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Plazas of Old Havana

The architecture in Havana is by far my favorite part about the city- Old Havana in particular. The walking tour I took today brought me to 4 famous plazas of Old Havana and a cigar, rum, and coffee tasting.

Plaza de Armas has an old wooden street outside of the former Governor’s House. It has to be replaced every few years, so it is not exactly practical, but it was so much easier to walk on than the cobblestones. Rumor has it that the Governor’s wife disliked being woken up from her afternoon nap by horses’ hooves clattering on the cobblestones, hence the wooden street. These days, brightly-clad women grift tourists for kisses and photos on the wooden street.

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Plaza de Catedral was my favorite of the plazas because of the gorgeous Catedral de la Habana making up one side of the square. Find Tiny Andrea standing in front (in purple):

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Since the next day was Easter we could not enter but the outside limestone façade was impressive enough for me. Limestone is the stone of choice in Havana due to the porous nature of the stone which let the air flow in and out in an attempt to stop the humidity from building up inside.

Plaza de Armas:

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Either way it is definitely warmer in Havana than back home in Baltimore so when in Havana, have a mojito to cool you off. Air conditioning here is not a given and even if they have it, it may not exactly be working to your standards. I ended up having a mojito and then some Havana Club rum straight up with a Romeo and Juliet cigar. I hate cigars so I pocketed it for a gift for my brother-in-law and did taste the rum. It was a little caramel-like at first but went down like rocket fuel. I definitely need to mix my spirits.

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A little tipsy we walked some more, past the now empty U.S. Embassy, along the water in Havana. I ended up splitting from the group once they went to drink and buy more rum and got a bit lost on the back streets  among the locals. The “local” streets are less fixed up, some are in danger of collapsing, and some have already collapsed.

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But everyone I encountered was friendly, curious if I was from the United States, or just going about their business on this holiday weekend.

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I ran into two different art markets and then the Capitol building designed just like the U.S. Capitol building.

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All the walking in the hot sun was wearing me down. One thing about Cuba as there are virtually no signs of capitalism- there are a few shops with a few products but nothing is advertised, welcoming, or clearly marked. The two art markets I stumbled on were the only real money-making ventures I saw all day. I was sure at least one of the art markets were the artists’ side hustles, trying to make a few extra dollars. I’m not a big souvenir person (as all the stuff I would accumulate would be ridiculous- I travel too much!),  I did buy a magnet from a vendor who was painting them.

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Plaza Nuevo was the other main plaza which was the destination in mind after splitting from my walking tour. It is the biggest of the plazas I visited and had a great brewery in one corner (which someone told me about or I never would have found it), fun statues, and gorgeous painted buildings.

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And like most things in Havana- a bit gritty and full of character:

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The architecture of Havana is worth the visit to Cuba alone but experiencing a different way of life is eye-opening and made the whole experience different from my other travels. The exchange of ideas, getting outside of your comfort zone, and having new experiences can change your world and can change the world one mind at a time. My advice: go to Cuba soon before politics prevents it.

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Reader Question: Any interest in visiting Cuba? Have you already been?

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