A room with a view
The Malecon is a stretch of sea wall running from Old Havana, past the city centre, and out to the more modern area of Miramar. It’s where Habaneros go to stroll, hang out, fish, or where young lovers go to share the moment.
My hotel, the Deauville, is a former mafia den right on the Malecon just west of Old Havana. It’s an out-of-place-looking building, a bit gaudy with its 1950s architecture, among its neo-colonial surroundings. And it has long balconies overlooking the Malecon.
I asked when I checked in for a room with a view, and I got one. It’s on the fifth floor, so not too high up, but from my long corner balcony I can look down the Malecon towards Miramar, and also look the other way to the castle of Los Tres Reyes del Morro, a stone fortification across the water. And of course I can look out over the relatively calm waters of the Strait of Florida, just like the Habaneros who imagine relatives in Miami across the strait.
The flight down was relatively uneventful. I had two seats to spread out over, and though a little girl kept climbing up the seat back to interact with her father who had moved back to the third seat next to me, it was a tolerable flight. As it was from Montreal, the flight service was in French, just as I’m trying to think in Spanish.
The wait at customs and immigration was long and hot, but certainly nothing as bad as I’ve experienced in Miami and elsewhere. They scanned hand luggage coming in, which was a new one, and they photographed everyone. When the people at the scanner saw my cameras on the X-ray, they asked if I was a journalist. I assured them truthfully that I was not, and the cameras were for “uso personal,” which satisfied them. I don’t think a blogger with a very small following counts as a journalist.
It was a long taxi ride in from the airport, but I was able to chat with the driver in Spanish, and view all the billboards. Instead of ads for products, they were revolutionary slogans about the continuation of the revolution. Many were about “el bloqueo” — the U.S. embargo and the cost of it and damage it’s doing to Cuba. Pictures of Che Guevarra were abundant as a revolutionary symbol, but perhaps surprisingly, I saw few of Castro. You can’t judge a country’s infrastructure with just a trip from the airport, but first impressions were that Cuba is more developed than most other Latin American countries, but it’s definitely a third world country facing difficulties.
I was hot, exhausted and had a splitting headache, so only managed a stroll both ways on the Malecon and a walk around the hotel. As the sun set over Miramar at the end of the Malecon, but out of view behind buildings, I shot some time exposures of the traffic and lights of the Malecon from my room.