Guest Travelogue: Cuba

About The Contributer
Liz Hendrickson is a San Francisco bay area resident, grandmother, lawyer, and founding member of Women Drummers International. (All photographs (c) Francis Eatherington.)

1/11/09

havana-waterfront-and-skyIt’s hard to believe, but a week ago today I was in Havana, hanging out along the waterfront, in the open air market and in the old town tourist district. Bus loads of European tourists clogged the streets and reminded me of Fisherman’s wharf. Today I’m home doing my laundry; it’s a little shocking.

In case you’re interested, a couple tidbits from my trip:

Transportation
tour-by-bici-taxiWith the embargo, and general economic distress, there are few private autos, which isn’t a bad thing if you ask me. The result is that traffic (except a few places in Havana) is not bad and neither is pollution. The private cars are vintage and worth millions: 1940s Chevys, Fords, etc in beautiful condition. The airport parking lot looked like a classic car convention. There are buses in the cities. In the rural provinces there are not. There are lots of bicycles, horses, horse drawn wagons, bici-taxis (seat two people behind someone pedaling), and flat bed trucks made into local buses by putting benches, a ladder and a kind of giant camper shell for protection. The cities also have coco taxies which are vespas with a fiberglass shell attached which seat two people plus the driver on the vespa. I tried every one of these except the flat bed trucks, which seemed for locals. I liked the bici-taxies the best, although they are a little extra thrilling coming down hills. They have a brake pedal which activates not our high tech disk brakes but a metal on metal brake of questionable effectiveness. I came home at midnight in one after beginning new years in a local club and had quite an entertaining ride.

Food
The hurricanes destroyed a lot of the crops. We ate just fine and drove through some undamaged areas and got coconuts, bananas, mandarin oranges, and balls of pure chocolate from roadside stands. Cubans don’t eat spicy food or much fish! They eat lots of pork. They drink LOTS of rum. It’s served like ice tea. Every time we came to a new hotel, we were served a tray of mojitos; at lunch the mojitos would come out. 3 yr old rum, 7 yr old rum, very smooth and EVERYWHERE. The US does not allow travelers to bring things back, so I couldn’t bring rum or cigars, which are also everywhere. I did pick up some chocolate…… 

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