Archive for ‘Cuba’

March 25, 2020

The Gentlemen from Paris, Havana!

And here is a nice story of my lointime Cuba. This was very popular and all our grandparents told us stories of him. One of the souvenirs is that I actually saw him in Havana before leaving long ago. It’s about time I write about him in my blog.

Therefore, this is story of the Gentlemen from Paris or El Caballero de Paris.

The story goes that José María López Lledín was an elegant vagabond known as El Caballero de París (The Gentleman From Paris) who wandered the streets of  La Habana (Havana) and was a well-known cult figure in the city. According to the birth certificate issued by the district court of Fonsagrada  in Lugo, province of Galicia, in Spain , López Lledín was born in the village of Vilaseca, located near the Asturian border and the Eo river.  The fourth of eleven children, was born on 30 December, 1899 in Vilaseca, in the Municipality of Fonsagrada, Province of Lugo, Galicia. As many in Cuba came from this region of Spain.

Traveling in the German passenger ship S.S. Cheminitz, he arrived in Havana at twelve years of age on 12 December, 1913. His mother was Josefa Lledín Mendes and his father was Manuel Lopez Rodriguez; the owners of a small vineyard, they produced and sold wine and Sherry. He was baptized in the Parish of Salvador de Negueira.

According to his sister Inocencia, he worked as a tailor and in a bookshop. Later he worked as a waiter in the hotels Inglaterra, Telegrafo, Sevilla, Manhattan, Royal Palm and Saratoga. There are many stories as to why he lost his mental sanity but all of them converge on the fact that he was imprisoned in the Castillo del Principe ( Prince’s castle, used many times as a prison) in 1920 for a crime he did not commit.

El Caballero de París was a cult figure in Havana in the 40s and 50s. He was of medium height, disheveled hair with some gray hair and a beard. He always wore black, with a long coat of the same color, even during the summer. He used to carry a folder full of papers. He was a gentle and educated man who roamed the streets and traveled by bus all over the city, greeting people and discussing philosophy, religion and politics. He never asked for alms or said bad words, he only accepted money from people he knew or liked.

He could regularly be found in the Paseo del Prado; the Avenida del Puerto; in a park near the Plaza de Armas; near the Church Iglesia de Paula; in the Parque Central, where he sometimes slept on one of the benches; in Calle Muralla street; near streets Infanta and San Lazaro; and in the corner of 23rd and 12th streets in El Vedado.  It is remembered seeing him walking along the central path of the Fifth Avenue (5th ave) in Miramar, where he usually was in the afternoons. I am not sure but i believe i saw him by the Parque Central.

He was late in life diagnosed as suffering from Paraphrenia, a late-onset mental disorder featuring such symptoms as delusions and hallucinations; it does not have any negative symptoms such as the deterioration of the intellect or of the personality.

You can listen in Spanish a popular song created by a popular singer of the times Barbarito Diez, call El Caballero de Paris, video still available in youtube here

 

There is a statue to perpetuated his presence in bronze, so that his figure will wander forever in the streets of Havana.  Where I have a souvenir photo from 2012 here

havana

This illustrious man was a permanent presence in the city which, from the decade of the 20s of the last century and until 1977, saw him wandering through its streets. He died on July 11, 1985 at Mazorra psychiatric hospital atage of 86. He was initially buried in the cemetery of Santiago de las Vegas in Habana province. His remains were later exhumed by the Historian of the City of La Habana, and transfered to the convent of San Francisco de Asis (now a concert hall and museum), his current resting place.

After the Communist Cuban revolution, the brothers and sisters left Cuba and only El Caballero de Paris was left behind. Three of his brothers had descendants, some now living in Chicago and others in Asturias, Spain. The only surviving sister of El Caballero de Paris, Mercedes, was living in Spain,was last read 91 years old , and in perfect mental and physical health.

No official webpage for him but there are many private efforts on the web; i just will put one here CiberCuba in Spanish; CiberCuba on El Caballero de Paris

Hope you enjoy this unique anecdote of Havana and do look out for him if going there. Hope it helps find him. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

 

March 22, 2020

Plaza Vieja, Havana!!

And as I am feeling nostalgic and long away from having spoken about these spots almost from the beginning of my blog’s history and think not enough said. Therefore, I am telling you a bit more about the wonderful Plaza Vieja in old Havana, Cuba!

This is a wonderful spot for strolls alone the old Havana district which is full of history even if some repairs are needed due in fact to the dictatorship blames on someone else, you get my picture.

In fact, the Plaza Vieja has been renovated thanks to a grants by Unesco for the preservation of heritage in Cuba.  It is really 24 km or about 15 miles to where I was born.

The Plaza Vieja or old square was done in 1559 surrounded by beautiful homes of the colonial times. It is bordered by the streets of Teniente Rey, Muralla, San Ignacio and Mercaderes all in Old Havana of course.

havana

Plaza Vieja is one of the many beautiful squares of old Havana. Built in the 16C, it would have served as places of gathering, parties and market. From an architectural point of view, it is one of the most beautiful squares in Havana. You will see very beautiful colonial buildings dating from the 16C to the 19C. Plaza Vieja is said to have benefited from a Unesco restoration campaign in the 1980s, which explains its neat appearance. In fact, there are mostly upscale restaurants and hotels

havana

Over the past 150 years, Plaza Vieja has played host to an open-air food market, a park, and an amphitheatre. Plaza Vieja was the site of executions, processions, bullfights, and Fiestas,  all witnessed by Havana’s wealthiest citizens, who looked on from their balconies.

