Thursday, September 4, 2008

Top 10 things to do in Havana

I should be writing up Tanzania, but instead I find myself reminiscing about my time in Cuba. So since I'm in the mood for procrastinating, here are my top 10 things to do in Cuba's sultry capital, Havana (these are in no particular order).

1. Indulge in the legend of Hemingway while sipping a daiquiri at El Floridita, where 'Papa's' former seat is preserved as a shrine.

2. Embrace American heavy metal with a rumbling ride down the streets of Havana in a classic Chevy.

3. Smoke a fresh cigar straight from the factory at Fábrica El Laguito, makers of Montecristos and Cohibas, the finest Havana cigar.

4. Catch the spectacular Las Vegas-style cabaret at the Tropicana, the famous pre-revolution open-air nightclub where Carmen Miranda once performed.

5. Stay at one of the city's hundreds of casa particulares and experience a little of what life is like for everyday habaneros. (I can thoroughly recommend Casa de Jorge Colla Potts in Vedado.)

6. Take a walk around Plaza Vieja, Havana's old commercial square. Once the site of executions, processions and bullfights, today the square is more renowned for its smart boutiques, unusual museums and as the site of the city's only micro-brewery.

7. Soak up the history at Hotel Habana Libre (the 'Free Havana Hotel') in Vedado. Built in 1958 as a Hilton Hotel, it was the prerevolutionary haunt of American mobsters and even served briefly as Castro's headquarters.

8. Hit the beaches of Playas del Este, just east of the city along the coastal highway, which offer an uninterrupted six kilometre stretch of palm-shaded sands, deliciously warm turquoise seas and picture postcard vistas no matter which way you look.

9. Learn the grisly details of the Cuban Revolution at the Museo de la Revolución. Then to lighten the mood check out the museum's Rincón de los Cretinos (the 'Corner of Cretins') display which makes fun of Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

10. Join the habaneros for their evening ritual as they watch the sunset from 'Havana's sofa', otherwise known as The Malecón (the 'seawall'), on Avenida Antonio Maceo.

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