I stay in a Casa Particular in Havana Vieja (Old Havana). There are two parts to Havana Veija – that which has been restored, beautifully, and the other, which lies still in ruin and decay.
My bed for the next few nights is in the latter. People hang over their balconies, perhaps to catch the breeze that brings relief to the heat of the day.
Cuba is a world away. As expected, there is no wireless signal to be found: until just a handful of years ago the internet and mobile phones were banned here, and even today very few Cubans can afford mobile phones or have an internet connection. My mobile locates Cubacell but fails to connect.
Fabio, a doctor who has worked outside of Cuba, and his parents run 2 casa particulares – homes that are (meant to be) authorised by the Government to let out a few rooms to tourists. Enormous fees are charged of them, whether they make money or not; there are plans afoot to increase to 3 the number of rooms that can be rented in any home. The nightly rate in Havana Vieja, the old part of the city, is 30 CUC per night (convertible pesos – each CUC is worth around US$1.05 each) .
Fabio’s home is a marvellous affair. Located in unrestored streets, the lurid green of the door bulges out at the passer-by. A colonial house with soaring ceilings, marble columns and over-decorated rooms aplenty.
All of the dust-gathering trinkets have been shoved into the dining area while Fabio renovates part of the house. Fabio and his family have lucked out: they are in Lonely Planet and this must deliver them a steady stream of hard currency.
Each morning he serves breakfast for an extra CUC4, an over-catered extravaganza of piled-high fruit plates, eggs to your liking, fresh rolls, juice and cut vegetables. Just enough tto prepare you for an intensive day of Havana’s sights.