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Friday, 16 July 2004
Arrival in Cayo Largo

Cuba Cayo Largo

The flight to Cayo Largo was an amazing experience: it was a propeller plane with few windows, and had the feel of an ex-army issue. It flew low, which was as well because it flew slowly and was not pressurised.  On the way we stopped briefly at the resort of Varedero where we picked up some passengers. 

When we got off the plane in Cayo Largo there was a short walk to the terminal building.  After the (very) bumping landings I felt I just had to stop and take a picture of the airplane we had flown in from Havana to this Cuban island.

Posted by bigblue on 16/07/2004 at 05:04 PM
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Plane ride to Cayo Largo

Cuba plane trip

We didn�t have a very long time in Havana, but we took in quite a few of the sights. It was sweltering hot, and humid, and we relished the air-conditioning (when we found it). The three of us drank lots of bottled water, which seemed to be imported from Spain. 

We got up early one morning and caught a taxi to the airport, where we discovered that we had just missed our plane to Cayo Largo.  So we had one more day in Havana. Half of this day was spent rescheduling our reservations for Cayo Largo with our travel agent.  They were great, but asked me to sign a form acknowledging that I renounced all further claims for compensation from them due to the mix up. On this basis they would then reschedule all the flight & accommodation bookings to one day later than originally planned.  I did this with pleasure because it seemed to acknowledge some fault on their part (and up till then the girls had been blaming me for the misunderstanding). 

The next morning we got up an hour earlier and went through to the airport again. There we met a French/Dutch couple, who were going to be spending the same period as us in Cayo Largo.  This time we caught our plane. 

Posted by bigblue on 16/07/2004 at 04:57 PM
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Thursday, 15 July 2004
Coco from above

Havana Coco Taxi

Here’s a photo of the coco taxi from above. Given the summer heat, this was quite a pleasant means of getting around, but the coolest we experienced was the air-conditioned vintage chev. Another, less practical, option is by horse-drawn carriage.  I should have mentioned that most of the taxis have meters, but of course the coco taxis do not.  For this reason you normally negotiate a rate up-front, or you hire one at an hourly rate (normally 3 USD’s minimum).

Most of the photos I have been showing here are stills from the camcorder, hence not very good quality. On the other hand I like the authentic feel to them, compared to Dan Heller’s beautiful and artistic photos for example.

Posted by bigblue on 15/07/2004 at 06:55 PM
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Wednesday, 14 July 2004
Coco from the inside

Havana Coco Taxi

Here’s another photo from inside the Coco taxi heading along the Malecon.  In front you can see the back of another Coco taxi. The driver of that taxi was engaged in a race with our driver, which he won because there were three passengers in our taxi and only one in his.  The old American car ahead of us is also a typical sight in Havana. Any romantic notions I may have had of these cars was shattered when I encountered one for the first time on the road.  They are generally noisy, smelly and polluting.  Then again, so are the Coco taxis.

Posted by bigblue on 14/07/2004 at 07:41 PM
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Tuesday, 13 July 2004
Malecon - unrenovated glory

Havana Malecon

This is another photo taken along the Malecon during a ride in a coco-taxi.  Most of the architecture along here is extraordinarily beautiful, as above.  Hopefully this building will be restored too.  The taxi dropped us off at the craft market near the castle, and the cathedral, and the cost was very reasonable.  Each time we took a taxi we discussed a price with the driver before embarking on the journey. The guidebooks suggest this and also give you a guideline of expected costs for different journeys between different districts of Havana.

Posted by bigblue on 13/07/2004 at 08:41 PM
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Monday, 12 July 2004
Malecon - renovated block

Havana Malecon

One day the girls and I rode a coco-taxi from Vedado to Havana Vieja (and back), and this photograph was taken along the way.  These buildings are on the Malecon and face directly towards the sea. Most of the buildings on this route were very weather-beaten, but the closest ones in this photo appear to have been renovated.

Posted by bigblue on 12/07/2004 at 08:15 PM
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Sunday, 11 July 2004
Looking the other way

Havana Vedado

This photograph is also taken from the balcony of the apartment where we stayed in the Blue Building, but faces in the opposite direction.  The tall building in the distance, on the right of the photo is the Hotel Melia Cohiba, situated about a block inland from the Malecon.  It is also in the Vedado district.

Apparently, the district is named Vedado because in the early days of Havana nobody was allowed to build on this land so as not to obstruct the view of the sea from the look-out posts higher up. Most construction took place between the 1930�s and 1960�s, much of it in the Art Deco style.  In this district you find the Colon Cemetery (Columbus Cemetery, apparently one of the most artistic in the world).

The apartment in the Blue Building has air-conditioning. I don�t think we could have slept comfortably without it.  There were the occasional power failures, but these were of short duration.  The apartment has two bedrooms, and my daughters slept in one and I in the other. There is also a kitchen, lounge, bathroom and the terrace from which these photographs were taken.

As Carles commented the other day, I think a lot of people anticipate that there will be big changes in the country when Castro dies. Personally I hope that any changes will bring the most good to the most people. 

There is speculation about some of the changes to come in this reflective Guardian article, No more bets.

Posted by bigblue on 11/07/2004 at 01:57 PM
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Saturday, 10 July 2004
In search of ... The Blue Building

Havana The Blue Building

In Havana we stayed in the Blue Building. This is a privately owned apartment, in a residential area of Havana (Vedado), a few blocks from the western end of the Malecon (sea front promenade).  Habana Vieja is on the eastern end of the Malecon.

We arrived at midnight one night, and this is the view from the terrace that greeted us in the light of day the next morning.

I can�t bring up the website of the owners of the apartment, but it used to be here.  However I found it in the Way Back Archive, and from there managed to find a link to Cuba Accomodation where they are still listed.  What you miss out on in the new website are all the touching comments left by previous guests that could be found in their GeoCities guestbook.

On an unrelated topic, I found a funny Bush-Blair video, entitled Read My Lips.

Posted by bigblue on 10/07/2004 at 02:09 PM
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