This was Havana’s third open space after Plaza de Armas and Plaza de San Francisco. It is said that Franciscan monks requested that a new square be constructed where local vendors could carry out their business activities away from the Plaza de San Francisco, where they were hindering the celebration of masses. The new square was completed in 1559 approximately one hundred meters from the convent. It was called precisely Plaza Nueva  or new square, and gained in popularity right away. Some authors claim, however, that in fact this was the second square to be built in Havana, before the Plaza de San Francisco.

In the 18C, the Plaza Nueva was transformed into a market place. And in 1814, with the emergence of the market at the Plaza del Cristo, it was renamed to Plaza Real, Plaza Mayor, Plaza Fernando VII, Parque Juan Bruno Zayas and Parque Julián Grimau, until it finally received the name of Plaza Vieja.

During the 17C to the early 20C, the area was developed with residential, commercial and recreational buildings that fortunately maintained coherence, including the majestic Palacio de los Condes de Jaruco (or palace of the counts of jaruco) and the first exclusive recreational society in Havana, Sociedad Filarmónica, (or philarmonique society) housed in a residence at Calle San Ignacio 352-354. Curiously enough, no religious or military constructions were ever built around the square.

In 1908 the old market was demolished to make room for a park which was regrettably transformed into an underground parking garage in 1952. The underground parking garage was torn down and a replica of the original fountain was placed in the center of the square.  The original Carrara marble fountain surrounded by four dolphins was demolished in the 1930s when President/dictator Gerardo Machado built an underground parking lot here. There is a simpler fountain there now.

There is no official webpage to showcase the square at least that I could find, so will leave you with Cuba’s official office of tourism in English.  Tourist office of Cuba on Havana

The site on the organization for Unesco heritage cities in English on Havana here: Org heritage cities Unesco on Havana

Hope it helps your walks in my dear Plaza Vieja in old Havana, its like going back in times, better times for me.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

March 22, 2020

Hotel Nacional, Havana!!

Let me bring you back out way back to another time another era in my life. Memories always popping in and out and yet so far. I like to tell you a bit more on the Hotel Nacional, Havana, Cuba!

It is magical ,still there gleaming at you, hearing the waves bang against the rocky hill below, and the Strait of Florida in front of it. It has been thru all the episodes in Cuban history since its construction in 1927. Knowing it is to know Havana (San Cristobal de la Habana) a bit more, and Cuba too.  This is simply the Hotel Nacional.

The Hotel Nacional officially open from 1930, it was designed by an American architectual firm of McKim, Mead & White (they also build the National Museum of American History in Washington DC as others). A bit of history  says that in the 19C, the hill on which the hotel stands held the famous battery of Santa Clara. The “Ordoñez” cannon, one of the largest of its time, still lies in the hotel’s gardens. On the headland of Punta Brava,(same name of my native town!!!) Corregidor Don Luis Aguilar chastised the British during the seige and assault of Havana. The hotel’s most famous and luxurious restaurant is named after him.

havana

Some of the memorable people who have stayed here over the years are Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Weissmuller, Buster Keaton, Jorge Negrete,Agustin Lara, Rocky Marciano, Tyrone Power, Romulo Gallegos, Errol Flynn, John Wayne , Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando, and Ernest Hemingway, as well as Winston Churchill, Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Alexander Flemming, and  innumerable Ibero-American Heads of State and European monarchs.

It was the site of a bloody battle in September 4, 1933 pitting the Cuban Army officers who participated in the coup d’état to overthrow President/dictator Gerardo Machado and the non commissioned officers and rank who supported the new strong man Fulgencio Batista. The US ambassador Sumner Welles lived here while the transition in the Cuban government took place.  In December 1946, it was the meeting of a mafia figures such as Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Santo Trafficante, jr, Frank Costello, Albert Anastacia, Vito Genovese and many others that was later characterized by Francis Ford Coppola in the movie, ” The Godfather ,part II”.

By 1955 the hotel was in full swing, and under new management, created  a new wing consisting of Clark’s famous Casino Internacional, the adjoining Starlight Terrace Bar and the Casino Parisién night club in january of 1956 with the first presenter been Eartha Kitt. The casino was closed by new President/dictator Fidel Castro in October 1960, as well as the hotel nationalised. It is now under management by the government supported Gran Caribe group. This is their webpage on the Hotel Nacional: Gran Caribe group on the Hotel Nacional

For me it meant many afternoon visiting the patio with grandparents and/or parents, and sipping a delicious cold Coca Cola with lemon and plenty of ice. When visited the island there was no doubt to come here again, just to be quiet and listen to the winds and the waves cracking below in the ocean. Memories that still linger with me since childhood. You will be embracing Cuban history and perhaps a quiet moment listening to those same waves.

Hope you enjoy the post and why not one day do stay there it is the ultimate in Cuba.

The official Hotel Nacional webpage is here : Hotel Nacional at Havana

And there you go folks when in Havana, the Hotel Nacional is a lot more than a vacation, its the history and architecture of Cuba in one spot. Hope you enjoy the post.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

 

March 22, 2020

Miramar, Havana, Cuba!

This is another time lapse for me going back many years almost 50 in fact! One has travel the world from a small spot on earth and gather many moments and souvenirs but there is always home. Mine was around the city of Miramar in Havana , Cuba. The name might seems familiar to those in Florida as there is a city there name after the one in Havana, and gosh I lived there too!!

Let me give you a bit of off the beaten path trip that would be wonderful to see again if possible. I am talking about the neighborhood of Miramar one of the main residential areas of the city of Havana, Cuba. Today , they put it in the county of Playa in Havana.

The Cuban upper class lived here before 1959 in sumptuous mansions and houses with pools, large patios, and other amenities. Being located in front of the coast, it made possible the existence of numerous spas, yacht clubs and social clubs in the wealthiest sectors. The stores were the best known in Cuba. Its busiest and most fundamental street, Fifth Avenue, with the same name as the famous one in New York, is considered by many to be the most beautiful street in all of Cuba.

