Thursday, May 31, 2012



We got up at 0400 in order to catch the 0500 shuttle to the airport. Once we got to the airport and saw the long lines and experienced the slow check-in process, we understood why the need to check-in four hours early. There were two lines-one to make sure our visas were in order and the second to check baggage and get boarding passes. After grabbing a few Krispy Kreme donuts, we headed for the TSA line. Our boarding passes were hand written (what century is this?). When Jim got up to the TSA agent he told Jim he had to get another boarding pass because his said he was traveling from HAV to MIA. When he got the new pass the TSA let him in at the front of the line, so he was only about five minutes behind us. All in all, it took us two hours to get to the gate.

We boarded at 0820 and pushed back at 0845. The flight was only about half full. The forty minute flight took us over the northwest coast above a lot of farmland. We landed just before 1000. Insyte Cuba was the tour company and our guide, Annie, was waiting for us. It took everybody an hour to get through customs and loaded onto the bus.

Hank was enthralled with all of the old cars. Our guide, Alejandro "Ale'", told us most of the old car are taxis and most of them have diesel engines. 

It took about an hour to get into Havana. We stopped for lunch in Old Havana and had our first taste of mojitos, the national drink of Cuba. Mojitos are a lime drink with rum and a sprig of mint. We were assured the rum would be added at the table, so there would be an opportunity to refuse it. They were very refreshing, especially considering the fact it was very hot and muggy. Ale' told us we were allowed one additional drink, so Hank, Linda, and I ordered another mojito, and Jim ordered a cola. One sip of the second mojito brought an increased sweetness to our palates. Hank realized they all had rum in them! OOPS! We gave them back and asked for more with NO RUM! Lunch was a tasty pork dish accompanied by beans and rice. 
The restaurant was located on a square that had some interesting people hanging out.

The bad news about being with a guided tour group is we had to follow our itinerary and be herded around like cattle with slower, older generation people. Meals are always long and drawn out. AARGH! The one bit of good news is there are only 17 people in our group, but still...

Next on the agenda was check-in to the hotel and a four hour break before dinner. Jim took off wandering with his camera, and I took a nap, as well as the Fortneys.
Quinta Avenida de Habana, our hotel

Dinner was at a restaurant on the waterfront. They served a fish that was moist, but is was oversalted. 

After dinner the bus took us through a tunnel under the bay to La Cabana Fort, the biggest one ever built by the Spanish in the Americas, for the Cannon Firing Ceremony. Beginning at the end of the 17th century, Havana residents got used to hering two cannon shots that would become part of their daily activities: the first rang out at 4:30 in the morning, and the other at 8:00 at night. The shots served as a reminder of theopening and closing of the bay and the doors to the city walls. During the Spanish-American War (1898-1902), only one shot was fired daily, at 9:00 at night, and this has become a tradition for Havana natives.

Havana skyline

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