Places I've Stayed: Eddy's Casa Particular

I would highly recommend Eddy’s and am really glad I stayed there.  For one the house is really clean, comfortable, and well lit, but more importantly, Eddy is super nice! He knows English well enough that when I was lost in trying to find Cafe Presidente spent ten minutes drawing me a map of the neighborhood and all the places that I should see.

There were two ways to access my room, the most charming being from a tiny linen cupboard that connected to both the kitchen and the main hall.  Although I mainly went through the normal door that lead to the outdoor courtyard and front yard, the cupboard made going to breakfast feel like I was traveling to Narnia.  (:  My room and private bathroom were very clean and unlike the two casa particulars I stayed after afterwards, both had windows to the exterior….ah natural light!!  There was AC that kind of worked, a refrigerator which I never tried to use, a TV, and good water pressure.  His house is located a quarter of a block off the Avenue de los Presidente and one block from La Rampa.  While the location isn’t the most touristy it feels like a more single-family like neighborhood (it’s not and to be honest I’m not sure any house is single-family occupied anywhere in Havana anymore).  I ended up really enjoying the Vedado neighborhood and plan on going back.  There seems to be a younger more “hip” crowd, or a crowd that’s more interested in their own lives than in the lives of a tourist, if that makes sense.  His house is a short walk (ten minutes?) to the Hotel Nacional and the Hotel Presidente isn’t far either.  Up and down La Rampa (Calle 23) are a ton of buses and taxis, but more importantly wifi hotspots and hotdog stands!!  (The famous ice cream shop, Coppelia, is on La Rampa but the lines were insanely long and I never felt like standing alone in one for hours in the sun...I'm more of a savory than sweet gal anyhow.)

Courtyard entrance to my room

I thought the lighting and wall color was really nice... 

Staghorn ferns hanging outside my window, so pretty! 

The dining room

The living room

Why you no like me?!  I want to pet you!!  Unfriendly neighbors ):

The patio

How I spent the evenings; 723 pages on Cuba (via The Cuba Reader) and I read all of them!

Eddy suggested an handful of restaurants that I should try: Cafe Presidente, El Gringo Veijo, a Mediterranean place, and a seafood place.  Cafe Presidente was my favorite, good food, comfortable surroundings, and cheap.  El Gringo Viejo was really cool inside, you have to go through this covered patio area and then down a short flight of stairs, and finally into the basement where it’s decorated like a mom and pop version of Olive Garden…sort of haha.  It’s really cozy.  There’s a wall dedicated to the movie El Gringo Viejo, which I’ll have to research the history of once I have internet again.  The food wasn’t anything to write home about, but maybe it was just what I ordered.  

My room...perhaps I should have made the bed lol

Well my room looks put together but my selfie action is embarassing...

Check out the dates...1930!  This used to be Eddy's moms home before she passed away a few years ago.

Off to breakfast, through the linen cupboard I go!

Cari pup!  Dying in the heat

Breakfast #1

Breakfast #2

I would highly recommend Eddy’s.  Don’t go if you’re looking for the most luxurious room but do go if you’re looking for a peaceful neighborhood and friendly folks.  I felt super at home and comfortable my entire stay and was sad to leave.  Oh, I almost forgot to mention Cari their beautiful long-haired black dog who’s a total sweet heart.  She was less interested in me than I wished for *sniff* but she is extremely calm and well behaved, she didn’t bark at me once and always ran to the front door when the chimes jingled.  I paid 45.00 a night which included breakfast, if you didn’t want breakfast it would be 40.00 a night.

El Gringo Veijo Restaurant

Eddy's Casa Particular

Sunken Courtyard(s)

Eddy showed me this place, he called it a "hole."  I don’t think I’d ever have discovered it otherwise.  How crazy awesome is it!?  Though it was sad to hear him say, “It’s ugly now, but 50 years ago there would be music and parties and it was beautiful.”  I never really imagined having to see your city and home crumble before your eyes and not be able to do anything about it.

The "hole" near Eddy's house - just imagine this place full of music, food, and people!

A sunken courtyard Eddy showed me near his wife’s house.

In my attempt to find the other side of Eddy's "hole" I stumbled upon another courtyard!  I would have NEVER guessed that these existed in this neighborhood.  The area (Vedado) appears to be block after block of beautiful (albeit deteriorating) single-family homes of what was once the upper middle class.  It's not the living density that surprises me but the massive scale of these courtyards and how much earth they had to move to create them.

...I never was able to find the entrance to the other side of Eddy's, mostly because it felt impolite to walk down every private alley (i.e. trespassing) looking for it.

Entrance from street

Looking from the courtyard's alley toward the street.

Another residential courtyard I discovered. 

Censorship + Political Propaganda in Havana

Censored Image

I can't remember a time that I've ever seen something explicitly censored by our government.  Which is why when I saw it happen in Havana I almost couldn't believe that what I was seeing was real.  I had to stop and really look at it.  "Maybe the paint has smudged?" I thought, but couldn't fool myself.  THAT IMAGE HAD BEEN CENSORED!!  

Censorship in Vedado

(You know how it goes fellow architect friends, the strange looks you get when you take a dozen plus photos of some mundane thing....sometimes people want to help out your pitiful eccentric self.  But really though, I thought everyone I met was incredibly friendly and easy going!)

