4 Havana Nights

Over Easter 2015, we spent about 15 nights in Cuba, the first 4 of which were spent in Havana.

We arrived around 10pm. It took a very long time to get out of the airport. First impressions of our area were not so great, as it was very deserted and dark and we were hungry! However upon walking 5 mins we did find somewhere to get food and all was fine. As always, arriving after a long journey in the dark somewhere it always a little daunting but the next morning dawned bright and beautiful!

img_1867

11109437_10155390294115417_2603147004394787834_o.jpgWe stayed in Sarita rooms which was run by a lovely lady and was in Centro, which is the middle between the two main area of the Old Town and Vedado.

We could walk for 15 mins towards the sea to reach the Malecon, and 15 mins to our right took us towards the Old Town, and 15 mins to our right to Vedado. Not bad!

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g147271-d3725102-Reviews-Sarita_Rooms-Havana_Ciudad_de_la_Habana_Province_Cuba.html

11187283_10152684120205989_3304608828408929465_o

Looking along the Malecon

During our time in Havana, we had drinks and saw the cabaret at the Hotel Nacional, Sunday Rumba at Callejón de Hamel, and ate some pretty cool swedish-cuban fusion food. https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g147271-d2649552-Reviews-Casa_Miglis-Havana_Ciudad_de_la_Habana_Province_Cuba.html.

Apart from this we wandered round a lot, and failed to actually visit any museums, major gallerys or do any salsa dancing! However just walking around was enough and you never knew when a ramshackle set of buildings would suddenly give way to a renovated house/ art gallery, or when prime sea facing high rises would be broken up by an empty space and let you see straight to the more run down streets set back from the Malecon…10845847_10155390294805417_7284306010891555023_o

Here are a few photos more photos from my phone of our general wanderings

img_1872img_1874img_1875

img_1877

This was next to us at lunch on day one

img_1878img_1889img_1893img_1896img_1910img_1911img_1920

img_1926

Walking Centro – Vedado

11071307_10155390427530417_3208710300924990672_o

Obviously the general look and feel of the city was incredible and did feel a lot like a film set. Centro area was full of these grand tall houses, which were very derelict. I do remember thinking I thought I would  feel more ‘wow this looks totally different to anything else I have seen’, but I think having travelled to cities such as Jophur and Bundi in India where there are a lot of old colonial style builds with the same faded look, we found a sense of familiarity.

There are no ‘corner shops’ or anything in Cuba, but really small little shops where you can get a couple of things in each place, i.e one might sell tooth paste and shampoo, another will sell some beers and water, then separately there is a market place with veg etc. When we were there there was I believe 1 convenience story in the most touristy area where you could buy crisps and snacks etc.

What else do I remember looking back c 2 years later?

  • it was HOT and walking around in the middle of the day around the very large city was not always the best idea.
  • Mojitos are delicious, but in line with the above, not always the best idea at lunch time combined with lots of sweaty walking.
  • Bring snacks from home! There is no such thing as grabbing a bite to eat on the street unless you are bang in the tourist zone.
  • The old town was incredibly touristy (and this was around the same time as the announcement of improved relations with America had only just been made, so I imagine now it’s much more!)
  • Cubans were so keen to chat to us and stop us in the street for general conversations and to give us tips (although this did only happen outside of the main strips of packed touristy areas). To start with, we were a tad jaded from experiences in India and were tempted to shut down conversations/pretend we were from Slovakia and spoke no english BUT they genuinely wanted to chat and this was fab.
  • Taking out money is a faff and you have to be wearing smart clothes to get into a bank.

Even more pictures! I hope to come back and organise these better another time.

11053577_10152684124230989_3425314849490331458_o

Old Town

11169520_10152684122810989_1216209330462062462_o

Old Town

11187125_10152684123280989_2888869850997002846_o

Cars for hire

10005873_10152684122100989_2068094950293737681_o

Walking from Centro to Vedado

10463730_10152684121455989_3301886406712145401_o

Walking from Centro to Vedado

11061667_10152684122090989_5381658541098395083_o

vedado

11154959_10152684121080989_3527427724352464898_o

In the centre of tourist land

11157436_10152684121655989_8239657175502525220_o

on the way to Vedado

11165165_10152684120265989_6789257019633773011_o

Old Town

11174293_10152684122540989_4456390972099678940_o

Round the corner from Sarita rooms

11182783_10152684122560989_7821463404354159188_o

Looking up at Rumba

11187760_10152684122080989_4719143845968385909_o

Vedado

11203523_10152684120810989_1769521738438651507_o

Old Town

On our 4th morning, we got a cab to a sort of cab meeting point where we were told we could find other people to share a ride to our next destination with. It sounded dubious but was super smooth and far less hassle than the bus for about the same price. Till next time!

Advertisements

Beach and ruins time begins

Bozcaada was the first beach day of our trip. It is an island recommended by lonely planet as a growing destination for a smart turkish sun seekers and wine enthusiasts. We got there after a hunt for the bus from
Canakkale to Giliki where we got a ferry across from. The town is tiny and mostly revolves around a square just behind the sea front. Everything is white and blue washed and everywhere you turned cute alley ways covered in vines with lilac covered tables spiralled off. After fish for lunch we got a bus to the best beach on the island whose name I cannot remember. It was lovely, with loungers to rent and despite being fairly busy, was very quiet. After a few hours lounging we headed back to the main town after a very amusing bus entry conversation along the lines of ‘bus goes to Bozcaada?’ ‘ yes this Bozcaada’ etc as we confused the name of the entire island with that of the town…
After some snacks and a glass of the famous wine which was delish but oh so strong after a month in India, we got the ferry back.

