Post by kerouac2 on Nov 27, 2017 20:58:31 GMT
Obviously, this thread deserves a bit of explanation. Ever since last year's trip when Bixaorellana, Htmb and I met up to see a bit of Mexico and particularly to celebrate Muertos in Oaxaca, we had been wondering about future adventures since the trip went brilliantly well. The Anyport meet-up in London in June was excellent, but it was well trodden territory for many of us, so a new experiment was in order. A lot of us have always wanted to go to quite a few exotic places, but various factors tend to prevent us from doing so. Money, and work and family obligations tend to top the list, and that is entirely normal and as things should be, but there is that other factor known as apprehension that often stops us cold and prevents us from doing some of the things we most want to do. Anyport could be a factor for like minds to unite and finally organise reasonable adventures to amazing places that have seemed out of our reach.
I had already been to Havana once, 20 years ago, and it was a rather pitiful trip -- just look at the report I made -- since I was quite limited by not knowing the language and also the fact that going to Cuba was a bit more complicated in those days. Bixa had never been there before but was very attracted to the idea, and on top of that she could communicate without difficulty.
So we began researching the possibilities. Transportation was not a problem at all, so we concentrated on accommodations. We didn't want to stay in a hotel, particularly when it became apparent that a vast number of apartments are available and would provide much more freedom and comfort. Bixa can explain her research on the subject, since it was extensive and vigourous. It was also not as simple as it seemed to be at first. There are lots of places advertised on the net, but that is easier said than done. Cubans do not have the same access as we do to the internet, so this entailed waiting for a reply much longer than we are used to. Most of the apartments were on multiple listings, and the owners or agencies would check requests just once a day, and would then have to cross check multiple requests. The result was that Bixa was repeatedly told that the very nice apartments that she had seen were not available.
As for my own utility, it was quite limited but not entirely absent. Bixa would consult me regarding specific locations, and I had retained a general knowledge of good locations versus bad locations. In fact, however, almost every location proposed was either "good" or "not bad" because the owners, at least on the internet, knew where visitors to Havana wanted to stay.
I'll let Bixa expand on this subject a bit later since it might be useful for other potential visitors, but I know that you are waiting for some pictures, so I will begin.
For people who fly out of smaller airports, you might be amused (or amazed) by the departure board that greets you when you arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.
Check-in was rapid, and I was quickly in my departure lounge. I kind of love modern airport architecture.
My flight left 2 hours late and arrived 2 hours late and lasted more than 10 hours, so you will excuse me for arriving in a daze. Bixa had arrived hours earlier, but, stalwart that she is, was waiting for me as was the taxi driver that we had booked. Taxis to and from Havana airport cost a standard rate of US$25 but most drivers will only ask for US$20 or even less if you book ahead of time. Of course if they have been waiting 2 hours extra (even though they are used to it), for some reason you will give them US$25 anyway. Go figure.
The apartment owner was also waiting for us 2 hours more than planned. The place used to be his principal residence, but now he lives in a beach town not far from Havana. The actual apartment turned out to be a source of considerable amusement and dismay, which we will soon explain, but we loved it on first sight. It was in a modern building on a higher floor, just one block from the seafront. Perfect! It was kind of hard to get rid of the chatty owner, but finally he left and we were able to admire the view at our leisure. The street below -- Galiano, but officially Avenida de Italia -- was a source of constant fascination. It was active, perhaps too active, from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day.
A large hotel in slight decline, the Deauville, was just a block away.
Even when there are noisy people, the streets are not filled with traffic in most of Havana.
I didn't sleep much -- I was too excited by our new location, so I was ready to admire the first dawn in the apartment just a few hours later.