The Five Star Vagabond

Super travel tips, all road tested by David Herd. I'm an Australian guy who moved to Thailand in 2011 & still travel the world as often as possible.

Havana Cuba great city for music

October 4, 2013 by David Herd

Havana Cuba great city for music.

Havana Cuba great city

Havana Cuba great city for music, one of my most vivid memories is visiting many Havana bars which were empty when we walked in to order a beer, then withing one minute a 5 or 6 piece band would appear and start playing incredible latin music. After a few songs they would try to sell you their CD, then we would move on to the next bar and the whole process would be repeated. The amazing thing is the fact they were all so good.

Please forgive the poor quality of my photos, it was 2001 and one of my first digital cameras which left a lot to be desired.

In every bar there was a new band.

Havana Cuba great city

Before the Communist revolution, Havana was one of the vacation hot-spots of the Caribbean, and since Cuba reopened to tourism in the 1990s, it has become a popular destination once again, albeit with many fewer U.S. citizens, due to an almost total ban on travel maintained by the U.S. federal government. However, there will be lots of tourists at any time of year, so expect huge crowds and long lines in places.


Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Hotel Nacional de Cuba

The Hotel Nacional de Cuba is a historic luxury hotel located on the Malecón in the middle of Vedado, Havana, Cuba. It stands on Taganana hill a few metres from the sea, and offers a view of Havana Harbour, the seawall and the city. The hotel was built on the site of the Santa Clara Battery, which dates back to 1797. Part of the battery has been preserved in the hotel’s gardens, including two large coastal guns dating from the late 19th Century. There is also a small museum there featuring the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. During the crisis, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara set up their headquarters there to prepare the defence of Havana from aerial attack.

The Hotel Nacional de Cuba is a World Heritage Site and a National Monument, among its first illustrious guests were artists, actors, athletes and writers such as Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Weissmuller, Buster Keaton, Jorge Negrete, Agustín Lara, Rocky Marciano, Tyrone Power, Rómulo Gallegos, Errol Flynn, John Wayne, Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando and Ernest Hemingway. The hotel’s reputation is backed by patrons such as Winston Churchill, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, scientist Alexander Flemming, and innumerable Ibero-American Heads of State and European monarchs. Minnesota (United States) Governor Jesse Ventura stayed at the hotel while visiting Cuba on a trade mission in 2002. (From Wikipedia)

Fidel Castro.

Havana Cuba great city

The illegitimate son of a wealthy farmer, Fidel Castro adopted leftist anti-imperialist politics while studying law at the University of Havana. After participating in rebellions against right-wing governments in the Dominican Republic and Colombia, he planned the overthrow of the United States-backed military junta of Cuban president Fulgencio Batista, and served a year’s imprisonment in 1953 after a failed attack on the Moncada Barracks. On release he traveled to Mexico, where he formed a revolutionary group with his brother Raúl and friend Che Guevara, the 26th of July Movement. Returning to Cuba, Castro led the Cuban Revolution which ousted Batista in 1959, and brought his own assumption of military and political power. Alarmed by his revolutionary credentials and friendly relations with the Soviet Union, the U.S. governments of Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy unsuccessfully attempted to remove him, by economic blockade, assassination and counter-revolution, including the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. Countering these threats, Castro formed an economic and military alliance with the Soviets, and allowed them to place nuclear weapons on the island, sparking the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Fidel Castro & Che Guevara.

Fidel Castro Che Guevara

After seizing power changes to state wages were implemented; judges and politicians had their pay reduced while low-level civil servants saw theirs raised. In March 1959, Castro ordered rents for those who paid less than $100 a month halved, with measures implemented to increase the Cuban people’s purchasing powers; productivity decreased and the country’s financial reserves were drained within two years. Although refusing to categorise his regime as socialist and repeatedly denying being a communist, Castro appointed Marxists to senior government and military positions; most notably Che Guevara became Governor of the Central Bank and then Minister of Industries.  Appalled, Air Force commander Pedro Luis Díaz Lanz defected to the U.S.

Stayed a night with a local family.

Havana Cuba great cityA couple of hours north of Havana we stayed a night in this Cuban  guys house, He was an engineer &  his wife an architect, their wage was $15 USD a month while the police and army personnel received $40 USD per month so it’s easy to see how Castro kept control. They had adult children living in America and only one of them at a time was allowed to leave Cuba to visit the children.

Coco taxi.

Coco taxi Havana

Coco Taxis and yellow three wheel motorbikes are a cheap way of getting around central Havana.

Camel bus discontinued in 2008.

Havana Cuba great city

Havana used to have a public transportation service called the El Camello, a split-level bus pulled by a semi-truck, and resembling a 2 humped camel (thus the name). Camellos finished operation in April 2008 and were replaced by modern city busses imported from China.

Many wonderful old buildings.

Havana Cuba great city

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Lovely ladies in traditional dress.

Havana Cuba great city


Some local colour here.

El Capitolio, or National Capitol Building Havana

El Capitolio National Capitol Building Havana

El Capitolio, or National Capitol Building in Havana, Cuba, was the seat of government in Cuba until after the Cuban Revolution in 1959, and is now home to the Cuban Academy of Sciences. “El Capitolio” has a size of 681 by 300 ft. Its design and name recall the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., but it is only superficially similar. Completed in 1929, it was the tallest building in Havana until the 1950s and houses the world’s third largest indoor statue.

Nice square in Havana.

Havana Cuba great city

A peaceful part of the city.

The advert would say needs a little work.

needs a little work The good news is, as of January 2014 Cubans can now buy motor vehicles, the bad news is they don’t have the money to do it. Average wage is $20 per month.

El Floridita Bar 

Here I am with Hemingway & Castro. photo 385165_10150599586323594_43626754_n.jpg

Supposed to be Hemingway’s favourite bar.


Leftover from October 1962 perhaps?

Havana Cuba great city  The confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union concerning American ballistic missile deployment in Italy and Turkey with consequent Soviet ballistic missile deployment in Cuba.

David Herd in Havana Cuba great city.

David Herd in Havana

Well folks, many thanks for visiting my blog on Havana Cuba great city, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed being there. Please send the link to your friends

Here is my favorite Cuban song by Celia Cruz, a wonderful artist who Castro would not let back in the country for many years. In 2008 I saw the Broadway show about her life, called Celia. The following is from Wikipedia, Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso de la Santísima Trinidad (October 21, 1925 – July 16, 2003) was a Cuban-American salsa performer. One of the most popular salsa artists of the 20th century, she earned twenty-three gold albums and was renowned internationally as the “Queen of Salsa” as well as “La Guarachera de Cuba.  She spent much of her career living in New Jersey, and working in the United States and several Latin American countries. Leila Cobo of Billboard Magazine once said “Cruz is indisputably the best known and most influential female figure in the history of Cuban music.

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Beckington Trowbridge

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