The buses in turkey really are great. The ferry was met each way by a bus to our destination. These little ‘dolmus’ buses are always spotless and have aircon sitting. Going back a bit, our bus from Istanbul had a waiter with a bow tie who handed out free snacks, wifi, and interactive mini TV screens. This six hour bus cost approx £15 so not dirt cheap but very very good compared to a similar distance and service in England!

20140728-085735-32255336.jpg

20140728-085734-32254330.jpg

20140728-085733-32253929.jpg

20140728-085732-32252999.jpg

The next morning we wandered round the harbour in Canakkale to the huge wooden horse used in the film Troy. The old site of Troy lies half an hours drive away but is apparently not as good as other sites in Turkey so we lazily picked a beach day over a trip there. However we may have time to come back for it later!

So then to Permagon, which is the site of the remains of an ancient city complete with theatre hewn into the mountain side and looming pillars. It was pretty sweet.

20140728-090139-32499268.jpg

20140728-090139-32499672.jpg

20140728-090138-32498136.jpg

To escape the stifling afternoon heat we made our way, via another little dolmus, to the nearby beach town of Dikili. Like Bozcaada this busy beach front was wonderfully quiet still, and came with wandering food vendors seeking mussels and sweet corn, and beanbag seats for rent!

Today we are getting the bus to Seljuk – a town which has lots of its own attractions which are however overshadowed by its purpose as the main base for trips to Epheseus – the best persevered ancient city in Europe apparently! Hopefully it will make up for the nagging feeling that missing out troy, which is after all one of my favourite films!

Xx Fabia

20140728-090757-32877316.jpg

India to Istanbul

Hello from Istanbul!

…The Asian side to be exact. We arrived at our hostel (the well known hush moda which is fab) at 11 last night and promptly went to the first restaurant for some kebabs and lots of refreshing melon. We’ve had a lovely morning wandering around getting excited by how calm and full of ice creams the area is compared to our last few days of travelling and the ever hectic Delhi.

Our mission to get here started with a less than pleasant 16 hours bus from Manali to Delhi. Our homestay in Delhi was lovely and we had a much better experience of the city than we did last year. We were only there about 24 hours before we left for the airport, experiencing a final classically indian ridiculous traffic jam. We flew to Kazakhstan and from there to Istanbul. The flights were fine, all ran smoothly but each was 5 hours or so long (we were getting very confused about changing time zones etc) and we were zonked by the time we got to Istanbul.

We are leaving on a bus to Canakkale in a couple of hours and starting a loop of turkey returning back to Istanbul in two weeks to rent a flat with two of my flat mates from this year.

I can’t wait to see more of Istanbul when we do, but in the meantime, bring on the beach!

Here are some photos of our amble around the Asian side. So much food! After buying fresh orange juice, a magnum, and loads of cherries I am very very happy!

Xx Fabia.

20140724-133634-48994097.jpg

20140724-133636-48996733.jpgg for

20140724-133635-48995857.jpg

20140724-133635-48995005.jpg

20140724-133633-48993180.jpg

20140724-133637-48997616.jpg

20140724-133639-48999547.jpg

20140724-133638-48998702.jpg

Jaipur and Bundi

Hello,

I’m writing this, my first post on this blog, from a delightful restaurant in bundi. It’s run by two brothers called Tom and Jerry whose cat and mouse cartoon counterparts lend their names and faces to the restaurant and its menus. We originally only intended to pop in for a quick drink and bite to eat but a local monsoon had other ideas.. Umbrella-less we decided to sit it out . 3 hours, 2 pizzas and many milkshakes later we are still waiting for the rain to stop.. All the food has been super tasty though so we are not complaining. it was really nice to have some western-style cooking. The Indian cuisine is great, especially the rich and creamy paneer curries which is like melt in the mouth tofu, but after a week of complex textures and spices we were both craving something simple and familiar.

Before stopping of at Tom and Jerry’s we had spent a few hours exploring the local fort and palace. Kipling described the latter as “the work of goblins rather than men”‘and with its decaying rock-hewn grandeur you could certainly imagining it in a lord of the rings film! The Taragarth fort also had a great sense of adventure to it- set on a hilltop above the palace, it is a collision zone between man and nature; wildly overgrown trees and shrubs do battle with 700 year old stone arches and walkways. As you explore the dead ends and deserted hallways you half expect indian jones to suddenly burst through a wall, ancient artefact in hand! On the way back down we encountered some of the local makaws we had previously been warned about. Although we had heard horror stories of them swinging down to steal phones out of pockets, and we had even been armed with a large stick “for our own protection”, the ones we met were perfectly well-behaved and fun to watch. Maybe a few bad apples with kleptomaniac tendencies have spoiled their reputation. They are incredibly agile and I think graceful creatures. The controlled way they use their momentum to propel themselves first-time from rooftop to rock to tree at great speed is a great sight.

This rugged hilltop taragath fort had a very different feel to it than Jaipur’s pink city and amber Fort. Although we greatly enjoyed the elephant ride up to the latter, once inside I was somewhat underwhelmed. There were some very nice views and architecture but it seemed to lack a bit of character. Maybe this feeling is a natural product of seeing the Taj Mahal a few days earlier. Perhaps this also explains why I particularly enjoyed exploring Taragarth today; With its crumbling defences, deserted towers and overgrown courtyards it feels completely different from the taj’s white marbelled symmetry. Getting lost within its claustrophobic walls, as makaws tracked our every move felt like an adventure and it was a far cry from some of the more tepid tourist and tout-filled sights we had visited earlier in the week. Exploring Taragath felt genuine and exciting and it was an experience I hope to recapture when we visit the famous chittaughar fort tomorrow.

Charlie x

20130806-182515.jpg

20130806-183005.jpg