s a special piece of land. Can you tell what’s in the middle of the picture? It reaches towards the sky. Try the next photo. Now it’s on the left side of the picture.
Can you tell who it is? Our cruise director said it’s Fun Jesus. I called him Party Jesus. Why? One hand looks like it’s holding a Cuban cigar. The other is holding a mojito, a famous Cuban drink. That’s not how Jilma Madera planned it. Jilma is the Cuban woman who designed it, and it’s the largest statue created by a woman in the world. Jilma has girl power! I’m glad she designed her Cuban Jesus!
PS- click on Jilma's name to read more about her.
I looked toward another part of the harbor to take these 2 pictures. It shows where the local boats go to work. I’m guessing they’re fishing boats, but I didn’t get close enough to see.
PS- I actually took all these pictures as I was leaving Havana. When we arrived, I couldn’t take any pictures because a bunch of ladies blocked my shot. On the way out, I was determined to get these pictures so when people, ladies, started coming to the back of the boat, I moved my chair forward so no one blocked my shot. Sometimes you have to be assertive, and polite, to get what you want and need. I’m glad I got the shot!
A Night on the Town
We finally got into Havana around 5, and we got off the boat by 5:30. It was so much easier in Havana than in Cienfuegos. There was a line, but it moved FAST! Customs was quick! Havana has newer equipment. The old stuff goes to places like Cienfuegos.
We had money leftover from Cienfuegos. Time to see Havana!
We hit the streets, and this is what we saw! The building above is the Terminal Sierra Maestra San Francisco, the boat terminal where people come and go from the ship. Look at the picture to the left. This is the terminal again, and the street in front of it. It was busy with cars like this one.
The Terminal San Francisco is named after this church. Its full name is the Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis. It’s across the street from the terminal.The bell tower is about 138 feet tall and contains the remains of important Havana citizens. The church also gave its name to the square, the Plaza de San Francisco.
That’s where we went when we left the boat. We looked around the plaza then took a walk down a street looking for a few souvenirs.
No souvenirs yet, but this is the inside of a hotel. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the outside. We went in because my husband and his brother were determined to buy Cuban cigars. While they talked prices, I took pictures. This place is beautiful! Unusually so. I saw so much poverty in Cuba, but not here. Someone has enough money to renovate, redecorate, and keep this place up. BTW…we didn’t buy cigars…they were too expensive…I’m sure some of the cost keeps this place looking great.
We kept exploring the streets of Havana, but I didn’t find any treasures. Either the shops were closed, or nothing called me. Nothing!
My sister-in-law’s bucket list wish for this trip was to visit the places in Havana where Ernest Hemingway hung out. This is one of them. The man in the stature is Ernest. The pictures on the wall are of him too.
Ernest is a famous writer. His books are for adults. He wrote The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Sun Also Rises, and A Farewell to Arms.
This is one of Ernest’s hang-outs, Floridita. Can you guess what it’s named after…the state of Florida. Cuba reminds me of Florida. Ernest had a house in Florida and one near Havana. When he was in Havana, this is where he came for a good dinner and a daiquiri. That’s a slushy adult drink. The outside doesn’t look like much, but the inside has the most gorgeous woodwork, and it was packed with tourists! While we were there, they had a trio of singers. They were fantastic! When we got to Floridita, it was still light, but it was getting dark when we left. We hurried back to the boat, in time for dinner and a good night’s sleep.
Back to Square 1
We got into Havana a day late, but we were lucky. We could reschedule our tour. We met our guide at the Plaza de San Francisco, that’s where we went for our first night in Havana. The Plaza is the oldest square in the city. The basilica was started in 1580 and finished in 1591. It’s been in use ever since, for over 400 years.
The next building is on the square, just down from the church. Sorry, I can’t find its name. I’m guessing it’s one of the museums that are spread across the city.
Look down, and I'll introduce you to José María López Lledín. He was also known as El Caballero de París. In English he was called the gentleman of Paris. He looks pretty dapper to me. Would you believe he actually was a homeless man who had saw things that weren’t there? Poor man! It’s said his mind snapped when he was unfairly imprisoned. Jose doesn’t sound like statue material, but legend says that he was kind and generous, perfect for a statue.
Look up to see an aqueduct from Cuba’s colonial days. When Spain colonized Havana, they needed water. They brought it to the colonists, through stone channels built under the city. The aqueducts aren’t used anymore, but it’s nice to find history at your feet.
Look what else I found on my walk! Nestles! Something from home in Old Havana. When I explore another country, I look for what’s new and interesting, but I also look for pieces of home. Yum!
