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The inescapable ones in Havana

As the Havanais say, «Cuba es Habana, y demás are peaceful.» (Cuba is Havana, the rest is landscape)… Founded in 1519 on the north-west coast of Cuba, the old town of Havana has remained faithful to its very rich architectural past. Retracted and proud, crossing its narrow streets where sumptuous palpate palaces and decrepacked buildings look a bit like a fake dog, it's a bit wandering over time, all rhythmic by meeting with the old American máquinas of the 1950 s, lovingly astided and the newer Japanese cars. But we would almost forget that, as every capital in the 2 million inhabitants, bicycles, coco-taxis and roller boards have trouble getting a path in this overflowing urban mess.

Take a tour of Habana Vieja and confront its unique UNESCO heritage. Latin America envy its Baroque churches, palaces, squares and Art Deco buildings, decorum to this perpetual forbid where it will not be rare to cross a Havana smoker, cigar at the beak… But no one goes back to Havana without humbling the sea that borders the Malecón, stretching its kilometers across the Strait of Florida and having colors sublimated with the last rays of the sun. And when the sun slept, fiesta latina awakened to the end of the night.

It is one of the most beautiful squares in the city, especially for its orderly pavement in such a way as to form a cross in the center. The best preserved colonial ensemble in Latin America, it has the merit of having been made with human size offering wonderful moments of life with its musicians coming near the cathedral. A plaque recalls Pope John Paul II's visit to Havana in January 1998. The cathedral occupies the entire side of Empedrado Street between San Ignacio and Mercaderes.

Nicknamed cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception, she today bears the name of Catedral de San Cristobal de La Habana, even though for Cubans she is quite simply the catedral. A jewel of baroque architecture of the eighteenth century, with its 35 m of stone façade, it has been a source of inspiration for many Havanese palaces. A slight asymmetry of the lateral towers, the narrower left-hand side, will not fail to underscore the narrow side of the lanes. Inside, change of scenery, with a neoclassical touch following the changes ordered in 1814 by Bishop Espada. From that time, too, oil paintings, executed by the French Jean-Baptiste Vermay. The central altar and tabernacle were decorated with wood sculptures and gold ornaments by Italian Bianchini. A pure wonder!

The former presidential palace is now home to the Revolution Museum. Built between 1912 and 1919 by Belgian and Cuban architects, it will serve as the presidential residence to 21 heads of state until the revolution of 1959. Entirely built of white stone on four floors, the sober elegance of the exterior detests with the luxury of the interior where the marble, the columns and the large lounges, including the Salón de los Espejos (ice salon), replica the famous Versailles gallery, and the Salón Dorado (Doré Salon), are reminiscent of in yellow marble. Never before did Fidel Castro reside there, probably wanting to distinguish himself from all the presidents who preceded him and in 1974 he became the museum of recent Cuban history.

To reinforce documents, photos, objects, maps, models, etc., the museum offers on three levels a full and chronological view of the history of the Cuban struggles for their independence. Aboriginal rebellions against conquerors in nineteenth century wars of independence against the slavery of Spanish colonial power without omitting the exciting history of the labor movement in the 1920 s and 1930 s and the emergence of the revolutionary process, all of it. Then go outside the museum to discover the Granma memorial, where the yacht eponymous on which Fidel Castro and 81 fighters, including Che, have left Mexico to engage in the last revolutionary war.

This neoclassical and monumental jewel doesn't remind you of anything? The Capitolio Nacional (Capititole national) built between 1926 and 1929 on the grounds of the first railway station in Havana is an attempt to copy that of Washington. He even pays the luxury of being slightly larger than his homonym and after being the seat of the Chamber of Representatives and Senate before the revolution, he now houses the offices of the Department of Science, Technology and Environment, as well as a scientific library. Everything is big and spectacular in this architectural complex, from the granite staircase (39.5 meters wide over 27 meters long) leading to a monumental perron, where two bronze sculptures (about 7 meters high and a weight of 11 tons) to his dome (inspired by that of the Panthethead) From Paris), high of 91.73 meters…

Behind the powerful columns, the three doors of the main entrance, also bronze, present bas-reliefs illustrating episodes of Cuban history: four allegories from the pre-Columbian stage at the inauguration of the Capitol. But this gigantism also wins the interior of its walls with one of the largest statues in the 14-meter and heavy-water world of 30 tons. The interior is also worth a visit for who loves Versailles and its eclecticism with the Salón de los Pasos Perdidos (the lost room)…

The Palacio de los Capitanes Generales houses the present museum of the city. Built from 1776 to 1791, the palace became the official residence of the general masters appointed by the King of Spain, representing the first civil and military authority on the island. Then the prisoners are dishoused, and the cells, which are rearranged in workshops, are rented to artisans. Subsequently the palace has the function of hosting governments under American influence at the beginning of the twentieth century, acting as presidential palace and then allowing meetings of the city hall of Havana to hold there until 1967. The city museum opens its doors to testify to its baroque Spanish colonial heritage.

The facade overlooking the square counts nine arcades with ten columns, crowned by the Spanish echelon. Moldings, pickles and other decorative elements were made by many architects of the time for other Havanese palaces. For those curious to understand why the Pavement Street Pavements are wooden… The legend says that a captain-general unable to close the eye because of the clickings of the wheels of the wheels on the stone has seen one of his aide aides, replace them, all this with the aim of getting well!

