I thought it would be easy to sit down and write a post about my first impressions of Cuba and Havana, but I was wrong. There is too much to say and I know too little.
After a morning of travel and lunch stop at a government restaurant, we finally settled into the Hotel Parque Central around 4pm. By 5pm I was taking my first, tentative, walk in Havana, down the Paseo del Prado.
The Prado is a large pedestrian walkway that leads from Havana Central to the harbor and the Malecón, the sea wall. Immediately I felt the presence of the people, birds, and traffic which roared down the busy Paseo de Marti on either side.
The Prado is a gathering place for friends, family, children playing, street vendors, and just a place to sit and rest at the end of the day. Every few feet is an alcove with stone benches built into the wall separating the Prado from the busy 2-lane street on either side of the walkway. Immediately I was attracted to the small groups that would gather in each of the alcoves. Kids playing, people resting, families, and friends engaged in conversation. I could have spent the week just walking up and down the Prado capturing its little scenes.
Some kids follow you along, asking “monea, monea?”. Unfortunately this is too common with young children and old women. But mostly people sit and talk and go about their business and are open to the American, Canadian, and European tourists snapping their pictures.
The ubiquitous 50’s American car, in all states of repair and disrepair. A car by the side of the road with either the hood or trunk open is a common site.
After a short walk, I reached the Malecón. Like most landmarks, there are lots of great travel images of the Malecón taken at the right time of day, in the right weather, with just the light, the right car coming down the road, and the appropriate amount of waves splashing over the wall or children playing. But my first impressions are on a mostly cloudless day as the sun sets. Men and boys playing with their dogs as a couple of young photographers look on.