Havana Aquarium, Miramar

HavanaAquariumMiramar1A Cuban family outing!

Its the weekend in Havana. The city is full of tourists sitting sipping Cuba Libre and Mojitas in old Havana’s street side restaurants and cafes.
The air is hot and the breeze from the sea is only slightly cooling!
Young men and children plunge into the sea as it laps against the walls of the Malecon, down by the harbour these brave young men are delighting in the freshness and excitement that being in the sea brings. The only way to learn to swim is to take the plunge in the open sea!!

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Cuban families living in Havana don’t have many options for days out!
Going anywhere costs money and there is no sandy beach in Havana city for a cheap beach party.

Havana does have an Aquarium in Miramar and that can certainly entertain the family group!
The entrance is cheap and there are buses that stop outside the gates!

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Sadly not much information about the animals housed inside is displayed! It’s a case of looking, watching, asking friends if they know what names of the creatures are in the tanks, or even drawing some and finding out at school next week!

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Highlights are the shows! Dolphins and Sea Lions jump through hoops and balance balls on their noses while the crowds cheer and laugh in the blazing sun.

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Turtles seems to thrive in the murky waters of the central pond but their lives are not unmolested! Poked and prodded they endure manhandling from the children who know no better and from adults who should know better! Guards sleep in the shadows….

Wild Pelikans drop by for a snooze in the shade, but they are freeagents!!

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If you are a tourist you can take the Hop On Hop off bus tour and spend some time at the Aquarium or take a taxi!

Tourist price is in CUC convertible pesos locals in MN moneda nacional.

Have you tried our virtual bus tour?  Click on this link to Hop on the bus!
http://encompasstours.com/2013/04/virtual-havana-bus-tour/

Why not join us on tour and see Cuba for yourself

A Cuban Snapshot 7 day holiday
http://encompasstours.com/tours/cuba/a-cuban-snapshot-7-days/

Mi Cubita 14 day holiday
http://encompasstours.com/tours/cuba/mi-cubita-cuba14-days/

Virtual Havana Bus tour!

Join us for encompass tours virtual Hop-on Hop-off bus tour of Havana, Cuba

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Got your camera, water, sunscreen, sunglasses, money and maybe a snack??? Yes? “Listo?” Ready? Then let’s go…….
This is your Hop – on Hop – off bus tour of the major attractions of the city of Havana!
Keep your ticket in a safe place, it is valid all day and will be inspected every time you hop on or off!! Remember you can get off at any stop and there will be another bus to pick you up in about 20minutes!!!

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As we are staying in a lovely casa (BnB) in Havana Vieja, we are “hoping-on” in Parque Central just opposite Hotel Inglaterra and Café Francesa. http://encompasstours.com/2012/09/coffee-break-havana/  This small park is surrounded by some of the most popular hotels of old Havana. Shiny new ones like Hotel Parque Central and not quite so shiny old ones like Hotel Inglaterra and Telegrafo.

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The best seats for city views are on the top deck, so cover up with sunscreen or you will burn quickly in the sun!!

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We are off!! Down Prado towards the Malecon, passing the Museum of the Revolution housed in the old Batista palace (recently restored) and a fascinating “must do” visit in itself!

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The city’s historians have realised the value of the old architecture to the tourist industry and attempts are being made to re build. Restoration of some of the crumbling facades is underway, but for some of the decaying buildings, fronting the malecon, weathered by the sea spray and the winds; it’s too late and they are being torn down. The malecon is always a popular place for Cubans and tourists alike. http://encompasstours.com/2013/02/life-on-the-malecon/

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Our tour bus stops to pick up people from various hotels en route, then we arrive at the first stop of real interest; Plaza de la Revolucion. This expansive plaza was built to celebrate culmination in 1959 of the revolutionary struggle for Cuba led by Fidel Castro.

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Plaza de la revolucion

Castro used the plaza to make countless public addresses to the masses in praise of the revolution over the years, but more recently this enormous plaza has been used for non political musical events. Famously the free concert in 2009 given by many of Latin Americas most famous and popular stars. This concert was attended by a staggering one tenth of the population of the island and astounded the authorities who struggled to provided security and support!!!

