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Havana Old Town

Havana Old Town

I've always wanted to go to Havana, Cuba, it looked like an adventure, so when the opportunity to cruise from Miami to Havana and spend a couple of days there came along I decided to go even though it was September and hurricane season!

So we arrived in Havana on the NCL Norwegian Sky from Miami for two days.  The ship docked in the Old Town so once you had moved through passport/visa control you were at San Francisco Square.

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 The first thing we noticed was all the old 50s Ford Chevrolets for hire in bright pastel colours.  So we stepped out from the port and straight into a 1957 pastel pink Chevrolet complete with a nice young English speaking driver who advised he could show us the sights for an hour.  We loved our spin around Havana in pink style!  He took us through all the colourful streets making a stop at Revolution Square with all the other cars for pictures.  He was happy to stop if we saw something we wanted to have pictures with and also stopped when we saw some lovely Cuban hats for sale and wanted to buy one.  Such a great introduction to the city and totally recommend it.  You don't need to book in advance, just turn up at the taxi rank and tell them what colour car you would like!.

Once we were dropped off at San Francisco Square we then went for a wander.  I loved the fact that we had not prepared an itinerary of what we wanted to see, it was all ad hoc.  Originally we had intended to get on the hop on hop off bus but it wasn't running due to being damaged by Hurricane Irma.  Wandering the lovely streets of the Old Town we came across Hotel Raquel.  Entering the hotel it is like stepping back in time as it is all in Art Nouveau style.  They have a lovely roof top area and we also stopped for a drink in the bar on the ground floor.  The wonderful barman made us the best mojitos of the holiday in there!

http://www.hotelraquel.com/

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The best thing about the Old Town Havana is that you see so many lovely colourful things such as ladies walking past dressed in Rumba clothing, 50s pastel cars and painted buildings.  We found a lovely church called Templo de San Francisco which was all white inside.  For lunch we went to Chacon 162 which is owned by Fidel Castro's son.  They did an amazing ham and cheese board to share there and delicious raspberry mojitos, totally recommend it.  They don't seem to have a website but they do have a Facebook page.

 

For dinner we went to La Guarida.  I had been totally seduced into going there by all the photographs of an amazing terrace, being in an old paladar, the spiral staircase and that celebrities such as Madonna had visited there.  Wasn't disappointed as we arrived in our bubblegum pink Chevrolet and took pictures on the stairs, the food was amazing, really delicious and better than I expected.  Unfortunately though the terrace wasn't operational due to Hurricane Irma but the upstairs bar was still open. 

Just one tip, you have to book via the website and it says that you are not booked unless you receive and email from them saying so.  I did not receive an email, but on arrival was advised that they had reserved me a table.  Could be the lack of wifi available in Cuba, not sure, might be worth calling them to try and book instead.

http://www.laguarida.com/en/

The next day we were picked up in a pastel blue Chevrolet which we had pre-arranged with our driver.  Had the best time driving around and loved our stop at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.  This hotel was famous back in the day for not only famous celebrities staying there but also for Mafia enjoying it too.  It is fascinating to walk around and to see all the history, definitely worth a visit and if you are staying in Havana overnight, might be a good place to stay.

http://www.hotelnacionaldecuba.com/

We also had a stop off at a Havana cigar factory shop to buy cigars for our friends back home.

The best thing about our Havana two day adventure was that we didn't go on any organised group tourist activities.  We did our own thing and made choices as we went along.  It is very easy to get an English speaking guide and driver at the taxi rank at San Francisco Square and you can book them for one or two hours and let them know what you would be interested in seeing.  The Old Town Havana really is easy to walk around and you will constantly come across interesting places/people/bars at every turn. 

Wish you a wonderful Havana experience!

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