I’ve always had a fondness for sunrise and sunset. As day broke over my second day in Havana, Cuba, I was grateful that my room faced east. I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the sun cresting over the horizon as it created a silhouette of the Russian Embassy. I wanted to shout with glee, “I am in Cuba! Squee!”
Our first stop this morning was Cathedral Square. We were lucky enough to get to the Square before it got really busy, so we had a beautifully unobstructed view of the Cathedral, the main structure on the square.
As we explored the square and the surrounding streets, we were able to witness Cuba waking up to start a new day. We saw people walking with purpose, as if on their way to work or school. We also saw people in windows observing the breathing of life into the new day. What really struck a cord with me was how normal the progression of the day was unfolding. People were going about their daily routine. I was witnessing the Cuban people living their life.
As we continued our tour of Old Havana, we wound up at a park outside the Museo la Ciudad (Museum of the City). Inside this park there was a statue of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, a 19th century Cuban revolutionary whose failed revolution attempt eventual lead to Cuba’s independence from Spain.
Although tiny, this park was beautifully groomed and clean. It was a nice place to end our morning group tour. After this, we were given a little free time to explore on our own.
During our free time, a few of us went to the rooftop bar at the famous Hotel Ambos Mundos. This hotel is one of the places that Ernest Hemingway was known to spend time writing parts of his famous novels. The room where he wrote in the hotel is now a mini museum, where tourist can get a glimpse of Hemingway’s Cuba.
In addition to its connection to Hemingway, the Hotel Ambos Mundos also has a fantastic rooftop bar and restaurant. The panoramic view is absolutely stunning. The drinks at the bar are delicious. I highly recommend getting the pina-colada in a hollowed out pineapple. It was yummers.
After our drink at Hotel Ambos Mundos, our first scheduled afternoon people-to-people stop was the Callejon de Hamel. This area is a living and breathing shrine to Santeria, the Afro-Cuban religion practiced in Cuba. The brightly colored murals and designs in this small hamlet can be attributed to Salvador González, the artist who created the beautiful artwork on display.
While visiting this neighborhood, in addition to learning about the history of the Callejon, we were treated to a performance of a Santeria dance ritual featuring Changó, Ogún, Ochún, and Yemaya. This was really fun to witness.
After witnessing the influence that the Afro-Cuban religion had on Cuba, it was lunch time. We dined at Atelier Restaurante. The selection included lobster in a red sauce, chicken thighs in a white sauce, rice and black beans and roasted vegetables.
I am not a fan of lobster, but I tried it anyway. It was okay, but not my favorite thing from this meal. The chicken thighs were nom-tastically delicious. For dessert, a brownie topped with strawberry ice cream (not-pictured), was served. That was also amazing and refreshing.
One of the surprising aspects of Atelier Restaurante was the bathroom. As you can see from the photos below, there was some interesting artwork on the bathroom walls. I won’t spoil the surprise for you, but if you have ever or will ever visit Cuba, these images will definitely make sense to you.
After lunch, our first stop was the Museo National de Bellas Arts de La Habana (The Museum of Fine Arts of Havana). This museum is dedicated to displaying art by Cubans. The artworks focus on the past, present and future of Cuba. It was interesting to see how Cuban artist expressed their views of themselves, the revolution and their own country in paint and sculpture.
I highly recommend visiting this museum if you make a trip to Havana.
Across the street from the Museo National de Bellas Arts de La Habana is the Museum of the Revolution. This open air museum displays the apparatus and machinery used during the Cuban Revolution of the 1950s. This museum includes the 1957 bullet-ridden “Fresh Delivery” truck (not pictured) that colleges student hid in when trying to overthrown and kill Fulgencio Batista, and other artifacts.
Our next afternoon stop was the Hotel Nacional. This is the hotel that host celebrities when they visit Cuba, and with good reason: it is absolutely stunning. When you walk through the front doors, you will feel like you are a celebrity from the 1930s. The grounds are immaculately maintained and you might see a peacock pussy footing around the bar area.
The mojito at the Hotel Nacional was the best one I had the entire trip. If you are visiting Havana and you are not staying at the Hotel Nacional, make sure you carve out an hour or two to visit the hotel and have a mojito by the bar and pool as you enjoy the breeze coming off the Malecon.
Our last stop on Day 2 was dinner at the “Proyecto Cultural Lucecita” social club. There was a plethora of things served at this meal, but the best thing was the yucca. It was starchy and delicious. Other than that, the entree portion of this meal wasn’t that memorable.
After the entree, desert was also served. This cake and ice cream course was the star of this meal.
Along with desert, we was treated to a private performance led by Rodolfo Argudin Peruchin Nieto (piano).
I don’t remember the names of the singers, but they were amazing and multi-talented. The woman in the print dress also played the guitar. The woman in the black dress played the flute. The performance was the perfect end to our second day in Havana.
To view more photos from my second day in Cuba, click here.