OOPS! I didn’t get get much of a shot of the outside of this building. It’s still in the old part of Havana, close to the next square.
Something else caught my eye. Do you know what it is?
(Hint-- it's not Darth Vader!)
This building once belonged to the monks who lived and worked here. They dressed in long robes with hoods. The statue of a monk stands guard outside
Inside is a beautiful painting of another monk, and now this building is a hotel that remembers its history. I'm glad!
To Square Two, Plaza Vieja
This is the Plaza Vieja. It means Old Square in Spanish, but when it was built in 1559 it was called the Plaza Nueva, the New Square. Really!
Do you remember the Plaza de San Francisco? It was the original square back when Spanish galleons first sailed into Havana. The Franciscan monks from the Basilica wanted a new square because they had trouble celebrating Mass. They said the shopkeepers made so much noise they needed to move. I didn’t know there was noise pollution in the sixteenth century. I thought it was a modern problem.
Plaza Vieja is pretty colorful. That’s something new. In the 1980’s Old Havana became a UNESCO cultural heritage site. People found money to renovate and repaint the old buildings. Our guide said the building in the next picture is in the old Spanish style. I love it, but I wonder how they made arches out of stone.
This is the last picture from the plaza. I couldn’t find the name of the sculptor, but our guide talked about the French influence that dates back to Napoleon. He was short but powerful, like a bantam rooster. Did you know there's a rooster on the French soccer uniform?
The 2nd picture is the street that leads to the next square. It’s all cobblestones and buildings. The only trees are in pots.
Down the street is the Hogar Materno Infantil Doña Leonor Pérez Cabrera.
Translation: It’s the hospital for women who are pregnant and expecting babies. It’s named after Dona Leonor Perez Cabrera. That’s Jose Marti’s mother. Remember him, from the park in Cienfuegos?
Farther down is the CIA. Armera De Cuba. S.A. Efectos De Caceria Y Explosivos.
I thought it was a fireworks place. Nope! It started as a private gun shop, but on April 9, 1958 some of Fidel Castro’s revolutionaries broke in to get guns. Four guys died that night. Years later it became a museum for guns and knives that date back to the 1700’s.
This is another Hemingway favorite. It’s the Hotel Ambos Mundos, which means both worlds.
Hemingway lived here for 7 years during the 1930’s. It was cheap, $1.50 a day!. This picture and the one below are from the ground floor. It looks pretty nice!
The last picture is the hotel elevator. When Ernest stayed in Room 511 on the top floor, he would have used this elevator. Room 511 is no longer available. It’s a mini-museum, but you can book other rooms in the Ambos Mundos.
Meet the working dogs of Havana! They look much better than the dogs of Cienfuegos.
They wear name tags. That means they get fed every day. Then they take a nap on the warm pavement. They may have skin problems like fleas and the mange, but having food, a place to sleep, are 2 very good things for my canine friends.
Welcome to the Oficina Del Historiador De La Ciudad. I think that translates to the Office of History of Cuba. It sounds like another museum. We didn’t go inside. We kept on walking.
Three Squared, The Plaza De Armas This is the Plaza De Armas. Today it’s a park where you can relax in the shade of palm trees and tropical plants. The edges are lined with beautiful old buildings.
Like the other Plazas, it once had another name, the Plaza de la Iglesia. Iglesia was a small neighborhood church. In the 1600’s the Spanish government built the governor's palace and an armory in this square. The name was changed to the Plaza De Armas, which means ‘Weapons’ Square or Parade Ground.’ The rich people of Havana came here to enjoy carriage rides and military parades. It was the place to be and to be seen!
The building in the background is the Palace of the General Captains or the Spanish governor. The Spanish started building in 1776, the same year America declared its independence from England. The west side of the plaza has a wooden floor because a governor’s wife got tired of carriage wheels waking her up. She got her husband to get rid of the stone and replace it with wood. From 1791-1898, it was the home for the Spanish governor of Cuba. It later became the presidential palace. Today it’s Havana's Museum of history.
BTW- The Iglesia church was destroyed in 1741 when the HMS Invincible blew up. Its mast flew into the church and destroyed it.
This statue is at the center of the plaza, at the center of the park. It's another Cuban hero, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes. The park is named Parque Céspedes. Carlos freed his slaves, started the Cuban wars for Independence, and is considered the Father of the Cuban Homeland.
The statue’s base is inscribed with Carlos’ name and his service to Cuba. It’s protected by a gate and decorated with flowers. The ribbon’s inscribed with a message, but I can’t read Spanish, and I couldn’t find anything online. Sorry!
This is El Templete. It was built in 1827 to honor Queen Josefa Amalia. It commemorates the 1st mass and the first town council that was held at the foot of a ceiba tree that once grew there. The square eventually grew into the Plaza de Armas.
