La Habana

13th April 2011

The first thing we noticed on arrival in La Habana [1], Cuba, was the helpful happy people, no traffic congestion and the number of shiny 1950´s American cars.  The longer we were there, the more back to the fifties it felt; back when consumerism wasn´t all pervading, when children played in the streets, when you could walk around safely.  Black fishnet stockings are still kicking on in Cuba too. 


There are two currencies in Cuba, Convertible Pesos (CuC) – essentially US$, and Cuban Pesos (Moneda Nacional, MN) at 24 to the CuC.  Cubans are paid in MN.  Pretty much anything a tourist would want is priced in CuCs, but MN can get you some real bargains – ice cream 4c, individual pizza 30c, not bad either.  How about a novel for 70c or a bunch of red roses under $1?


The architecture of Habana Vieja is a fantastic jumble of art deco, colonial, baroque, gothic, neo classical, Gaudi-esque and Soviet era concrete apartment blocks.  Some buildings have been painstakingly restored while others crumble slowly away.  The Malecón, stretching 8 kilometres around Habana Bay is a good place for sun set watching.  We stayed in the 400 year old Convento de Santa Clara and enjoyed an evening mojito or two in one of the open air plazas.  Habana – file it under World´s Greatest Cities.


Habana´s Cathedral, construction started by the Jesuits in 1748

Inside the Convento Santa Clara, where we stayed

The restored Plaza Vieja, laid out 1559

Flower seller

An old Ford

Restored building in old Habana

Bici-taxi waiting beside a crumbling old Habana building

Light house and fort at the entrance to Habana Bay

Resting in the shade

Old taxi

Better than new

Plaza de San Francisco de Asís (from 1608)

Castillo de la Real Fuerza, the oldest fort in the Americas, built 1558 - 1577

Caricature of Jeff, done for free while waiting for a bus


Caddy El Dorado

Colonial architecture on Plaza Vieja

Narrow street in old Habana

Washing drying in the sun

Che on a building at Plaza de la Revolución

Fishnet stockings are all the rage


Sunday afternoon on the Malecón

Cigar smoking character


In the old city

The old Galicia (northern Spain) Club

Hotel Inglaterra - the oldest hotel in Habana (opened 1856)

What´s your poison? (Prices in US$ per bottle)

The Convent of Santa Clara (1632) our home in Habana

Sunday afternoon baseball - ball made of paper and tape

Restoration work needed

Arab influence

Gothic church

Hotel Sevilla - built 1908 in the mudéjar style

Bacardi building (1929)


Art deco

Beautiful tile work on a dilapidated building in central Habana

Two cigar smoking ladies

Russian Orthodox Church

Iglesia and women´s hospital San Francisco de Paula (1750s)