For our second and final day in Havana, Cuba via a four day cruise aboard the Norwegian Sky out of Miami, I booked a private tour using I LOVE CUBA TOURS. My person of contact was Yosel Vazquez, and his tour company is ranked #1 on Trip Advisor.
I explained how I wanted a 5 hour tour that did not involve a lot of walking for my Mom. The cost was 150 CUC for the two of us. The ship excursions could not touch this itinerary. Their most comprehensive tour was $299/person and they did not cover nearly as much as what I LOVE CUBA TOURS had to offer.
The meeting place was the fountain in San Francisco Square which is across the street from the cruise terminal. Mom and I arrived about 30 minutes early to make sure we did not miss our reservation.
I purchased a hand painted fan from a lady who was hustling to sell her quota for the day. She asked my Mom and I for our water bottles for her kids to use in school. I told her she could have mine when I went back on the ship. Unfortunately, it slipped my mind, and I didn’t make good on my promise. The lady was claiming my Mom as her Madre and showing major love to us Americans.
I still had a few minutes to spare, so I strolled through the Mother of Teresa of Calcutta Garden. A Greek Orthodox Church is located at the end of the garden.
We drove off in a mint condition vintage car along the Malecón heading west towards Fusterlandia. It was a relief to have a car with air conditioning. We went through an area called Miramar that was more upscale compared to Old Havana. The boulevard was called 5th Avenue. There were sports fields for baseball and a large carnival area for children.
Another view of Hotel Nacional, Riveria Hotel built by a mobster wanting to copy what he saw in Las Vegas, Homes in Miramar area, Jesus de Miramar Church on 5th Ave.
Fusterlandia is an area created by Cuban artist, José Rodríguez Fuster. He used his artistic abilities to express his creativeness around his home with tiles. Eventually, his designs spread throughout the neighborhood and took on part of his name to become Fusterlandia. Fuster lives in the same house and can sometimes be seen working outside.
On 54 hectares, or 133 acres is a lush area called Parque Almendares along the Almendares River. The park is commonly called the Havana Forest. It is a nice place in the city to get away from the pollution, and to take a break from the UV rays.
The Havana Forest is a popular area for Santería rituals and sacrifices. The African slaves brought the Santería religious practices with them. Santería initiates have to wear all white for a year. The Almendares River bank is littered with bags, feathers, chicken bones and various animal parts.
In addition to the spiritual atmosphere, the Havana Forest is a popular area for quinceanera photos.
We passed the Christopher Columbus Cemetery (Cemetario de Colon) on our way to Revolution Plaza.
Our guide spent a lot of time talking about the historical significance of Plaza de la Revolución. There were a lot of famous speeches and marches held at this site. Nearly a million Cubans came out for mass with Pope Jean Paul II in 1998.
We had a 45 minute drive to Ernest Hemingway’s home. I was realizing just how large Havana is along with what 2.2 million people in one city looks like. There are 11 million people on the Caribbean’s largest island.
All of the major roads had people out like what NYC Time Square looks like, except they were not tourists. Also, the schedule is different from the U.S. where we work straight through the day. Cubans take a break from work and school to go home or out for lunch and return to finish the second part of the day.
The next stop was Ernest Hemingway’s home in Cuba.
The estate also has a swimming pool, an area where Hemingway would have cock fighting, tennis courts, gardens and almond trees.
We used up every minute until it was time to board the Norwegian Sky. I wanted to spend the rest of my CUC at the market.
I would love to visit Cuba again. I advise anyone who is thinking about going to watch The Cuba Libra Story on Netflix. Everyone was on the ship’s decks to watch Havana, Cuba fade towards the sea. I am blessed to have experienced another amazing country with beautiful people.