Sunday, 31 December 2017

New Havana

Our first stop of the day was Callejon de Hamel, Havana's centre of the Afro-Cuban culture and religion. The small area also had funky street art as well art studios housing bizzare art! 

A Merceded Benz in Cuba? That's not from the 1950s?!? One had to wonder how this was funded...this car slated for tourist rentals only

Psychedielic street art of Callejon de Hamel

Home of Afro-Cuban religion and culture

Made the dilapated buildings look funky

Colour everywhere

Food being prepared on the streets.

Hmmm, not sure if I would eat that

The former Hilton, not Hotel Libre
Yoanis then took us to “new” Havana. En route we passed by the main hospital of Havana as well as the University of Havana. The first was in a rather sorry state of affairs whereas the latter had somewhat maintained in grandeur. Buildings here were newer, built in the first half of the 20th century. They also seemed better maintained. Yoanis confirmed that it was a more expensive area. We walked past a hotel that was formerly the first Hilton in Cuba. Our stop was Coppelia, a local ice cream parlour. It was one of the few places we’ve been to that charged in local pesos. Double scoops of ice creams for all 10 of us only cost 18 pesos = less than 1 Euro! Whilst it was nice enough ice-cream, I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit it. We continued our walk towards the Malecon, Havana's water front promenade before heading for lunch around Vedado.

Lunch here was noticeably more expensive than in Old Havana but the food quality was also noticeably better. The dishes offered were fairly consistent, but the meal was flavoursome. We retired back to our casa for a sleep as we had reservations for a New Year’s Eve at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, an elegant establishment built in 1930 and one of the few well maintained. We were pleasantly surprised at the magnificent room in which dinner was served. Our New Year’s Eve party accessories were also ready in a beautiful bag waiting for us on our seats. The meal was plentiful and delicious. Included in our meal was a bottle of wine for every 2 guests! We were delighted to discover that our entertainment for the evening was a variety of classical musicians. There was nothing more relaxing that to enjoy our meal to the sounds of opera amongst others.

At the end of dinner, we adjourned to the nearby hall where the second half of our evening awaits. Our reservation included a “show” where we again we were allocated a bottle of “champagne” for every 2 guests. We were not sure what to expect. We thought they had likely misused the name and that it would be sparkling wine from Spain. However, it turned out to be the real deal! 4 bottles of Moet had our names on it. The best surprise of the evening was the actual “show”. We were gobsmacked to be partying and welcoming the New Year with the Buena Vista Social Club! There were no words to adequately describe how special this was. The music and the atmosphere were just AWESOME!

We were so grateful that we were given this rare once in a lifetime opportunity. Out of the poverty and squalor of Cuba, we have somehow ended up having one of the most amazing New Year’s Eve celebration ever. 

Jonah's photo of the streets of Vedado

Ice cream at Coppelia!

The majestic Hotel Nacional de Cuba

The Malecon

The dining hall

Party gear provided!

Champagne anyone?!!

Buena Vista Social Club! Yes!

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