Havana & Jibacoa

Cuba 2012

We spent a Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Havana, then off to an all-inclusive on the beach at the Breezes Jibacoa for 4 days. It was a great week. Most of the pics here are from Havana because it is a city full of eye (and ear) candy. Gorgeous old cars, gorgeous architecture, heart-stopping music and beautiful, warm, generous people.

But first, the cars ....

Just couldn't stop photographing cars.

This 58 or 59 T-Bird reminds me of home.

This one was particularly spectacular. I don’t have a clue of the make or year. Anyone??

Tourist joy ride

Steve Jobs somehow avoided the embargo?

Another couple of old beauties, inside & out:

Sharon traffic pic: Good chance there's no Emissions Control inspections here.

Sharon - or Charrone, as she is known by her campañeros Habañeros - got this great shot of a blue & white 56 Chev, with a blue & white license plate, and our blue & white Hotel Telegrafo in the background.

The green Hyundai definitely got the worst of this fender bender in the Vedado neighbourhood. They jess don't make 'em like they used to.

No one was hurt.

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Enough with cars, already. On to Havana's architectural eye candy. The Gran Teatro de La Habana was right next door to our hotel.

Le Gran Teatro was closed for some reason. Too bad.

Home of the Cuban National Ballet, it was first opened around 1838.

Since it was closed, I googled "Gran Teatro interior." Apparently, this is what we missed. Next time.

The 5-star Parque Central Hotel as seen from our room at The Telegrapho.

The Capitolo looks somehow familiar.

It was also closed for renovations.

At Havana's most famous hotel, The Hotel Naçional, the grounds are spectacular, sloping down to the sea, and you can practically see the rich Americans in their 1940s whites, lounging and sipping mojitos. Amid these Fitzgerald-esque ghosts, there is an old cannon pointing out to sea - or canyon, if you prefer:

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A couple more street scenes:

From an Old Havana street, the statue of Maximo Gomes is visible overlooking The Malecon and the Caribbean sea. Max was a military tactician from Haiti. He invented the "Machete Charge" which brought the peasant warriors great success against the Spaniards in the Cuban War of Independence around 1895.

Even the Police drive old cars.

Bike taxis are a common mode of transport around La Habana Vieja (Old Havana), since the streets are too narrow for cars. Sharon took this on our only rainy day.

Our Hotel Telegrafo was part of Havana's beautiful architecture. The "Snack Bar" - a bit of an understated misnomer - was restored to keep the ancient stone arches, complimented with modern mosaics on the new walls.

This is the same Snack Bar taken from an opening in the stairwell two floors above. There is often live music here, and the 3-storey high stone ceiling, stone walls, and stone floor, make for some less than ideal acoustics. We saw Ivette Cepeda here on Friday night. What a treat, despite the crazy reverb effect.

Ivette Cepeda does a regular gig in the Snack Bar of the Telegrafo every Friday night. Do yourself a favour and check her out on youtube: http://youtu.be/DHRrACH7FFo

Along this street in La Habana Vieja (was it O"Reilly or Obispo?), there were four or five little bars/eateries within 3 blocks that had execellent bands playing. Most of them without mics or amps. The level of musicianship is crazy. This 7-piecer was called "Caracol De La Habana." The bar, about 12 feet X 35 was open to the street. I bought one of their CDs. It's good, but they were way better in person. Thanks to Sharon for this pic - I was too busy groovin.'

And here's a little snippet of the action:

Stupid me. As soon as I snapped this picture, the bongo player came over with his arm outstretched and his palm up (the OTHER universal language). Cost me a buck. Not my chosen way to support the economy, but it'll do in a pinch.

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On Saturday, we took a double decker tour bus around the city. We had a low flying birds-eye view of everything from apartment living to a baseball game.

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In front of our hotel was the beautiful Central Park. Cross the street and you're in Old Havana. But, behind the hotel is Central Havana, a real city neighbourhood. Convert any of these pics to black & white and you're back in the 1940s.

A Habana Centro scene just behind the Hotel Telegrapho converted to B&W. 1949?

Here's the same street in living colour.

Also just behind our hotel was this cute little café, La Casa Del Arroz. We ate a pretty mediocre meal there. Should have guessed by the name: "The House of Rice."???

When the revolutionary poop hit the fan back in 1959, it was "everybody out!" The music industry was no exception. I have no documentation about this old RCA building I ran across, but I'd guess - by the fact that it's abandoned and falling apart - no one has given two hoots about it since then.

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On the political side, one just can't escape the reality that 2012 is "Año 54 de La Revolución."

"Socialism. Today, Tomorrow, Always." Yo.

"Prudent love is not love." I'm diggin' it, Ché.

At the Museum of The Revolución:

Inside the star on the little tank, "26" refers to 26 July, 1953, when Castro organized a failed mission (his first) to overthrow Fulgencio Batista.

The Museum of the Revolution.

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The Malecón is the 4 lane street that runs along the breakwall. In the heat of the summer, it's a strolling lover's paradise. The Caribbean can put a damper on things, however, when the breeze whips up.

The sea splashes up over The Malecón. Good view of Morro fortress built in 1589. Good chance the sea was splashing then, too.

These two little future Major Leaguers were playing catch as I walked along the sea. You can hear snippets of a busking trombonist in the background.

He handed me a pair of maracas and we "jammed" a bit. His horn was duct taped and had putty stopping up the cracks. Somehow he managed to sound pretty great, despite the flawed instrument.

Sunset on a choppy Saturday night.

On Monday, we left Havana, looking forward to the real R&R awaiting us in Jibacoa. Took this video from the cab.

On the road to Jibacoa - a little over an hour's drive - there are many oil pumpers.

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THE BREEZES JIBACOA:

The grounds outside our room at The Breezes.

A view from the dining room.

Charrone caught Luis doing his morning stretch at the beach....

... and unwinding in the dining hall.

Every evening there was entertainment, most of it on the schlocky side, but the performers got an A for effort. One night, however, was Afro-Cuban, and it was fairly astounding. They did a dance winding and unwinding a maypole that was very amazing. A snippet follows ...

There was really great snorkelling within just a very short swim...

... great mojitos ...

... great cappuccino ...

... a great time.

In the Veradero Juan Gualberto Gomez Airport, the departures were limited to Cuba, Canada and Moscow.

After a very relaxing 4 days of all-inclusive down time, we headed home. I highly recommend seeing this island, and SOON before the imperialists have their way with it again. Let's hope it's done much more gently and respectfully this time.

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