Back to 1953… The next day. After a 20-minute taxi ride from the airport, I settled down at the hotel. The room was not so bad – it is a spacious room on the 7th floor with vintage décor, new aluminum window frames and a stunning night view of the city and the dome of the Capitol. I turned on the TV, switched to the CNN, freshened up and I went to the rooftop restaurant in the hotel for a quick dinner (my first meal in Cuba!). Then, I got a call from the tour company about my city tour tomorrow morning; it was the same day the Obama announced the conversation with Cuba and the guide was excited about that. Looking forward to it.
The next day in the morning I was supposed to meet the tour guide at the Hotel Telegrafo – the building is right at the corner of the main street Paseo de Marti, I was there 10 minutes earlier, yet I didn’t see any big group standing outside the hotel. 10 minutes later, I was approached by a young lady who told me she was supposed to be my tour guide of the day! I didn’t expect it as a private tour, and we had a lot of interactions for the day.
Quickly we walked through the small Central Park on the opposite side of the hotel and entered the shopping walking the street of Cuba – the Bishop Street (Calle Obispo). The road connects to the Plaza de Armas, one of the four main plazas in the Havana old town, on the other end. It is the main tourist area where restaurants, cafés, and shops were lining up on both sides of the street. It was still early in the morning, but it gets a lot more crowded at night.
The mission for the morning is to visit the four plazas in the Old Havana, a Unesco World Heritage Site that contains the core of the original city. Havana is the largest city and major port of the country established by the Spanish in the 16th century. Apart from the heritage spots within the area, Havana is also filled with stories and antidotes about the legendary American novelist Ernest Hemingway, who lived in Havana for 20 years and completed his Nobel Prize winning novel “The Old Man and the Sea”, and bars and restaurants where he had been to and loved.
“My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita.” – Ernest Hemingway