I never saw any of these images again so I'll maybe never know what they originally had said.  I did however see the image of a man wearing a t-shirt with the writing, "I Love ------" on a number of occasions.  For a while I was left wondering who the image of this man was based on but I quickly figured it out.  It was an appropriated image of the historical and cultural figure, José Martí.

What does your shirt say?  And who are you!?

José Martí - January 28, 1853 – May 19, 1895

I still can't see what your shirt says little man...

I kept an eye out for him wherever I was walking, hoping to find out what his shirt said.  Finally I stumbled upon an undoctored image!

Street art by two different artists on the edge of the Vedado - Centro neighborhoods. 

The highly recognizable historical and cultural figure, José Martí, wearing a t-shirt that reads "I Love Free Wifi."  This was the only instance of this image that I was able to find that had not been censored. 

"I Love Free Wifi" - José Martí

Me too good sir, me too.

 

Political Image

On the other side of the coin were the images I found of state and individually sponsored political imagery and messages.  Many times it was difficult to tell the difference between the two.  The strangest thing here, and this comes up in many other forms, is that Cubans and the Cuban government are STILL celebrating the Revolución.  I found newspapers and other publications with photos of Che and Fidel taken in the 1950s and 1960s!  The equivalent is if our media continued daily to write about the assassination of JFK.  This is one of the few ways I'd argue saying Cuba is "stuck in time" might actually be slightly accurate.

"Por Cuba con Fidel y Raul"

“Continue defending the Revolution"

“For unity in my neighborhood, we follow in combat”

"Recorrido del Yate Granma" - which Google translated as "Granma Yacht Tour"...ehhhh

Vedado & Centro Habana

[ 27 July 2016 - Wednesday ]

I walked around Vedado again in the morning and Centro this afternoon, wanting to eventually get to the Callejon de Hamel.  Tom mentioned that I’d probably want to go there with other people not solely on my own so I decided to walk as far as I felt comfortable.  Centro definitely has a different vibe than Vedado which feels more youthful and more like a “single family” house neighborhood (although I highly doubt a single-family occupied house exists anywhere in Havana nowadays).  

Vedado

Vedado Neighborhood

Three little snubbed nose dogs guarding the gate.  The cutest thing I’ve seen so far but then in the next yard I saw four starving kittens and wished so badly I had something to give them.

Teatro Bertolt Brecht

So deco...

Three Flags

An aging private pool.

Centro

Centro felt a little rougher around the edges although all the guidebooks say it’s just as safe as anywhere else, e.g. it’s safe.  But the density of living was higher as there were more apartment buildings so I’d guess that’s what makes it feel different.  Anyways, on the way to Callejon de Hamel an older man, named Leo, introduced himself to me and was explaining that he played music in the Callejon, he showed me his calloused hands to prove it.  To be honest the alley felt a little touristy, if you can call anything “touristy” in Havana, and I felt like if I lingered too long I’d be trapped in a conversation with “my friend” that cost me a CUC or two by the end of it.  That’s actually one of the hardest parts of traveling for me, not knowing or understanding people’s intentions.

A small park at the edge of the Centro neighborhood.

Possibly the Parque de los Mártires Universitarios...

One of the first things i noticed in Havana was that the streets are fairly empty of cars.  

I’m dying to figure out who “Julien P” is because I see his street art everywhere in Vedado and Centro.

More Julien P street art.

Playing in the streets of Centro.

Monumento a Antonio Maceo

Along the Malecón

A store in Centro selling laundry detergent.

Souvenirs for sale

More deco!

Centro

Success and Hotdogs

[ 26 July 2016 - Tuesday ]

Day four!  Happy anniversary of the start of the revolution.  Happy indeed….

Walking around in Vedado

Improvised nationalistic banner (and drying laundry)!

“Revolution is to Build"

In Vedado

Success tastes like a hotdog! (:  I spent the day walking around Vedado, I found where the Fabrica des Artes is (edit: actually no I didn't), found the crafts market which either wasn’t open today or wasn’t open since 5 years ago (it’s hard to tell here), then went to the American Embassy to see that and the Wall of Flags.  Then saw the memorial for the USS Maine.  I looked around the Hotel Nacional briefly for Carmen, Tom, and Isabel but didn’t see them so I dropped off my postcard to Martin and tried to get online.  Apparently Google Apps don’t work here???  So that means no Gmail.  Then of course I forgot my Facebook password…but I finally got online like a real Cuban on la Rampa / Calle 23.  I still couldn’t login into my umich Gmail but I did have a text from Martin (who knows how old it was by now though and I hope my iMessages went through…they did say that they were delivered.) I also had a few WhatsApp messages from Mom and Erin.  After that I was walking up back to Eddy’s and saw the most glorious looking hotdog I’d ever seen.  I went up to the stand and read that a “Perro Caliente con Pan” costs 10.00 and for a second I thought it meant ten CUCs.  What Cuban…what person anywhere...is paying 10 dollars for a hotdog?!  Then I realized it was Cuban pesos and actually only cost about 50 cents.  I didn’t have any Cuban pesos so I continued on to Eddy’s planning to ask him where I could change CUCs for pesos.  He told me that I should be able to pay 1 CUC for a drink and a hotdog.  So I walked back, asked “Es posible por uno CUC?”  "Sí!" was the reply.  Like I said success tastes like a hotdog! 

In the foreground, a school and in the background, the Hotel Presidente.

Parque Martí

Playground 

"...finally some photos!" I can hear you all saying. (: