Cuba is a country on the brink of change. With a gradual relaxation of state regulations, its people are beginning to earn more, and foreign visitors can gain unprecedented access to the heart of cuban culture.
One of the most exciting recent changes has been the state’s agreement for locals to rent out parts of their homes to travellers, called casas particulares. One of the best ones we stayed at is located in Havana Vieja, the old town, and belongs to Eugenio y Fabio. Literally everything in this place is antique, and there is even a roof terrace bursting with greenery.
Havana’s streets exude the hustle and bustle of daily life; vintage American Chevrolets wheeze past crumbling colonial exteriors…
…strays sleep in the middle of the pavement, and you’re never too far away from a fruit seller.
To get out of the thick of it, head to the breezy Malecon, the long wall which winds itself along the coast, connecting the east to the west. This is also the place to go with a bottle of rum after dark if you want to get to know the locals.
For the city’s best paladar, restaurants run from people’s homes, book a table at La Guarida. The sumptuous mansion was used as a set for the film Fresa y Chocolate and its food is internationally renowned for its ingenuity. In a country where more often than not you only have a choice between chicken and pork, the variety of dishes and combination of flavours is a refreshing change.
La Guarida, Concordia 148, between Gervasio and Escobar. T: (537) 863-7351 (www.laguarida.com)
While practically every doorway opens into a front-room art gallery, head to the quirky Callejon de Hamel in Centro Havana for a clustered alley of studios, sculptures and colourful murials that won’t disappoint.
Finally, to reiterate the point that strays are everywhere, here are some photos of their more amusing antics.