Habana

Habana is not black and white. Habana is patriotism, hand-drawn flags and stray cats and dogs.

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The first thing we saw when we walked out of the casa particular on our first morning. The essential Habana, right there.

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A stray? Maybe not…

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Habana is cars. Habana is tall doors and stained glass, street art and less propaganda than expected. It’s odd food and odd fashion choices (leggings of doubtful taste seemed to be all the rage) and a slow relaxed way of life.

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Every house was beautiful.

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The cheapest food we found: at 4cents of a euro, this deep-fried ball of mystery was actually quite good.

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Street art, propaganda and an old, classic car all in one.

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Coconut bombs. Sold in Plaza Vieja, there were basically coconut shreds packed into a ball and caramelised. We didn’t eat them but saw others attempting the feat – the result was a cloud of coconut shreds on your clothes, street and bystanders and hopefully a tiny amount in your mouth, too!

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Also, tall windows.

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Habana is abandoned houses and mojitos.

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There was a crooked man who had a crooked house…

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Mmmmh mojito…

Habana is statues and street artists, and street artists that look like statues.

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These colourful ladies with huge cigars waited for tourists to pay them for photos.

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The Christ of Habana, built in Italian marble, blesses randomly.

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This is a statue

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…and this is not! (I was fooled. I thought he was a statue!)

Habana is unexpected flowers and tasty meat, but fish and seafood that is sparse on the menu. The women working for the customs office wear fishnet stockings with flowery patterns. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of them – thought it might not have been the most intelligent thing to do!

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Puerco ahumado – smoked ham. Good and tasty. We bought a slice from this street vendor: he didn’t use gloves and passed us the slice without plate, napkin or any hint at hygiene. It was also slightly bloody but..hey, we’re not dead yet.

Habana is people.

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Walking under abandoned restaurants on destroyed streets

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Playing with their dogs

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Relaxing

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Waiting for work

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Just chillin’

Habana is the Malecon, with its gigantic waves that break on the road and leave layers of seaweed and salty windscreens.

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Habana is standing in queues. We were baptised right at the start, with a one and a half hour queue at the airport for passport control. There are queues for everything and anything – to get the bus you have to go early in the morning of the day before and queue up behind dozens of people to buy the ticket for the next day. And most of it is a “virtual queue” as one patient queuer explained: half of the people there worked for businesses and although they were physically one person, they were there to buy tickets for up to twenty people who weren’t there. Hence, the “virtual” adjective.

Habana is Plaza Vieja.

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From the “Camara Oscura”, the first place you must go to when visiting Habana. The view is spectacular and it’s perfect to get your bearings and prepare your stay.

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Liberty details.

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Amazing architectural beauty

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Random art: a naked woman on a rooster with a fork. Mh hm.

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One of our favourite photos of the square.

Habana is art and attention to details.

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The mail box.

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I took this photo and was rewarded by an exaggerated roll of the eyes by a passing cuban.

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In the Chinese neighbourhood, currently void of Chinese people but still retaining its history.

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Even the lamppost was Chinese.

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A very, very old fire extinguisher.

Habana is music, great music, but boring, unoriginal food. Yes, people will disagree with me, but I have to insist: the food is always the same and non-creative. Soup. A protein with rice, beans and vegetables as sides. Sometimes fried rice is offered, which is the rice with the protein and sides all cooked together, but that’s about the extent of their cuisine. What they have is good, make no mistake, and I understand that the embargo makes things complicated, but the options are not as few as the menus suggest.

Habana is the house of rap.

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Habana is smiling faces and friendliness everywhere.

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We started noticing street dogs with collars and photos of themselves on their collars – someone explained that they were “reformed” strays that had been adopted by local businesses or shops (museums, art galleries etc), sterilised and vaccinated and fed.

Habana is money.

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People ask you for money, try to take more money than they should, haggling and bartering. Habana is safe, safer than most countries, but in Habana boyfriend was mugged by a wandering rogue on the streets around Plaza de la Revolucion. We had seen him before, but this didn’t prepare us for him jumping at boyfriend’s neck and grabbing the little gold chain that I had forgotten completely about – seeing too many series, I was convinced the man was crazy and was tryign to kill boyfriend. We yelled, we screamed, we tried to get him off. Less than a minute of utter surrealism and then two tiny old Cubans came to our aid, scaring the criminal away once and for all. A bruise, a scratch, a racing heartbeat and a broken chain were all we were left with – he didn’t even manage to steal the loot.

Habana is two grandparents that escort you to a more touristy area to make sure you get there safely.

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Plaza de la Revoulcion

Habana is views and beautiful at night, too.

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From the fort on the other side of the bay.

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Habana is realising that it’s not 2015. It’s the 56th anniversary of the Revolution.

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Leaving Habana, we discovered that Habana is not Cuba. Cuba is different, but Habana is not less interesting. Cubans that live elsewhere hate Habana, describing it as dangerous, expensive and dirty. We loved it, mugging and spending aside – it would definitely be a place that I would like to visit again. And that’s not something I say often.

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About Full Of Daisies

I am permanently in love. Things I like: purple, pasta, silk, autumn, the smell of mould, candles, cachi, having friends, water, new things, rice, eggs (all eggs!), fresh grass, olive trees, shiny things, glitter, hanging objects, windcatchers, wind, couscous, wasabi, carnivores, presents, snow, leaves, orchids, feathers, cappelletti, meat, fruit (all fruit), more del gelso (Morus alba L.), pigs, candles, christmas, polenta fritta!, separating egg whites from yokes in my hands, cartoons, dragons, the ocean, nudibranchi, cows, mercury (the metal), cosmos (the flowers), thunderstorms, Mika, turtles, acquariums, green and blue (mixed), siccamores, spring, snails, 24, porc with a sweet sauce (apple, cranberry, tomatoes jam), looking at a swimming pool upsidedown and underwater, english accent, open-minded people, driving, blue skies, checkered tablecloths, butterflies, books and cartoons in rhyme, painting eggs, the star-shadows that football players have, silver, laughing, Vivaldi, bells and chimes, white and purple, creating. Complete Happiness: Early morning. Sun, with a breeze; a pond with water lilies. A house, with a garden, full of plants. A vegetable patch, lemon, orange and mandarin trees. Cosmos everywhere. Birds in the trees; a tortoise eating the salad from the vegetable patch; a mammal (I couldn’t decide which one would make me happier) close by. No houses for as far as the eye can see. Me, a man that loves me and that I love. Friends coming over for a lunch that I have to prepare, and have all the ingredients for all ready in the kitchen.

2 comments

  1. Pingback: Sunset on the Malecón | Full Of Daisies

  2. Pingback: Habana Market | Full Of Daisies

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