Losing ourselves in Havana - We'll Follow the Sun - CycleBlaze

January 16, 2019

Losing ourselves in Havana

Literally

The day began with a really great breakfast at our Casa Particular.  For a whopping $5.00 we got fresh fruit, toast, sliced meat, fresh pineapple juice and coffee.  The amounts we were given were more than we could possibly eat and we left the table more than satisfied.  Jim asked them for tomorrow to bring about half the amount of food please, it was so much!  

With our tummies full and directions into the old part of Havana, about 8 km away, we saddled up the bikes for a test drive.  It felt good to get out and ride and we were happy to begin our new adventure for real.  We headed down the not too busy street and along what seemed like a fairly busy corridor.  There was more traffic now, but still it was never too much.  We saw cows along the way again and stopped to take pictures and admire how there can be cows so near the city. As well, we saw more horse carts, which we had to go around of course.  

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We happily rode along with this odd variety traffic for some time before beginning to question why we had not reached the downtown.  It seemed like we had gone quite a ways.  Hmmmm…. let’s go a little further we said and see what happens.  Nope.  No downtown.  We were lost.  In Havana.  In Cuba.  With no internet so no google map to help us and no detailed map of Havana to help us either.  Yikes!  A kind lady stopped to help us and even though she spoke no English and we, of course, spoke little Spanish, she was able to direct us back towards where we needed to go.  It turns out we had gone all the way around the outer part of the city by the harbour.  If we had kept going we would have had to take a ferry to the downtown!!!!

Ah well, it was a nice day and we were actually enjoying ourselves, so no worries.  As we approached the older part of the city we began to see more and more of the old cars that are so iconic of Havana.  It seems that the tourists get in and go for a ride that all follows a similar route, so we just followed them.  It almost looked like a ride at a giant theme park where the adults were the ones excited to be in the cars riding around and around!  

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Soon enough we were on the malecon!  It was exciting to finally be here, but I was just a bit disappointed as it was a calm day and the water was as smooth as glass.  I had read about the waves crashing up and over the malecon and wanted to see this sight, but not today I guess.  We will return to Havana again in the middle of this trip and at the end, so possibly I’ll still get to see the rough waters coming over the side.  If not, it will be another reason to come back!  

A lot of older buildings are undergoing restoration
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Concert practice in an old church
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"The Conversation"
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We rode along for a ways and stopped at an interesting looking older church with many tourists milling about.  We walked our bikes over and discovered the narrow cobble stoned streets of Old Havana.  It was just teaming with tourists so we joined in, walking along with our bikes and taking in the scenery.  We did have a couple of things to get done and I have to admit, I was totally distracted by the sights and sounds around us, but Jim kept us on track by reminding me that we could enjoy the sights once we were done.  Ok.  First up was a better map of Havana.  We found a little shop that sold them so that job was done.  Next we wanted to see if we could purchase a SIM card for the phone or else get wifi cards to use where there is wifi in the parks here.  Although we couldn’t find a SIM card we did manage to get the wifi card from a hotel. Great!  Next up was a bank.  I still can’t seem to use our bank card which is puzzling, but the credit cards both work so it is not as bad as it could be.  We meant to get batteries but by the time we got the cash sorted we were hungry for lunch and so we wandered back to a little café on the street where we had heard a great little band playing Latin music.  We sat at a table, ordered our sandwiches along with a couple of Mojitos and listened to the best music!  They were great and so full of energy they had people on the streets around us dancing.  It was such fun and so very much what we had most been looking forward to about Havana!

Our first Cuban Mojitos - probably won't be our last!
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A great little lunch. Sorry no pics of the band - video yes, pics no. Oh well, you'll just have to trust me on this one.
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After our wonderful lunch we walked to the park to use the wifi only to find that the cards apparently only work at the hotel where you bought them – rats!  We walked back over to the hotel and wanted to just lean the bikes up and use the wifi but a man came out and told us we were not allowed to leave them there.  I asked him where we could put them while we used the wifi that I had purchased from the hotel but apparently that is not their problem – ugh!!!!  Jim offered to take the bikes across the street while I went in to use the internet, so in I went.  I couldn’t seem to get it to work and was getting even more frustrated when the young man who wouldn’t let us park our bikes told me the only place I could get their wifi was under a group of pictures in a seating area.  He did help me to get logged on, so I sat for a while and looked up how to get back to our place, as well as how to get to where we are going tomorrow as we need to ride through the city again.  Once we are away from Havana it will be much simpler (I hope!).  I checked a few more things before making a quick post to let the kids know we are all good.  While I was doing all of this, small groups kept coming by and I overheard their leaders talking about Hemingway.  I did notice that they had an enlargement of his signature on the wall just behind me and the pics were all in that theme, but I hadn’t thought much of it until people kept coming up to take their pictures with this grouping.  I am guessing that maybe this hotel was where he stayed sometimes?  I guess I’ll have to look it up!  