The urban project for the construction of Miramar was conceived and signed in 1910 or 1911. The Miramar project was carried out on the grounds of the “La Miranda” family estate, making it a 100% Cuban urban project. This project is approved by the Marianao (another city just next to Havana ,and part of Marianao at the time) city council on February 6, 1911. On July 19, 1913 the contract to execute the urbanization of the Miramar neighborhood is signed.

The metal drawbridge over the Almendares river was popularly called the Pote bridge, an iron bridge over the Almendares river, in the extension of Calzada del Vedado ,a boulevard (going into another modern neighborhood Vedado)   towards Miramar.

In 1920, when the 5th avenue to 42nd street section was completely designed and built, the clock tower on 5th avenue and 10th street was made between 1921 and 1924 and is a 22-meter-high tower with its old carillon, a replica of London’s Big Ben, according to what it says as there is no written proof. The machinery of the clock has a mechanism by which music and time are synchronized, also chimes that sound every 15, 30 and 60 minutes, as well as every nine hours. After a period of deterioration in the 1960’s and onward, it was decided to do work on it which took three months, and finally the quarter of an hour and the melody of the bells were heard again. The four spheres, located on each side of the tower, give the exact time as they did in a distant 1924. The tower keeper need to climb the tower ladder every 72 hours and wind the machine, using the same mechanism as the manufacturers did. And the tradition is thankfully kept. Great for me as really when you passed this clock tower you really finally were in Miramar for us, memories.

havana

You will see the Fountain of the Americas located at the beginning of 5th Avenue and the sculptures were made in 1920. The Fountain is integrated into one of the parks on both sides of 5th Avenue, like the 2 large street parks at 24 and 26th streets. It is next to one of these two park blocks that the Church of Santa Rita was built in 1941. In Miramar numerous artificial beaches were built, the so-called Playas del Oeste or west beaches, formerly private clubs. The Miramar Yacht Club founded in 1926 with a nautical, sporty and social atmosphere, began in 1927 with a classic wooden construction on Avenida 96 and the sea. It was in 1952 that it was replaced by one in modern architecture.

The 1950s was the year of the real estate explosion in Miramar, the Almendares tunnel and the Linea tunnel date from this time, to substantially improve access to the neighborhood. The most luxurious buildings in Cuba are built in the Miramar at that time, true mansions and palaces, with swimming pools, large gardens and patios decorated with statues and fountains, which alternated with yacht and social clubs such as the Havana Yacht Club, in addition to others truly colossal churches such as that of Jesús de Miramar Church on 5th avenue and 82 street, in addition to the San Antonio de Padua Church on 5th avenue and 60 street.

At the end of the construction of the Malecon (big bulkward to the ocean) that extended it to the mouth of the Chorrera (tower bordering the Almendares and Cojimar rivers), the 5th Avenue becomes its natural extension, towards the other side of the Almendares River, with which the new neighborhood and all the territory of the west becomes a new housing seat. The crossing that was made through the Pote drawbridge, represented a great problem for the heavy traffic in the area and was finally replaced by a double track underwater tunnel in 1957.

The vast majority of the people who lived here left Cuba as a result of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and went with their families to the United States, mainly to Miami.

There is a general tourist office of Cuba webpage Infotur for general info in English: Tourism of Cuba Infotur on Havana

And this seems a newer version of infotur simply call Cuba Travel in English for general info here: Cuba Travel on Havana

Hope you enjoy the post and follow me on my nostalgic runs once in a while. The Clock tower or Torre del Reloj is a memory of the past still shining for all to enjoy in my La Habana. 

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

February 5, 2020

And we have Key West!

And finally I got the idea to write about a very lointime and favorite city of my life’s travel and residency. As I lived in different points in Florida for 18 years and 13 years in NJ i have come here often. Family still have boats base there, and I last saw in 2002. Therefore , the pictures are before that. However, like to keep it in my blog for the souvenirs, memories, recuerdos of my life. Let me tell you a bit about Key West Florida.

There is plenty to see here other than museum , aquariums, and beach activities. My coming here was to do fish barbecues after boating and coming back to landfill in the mangroves to do the cooking, awesome. I did also scuba diving in those years and jet ski riding. Many folks comes for the beaches and the fact of its closesness to Cuba and the tropical party ambiance. Key West is special and worth the detour. I like to tell you more on the historical aspect of it as I am afraid for the tourist look you need to look up updated information.

Key West is located at the western end of the Florida Keys archipelago in the State of Florida USA. The city occupies the whole of the last of the islands from which it takes its name, as well as a set of islets surrounding it. The portion of Stock Island north of Federal Highway 1 (US 1 commonly call), Fleming Key and Sigsbee Park to the north (two military grounds with restricted access) and Sunset Key (formerly called Tank Island and with limited access to residents) to the west are part of the city of Key West , it is also the county seat of Monroe County. The city is known for being the southernmost point of the contiguous United States and the southern terminal of Highway 1. Located 207 km (about 128 miles) from Miami and 170 km (about 105 miles) from Havana, Cuba, it offers an incomparable strategic position on the Strait of Florida less than 150 km (about 93 miles) from the coast of Cuba.

key west

A bit of history I like

Before the Spanish arrived on the North American continent, the island was populated by the Calusa Indians. Spotted by Ponce de Leon in 1521, it was only sporadically occupied by fishermen and wreck hunters during the Spanish era. Originally called “Cayo Hueso”  (and still call in Spanish today) that is to say island of bones by the Spanish because of the many bones they found there when they arrived, vestiges of battles between natives or Spaniards, the name was changed by the English in Key West, according to some because the pronunciation of the Spanish word hueso was close to the English word west, according to others because of the geographical position of the island.