Next stop the Miramar trade centre with a good view of the coast and National Aquarium!

AquariumHavanaCastro announced the Aquarium would be “the best in the world”, but if you do hop off for a visit you will see it has a long long way to go! It’s mainly a day out for Cuban families who have not heard of animal rights or welfare, and sadly there is little information about the lovely fish that are housed here. Turtles are abundant and there are shows daily of trained of dolphins and sea lions who seem to be well fed!

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Winding through busy streets, a bus ride is a great way to see life going on in this extraordinary city where most buildings seem to be half ruined. Everyone going about their business.

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The CDR and Huge political hoardings remind Cuban’s to be uphold the revolution and this one at the gates of the cities cemetery Cementario Colon broadcasts the words Jose Marti  http://encompasstours.com/2012/05/in-search-of-cubas-national-symbols/ We can hop off here and explore the maze of magnificent tombs within the yellow walls, but If it’s not your thing stay on the bus!!

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Heading back towards the old part of the city our bus returns to the Capitolio (now closed and being restored) and the Gran Teatro de la Habana,  the majestic grand theatre, which is certainly worth a visit. You can take a guided tour for 2 or 3cuc. If you want to come back in the evening to catch a performance that will cost you tourist price of 25cuc upwards great value!

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More or less the last port of call on our bus tour is the Castillo de la Real Fuerza. These fortifications are situated at the entrance to Plaza de Armas and were listed in a UNESCO world heritage site as part of Old Havana and Fortifications. If you look up at the watch tower you will notice a familiar figure, La Giraldilla, this one is a copy, but she is the symbol seen now on every bottle of Havana Club!!

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In the magic and romance of the old city, maybe it’s time to Hop off for one last time and explore! Find a nice bar to enjoy a cocktail before dinner and digest all you have seen!!

Why not join us for a real tour this year and take your own fotos!

“A Cuban Snapshot” http://encompasstours.com/tours/cuba/a-cuban-snapshot-7-days/

“Mi Cubita” http://encompasstours.com/tours/cuba/mi-cubita-cuba14-days/

Caribbean Cocktails, Havana Club and ….

Summer is here in Europe despite the rain and our thoughts are turning to holidays. White, palm lined, beaches, and cool refreshing cocktails to sooth the heat of the mid day sun!!

Here in Cuba the cocktails are always at hand, all rum based and plentiful combining locally grown limes and herbs into tangy mouthfuls bursting with flavours!

Havana Club is the local poison and it comes young fresh and white or more mature and dark aged for 3 years, 5 years, and 7 years! The most popular among Cubans is the white rum and “Rum Collins” would be the typical home made party drink in down town Havana. It combines simple ingredients that are fresh and local and can be found in most homes without prior planning. White rum Havana Club, lime juice, ice, sugar

Here’s how!

Choose a long glass or tumbler and squeeze the juice of a small lime into it.

Add a teaspoon full of sugar (more if you have a very sweet tooth) and mix together to dissolve the sugar in the juice.

Pour in a good shot of Havana Club white rum and stir together                                         

Fill your glass with ice cubes and top up with sparkling water!  ……………………………………………...Enjoy!!!!

Most visitors want to try a “Cuba Libre”,  which comes in a tall glass, garnished perhaps with a slice of lime, lots of ice and mixed with Cuba’s  very own “Tu. Cola”.  “Cuba Libre” was the battle cry of the soldiers during the war of independence from Spain in 1898 but Cola from the US did not arrive in Cuba till 1900 brought over my the armed forces. Its certain that the combination of Cola and Rum was quickly found to be delicious in a tall glass packed with ice and garnished with a slice of lime…….so the birth of this drink can be traced to 1900and has been popular the world over ever since!