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Steve Miller/GrampiesI skimmed an article by "Two Scots Abroad" about wifi in Cuba. Here is the link, though now you probably don't want to use scarce wifi time to read it. The takeaway is that there are a few parks they list, with wifi, and availability at ETECSA communications centres. In all cases you have to pay for an access card, same with hotels. An experiment to offer mobile SIM based data ended in 2018, so they rule out looking for that.

https://www.twoscotsabroad.com/internet-and-wifi-in-cuba/

I see that Havana map on your table - looks good - keep it for us!

Too bad you did not bring offline mapping for your smartphone. For Apple people talk about Galileo and for Android - OSMAND+, which is what we use. I will check to see if OSMAND actually covers Cuba
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3 months ago
Sue PriceTo Steve Miller/GrampiesIt's surprising how much you think you know until you get here and realize you didn't quite understand it all and can no longer look it up, hahah! We are getting the hang of it though and it is actually much easier than we first thought. Next time I will for sure purchase a SIM card at the airport as I think that is the easiest and cheapest option for a long time here.
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3 months ago
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Internetting done, we wandered around a bit more before heading over to try one more place for a SIM card – still no luck.  We did pick up a few more of the cards we are supposed to be able to use in wifi places but struck out again at the park we stopped in at.  Ah well, we will just have to live without it and that probably means that you are reading this blog after our trip is done – sorry! (Note: we finally figured something out - hotels have decent wifi so yes, you are reading this in almost real time)

You can tell where there is wifi around here - too bad we couldn't get ours to work!
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Following along the directions we had been able to make, we rode up a fairly busy street and over past Revolution Square, something we should have ridden by this morning.  As we stopped to take pictures in a very large and entry parking lot, a security guard blew his whistle at us and indicated that we could not ride the bikes through this area but had to walk them.  Ok!  Not wanting to get into trouble, we sedately walked until we were well away from the guard.

Statue of Josef Marti
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On Revolution Square there are two buildings. This one has Che Guevara on it
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And this is supposed to be Castro although I see someone else.
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Finally getting on the correct road, we found our way back to our Casa in no time.  It would have been nice had we done that in the morning, but then we wouldn’t have had such a fun adventure!  We decided to eat out at a little restaurant the owner had told us about, so after a short rest during which we watched a riveting fencing tournament on tv (we have 3 channels to choose from, 2 of which show the same thing!), we walked over to the little place where we had a terrific dinner.  I don’t know if Jim and I are just not picky or what, but we are finding the food here in Cuba just as wonderful as what we had in the Yucatan.  I am guessing that when we get out into the countryside the selection will be much less, but hey, as long as its food, after a long ride everything tastes good!

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Steve Miller/Grampieserrm, what is this dish comprised of?
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3 months ago
Sue PriceTo Steve Miller/GrampiesI guess it's hard to tell because of the flash. It's a pesto chicken and it was great!
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3 months ago

Walking back, we enjoyed the evening air which is a little warmer than last night.  We are hoping that it stays this nice and moderate over the coming days as we have some climbs coming up.  Tomorrow we head just a little ways out of Havana on the beach side so that our first day climbing won’t be quite so long. It’s been a while since we’ve done much in the way of hills, so I’m sure its going to take a bit of adjusting, but we are keen to get out and see what there is to see.  Havana will be waiting for us when we return, that’s for sure!

Today's ride: 30 km (19 miles)
Total: 1,047 km (650 miles)

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Tiffany EllisonSooooo many km's! I could NEVER do it ;P
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2 months ago