Arriving In Havana
After a day visit to Key West, our Oceania Cruises cruise ship headed to Cuba for the Christmas holidays. The sun came up as we approached the port in Havana. Everything was cast in a glow. The port was right in the downtown. Onboard policies and processes seemed a bit confusing to us Canadians, since we are free to visit Cuba whenever we want to. But with our paperwork and passport, it was a quick process to get out of the port. It was our first visit to colourful Havana. And we did not want to miss a minute.
As soon as we exited the port, we saw the bright classic cars that Cuba is known for. They streamed by looking for passengers. We saw horse and carriages for hire. And tour buses too. There was no problem finding a way to explore Havana.
The Port Square In Havana
Our visit to Havana started in the square across from the pier. The large San Francisco de Paula Church dominated one side of the square. Cafes and hotels ringed the other side. Great architecture is certainly one of the reasons to visit Cuba.
Interesting statues were situated around the square. Of course we needed to pose with them. On our return visit to the square, I was sure that a new statue had been put in front of the church. When the statue moved, I knew it was really a man as a living statue.
Before we left this spot, I made sure to touch the foot, outstretched hand and goatee beard of the statue of the Gentleman of Paris. This was sure to bring my wish. This reminded me very much of the statue of Schone Naci in Bratislava. Both men were remembered for their chivalry and missed when they passed away.
Our first glimpse of the city drew us on to explore more on our first visit to colourful Havana.
Three More Squares To Explore In Havana
The second square we found was by the Havana Cathedral. The courtyard in front of the church was covered with large cobblestones. There were no statues on the outside of what was once a Jesuit church. But inside the church we found much more elaborate decorations.
The third square we visited was by the Plaza de Armas. We stopped to look at the Castillo de las Real Fuerza. And the memorial erected for the Cuban sailors who died during WWII. The pineapples on the top of the fence symbolized hospitality.
On one street we noticed that the cobblestones had been replaced with wooden pieces. The local story is that this was done so the lady of the house was not disturbed by road noises during her naps. Happy wife, happy life!
The last square we visited was called Plaza Vieja (Old Square). But it was really the newest square. It was expanded to create a place for the weekly market to be held. Pastel coloured buildings, a fountain and some modern art decorated this square.
We grabbed a quick affogato (espresso with gelato) and paused for a few minutes. The Cuban version came blended!
On our first visit to colourful Havana, we saw such variety as we moved from square to square.
A View Of Historical Havana
We drove along the long promenade. Across the river we saw the large San Carlos de La Cabana Fort up on the hill. On the point was the Morro Castle. We were sorry we did not get to visit.
As we drove around the city, in several spots we saw remnants of the old city walls and gates. We were told that the city was trying to restore these. Fortresses stood still as memories of the strongholds that once protected this port city.
A stop at Revolution Square reminded us very much of our visit to Beijing and Tiananmen Square. The large open square had government buildings around the sides. Murals of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos adorned the front of two of the buildings. Across the busy thoroughfare was the José Marti Memorial. This area commemorated the national heroes of Cuba.
We got a quick view of the history on our first visit to colourful Havana. History is certainly another of the reasons you might want to visit Havana.
Walking Around Old Town Havana
As we strolled around the old town, we stopped in front of the oldest house in Havana. We saw many of the older buildings of Havana. And each had a story to tell. Many were today being used as museums. Certainly there would be much to see on a return visit to Havana.
We stopped and went inside the Hotel Raquel. The inside eclectic design was well maintained or restored. It was beautiful to see. Very hard to imagine that this building was first built as a factory!
On our first visit to colourful Havana, we got a small glimpse of how much more there was to see.
The Colourful Neighbourhood Of Fusterlandia
We drove around the streets of Havana. We saw many of the neighbourhood areas. A drive along the river showed us the Almendares Park. We turned a corner and saw the first sign that something colourful and fun was coming. Tile art adorned the corner buildings.
We stopped and entered the gate of Fusterlandia. What had started as one man’s attempt to brighten the neighbourhood had exploded to a riot of colour. Every surface in the main property was covered with tiles. Statues were tiled. Pictures were made of tiles.
We steadily climbed higher and high. This gave us a view out over the main site. So many colourful pieces. It reminded us so much of the great colourful art of Gaudi in Barcelona. On the main level there was an art gallery. And on the second level a small studio.
We walked the streets to see how the tile art had spread. On our first visit to colourful Havana, we were delighted that we found the colourful tile art in Fusterlandia. The colour and art was definitely one of the things that drew us to Cuba.
Everywhere We Looked In Havana There Was Colour And Art
As we travelled around Havana, we saw so much colour and art. And then we turned another corner and found more. Interesting statues and pieces of art blended into the parks and buildings we passed.
Buildings were colourful and intricate. Walls of buildings were decorated with traditional scenes. Or with modern street art.
The overriding memory we took away from our first visit to colourful Havana was of the artistry we found everywhere. We did not get a chance to hear the music. But we have been told that people equate Havana with music too.
We Enjoyed Our First Visit To Colourful Havana
We missed Havana on our earlier visits to Cuba. So we were so happy to stop on this holiday cruise for our first visit to colourful Havana. It was a disappointment that we did not stay overnight and get to enjoy the lively nightlife. But our tour around Havana gave us a good taste test of this vibrant and historic town. Our other two stops in Cuba gave us more reasons to visit Cuba.
Did you enjoy our first visit to colourful Havana? Is Havana on your travel wish list?
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