In 1763, when Florida came under British control (Treaty of Paris in exchange for Cuba), Spanish and Native Americans who occupied the island were expelled to Cuba. When Florida returned to the Spanish again twenty years later, the island was only sporadically inhabited without permanent colonization. Fishermen from Cuba or the Bahamas, then later after the independence of the United States, others from the Atlantic coast, used the island as a seasonal refuge. In 1815, the governor of Havana gave the island to Juan Pablo Salas, an artillery officer of the Spanish navy stationed in Saint Augustine, Florida (oldest city in the USA 1565) . Salas hastened to sell the island when Florida came under US control. In fact, he sold it to an American merchant, John W. Simonton, whom he met in a tavern in Havana, for a sum equivalent to $ 2,000 ,at the time a huge sum (the amount has not been corroborated) .

John Whitehead had spoken to Simonton, about the strategic position it occupied on the Strait of Florida when he had discovered it during a sinking in 1819. It was the deep-water port that had especially impressed and he compared to a West Gibraltar. On March 25, 1822, Matthew C. Perry arrived in Key West on the USS Shark and took possession of the island on behalf of the United States.

John Simonton subdivided the island into plots which he sold to: John Whitehead, a friend who had advised him to buy the island, John Fleeming, an English merchant of Mobile in Alabama, John Mountain and John Warner who resold immediately their plot to Pardon C. Greene. It was the latter alone who made Key West his permanent residence and who became a successful merchant and for a time mayor of the city. The names of these four “Fathers of the Modern City” as we like to call them, are found in Key West today and were given to the arteries of the historic district during the first cadastre established in 1829 by William Adee Whitehead, a younger brother of John Whitehead. This cadastre is still in force today and has undergone few modifications. Fleming Street is however spelled with a single “e”. The main street that crosses the historic district from north to south was named after the first governor of Florida, William Pope Duval, governor from 1822 to 1834 as Duval Street.

key west

During the American Civil War, while Florida joined Confederation in January 1861, Key West and its naval base remained under Union control. Fort Zachary Taylor, built from 1845 to 1866, played an important role during the conflict. Two other fortifications, the Martello East and West Towers, were built from 1861 to serve as a depot for arms and batteries annexed to Fort Taylor. They were later connected to the fort by a railway to facilitate the movement of ammunition. Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas, located 110 km from Key West (halfway almost to Cuba), served as a prison at the end of the Civil War and his most famous prisoner was Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, accused of conspiracy for treating the Abraham Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth.

The term Conchs like the eponymous seashell applies to natives of the Bahamas of European descent. These are the “Conchs” who arrived in large numbers after 1830 and populated Key West. The term today applies to the inhabitants of Key West in general but distinguishes the clean natives or “Conchs” and the long-standing inhabitants but born elsewhere or “Freshwater Conchs” that is to say conch of fresh water. Towards the end of the 19C, the cigar industry replaced the salt works and the shipwreck trade. The arrival of many Cubans during this period of rebellion against Spanish domination (Ten Years’ War, then War of Independence) provided an expert workforce for this industry. In 1890 the population of Key West was close to 18,800, half of whom were of Cuban origin. Nearly 200 factories produced a hundred million cigars annually. José Martí, the father of Cuban independence, came to Key West several times to recruit volunteers for the cause and founded the Cuban Revolutionary Party there. It was from Key West that the battleship Maine left, which sank in the port of Havana and started the Spanish-American War. The Maine crew is buried in Key West Cemetery. The annex was renamed Truman Annex and still bears that name today. The Cuban revolution of 1959 breathed new life into the naval air base and Key West rediscovered the strategic role of wartime. In November 1962, John Fitzgerald Kennedy visited Key West a month after the Cuban missile affair was resolved. Key West remained a base for the many Cuban exiles arriving by sea from 1960 to 1980.

key west

There are typical neighborhoods such as the New Town on the eastern part of the island (mistakenly referred to as the north), most of which has been reclaimed from mangroves and lagoons, constitutes the new districts for the most part residential and commercial along Roosevelt Boulevard with the centers shopping, many hotels, sports fields and the airport.   Key West is the southernmost city in the contiguous United States and one of the city’s most photographed attractions is the landmark that marks this geographic point. In addition, the legend on the terminal indicates that the Cuban coast is “90 miles” according to the famous phrase of President Kennedy during the missile crisis, when it is actually 93 miles, or 150 km. And of course  ,do not miss Mallory square!!!and that is me!!!

key west

key west

One nice way to see the city main points and come back for more and something we have followed in many cities and countries is the little train ride and of course Key West has a good one !

key west

key west

There is also a nice small aquarium which I found one photo here

key west

In 1931 the house on Whitehead Street that you could visit today was a wedding present for the couple Hemingway who had previously occupied a room above the Ford garage on Simonton Street. The swimming pool Hemingway built there would have cost $ 20,000, an extravagant sum in the 1930s.

Charles Thompson, a hardware store owner, and Joe Russell, a bar owner – the famous owner of Sloppy Joe’s , introduced him to big game fishing. Joe Russell would have inspired the character of Freddy in To have it or not, a novel also strongly inspired by the Key West of the years of crisis. It was also during this period that Ernest Hemingway acquired the nickname “Papà”. It is estimated that it is in Key West that almost 70% of his works were written, in particular The Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, The Snow of Kilimanjaro, The Green Hills of Africa or For Whom the Bell Tolls. After his divorce in 1940 and the loss of his house, he rarely returned to Key West, preferring Havana. The polydactyl cats that surround the Hemingway house are believed to be descendants of Snowball, Hemingway’s cat. Like the novelist’s home, they are a typical Key West attraction.

