Dr. Eric Conway writes:
Day 5 - Travel Day to Havana from Santa Clara, Cuba - stop at the Hemingway home!
Today, we checked out of our Santa Clara hotel to travel to the most famous city in Cuba - Havana (Spanish: La Habana). Who would have thought that we would have had to travel to Cuba, to commune directly with animals as we did in our Santa Clara hotel. With the huts for rooms, beautiful pool, and wonderful buffet meals on the premises, we may have felt as though we were at a premium resort - until the entire resort would lose power, or see the number of mosquitos flying around, or smell the stench in the bathrooms. All in all, most thought it a great adventure!
There is one matter that should be mentioned about our Cuban experience with all of our accommodations. The Cuban infrastructure is such that their sewage system cannot handle paper. I was explicit in telling every member of our group that we must not flush any toilet paper down any toilet in Cuba, for risk of stopping up the entire sewage system at the facility. Given that we are creatures of habit, this was quite a difficult task to remember that after even blowing your nose with toilet paper, you must not dispose via the toilets system. Cubans knowing this issue all too well, have waste baskets adjacent to every toilet in Cuba! This was certainly a huge cultural difference, that we will never forget!
Today, we return to Havana, where we arrived on last Tuesday, the 24th. We have had great but varied experiences in all the Cuban cities that we have visited thus far: Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara, and Remedios. It took approximately four hours to drive to Havana from Santa Clara.
Before arriving to Havana we stopped to the Cuban residence of the great American writer Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway purchased an extravagant residence outside of Havana in the town of San Francisco del Paulo thirty minutes from Havana. This residence is the first residence museum of this type in Cuba! Hemingway was thought of as "the great American!" Although we were not able to walk around the interior of the residence, we were able to peek into the residence and get a sense of where Hemingway lived, during the period of his greatest writing, including works such as: The Sun Also Rises, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and most notably The Old Man and the Sea. It was in Cuba that Hemingway became inspired to write this great American novel. The property was replete with palm and bamboo trees, a huge gazebo, a tall tower where he did most of his writing, and an enormous pool! We saw his personal yacht: “Pilar," docked on the property, that he took out on the water as much as he was able.
After visiting the Hemingway residence, we had a group lunch at a typically Cuban restaurant - Cafe Taberna Benny Moré. During this very tasty meal, we again heard some great music, where the music encourage virtually everyone in the place to get up at some point and to start dancing (see video attached). Outside of the restaurant we took our first group photo in the square adjacent to the restaurant. After a meal is a great time to take a photo, especially if everyone enjoyed their meal.
After the meal we went to a major Havana Art Gallery: Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. From there, we went to the local flea market to barter for the best price for souvenirs from Cuba. This was a huge market with over 400 separate kiosks, in a tightly organized setup. Given the strength of the American dollar, we were able to do quite well purchasing Cuban souvenirs.
From there we went to our Havana Hotel, Habana Libre. Given that this was our last hotel, it was fitting that this be the best accommodations, which was not a surprise given that Havana is the most cosmopolitan city in Cuba. This appeared to be a world-class hotel, which was probably very reasonably priced given the local economy.
Tonight was a free evening for everyone to eat on their own and re-charge their battery. Tomorrow we will drive three and half hours to Matanzas!