Mojitos have a much longer pedigree, are 100% Cuban and fun to make, if you can get your hands on some “Yerba Buena”.! This drink needs a little more preparation but delicious and refreshing it will wake up your mouth and set your taste buds tingling! It’s been around for centuries and was popular with the pirates of the 17th century who sweetened the available “aguardiente” (a crude predecessor of rum) with “guarapo” (freshly squeezed sugar cane juice, see our news item “the sweetest sugar in the world” http://encompasstours.com/2012/05/the-sweetest-sugar-in-the-world/ ) Freshly squeezed lime juice was always on their menu to prevent scurvy at sea so adding some alcohol and flavours made it much more attractive!  These days if you can’t get your hands on Yerba Buena then any fresh mint will do, guarapo can be substituted with a couple of spoons of sugar and we have the luxury of ice and sparkling water that the pirates would have lacked!!

Hemmingway’s Daiquiri is world famous but more popular outside Cuba than among the island population! It is totally Cuban in origin and made popular abroad through the maritime connection and trade with the US during the 1940s. Originally a long drink it has evolved into a shaken short with crushed ice, sugar, lime juice and rum!

Drink it cold and short…..

…….time for another?????

Have a party this weekend!  Get your friends around for a taste that is pure Caribbean and get in the mood for summer.

Get yourself a bottle of Havana Club, half a dozen limes, some sugar to taste, a tray or two of ice cubes, big bottle of sparkling water or sparkling cola, a big bunch of fresh mint , if you can’t get Yerba Buena and with a couple of friends have a Cuban fiesta!!
Or why not invent your own!!?
Send us your personal favourites with a foto and we will feature the best one on facbook and on our web site!!!
cuba@ encompasstours.com
Or fill in the comments form below! Don’t forget to leave your name so we can let you know if your recipe is chosen!

Book your Cuban Holiday now!
“A Cuban Snapshot” 7 days tour
http://encompasstours.com/tours/cuba/a-cuban-snapshot-7-days/

“Mi Cubita” 14 days tour.
http://encompasstours.com/tours/cuba/mi-cubita-cuba14-days/

 

A local view!

Countryside walk in Vinales, Cuba

Sandra meets us in front of the church. She is wearing an old straw hat, a long sleeved checkered shirt, jeans and Wellington boots, ready to take us into the “campo” for a two hour countryside walk in her home ground. She is also wearing a big smile which is her typical expression! “Have you got repellent, sunscreen, sun hats, water, cameras?” she asks!
“Yes!” and off we go, following our cheerful guide who begins to tell us all about the people and agriculture of the area, what the crops are that grow here, how to identify them, and very importantly, how to eat or use them. We are delighted!


Vinales has the best Tobacco growing land in the whole island, and we are to visit a family who have cultivated Tobacco here for generations. We go inside the traditional, thatched, wooden, tobacco drying barn, and learn some of the secrets of the curing process. The farmer invites us into his house to watch him make one of his own Cigars, of which he smokes five a day! The state allows the farmers to keep sufficient Tobacco for their own use, but the rest is taken to the factories where the popular brands smoked by the rich and famous worldwide are created; Romeo y Julieta, Punch, Monticristo, Bolivar, Partagas, La Flor de Cano, El Rey del Mundo, Cohiba, Hoyo de Monterrey and many more. For Cuba today, Cigars represent hard currency and once labelled and boxed, transform into a “smoke” far out of reach of any Cubans budget!

Having all sampled the “home grown”, we feel in need of some fresh air and our walk continues along the country tracks. We chat with Sandra about her life, family, religion, education, health, happiness, aspirations all the usual topics of conversation the world over. She is more than happy to answer all our questions and give her opinions. 

The sun beats down and we drip with sweat!  We are called into another small house and offered a selection of fruit and home grown coffee.  We consume hungrily in the shade and relax under the trees. The only sounds, apart from our own voices, are those of the birds and the bees. The pace of life is slow. The temperature is rising. Reluctantly we head off, back into town, leaving a small tip for our host who is very pleased!  “Gracias y adios” and Sandra leads us back into the centre of this enchanting, colonial, country town.

Back where we started we are hot thirsty and happy!  We have glimpsed into the simple homes of two typical families and tasted some new and interesting flavours. We have been made to feel very welcome too!

To find out how to enjoy this excursion yourself visit our Tours page and book your place on either “Cuban Snapshot” or “Mi Cubita”.