Another famous imprint here was that of Tennessee Williams who came to Key West from 1941 and around 1947 reportedly began sketching A Streetcar Named Desire while he was staying at the La Concha hotel on Duval Street. In 1949, he bought the house on Duncan Street and made it his legal home until his death in 1983. Tennessee Williams’ house is a modest new town bungalow with no particular appeal. Today it is a private residence which is not open to the public. While Hemingway and Williams frequented Key West concurrently, they only met on one occasion in Havana, on Hemingway’s property, Finca Vigia.(west of Havana today controlled by the government).

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and you must are

City of Key West on heritage

Tourist office of the Florida Keys on Key West

Tourist office of Florida on Key West

Tourist office of the USA on Key West

There you go , there is a world to discover at Key West a small space full of history, tropical architecture, and just plain tropical fun , and this is just one tip of the wonderful Florida keys! Hope you can enjoy it one day.

And remember, happy travel, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

October 25, 2019

My trip to the roots where all begun ,Cuba!

Well this was a business trip with my company but took advantage with my assigned driver to see the family still there and nostalgic moments in my life. It all began here for me many many years ago. I left it in 1971. The comments are updated , but the photos are from 2012.

I took a long flight it seems endless from home in Brittany, went by car to Nantes airport;following the road N165 all the way to exit D201 Nantes Atlantique signs about 1h30 minutes. Then took a regional Air France flight to Amsterdam, Schiphol airport, change there to KLM for the flight to La Habana about 10 hours !!! lol!!! and finally arrive in Havana.

I stayed at a Casa Particular as was assigned this by the company in district of Playa, no fancy hotels for me!!! Stories about Cuba abound from all periods; blaming each other but no doubt the previous regime was better for the mayority. Proof over 2 millions have left already and several millions waiting for the opportunity while been politically correct.

havana

We went to eat at EL Palenque, the resto of the Convention palace nearby, great Cuban food, why bother with all those international places if in Cuba eat like a Cuban. Calle 17 y 190, Playa.. Ciudad de La Habana tel  (53 7) 203-8222 .

havana

We had not much time so I took a ride on the Malecon, went over to the old Church of San Francisco de Asisi, the Morro ,Fuerza ,and Cabanas castles.

Havana

havana

havana

havana

havana

We had business lunch at Restaurant 1830 at Calle Calzada esq. a 20, Vedado. Ciudad de La Habana tel(53 7) 55-3090-92 . There was a special treat at a casa paladar on a fifth floor of a house but could not remember the name as it was at night and friends rode me there, we had lobsters supreme with a view of the city.

The next day I ask my assigned driver to talke me to my native town of Punta Brava, just in the borders of the city of La Habana, visiting family aunt and cousins (which by now left Cuba too) , I ate at a typical Cuban casa paladar in pesos nacionales, a dish of roast pork,moros black beans,yucca,tostones in garlic sauce, salad of tomatos and lettuce, plus coffee and four beers for two persons at 10 CUC or about 260 Cuban Pesos Nacionales. Just in Calzada (main street Avenida 51) before turning left to Guatao, the old Carretera Central.

havana

I went further inland to visit another aunt and cousins at Cayo La Rosa, (these still there) off Bauta, this was a huge textile plant (Ariguanabo) of 5000 workers done by Americans now in ruins. The village have not change much, and took a ride with my cousin in an electric moto on the town, crazy but a great and cheap means of transportation there now.  And proud of myself was able to take my local driver there as he did not know how,and I did it with so many years out just on good memory lol!

Of course in each visit i ate with the family and reminiscent of the old days, telling me what a nice guy I was !!!  Finally, it was time to come back again, and took my flight from La Habana Jose Marti International airport, very easily, this time in route to Paris CDG on Air France. The plane was full and cheapy company had me on economy class! but was bump up to Business Class , by asking and it shows the difference, very nice flight of 9 hours to Paris CDG. There change again on AF to Nantes, and took my car from the airport parking for the trip home after paying 54 euros of parking fees. Cheaper than renting a car lol!

havana

havana

I was hoping not to be the last trip like this, but this is October 2019 and not back yet; time is ticking and less family there. Even in the difficulties of that system was the same warm welcome by the family and the faces of the buildings even if change were still recognisable, and I look forward to the future when all can have a pleasant place to visit with family and no government mistreatments and inconveniences.

No webpages just for the memories update in my blog. Hoping you can enjoy a visit there under better circumstances and then tell me about it ok. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

 

October 25, 2019

A Church at Arroyo Arenas, Cuba!

And coming back to the roots, a bit of my old neighborhood, its been almost 50 years but the memories lingered. I like to tell you briefly as not much info on the internet on one of my sights when my dear late Mom Gladys passed by here taking a friend’s car or the bus line 99! We always made the cross sign passing by the Church of Arroyo Arenas. The blog is also a way to keep my history for eternity I hope and future generations can see it all.

The town of Arroyo Arenas is in the municipality La Lisa, city of La Habana, Cuba. It is located on the banks of the Camino Real (Royal route), today Avenida 51 (avenue 51). It limits to the north with the municipality of Playa, to the south the Cano – Valle Grande – Bello 26 and Morado, to the east with Punta Brava (my native town!) and to the west with San Agustín

Arroyo Arenas was granted in 1672 status of village by the Spanish colonial governor. By 1778 they still subordinated its existence to the city/hall of Havana. In 1780 the local city hall were constituted, corresponding from Arroyo Arenas to Santiago de las Vegas. TheCaptaincy were subordinated to El Cano and Bauta. The first was subordinated the town of: Arroyo Arenas.

