Havana & Raquel Hotel

havana vieja and Raquel Hotel

We landed in Havana Airport at about 21.00 on Thurs 21 Oct 2010. Someone from the travel operator met us at the airport, and gave us the hotel vouchers for the holiday. This being Cuba everything is done by paperwork. The on to a long queue to pass emigration, not enough booths for the amount of time taken to process each punter. On top of that they take your photo (to check when you leave - they would not want the wrong man to get out). OUr pre-booked taxi took us into the old city of Havana, where our hotel was. The taxi driver seemed to have no idea how to navigate the one way streets of the old town, and he stopped several times to ask directions.

Eventually he deposited outside a darken building around 23.00, and it took us a wile to find the hotel which was a little distance. away. Our room was on the third floor, accessed by the charming old fashioned type of lift with the sort of iron gates that you slide open and shut yourself. The room was large but the windows owned inwards rather than outwards

The TripAdvisor rating of the hotel is quite fair. Hotels in Cuba should be really graded on a different scale to European hotels. By Cuban standards, and I say this without any irony, this was a very good hotel. The bedroom was a bit dated, but it was large and comfortable. The hotel building had been well restored, with stained glass, marble pillars and wonderful architecture. There was a roof terrace (bar was not working) and it afforded views over old Havana.

The breakfast buffet was depressing familiar to those who have toured Cuba. But you could get fresh fruit, and as in most Cuban hotels there was a man to cook to order an omelet or fried eggs. With judicious choosing you can eat well, but forget about sausages, bacon, decent bread or cakes, proper cheese, proper ham - they just do not exist in Cuba, and the Cubans have learnt over the years to "get by" with what is available at the time.

Click on any of the small pictures below to get a large image

raqurl hotel havana vieja raquel havana raquel hotel roof
Raquel Hotel Entrance
Raquel Hotel
Roof of hotel
Roof of hotel
raquel hotel lift raquel stained glass ceiling raquel lobby raquel dining room
Interesting hotel lift
Stained glass ceiling
Hotel Raquel lobby
Raquel dining room

The reception staff had that air of indifference to customers that is unfortunately the norm in Cuba. You will be hard pushed to find a "friendly" hotel receptionist anywhere in the country. But, as they say, once you have checked in, the receptionist need not bother you. Ditto restaurant staff. This is Cuba

One odd quirk they had here was that on checkout, they required that the chambermaid checked your mini-bar to ensure that you have not nicked anything. It can take 10 minutes, as they are not too fussed about making you wait. They tried to dun us for a can of beer, but when we protested, immediately backed off. Seemed like a scam to me.

Basically, if it you first night in Cuba, remember Cuba is "different" to any other country you have experience. But that is probably why you have come here. To a large extent what you get in the packet exactly what you expected to get in the packet

Click on any of the small pictures below to get a large image

partagas partagas partagas partagas worker
Partagas Factory in Havana.. ..where they make the eponymous Partagas and other . . brands, all by hand.
parliament havana main square havana havana partagas
We walked round the square with the Capitol building .. .and on round the main streets .. ..of Havana
o'reilly cafe fort havana fort havana fort havana
O' Reilly Street ! The castle built by the .. ..Spanish to protect he town.. .still has a moat.
havana walking havana building havana building havana walking
Everywhere you see signs of.. ..the old commercial buildings . ..with wonderful architecture .. ..stained glass
havana building cafe de oriente, havana havana street havana street scene
old hotels.. .. and cafes ..most of the streets were narrow ..in the old town
havana havana architecture catyhedral havana
cathedral havana cathedral square havana old books havana bookseller havana
plaza vieja, havana plaza vieja habana havana havana streets
russian church havana post box havana havana street music chris mohita havana

We had the following day to see old Havana. We did not stray from the old city, as there is lots to do and see there. My photos may give an incorrect impression of pristine buildings, as those are the ones I have photographed. For every one restored building there are perhaps 10 buildings that are falling apart. On top of that the residential housing and the commercial areas are not separated. So you will see a lot of poverty, buy European standards. We walked and walked and walked, stopping for the odd Mohito to pick up the spirits - the Mohitos are very drinkable and very strong! A good place to pause for a drink is in one of the little cafes along the harbour.

Click on any of the small pictures below to get a large image

bodeguita del medio habana del medio havana hemmingways bar havana hemmingways haunt havana
La Bodeguita del Medio .. Hemingway ate and drank .. ..here, but in my view it is just a . . tourist trap today!

The travel agent sold us a dinner at "Bodeguita del Medio" a place made famous by Hemingway and it even has a Wikipedia entry. And TripAdvisor reviews. I personally would have preferred not to have gone, and eaten elsewhere - the food was truly terrible - we had luke warm chicken - and the service nonexistent. I would go along with the reviewer who wrote " I would just stop for a picture. This place is too commercial so they have the Mohitos half way done so they can hand them to people fast and food was poorly cooked and overpriced. " But at least you know Hemingway drank here! The name of the game is to find a space on the wall to add you signature.

Click on any of the small pictures below to get a large image

american car havana us car in cuba american car outside partigas american car classic cuban
clssic cuban car us car in cuba old us bus cuba classic car santiago cuba
old american car at bano cruces us car santiago american car havana us car parked havana
The classic old American cars are to be found everywhere on the island

Of course the other thing you will see when walking round Havana are the 1950s American cars. Somehow the Cubans have kept them going over the last 60 years or so. These are not for the tourists, they are Cubans real cars.

Havana to Vinales

Our Cuban Holiday