Secrets of Old Havana

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Salsa and Socialism

Old Havana pulsates with salsa and socialism, and don’t forget to bring along your appetite.

Restaurants serve dishes made to order as opposed to the often humdrum buffet fare at the all-inclusives. A tasty 3-course  meal of fresh fish with a beer can be had for $10 at the Hotel Europa on Obispo, the pedestrian street that cuts through the old city.

And many have salsa bands with some starting in the afternoon.

At the Taverna de Muralla on Plaza Vieja, which brews its own beer, I had a burger done on the grill and a glass of beer for $5. On another occasion I indulged in a plate of shrimp.

My favourite spot turned out to be the Bar Monserrate, just off Parque Central and a block from the Floridita, where Ernest Hemingway was a regular.

On dance floor

It is not surrounded by tourist buses as is the Floridita but I did see a couple of hot salsa bands at the bar during my five-day stay in the city. They were William Valoy and his band and Santiago y Habana. Both had tourists and Havana residents shaking on the dance floor.

And just to make a connection with the people of Havana, I wore a hat of Industriales, the city’s highly successful baseball team.

“Industriales, si” or Industriales, campeon (champion)”  people said to me as I walked through the streets.

For a dash of socialism, visit the Museum of the Revolution on Avenue de  las Misiones, also in the old city, where you can see the Granma, the boat that brought Fidel Castro and Che Guevarra to Cuba from Mexico to begin the revolution, along with land vehicles.

There is also an outstanding billboard referring to former U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan along with Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista as cretins.

Also worth a visit is the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, a fort on the edge of the old city. It was completed in 1577, and is the city’s main maritime museum. Our guide told us that Havana was once the main staging point for riches plundered from aboriginal cities in Latin America. They were transferred to bigger ships for the onward journey to Spain.

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