When we arrived in Havana nearly three weeks ago we were struck by its history, a place paused in time. Returning from our adventures around Cuba, it now seemed modern despite its dereliction, a place of comfort.
For our final three days we stayed in a larger Casa, welcomed into a self contained apartment where trinkets from every country and era covered every surface. Our large balcony opened out onto a street where the activity never stopped. Layer upon layer of balconies was home to small gardens, laundry, outdoor living. Passers by called up or rung the doorbell to summon people onto their balconies where they would either have a loud conversation for all to hear, or throw down a key on a piece of string to let them in. We saw the same makeshift pulley system holding baskets so people could get deliveries, everything from bread to a kitchen cupboard could be hauled up and in.
Warm days turned into electric nights where lightening whipped across clear skies. An old man walked me two blocks to cover me with his umbrella as a late night deluge threatened to soak us. Monique looked on in jealousy and said ‘did he think you were going to melt?’
The jewel in Havana’s crown is the Capitol building which they are proud to tell you is slightly taller than the White House. It was originally started in 1926, finished in 1929 and they began a costly restoration of it in 2010. Like VIP’s with our authorised access lanyards we were shown up the imposing staircase into a large hall with the worlds third tallest indoor statue greeting you. That’s one thing they acknowledge the states on, USA has the second biggest. Whilst in the era of American Influence, Cuba had a House of Representatives and a Senate which would have both been housed in this building, since the revolution its purpose has been less clear. Even now in its restoration, parliament will not meet here as its 600 strong body will not fit in the halls built for 500.
We enjoyed our last beach day at Playa Santa Maria, a little east of Havana. The water was crystal clear and the beach clean and quiet. It was a scene of calm. In our last ditch attempt at being tourists we boarded the open top red bus to circle the city. From the iconic plaza de la Revolucion we weaved through suburbs of the city as if observing every day life. The evening drive down the Malecón was a spectacular end to a special three weeks. One we wouldn’t forget easily.