Havana would not be what it is without its inevitable Malecón, a bitumen promenade separating the city from the sea for almost 7 kilometers. The day, you will cross the fishermen with the waves in the waves since the strike, while its memorable sunset will bring up the most celebrated of you, looking for the lung of the city where the heart of Cuban life beats! Sit down with your rum bottle and the meetings will come to you… A real bowl of air!

But the Malecón is mainly a strip of land along the neighborhoods of Havana West of the most popular to the most popular. It is along this avenue that there are many mythical monuments from Castillo San Salvador to the Castillo del Morro and its famous lighthouse. Not to mention some of the most prestigious hotels in Havana such as the Hotel Nacional, the Melia Cohiba and the Riviera. In winter, during the days of heavy rains, the waves crumble on the Malecón wall in a striking noise and Cubans practicing Santeria (Caribbean religion) see this as a sign of bad omen, the storm being the consequence of the anger of one of their gods.

A true open-air museum, Christophe Columbus cemetery is known for its architectural, artistic and historical value. Rather coincidental, this cemetery did not date from Christopher Columbus's time, and the browser, an alleged discoverer of America, was never buried there. Since 1872, the cemetery is almost exclusively reserved for intellectual, political and economic elites: of the Marquis de Bellavista, Count of Peñalver and family of Falla-Bonnet (related to the Spanish royal family) to generals of the wars of independence, martyrs of the revolution died before the victory of 1959, passing through the eight medical students shot by the Spanish in 1871, not to mention Cirilo Villaveri From (the author of Cecilia Valdés, the first Cuban novel), Doña Leonor Pérez (the mother of José Martí, the national hero of Cuba) and the great Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier.

What is striking is the richness of its monuments from the Roman entrance portal with tombs as varied as the various Cuban influences: rationalist, neo-Gothic, eclectic; Greek-Roman temples, neoclassical; medieval castles, miniature palaces; Crypts Art Deco, Renaissance… and even a pyramid! A pleasure for the eyes, despite the place…

It is unthinkable to leave Cuba without having vibrated at the rhythm of its nightlife to live the most beautiful noch Feliz. A few free Cuba with Cuban friends, and mañana será otro día, as we say here. Rather reserved for Hispanophones, although the language of music is universal, peñas are probably the most authentic form of expression of Cuban culture. If you like the convivial atmosphere of the evenings between friends where you meet to give free lessons to its creativity by singing in chorus with musical accompaniment: piano, wooden box or bottle hit with a spoon… Then melt! Of course, it is impossible not to talk about the El Floridita bar in the 1930 s and 1940 s, a pleiade of artists. At the forefront of them, Ernest Hemingway who spent his evenings, sipping quietly to the daïquiri house. A statue pays tribute to the writer. With its past, Floridita inevitably attracts many tourists, because it is an unfailing place in Havana.

But if you want an atmosphere at a crossroads between the Rio Carnival and the Moulin Rouge, then do not hesitate to push the door of one of the mythical cabarets of the capital, be it the Tropicana and its troop of 200 dancers in open air or the Cabaret Parisien, much more affordable but no less. spectacular.

Who has never had in a corner of his head the desire to grind a Cuban cigar? As regards tobacco, Cuba has no rival in the world. The country lives at the rate of its production of the planter and its harvest, guided tours in a factory, roulette (torcedor) of cigars and its wood board to the collector of rings and vistas (drawings adorning the boxes). All at gold prices…

Founded in 1845 by a Spanish immigrant to Havana, Shareás is one of the oldest havana factories in the capital, where production has never been interrupted. This is perhaps one of the unavoidable visits of Havana, because you will have the opportunity to observe the torcedores in the middle of the work. And you will discover in particular why successful novels have become names of famous cigar brands such as Montecristo or Romeo Y Julieta. Anecdotes are not what is missing, the Cuban revolutionary revolutionary, Ernesto Che Guevara forced by his doctors to smoke only one cigar a day would even have benefited from the complicity of the factory, creating especially for him a long-standard cigar of 75 cm!

Who said that when we came to Havana a few days ago, we abandoned any opportunity to enjoy the beauty of its coastline? Less than 20 kilometers from the large city is the first of seven Playas del Este spread over fifteen kilometers. Shiny sun, tiled water ¾ of transparent, white sand and fin, pines and coconut trees, all the reasons that drive the Habaneros to take place for weeks or during holidays. The nearest Bacuranao is located at the nearest 20-minute time, the most fashionable Tro 頂 pico, at ¾ hour drive. Between the two: Mé ╚ gano, Santa Maria del Mar (longest and most popular), Boca Ciega, Guanabo and Jibacoa. Excellent musical groups make their appearances in the middle of the afternoon extending the time for a moment in an atmosphere of paradise on earth. But be careful not to be taken away by its enthusiasm and to confuse cute little blue bags that you will find on the beach with jellyfish full of acid that could ruin your holidays.

A little half an hour by taxi or bus, you will not need more time to go from Havana to beaches from the Parque Central. A rest more than tasty…

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