John and Sheila's short visit to Cuba
November 2001.

Sunday 4th November. We flew no further than Madrid, because all flights to Havana were cancelled because of the hurricane! So with a deft change of plan, we found a small hotel in the centre of Madrid and went for a walk round, a beer & tapas and a meal of ham and churitzo sausage.

Mon 5th Nov. Had a very pleasant day strolling round Madrid in the cool autumnal sunshine. Started with breakfast at the 'Museum of Ham', a delicatessen & restaurant, then walked in a big circle round the city via all the main squares and sights, ending up at our favourite tapas bar for an aperitif and back to the Museum of Ham for a main course of Serrano ham and cheeses.

Tues 6th Nov. In the morning we had a bit of culture for a couple of hours at the Prado art gallery and museum. Sheila introduced me to her favourite painter, Murillo (not in person, of course). Then more ham & cheese for lunch before getting the metro to the airport and flying to Havana.

We had already paid in London for two nights (the 4th and 5th) at the Inglaterra, an elegant colonial style hotel on the edge of Havana old town. We were concerned that there might be a bit of bother because we were arriving 2 days late, but a lot of people had cancelled because of the hurricane (wimps!) so it was OK. They checked us into room 101! It was alright, but it was an internal room and for $100 a night you would expect a window.
The Hotel Inglaterra on Central Park, Havana.

Wed 7th Nov. A pleasant buffet breakfast at the Inglaterra, consisting mostly of fruit. Then we had a nice day walking round Old Havana, looking at the historic squares, the crumbling buildings and the 1950s classic cars.

In the cool of the evening we had a drink sitting out in Cathedral Square, listening to a Latin-American band, then went round the corner for a meal, sitting out in a different square listening to another Latin-American band. It seems no restaurant or café can be without one and they are all good.

Thurs 8th Nov. Moved round the corner to the New York Hotel. It doesn't have the same colonial ambience as the Inglaterra, it's more of a traveller's hotel, but it's quite pleasant at one-fifth of the price and we get a window! We walked around the town again and had a coffee in the café in the Capitol building. Then we got a three-wheel 'bubble' taxi to the Artisan market to buy a Cuban flag for a friend,
Inside the Palazo des Artesania, Havana.
followed by a Cyclo (three-wheel cycle taxi) along the Esplanade to the National Hotel in the newer part of town. We couldn't resist having an hour's cruise round in a bright red c.1954 Mercury convertible, ending up at the Castillo des Tres Reyes.
Cruising in a 1954 Mercury convertible.

After that we had a beer at O'Reilly's bar and walked round the squares and along Obispo street, where we found a bar with a really good Latino group where we stopped for beers and Mohitas and a toasted sandwich. A great day.

Fri 9th Nov. We had a day of going round visiting our 'old haunts'. We walked across the old town and had a coffee watching the world go by in a bar by the Plaza de Armas, the oldest square in Havana. Then lunch of barbecued steak and fish at a little open-air restaurant on O'Reilly Street, accompanied by a band of course, and afterwards, we stood and listened to another band playing at the Italian restaurant just down the street.

We walked round more of the old town to Plaza Vieja and back via Casa de la Obra Piá, a fine old house with furnished rooms upstairs by a wide gallery around the leafy courtyard. Across the old town we had an ice cream in the Palacio de la Artesania, another restored courtyard house full of craft shops, then a 1½ hour cyclo ride right round the outside of the old city past the remnants of the city walls and many other sights, all of which we'd seen before, to the amusement of the cyclo driver.
A house in Plaza Vieja, Havana.

At dusk we sat on the balcony at O'Reilly's bar then went for more drinks and a light meal at the same bar on Calle Obispo, accompanied by the same excellent band as last night.   As you can see, our sightseeing in Havana was liberally interspersed with lots of eating, drinking and listening to good music.

Sat 10th Nov. Breakfast of coffee and ham & cheese sandwich in the adjacent New York café, then another drive around town in a classic car - an Al Capone-style 1936 Dodge. Then after a bit of a stroll we had a final hour's cycle round before heading to the airport. The airport taxi cost $12.

  Ché, in Revolution Square, Havana.

Then we flew to Cancun in Mexico.

To read about our bus ride from Mexico to Panama, click here.

To read about our other travels, click here  >>>>  globe