Friday, January 6, 2012

A Yank in Old Havana

Vieja Habana! I can hardly believe I'm here. As an American, I'm used to thinking of Cuba as the one place in the Americas I can't go. But here I am, in the land of Fidel and Che, of Teofilo Stevenson and Ibrahim Ferrer. It's been a little over an hour since we arrived, after a two-hour bus ride from the distant airport. And at our hotel, we found the electricity out and water off, and so were sent to another establishment for our first night. And you know - I'm already enraptured by this city!

As I've read. amd was warned by others who've been here, this once glorious city is crumbling. During our short ride through the town, we passed one ornate wonder after another. Some are encased in scaffolding as the process of restoration takes place. Others are left collapsing and unattended. Yet others are boarded up. Many of those that look as though they ought to be boarded up show the common sign of tenancy that is everywhere in Havana, laundry drying on a line.

But despite their delapidation, these are beautiful structures, or once were, and it's easy to imagine how impressive Havana was in its glory days. We've had glimpses of the plentiful street art, and of the parks and the boulevards. Many of the streets are alive with pedestrians and people simply lounging, and well...I'm immediately drawn in. I know that Ponczka and I will spend many hours walking during the coming week.

And Oh! I've already had two lifetime firsts in this first hour. We were transported from one hotel to the other in a 1955 Chevrolet! I don't know the model - I'm not really that into cars. But it was one of those old, lumpy beauties, with all the right curves and lines. And, if the vintage designation of cars was back then as it is now, then this vehicle might have been produced in the very year I can into being: 1954. What a beautiful machine, with its upholstered seats and the hood ornament in the shape of a jet. We were told, that its guts are pure Toyota however.

My other lifetime first? I've now had the experience of using a bidet. It reminds me of the joke about the hick who marvels that in his swank hotel, each suite features a water fountain!

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