Fascinating Havana

Fascinating Havana

Fascinating Havana

By Kai Rambow

 

Licking a delicious mojito sorbet was just one of many contrasts that make Havana fascinating.  We were snacking at a private ice cream shop, thanks to our tour guide.  To really discover Cuba, learn the story behind the story – it’s fascinating.

Havana is much more than old cars.  Despite major challenges in getting parts and supplies, many classic cars are in beautiful condition.  If all the historic buildings were restored, people all over the world would be flocking to visit Havana.

The contrast between restored buildings and dilapidated buildings next door is stark. After the revolution, people were allowed to keep two properties: one in the city and one in the country.  The rest were confiscated by the state.

One property in the city did not mean an entire building. For example, one home, a three-story building would be divided into three apartments.  Just divided: no additions (think communal bathrooms), no upgrades – nothing, just divided spaces.

Some families would have money for maintenance, others would not, resulting in no maintenance being done at all. It’s ironic that in a socialist system, no HOA and no collective maintenance exists. The result: run-down buildings, many of which require major restoration work.

Socialism vs Capitalism 

There is an absolutely fascinating system in place for small businesses.  There are restaurants throughout Havana. Getting reliable supplies is a challenge. A restaurant may have a menu, but if short on supplies they will simply inform you an item is not available that day.

When the Cuban government allowed some private enterprise, they set things up to the state’s advantage. The state actually owns and operates restaurants at a competitive advantage. State run restaurants are able to buy wholesale and set up in prime locations. Private restaurants must buy supplies at retail prices from state run grocery stores. They cannot even get a discount based on volume. The last challenge: the state-run restaurants pay no taxes; private restaurants pay hefty taxes. Here’s the great news: despite these obstacles, private restaurants are flourishing.

How can you spot the difference? A restaurant in a great corner location, offering comfort food, such as pizza is government owned and operated. A restaurant on a side street with mostly locals will probably be private.

My mojito sorbet was a first-rate product in a little private ice cream shop. Want to really help Cubans?  Let your guide know that you know the difference, and ask for a really good private restaurant.

 

Cuba Again?

This first trip to Cuba was enlightening. The obvious is hundreds of years of history, deep cultural roots and tasty food. Add in being more beautiful than imagined, more fascinating than thought possible with wonderful people and I would not only recommend a cruise here, but will take the opportunity to revisit in the future.

 

Tips for a Great Trip

Invest in Private Tour: In Havana you have three options: Take a cruise ship excursion;  use the hop-on-hop-off bus tour; or hire a private guide.  Havana is a 500-year-old city with narrow streets; a bus tour will drive past major sites.  If you really want to learn about Havana and Cuban life, a private guide is worth the investment.  Develop rapport, ask great questions and gain insights you simply can’t with the other options.

Our private tour involved walking large sections of Old Havana and included two hours touring in a classic convertible. Tip: Maybe you need a stop for a quick bite, but leave any shopping until after your tour.

Booked with Cubaoutings Tours. Payment was in CUCs upon conclusion of tour. Note: Even with tips, this was less expensive than the cruise ship shore excursions.

Water and Snacks: Be sure to take water, you’ll need it. Cuban authorities will let you take water, if they are in unopened bottles.  Snacks, also in sealed packages, are permitted as well.  Both can be helpful.  The walking is not strenuous, but covers quite a bit of ground.  If temperatures are hot, you’ll need the water and snacks.

Special thanks to Jayne Kirse and Teresa Olson at Sun City Center Travelworld, for their invaluable assistance.

 

Cubaoutings Tours Company

www.cubaoutings.com

Helad’oro La Habana

(ice cream / sorbet)

Calle Aguiar No. 206e

Empedrado y Tejadillo

La Habana Vieja

Tel: 56236942

 

JUNE 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

JUNE 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Celebrate Earth Day, enjoy local wildlife, get updates on the upcoming Entertainment Series, learn about a benefit event for local pets, go back in time to a wacky and wonderful rendition of the Renaissance, experience turning...

Elmer Mack Celebrates a Century

Elmer Mack Celebrates a Century

Elmer Mack Celebrates a CenturyBy Diane M. Loeffler Do you know a local resident who is one hundred or older? Twenty-two Sun City Center Community Association members have reached or surpassed that number with one born in 1914, one in 1915, two in 1917,...

Kings Point Garden Club Celebrates Cinco de Mayo

Kings Point Garden Club Celebrates Cinco de Mayo

Kings Point Garden Club Celebrates Cinco de Mayo By Paula Lickfeldt The residents of Kings Point have had space near the back entrance, for garden plots since 1990.  The garden club has many members and boasts a lot of diversity in their membership. Kings...

May 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

May 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… The Photo Club members wow us once again, the SCCCA announces a very important Town Hall meeting; a local Club donates thousands for lifesaving equipment; we visit the reopened Tampa Theatre; make some local Family Connections;...

April 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

April 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Visit the Arcadia Rodeo, laugh and learn with Phoney Baloney, marvel at the blue Angels, enjoy Gazebo concerts, celebrate local volunteers, appreciate Andy Ledoux, take a Nature Break, join a grief support group, explore the...

March 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

March 2021 NEWS is HOT off the PRESS!

In this issue… Hear from the newly elected SCCCA Board Members, see who helped SCC residents get their COVID-19 vaccine, get away for the day at Apollo Beach Preserve, mark your calendars for a very special livestream theater event, enjoy a...