Robaina's plantation

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Hotel Inglaterra (Havana)

                      This historic hotel occupies a prime location in the touristy part of Old Havana. It faces Parque Central (Central Park), next to the 'Gran Teatro de La Habana' and steps away from the 'Capitolio' (Capital Building). Centrally located, it's a perfect spot to start your walking tour of the old city.
                      Founded on December 23, 1875, makes it the oldest hotel in Havana. It's been said that when Old Havana was still surrounded by it's walls, in 1844, a structure was built on the outside housing the "Café y Salones de Escauriza" which was to become the Hotel Inglaterra years later. The Café was bought by Don Joaquín Payret in 1863 who changed the name to "El Louvre". The space was sold again, this time to Manuel López and Urban González who opened the hotel in 1875 with only 2 1886 another floor was added. The biggest changes came in 1901 when electricity, telephones and a bathroom in each room were added as well as the telegraph which put it in contact with the rest of the world. The last floor (4th) was added in 1914 giving it the 83 rooms that it has today. It was a very popular hotel during the 19th century and after the last revolution in Cuba it becomes the property of the government. It wasn't until 1989 that it gets another renovation maintaining the architectural style having only 8 years before become a National Monument.
                     The sidewalk cafe still exists but it's now part of the hotel. It's one of my favourite places to have a coffee, smoke a cigar while watching people walk by as I'm listening to a live band playing traditional Cuban music. I've had a sandwich here on several occasions and it's never disappointed me, I can't speak for the restaurants inside. The rooftop patio is another spot that's optimal for having a drink and to gaze at the city center from a bird's eye view. I stayed here years ago but found my regular room to be quite small. I don't have any pictures of the room but have posted pictures of the ground floor and rooftop patio.
                      Important Guests of the Past include the General Major Antonio Maceo, José Martí & Anna Pavlova  (Russian prima ballerina) among others.

Hotel Inglaterra
Paseo del Prado, No. 416 esq. San Rafael

Sidewalk Cafe

Rooftop Patio

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Avenida Máximo Gómez (Calzada del Monte) Havana

                    The name of the street Monte (Calzada del Monte) gets it's name from the mountains that surrounded the primitive village many years ago. On June 10, 1902, the Havana City Council changed the name of street to Avenida Máximo Gómez. However, the new name never caught on and Habaneros continue to call it by it's old name, Monte. It's an important artery that connects several municipalities....Centro Habana, Cerro, Habana Vieja and Plaza de la Revolución. It has been and continues to be one of the busiest streets in the center of Havana, perhaps the busiest for its commercial activity and access to many places. It extends from Avenida Belgica (known as Calle Egido at this point) to the street Calzada de Infanta at the corner of Esquina de Tejas , where it continues on as the street Calzada del Cerro. It quickly became a prefered commercial route during Cuba's Republican years in the first half of the last century. It didn't reach the splendor of Calles Galiano, San Rafael or Neptuno but it was a favourite shopping spot for citizens with lower economic resources.
                  The Calle Monte of today is a far cry from it's commercial peak of years ago. Many of the establishments from the last century have been converted into homes and underserved shops without air-conditioning or fans. All that's left of some of those shops is the sidewalk out front with their name imbedded in the cement....years of walking over it has yet to wear it out. The sidewalks are broken, the buildings are dirty and most in disrepair but there always seems to be a lot of people walking along this area of the city.

Some Famous Events of The Past....

                 On this avenue, Máximo Gómez, the General in Chief of the Liberating Army, made his triumphant entry into the city at the head of the troops, on February 24, 1899.
                 The first car accident in Cuba occurred on this street at the corner of Los Angeles in 1906. The car of President Tomas Estrada Palma, driven by Mr. Luis Marx ran over a passerby. This first fatal victim of motoring in Cuba was the trade clerk Juanito Fernández, who died days later.
                 The crime most remembered in the country happened in 1939 at #969 Monte. A young Celia Margarita Mena was killed and then dismembered. Her body was cut into pieces and hidden in different parts of the capital. Mr. René Hidalgo Ramos was arrested for the crime and sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Some Addresses of note......

#504 of Calle Egido, occupying the entire block of Monte, is the former palace of the Counts of Casa Moré, its first owners, and afterwards the Marquises of Villalba, a solid construction of 1872, considered one of the most majestic Havana palaces. Today it's known as the Palacio de la Marquesa de Villalba. At one time was the Murias Palacio Villalba Cigar Factory.

At the corner of Maximo Gomez & Agramonte was La Escepcion Cigar Factory.

#45 Maximo Gomez you'll find the ruins of the Hotel Isla de Cuba, built in 1888. It's across from the Plaza de la Fraternidad. On my last visit the building was closed off.

#301 Maximo Gomez had what the Cubans called the 10 cent store (what we called a five & dime) which was one of several Woolworth Stores that existed at the time in called Monte Varieties

#259 Maximo Gomez was the department store La Nueva Isla

Maximo Gomez at one time was full of shops....some stores that existed once were; La Sortija, Casa Fraga, El Cadete, Isla de Cuba (which used to be the Isla de Cuba luxury hotel), La Isla, La Nueva Isla, El Gallo, the cutlery store La Sin Rival and many furniture stores including, La Casa Mimbre, La Defensa & the famous Casa de los Tres Quilos.   

The pictures below start from Calzada de Infanta and end at Calle Egido.

Palacio de la Marquesa de Villalba