And On To Havana

Chapter 4

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

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This day would be our last in Matanzas, but the adventures would continue here and later on as we drove to Havana.















Through the doorway into our Matanzas B&B, Hostal Cocteles Y Suenos (Cocktails and Dreams)

The Cuban Lady Liberty, part of the statue in Matanzas' Liberty Park breaking free of her chains.

Having gotten an early start, we had loaded everything into Big Blue and drove a short distance to Liberty Park, got out and began a guided walking tour of one of a poorer sections of town, La Marina. 

Our guide pointed out important aspects of this neighborhood that has begun to see some renovations and revitalization of the impoverished area.

Many buildings in this section really were in serious states of decay, but there is a pride in its’ residents showing in street art, a small city park, an area where concerts and music are performed and enjoyed.                                         

On several occasions, small trees and other vegetation could be seen growing out of the concrete upon the buildings. Despite the run down look of things, it was fascinating, colorful, and scenic.

Our La Marina tour ended at a bridge crossing the Rio Yumuri, where we lingered a short time watching as many “old” cars passed by.

Since we were going to go out of Matanzas into the country again to visit friends of Matt’s, we walked back to the Liberty Park area, as cars and buses and other vehicles whizzed past, everyone off to their own destinations. Initially we were to visit a museum but time contraints prohibited that. Passing through the park an older woman approached us begging for some money in return for some small bracelets that were displayed on her brown, frail looking arms. Sadly, she did look in need, but we were advised not to give. Elseshere around the park, people were seen sitting on benches having conversations, looking at the statue, watching the passersby, waiting for a bus or taxi or going about their daily lives.

Passing through the park to load up in Big Blue, a lone man went about his job - simply broom sweeping  in the park







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Look for the dog on top of the building.

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When asked about this crowd of people, our guide told us it was a wake for someone who had passed away.


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Our drive out of town revealed more of the countryside as we ascended slightly in elevation. Our hosts greeted us at the end of the lane leading into their property. There stood a thatched roof pavilion at the top of the hill from which we had nice views back toward Matanzas.

 Our host was tending to the roast pig which was to be our lunch entree. We watched as he basted and seasoned the roast.

 

Beverages were offered and, not surprisingly, I had a Cuba Libre. As we enjoyed our drinks we strolled about the property, enjoying the views and some docile cattle in an adjoining pasture. A windmill pumped water into a bathtub water trough. We were amused by the tactic of one young animal that chose to drink from the source, the pipe from which the water flowed, instead of sticking her head into the water trough from which the other cows drank. A germaphobe bovine?



Lunch was soon prepared and laid out for us. The pork being accompanied by sweet potato, taro root and other tasty Cuban dishes. Also, accompanying our meal was Fiesta Campesina, a band with whom Matt had befriended, and who played and sang traditional Cuban songs. 

    


The food, the views, our gracious hosts and the music and song created, for me, a very relaxed, mellow mood. It was nearly dreamlike to sit back, listening to the entrancing melodies in such a pleasant, country setting.

Having a schedule to keep, the time soon came for our departure and with final farewells and good wishes, we began the drive on to Havana. Along the way we stopped at an iron span bridge and used it as a photo opportunity for its’ settng and blooming lily pads in the San Juan River below. 

    

The ride into Havana, nearly an hour distant, went quickly and as we neared this capitol city, more and more colorful old cars were apparent upon the highway. The old fortress, El Morro, dating back to 1589, sits at the entrance to the Havana harbor and would become our first stop to visit. Along the roadway sat or cruised many vintage cars, most in vibrant colors and were a great juxtaposition with the fortress in the background.                                        

With limited time to spare, we did a far too short tour of El Morro, but it did include a long climb up a narrow stairway to the very top of the lighthouse. This enabled us to look over to the city, the harbor and cruise ships, as well as out into the sea.






One can only imagine the history this monument to time has witnessed, from Spanish galleons, soldiers, battles, storms, right into the present day with huge cruise ships passing by bringing in friendly foreigners to visit this ancient city, while outside its’ walls colorful mechanical carriages have replaced those once handsome horse drawn carriages of long ago.

 

I do wish we had found time to return for more exploration of El Morro, but that was not to be. Having a dinner reservation within a couple of hours, we hastened on to our Bed and Breakfast in Havana. This was a large, rather elegant home owned by a couple (Boris and his wife) where John, Mark and I would stay in a 3 bed room with our own bathroom. Matt took an adjoining room and later on two other rooms down the hall were occupied by other guests. The rest of our group stayed at another B&B several blocks away.

With little time to rest, we soon departed in Big Blue to our dinner destination located in a rather shabby looking building that had seen much grander times. Still, a long spiral staircase led us up to the upper floors which, though old, were well preserved and hectic with activity as patrons waited for their tables to be readied. This night we dined outside, overlooking part of the city. 


This building was undergoing renovations but amidst the obvious construction, a bustling business continued as diners enjoyed their evening. 

Having enjoyed an elegant dinner, we returned to our B&B’s for a restful night in preparation for our first full day exploring Havana, Cuba.




kdonald940@cox.net © Donald E. Kline 2012