Towards the last decade of the 18C, this seat made possible the foundation of the town of Arroyo Arenas, a fact that was recorded in 1790 when a chapel was constituted that apparently was attached to a house or room, separated from common uses. Likewise, in 1794 the first tile house was built in this town and in 1795 the hermitage of Arroyo Arenas was officially erected under the invocation of Jesús Nazareno del Rescate or Jesus Nazarene of the Rescue.

The location of this site on the side of the Camino Real to Vueltabajo was enriched by the migration of Canary island peasant population initially settled in Vueltabajo (the best cigars in the world and my ancestors the Guanches of Tenerife and Grand Canaria) . Its growth as a town is evidenced by the fact that in 1843 the Spanish Army Weapons Command was established there and already in 1846 it had 12 masonry houses, 7 of wood and tiles, 36 of mud and guano, a clothing store, 3 mixed, 2 shoe stores, 2 tobacco shops, 1 carpentry, 1 blacksmith shop and 298 settlers, of which 44 were slaves.

From 1878, according to the new political-administrative division established by the colonial government on that date, the city hall of the towns of El Cano, Marianao and Santiago de las Vegas were created.. To each of them the districts were subordinated to El Cano corresponded Arroyo Arenas, Barandilla, Falcón, Jaimanitas and El Cano proper; Marianao was subordinate to La Lisa, and to Santiago de las Vegas, the districts Bauta, Punta Brava ;and Guatao were subordinated. In the judicial order, all these municipalities were subordinated to Bejucal until 1880.

In the first months of 1955, the construction of a highway that would connect Columbia (army and airport barracks) to the central highway at the exit of Arroyo Arenas was announced. In April 1956 it was finished. The Hermitage and Country Club, were projected to link with the with the Biltmore Riviera, Boulevar del Biltmore and Montecarlo, which would extend to Novia del Mediodia ( roundabout call the noon girlfriend) . These projects were interrupted with the triumph of the Cuban revolution.

The Hermitage is now a National Sanctuary of Jesus Nazareno del Rescate , located at the Central Highway (that goes from one point to the other of the island country) and here it is call Avenida 51 building no. 26455. The same route that passes by my native town. The Church was erected in 1795, under the invocation of Jesus of Nazareno del Rescate. But the church instead of one, has two stairs, the one on the right where the ladies went up distributing alms, and the one on the left that has more steps, 29 in total. In general, here, women and humble men, the true devotees, those that Jesus did not expel from his temple were climbing. Have one photos souvenir of our passing by it.

Arroyo Arenas

No webpage but the memories lingered. Hope you can appreciated and maybe one you can pass by it and make the sign of the Cross too , for me at Arroyo Arenas!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

 

 

July 23, 2019

Hypermarket: Auchan!

So weird but just came up with the nostalgia of many trips in Europe especially France, Spain, and Luxembourg where we shop of a favorite hypermarket not found in my current neck of the woods of Brittany, but always on the lookout for it anywhere.  I like to bring back souvenirs of our trips and tell you and remind me of the Auchan hypermarkets or Alcampo as known in Spain.

While we started out with them in the Yvelines dept 78 of the Ïle de France region near Paris we really enjoyed them very much and became our supermarket for sundry items (the meats, cheeses, fruits etc we purchase in local markets). It became a routine affair of ours to do and plan the shopping so we have time to sightseeing as well. Auchan was our hypermarket, and now let me share some properties I have written before on my previous trip posts but would like to make one post to them here.

First a bit of history on Auchan:

Auchan is a supermarket chain belonging to the Mulliez Family Association. The brand  was founded and managed by Gérard Mulliez in 1961 until 2006. In 2018, it is the twelfth largest distributor in the world, and the sixth largest French distributor.  Gérard Mulliez opens the first Auchan store in a disused factory of the Phildar company, founded by his father, also named Gerard. Covering an area of ​​600 m2, this store was located in the district of Hauts-Champs, Roubaix (Nord 59). This store had to be abandoned in the 1980s because it wasnot  competitive with the one that had been built in Leers (Nord 59). The building was shaved to make way for a more modern store in 2003.

In 1981, Auchan created the Alcampo brand in Spain. In 1983, Auchan created Banque Accord, the group’s banking subsidiary. In 1989, Auchan opened its first hypermarket in Italy, and  in 1996,  opened hypermarkets in Luxembourg and Poland. In 1998 Auchan opened its first hypermarket in Hungary and Thailand. In 2004, the first Auchan hypermarket is opened in China. In 2006, the first Auchan hypermarket opened in Romania. In 2016, Auchan’s first hypermarket was inaugurated in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and Auchan moved to Senegal. In 2019 withdraw from Italy with the sale of almost all of its subsidiary. Auchan announces to withdraw also from Vietnam. Its 2018 turnover is 50.3 billion euros, including more than 50% realized abroad. The Auchan group’s main shareholder is the Mulliez family association (AFM), founded and run by the Mulliez family, a family from the north of France. The participation in the Auchan group is the largest in the association which also has shares in other brands such as Banque Accord, Décathlon, Leroy Merlin, Kiabi, Norauto, Boulanger, Saint Maclou, Flunch, Alinéa, GrosBill, and Pimkie.

Official Auchan stores

Official Auchan holding group

And to share some of the properties dear to me over the years and hope you can stop by and enjoy them too. Many nice memories with my family that still hold strong today even stronger without my dear late wife Martine.

