“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, to gain all while you give, to roam the roads of lands remote, to travel is to live.” – Hans Christian Andersen
The walking tour took us through the squares in Old Havana, via Calle Obispo and finished in Central Park.
Plaza Vieja – The tour started in Plaza Vieja which is only a couple of minutes’ walk from our Casa. It is one of Havana’s most vibrant hang out spots and is full of people day and night. The buildings around the square have been restored and the majority have residential housing on the top floors and commercial establishments on the ground floors. In one of the small museums, you can explore the history of card playing. My favourite thing in Plaza Vieja has to be the Viaje Fantastico.
Plaza de San Francisco de Asís faces the harbour at the entrance to Old Havana. The square features the beautiful Basilica and Convent de San Francisco de Asís, which today houses the Museum of Sacred Art. The Basilica has a tower from which you get beautiful views over Havana and the sea. I was famished so instead of joining my friends inside, I opted for a bite and drink in the café of the nearby hotel. Afterwards, I gate crashed a tour talk outside the church where the guide was giving a talk around a statute of El Caballero de Paris. Apparently, it was built in honour of a homeless man who regaled the city’s residents with his philosophies in the 1950s. I then made my way to our designated meeting place, the statue of La Conversación. Made by French artist Etienne and was donated to the City in September 2012. It represents the need for dialogue in contemporary society.
Plaza de la Catedral, – The Plaza de la Catedral is anchored by the Havana Catedral, one of the most popular attractions in Havana. By the time we made it there it had started raining so it was not as full of activity as the other squares. The oft photographed Cuban women adorned with vibrant colonial clothing and headdresses were not to be deterred though, they continued in the search for tourists offering to tell their fortunes or take a picture with them for a price.
The Plaza de Armas – In Plaza de Armas paid a quick visit to the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, a former official residence of the governors of Havana, now a home the City Museum.
With displays showcasing period furniture, military uniforms and old photographs it pieces together events in Cuba’s turbulent history. From the square you can also see Cristo de la Habana the giant statue of Jesus Christ. We also popped into a ration shop where the guide gave us brief history of rationing and the storekeeper showed us a ration book and the list of rationed items and how they were rationed.
Calle Obispo – Calle Obispo is narrow roadway connecting Plaza de Armas with Central Park. It is rich in history, architecture, and entertainment, and there are a lot of places to eat. As well as soaking up the lively ambiance we visited Taquechel Pharmacy Museum which so far is my favourite building in Havana. The Taquechel Pharmacy Museum is decorated in beautiful floor-to-ceiling cedar and mahogany shelves. It functions as pharmacy and museum and collection includes 19th-century French porcelain apothecary’s jars and instruments found at excavation sites in the historical centre of the city. The pharmacy sells several Cuban made natural products and other drugs.
Central Park Havana is surrounded by significant buildings, such as the Gran Teatro de La Habana; the Inglaterra, Telégrafo, Parque Central and Plaza hotels, the shopping complex Manzana de Gómez; and the building devoted to international art of the Museo de Bellas Artes.
The statue of José Martí the country’s national hero is in the centre park and is encircled by 28 palm trees that signify his birth date: January 28. Apparently, locals, gather in the park under his gaze to debate passionately, not about law, poetry or philosophy which he is known for, but rather about baseball.