BTW—Queen Josefa’s husband was King Fernanando VII. In 1834 his statue was moved to make room for Carlos Manuel de Céspedes.
The Plaza De Armas is full of history, but it’s also a park where you can relax under a shade tree and enjoy the view.
If you want to stay here, try the Hotel Santa Isabel. It’s a 5 star hotel, and, it used to be a palace, the Palacio de los Condes de Santovenia. When I go back, I want to stay at the palace!
Just down the street is the most beautiful old house, the Casa del Conde Jaruco. It was finished in 1737 for the Countess de Merlin who was a countess and a Cuban novelists. It’s famous for its meiopuntos, those gorgeous half-moon stained glass windows. It doesn’t house people anymore. It houses art exhibits.
These painting are not in the Casa del Conde Jaruco. They’re photographs outside another building, the Cuban Museum of Natural History.
All these plants and animals are native to Cuba. I didn’t see them inside the museum, but I’m glad I caught them on the outside.
I took this picture but couldn't confirm its identity. I googled but couldn’t find the statue. I can’t read the plaque either, but I’m pretty sure it’s Miguel de Cervantes. Our guide pointed him out, and I remember taking his picture. Here’s his story…
Miguel was born in 1547 in Madrid, Spain. He became a poet and a soldier who published his first book in 1569 at age 22, but he didn’t become famous until 1605. That’s when he wrote Part 1 of Don Quixote. Miguel was 58. He finished the 2nd part in 1615, at age 68. Thanks, Miguel, for the encouragement. I still have time to write and publish a story.
Don Quixote fits Miguel, the poet-soldier. Don is an old man who’s so fascinated with the knights of old that he sets out in search of adventure. Miguel fought against the Turks and lost his left hand. Then he spent 5 years in a Turkish prison. Miguel went on to write the world’s first best seller. He died in poverty but never gave up.
In Miguel’s most famous scene Don thinks he’s fighting a giant. It’s really a windmill, but he keeps fighting, determined to fight the impossible battle. Miguel wrote this story in 1615. It’s now a classic that’s been translated into 60 languages. It’s also been renamed The Man of La Mancha and turned into a Broadway play, and into a movie. Its best song, To Dream the Impossible Dream. Miguel has 3 statues in Havana, Cuba. I wish he knew how powerful his words are, 400 years later. Talk about an impossible dream!
This mural is incredible. It covers over 300 square meters on Mercaders Street (360 square yards). It’s made of 52 panels that depict 67 famous figures from Cuban history.
Andres Carrillo is the artist. He researched all 67 people to find out what they looked like, how they dressed. It’s amazing!
Andres also used a new material to paint his mural. He picked a natural rock from Cuba and soaked it in acrylic resin. It came out as small tiles. He picked 4 colors (brown, coral rose, black, and beige) and mixed them together to create his 13 shades. It is incredible to look at this huge mural and to know how much work is in it. It is so life-like that I felt like I could step out on a balcony or open a window. They look like they’re physically there. Andres is incredibly talented!
I had to work to report on this! I blew up the picture and copied its name: Correspondencia Interior Y Peninsular.
That meant nothing to me so I went to Google and pasted in that name. I hit pay-dirt! That is the oldest mailbox in Cuba. It’s part of the original stonework for the old mansion of the Marqueses deArcos (some rich guy). It’s in the plaza of the Cathedral of Havana. I didn’t think we’d made it to the next plaza, but I guess we did.
The stone mailbox is the Greek mask of tragedy. Its mouth is where you put your letter. The inscription is a nod to the colonial era when mailbox was made. Who knew mail could be so tragic!
I googled, but couldn’t find anything about this, so I enlarged the sign, and here’s what it says, in English…Invitation to the people of Havana and foreign visitors to discover the new shop and manufacture of miniature tin soldiers. Placed at Number 164 Muralla Street, Havana.
I don’t remember anything about tin soldiers because I would have bought a couple. (I love to shop!) I thought it was something about soldiers mustering for duty back in the 1700 or 1800’s.
I googled once more and discovered it really is a shop! A tiny one on a side street. Each soldier is 3 inches tall, dressed in period costumes, and made of solid lead. The price, as little as 8 CUC a soldier. If you decide to visit, bring the address with you, 163 not 164 Muralla. Even the locals don’t know about this place. You can watch from the window as each soldier is painted, under a magnifying glass. When I go back to Havana, and I will, I’m visiting Muralla Street!
The link for this information: http://www.visitcuba.com/2014/12/big-battles-tiny-soldiers/
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!