Gosh, what a day we had. We certainly packed in a lot. We had decided to take the plunge and arranged for a tour guide for the day. Bang on time Lionel plus the silent one (our taxi driver) scooped us up from our hotel lobby and we dived into the back of the rust bucket that was to be our (seat beltless) chariot for the day.
First off the boys took us to Vedado (trans. ‘forbidden’) – a sort of green belt way back when - which is now a posh area crammed full of embassies. Row upon row of colonial houses, some renovated and some not, stand proudly declaring the opulence of Cuba’s past riches. Sugar cane must have sure brought in the money in its day. That and the gold held in Havana as the shiny stepping stone between Aztec and Spanish coffers.
We then sped up to Plaza de la Revolución to see Che’s famous photographic representation, some of the ministry buildings and the impressive Memorial José Martí.
Whizzing back into town we stopped at the Capitolio (think mini White House) and then took a pony and trap ride to the old town passing by Chinatown and stopping at Plaza de San Francisco. We then set off on an architectural tour on foot taking in many of the famous bars, shops and converted restaurants (pick a style; Spanish, Arabian...). Particular places of note were Café del Oriente, La Bodeguita del Medio and Farmacia Taquechel. We ended up in Plaza de la Catedral before jumping back in our taxi and zooming off under Havana’s tunnel to the Eastern Bay. We then hugged the coast until we reached Ernest Hemmingway’s renovated farm house. It’s a rather marvellous set of buildings high up on a hill with a fabulous view back towards Havana 15 miles in the distance. We ‘did’ the tour which was actually rather charming before careering back to Havana. Stopping just this side of the tunnel we stopped for freshly crushed sugar cane juice (guess who turned the crusher wheel?). Naturally we added a bit of lemonade, a dash or three of rum and some fresh mint to make it look more like a mojito. Well, you would, wouldn’t you?
Refreshed we then toured Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro and mounted the 1844 lighthouse which offer sublime views back across the bay.
The tour wasn’t over yet though. Next we were treated to a four course lunch (complete with daiquiri) at El Floridita.
Needless to say after all this running about and after thanking our guides we headed for our hotel for a siesta.
Showered and rested by 8pm we were up at Hotel Nacional de Cuba to see the Buena Vista Social Club perform at the Salón 1930. To say that we were disappointed would be putting it mildly. We had to sit through what felt like Cuba’s Got Talent before just a solitary member of BVSC pitched up to play a couple of numbers with the house band. What a swizz. So we just downed a few more Bucaneero beers (5.4% proof thank you very much) and ended up giggling at the under-rehearsed show-girls with their faded feathers. As we got our taxi back into town we couldn’t decide whether the show was ‘sexy’ or just ‘sexist’. Thinking about it now, it’s probably the latter.
So after a long lie in. I’m sitting by the infinity pool on the roof of our hotel, mojito in hand tapping away on my netbook. It's a tough life, eh? Hasta mañana.