Havana, Cuba

Jan 04, 2018 - Harmony V


The powerful cold front dipping down from the north made for a cloudy, blustery day. Ocean spray spilled above the malecon, the delightful shoreside walk not far from our hotel. Temperatures in the low 60s, twenty degrees or more below normal, caused locals to bundle up in their heaviest winter clothing.

A short coach ride brings us to Habana Vieja, the old town of Cuba’s capital city. Walking along the cobblestone streets we see buildings dating from the 16th century, reflecting the history of this city which is now home to more than two million people.

Plaza de San Francisco, located adjacent to the harbor, was the commercial center. It was here that ships offloaded their cargo and merchants purchased their goods. Plaza Vieja, just a few minutes away, was where the public shopped. Plaza de la Catedral is anchored by the magnificent Catedral de la Habana. Plaza de Armas, the oldest square, was begun in the 1520s, shortly after the founding of Havana. Next year is the 400th anniversary of the founding of Havana. 

Many buildings are beautifully restored. Architecture is eclectic, from baroque to Art deco, often standing shoulder to shoulder. Colors are vibrant. The squares are filled with people.

Lunch at La Moneda Cubana is another fine meal embellished with mojitos, fueled by Cuban rum. 

We split into groups after lunch. One visit brings us to an entrepreneur who restores American cars dating back to the mid-20th century. Ingenuity is the centerpiece of the operation.

Ernest Hemmingway is the centerpiece of the visit for the rest of us. A visit to Hemmingway’s home and haunts helps us to understand this complex literary genius.

Music is central to life in Cuba. We hear it on the streets and at lunch and dinner. Many of us enjoy an evening visit to a small club to hear a well-known group. Others meet with an architect to delve more deeply into Havana’s buildings and how they reflect culture and life in this lively city.

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About the Author

Jeff Phillippe

Expedition Leader

Jeff was raised in upstate New York and completed his B.A. in geography at Middlebury College in Vermont.  He attained his master’s degree in water resource science at Oregon State University where his research focused on glacier hydrology in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. He spent most of his 20's teaching Earth sciences and geography at the secondary and university level, while taking his summers off to lead wilderness and climbing expeditions throughout the continental U.S., Alaska, and Canada.

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