As I mentioned in my previous post, Havana has a shabby chic vibe that even a city like New Orleans would envy. But one needn’t just visit Old Havana to see some amazing architecture. The neighborhood we stayed was filled with homes that appeared to date back to the first half of the 20th century (if not older) and exuded an old world charm with high ceilings and architectural details from that time.
A lot of homes were once family residences but now many of them are overflowing with multiple families since there seems to be a housing crunch in Havana. I asked why some appear decrepit and some looked like they had been restored to their former glory and was told that it really came down to money. I was told one way you can tell if a family had money was if their house had recently been painted. It was stories like this that often time gave me pause to consider the implications of our relations with Cuba. Unlike many poor nations, I couldn’t help but get the impression that this could all so easily be averted.
While most of Havana remains in a depressing state of disrepair it would be unfair not to share with you examples of the “New Havana”. Like this restaurant that recently opened in the neighborhood we were staying on our visit to Cuba. In addition to “Sara” which I’ve shared in photographs of above, there are also national treasures like the Hotel Nacional de Cuba which according to our guide was the playground for many American mobsters in the 1940s and 1950s and is still a functioning hotel.
The hotel has beautiful views of the ocean and manicured grounds that include a tunnel rumored to run below the streets of Havana; intended as one of many escape routes for Fidel Castro back during the days of Bay of Pigs.
Blog posts from this series:
Post 1: An American in Havana
Post 2: An American in Havana: The Cuban people
Post 3: An American in Havana: The architecture
Post 4: An American in Havana: Old Havana
Post 5: An American in Havana: The food
Post 6: An American in Havana: The cars
It is a rich city in many aspects…..food, art, religion, architecture etc….old Havana had some great restaurants and eye candy and the street life, cafés and street musicians add character, vibe and depth to a city.
The contrast between old and new Havana is stark but hopefully with US relations open, I do hope some or most of that old world is kept…