We always love to shop at Auchan, and we have good souvenirs of our shopping on the road warrior trips such as in Pau. The CC Auchan in a wonderful place with all you need including Micromania ,and Flunch cafeteria, nice refreshing site to relax after a long day of sightseeing and very close to our hotel and in out of the city into our sightseeing mode! The store is here: https://www.auchan.fr/magasins/pau/sl-82

pau

Another spot we love and had come even recently again to Saint Nazaire. We came first here and on our way back , we just did our groceries at Auchan, area of Trignac, heck its only 110 kms from us so on a cool day it was no problems, love it! More on it here: https://www.auchan.fr/magasins/trignac-st-nazaire/sl-35

You will love the centre commercial  Quatre Temps (shopping center) at La Défense,  its one of the best in the area. You have 219 stores, 46 restaurants, and 28 cinema showing rooms! Last count and all surrounded by a great public transportation hub and the Arche de la Défense tower . You have shopping galore at the Auchan hypermarket!  For detail info Auchan is here:  https://www.auchan.fr/magasins/la-defense/sl-31

The Centre Commercial Quatre Temps is here: https://www.les4temps.com/stores

The Centro Comercial “Parque Corredor” has an hypermarket Alcampo (from the French chain Auchan), and more than 180 stores.  By car as we do mostly is on the road M-108 Carretera or highway of Ajalvir-Torrejon between Km 2 and km 5 well posted on the road. You can go here by bus from Madrid Estacion America on bus 224 and then change in Torrejon de Ardoz for bus 254.For info on  Auchan here: https://www.alcampo.es/empresa/tienda/torrejon-de-ardoz

The webpage for the Parque Corredor how to get there is here :  https://parque-corredor.com/como-llegar/

The shopping center or centre commercial Les 3 Fontaines  in Cergy ( 95)  were a favorite for the grocery shopping at Auchan right off the A15 autoroute , and other stores as well as the best Hertz rental in the area while we lived not far.  More on Auchan here: https://www.auchan.fr/magasins/cergy/sl-49

The CC Les 3 Fontaines easy from Paris on the train from St Lazare or the RER A, info is here: https://www.3fontaines.com/infos-pratiques/comment-syrendre

And in our beloved Cuenca ,Castilla La Mancha, Spain, we love it as base on a house in the mountains outside the town, we came regularly to shop here and very nice selection and nice bakeries too in the shopping center around Auchan. Oops it is call here AlCampo ,and have discounts for gas/petrol with the shopping ticket!!!. More info on Alcampo here: https://www.alcampo.es/empresa/tienda/Cuenca

The Centro Comercial (shopping center)  Alcampo info is here:  https://ccalcampocuenca.es/es/localizacion

cuenca

cuenca

You have a huge supermarket AlCampo at the wonderful in Madrid shopping center la Vaguada by metro line 9 Barrio del Pinar. This is a wonderful shopping center that I encourage you to take a look. In a nice residential area of my beloved Madrid. The Alcampo info is here: https://www.alcampo.es/empresa/tienda/vaguada

The Vaguada shopping center info is here: https://enlavaguada.com/en/la-vaguada/#ubicacion

This is a memorable trip we used to make even for lunch same day when we lived in Versailles! And we came back for vacation from Brittany and of course stop here again. This is the Kirchberg district,outside city center Luxembourg surrounded by  many European Union institutions. However, for the shopping center ,the Auchan hypermarket and the cinema next door is tops. Easy out by bus no 16 from city center and we have gone several times by car with a nice underground parking. The wonderful  Auchan hypermarket is here:  https://www.auchan.lu/fr/Magasins/magasin-kirchberg

The centre commercial Kirchberg with directions is here: https://kirchberg-shopping.lu/fr/access/infos

And last but not least; we have found the closest we think to us is in Saint Sébastian sur Loire just over the side of Nantes in the Loire Atlantique dept 44 of Pays de la Loire. We went in the Auchan hypermarket of Saint Sebastian sur Loire as it was on our way home on the N844 ,and did our groceries!!! Now we are planning doing shopping there too. Auchan is getting closer to us. Enjoy the Auchan info here: Auchan Saint Sebastian sur Loire store

The shopping center at Saint Sébastian sur Loire info here: Shopping center Auchan of Saint Sébastian sur Loire

saint sebastian sur loire

There you go, because even visiting many times you need to buy groceries and sundry items and these are the best places to get them quickly. The Auchan experience is tops. Enjoy it

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!

March 18, 2019

Capitol, Havana, a symbol of a Nation

Let me bring along a emblematic building that represent a linkage of the past and present, a symbol of what and where you are in Cuba and especially Havana.  In my early youth ,I spent many afternoon going by and on school tours to see the meaning that it was to the Cubans. Inside is a plethora of historical facts to better understand the country.

I am talking about the Capitol building in old Havana. El Capitolio as it is known in Spanish, built in 1929  to house the two chambers of the Cuban congress. Its was inspired by the Roman capitol and that which is in Washington DC USA. The building has a front neo classic style with a dome of 92 meters tall ( 303 ft).  It is located between the streets or  calle Pardo, Dragones, Industria, and San Jose. Inside it marks the kilomerter zero of all distances in Cuba with a diamond on the floor. After the Cuban castro revolution it house the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment and the Academy of Sciences of Cuba.

Havana

It is in the space where the old city of Havana walls were crossing built in colonial period by the Spanish.  The walls here were destroyed in 1863. There was a statue to queen Isabel II, and it was the start of the now Parque Central de La Habana or Central Park.  Part of the public work efforts by then President Gerardo Machado (later dictator too), the team of architects Cuban and French participated in its design and decorations, with an American company for its construction. However, it was the French ,who put together the urban plan of the Capitol and surrounding areas as in Paris.

havana

The details of the work made the building  207 meters long in its facade  which included a large monumental stair of about  36 meters wide ( 119 ft) , 28 meters long (92 ft) , and 55 steps with three rest squares . At the two sides of the end of the stair you have two sculptures made in bronze by an Italian  artist, call ” La Virtud Tutelar del Pueblo ” (the virtue of the people) , and ” El Trabajo” (the work) ,both of 6,50 meters high (21 ft).

To continue the description of this wonderful building, we come to the main central door with a lenght of 36 meters (119 ft)  and 16 meters high (53 ft)  all held by 12 ionic columns of granite.  It is here that the main doors of access to the building are place with 7,70 meters high (25 ft) and 2,35  meters wide (8 ft) as well as the sculpture in relief of marbre ,also done by Italian artists.  The dome with a high of 92 meters (304 ft)  was at the moment the fifth highest in the world with a diameter of 32 meters (106 ft).  It has 16 panels of which the most impressive are those covered with gold leaves of 22 karats .  The dome has a lantern with 10 ionic columns of which interior were 5 light reflectors until 1959 when taken down by the revolutionary government.  In this space you see the symbolism architectural of the sculpture of the ” La República” or the lady marianne under the dome done in bronze of  15 meters high  (50 ft) and 30 tons in weight that at the moment was the second biggest in the world under a roof.

havana

Havana

You come to the great room call the “Salón de los Pasos Perdidos” ( the hall of the lost steps, the most monumental of the spaces with almost  50 meters long (165 ft) and 14,5 meters wide( 48 ft)  and almost 20 meters high (66 ft)  that serve the interconnection to the two bodies of government the  Cámara de Representantes (House of Representatives) and the  Senado (Senate). These two blocks are organised in a rectangular fashion around two gardens with dimentions of  45 by 15 meters each (149 x 50 ft). 58 types of marbre, wood of the most exquisite in the country, decoration and ambiance done by an  English firm.   The wrough iron in bronze by  an American company,  the lamps by the French, and Italians, Germans  for the work in marbre, onyx, etc .  The diamond that mark the distances in Cuba is of brilliance of 25 karats the last owner was the tzar of Russia Nicolas II, and arrive in Cuba by Turkish jewerler that purchase it in Paris. Now you see a replica, the original is the the vaults of the Bank of Cuba.  Looking at the volume of its construction it is estimated that the Capitolio of La Habana is the third in importance for its monolithic construction in the world ,and the only one with its characteristics built in the 20C.

havana

havana

It is inmense ,the pride of Havana, and one of the most visited buildings in the city as of today. It was always like that, a must to see while in Havana. Just now looking at the pictures I am in awe of  its beauty and I have seem some beauties now living in France. Hope you enjoy it.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip are

trip to Cuba private site good info and Capitolio

La Habana private site good info on city and Capitol

And remember ,happy travels good health, and many cheers to all!!!

September 14, 2018

Two souvenirs from La Habana!

Ok this is just a nostalgia post on a quiet Friday in my Morbihan Breton of  Brittany, France. I am remembering my early life and thought about Havana , and search for some photos , hardly any left but at least the memories still lingered of what it was. My Havana.

When I was just a little boy back in the 60’s I remember my mother taking me on bus rides the 27, 99, 35 etc into Havana as well as with some friends and family by car; old Oldsmobile and Chevrolet Bel Air’s mind you.

One of the essence of Cuba is the cooking, coming from mixtures of races European, African, and in between some Orientals. The choices were big back then, and notice some resurgence recently with the easing of provisions for private businesses.

One of my old time favorites that I have found photos are El Conejito (little rabbit) and El Potin (coming from old French Gossips). They are still in my heart today thanks to my dear late mother Gladys or mima as I called her.

The El Conejito was created by 1966 in Vedado district of Havana. On Calle M and 17 . It was a sumptuous restaurant serving many dishes all with the rabbit as main course. I do not recall how many variarities of it they did but it was a full menu carte.  There is not much information now but found one popular webpage with some information on it here: El Conejito on Cuba Junky site

Havana

I remembered we always had to make reservations and it was packed back in the late 60’s. We would be visiting old Havana and on the way home we stopped here; just great souvenirs. Luckily for you,the restaurant is still there and I highly recommend you try it while in Havana. A family hairloom memory photo above. I believe they are still open.

The El Potin cafeteria restaurant was even closer to home at Linea and Paseo del Prado in Vedado district as well. This is actually a French name meaning gossip, and we really enjoy the cafeteria style sandwiches that are so famous in Paris such as croque monsieur and croque madame as well as French desserts like the Paris Brest! Coffee of course was sublime from the mountains in eastern provinces of Cuba like Oriente; where many French landowner colonists from Haiti settled after the Haiti Revolution of 1805 made them leave there.

We came here even more often I recalled, and sat by the terrace looking over Linea street which is a no number street in Vedado. It is one of the modern historical streets there. Linea was for the streetcar (tramway of today ) tracks that ran along this street. It was renamed to Avenida del Presidente Wilson in 1918 and to Doble Vía General Batista in the 50s, but people kept calling it by its original name. One thing that is peculiar about this street is that it has a tunnel across the Almendares River. The below photo was passing by car as had no will to entered, too many memories.

Again not much information online but the same place as above has some directions here: El Potin in Cuba Junky

Havana

I again highly recommend coming here, is not what it was but the feel of Havana and Cuba is still there, and you will mingle with locals. Enjoy it

Some webpages to help you plan your trip are

Cuba Junky

La Habana guide to Havana

Tourist office of Cuba on Havana

Ministry tourism of Cuba

Hope it helps you enjoy your stay and visit some unique places that are still hanging in there after so many years, around 52 years!!! And I will be back there end of Sept18.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

 

 

 

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