Robaina's plantation

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Avenida del Puerto (Havana)

                       Since Havana's founding in circa 1514-1519 by Conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, it's bay and afterwards, harborfront, has gone through significant changes. Once one of the most important harbors on this side of the world, it's decline has been noticably visible to those who live and visit here.
                       It has outgrown it's commercial capability and usefulness and with tourism now being a major source of income for the city, an alternative was found that would more than serve the harbor's original needs thus giving way to a major facelift of an area that was in neglect. What was once the reason for it's creation, all commercial & industrial activity has been moved to a new location 45 km west of Old Havana in Mariel in what's known as the 'Mariel Special (Economic) Development Zone'. Mariel is a deep-water port that will be able to accommodate the world's largest cargo ships which the Havana Bay wasn't capable of handling due to it's shallower waters.
                     A lot has changed since my first visit to Havana, most of which has taken part within Old Havana itself. Although the rennovations within the city haven't dissipated, the last few years has seen an increase in activity along the Avenida del Puerto. One of the first noticable changes was the moving of the arts and crafts marketplace from it's outdoor location at Calle Tacon near the Catedral to the Antiguos Almacenes de Deposito San Jose building (now a Cultural Center) and a few years later the conversion of the Antiguo Almacen de la Madera y El Tabaco (next door) into a modern day brewery using Austrian technology (producing 10 hectoliters of beer per day) and restaurant. Since the opening of the brewery-restaurant I've been taking notice and have read about the changes coming to this part of the city. It's prompted me to take a closer look on my current visits to the city. I've never considered this part of Havana to be of much interest and I still don't see many tourist along this strip but after recent trips I've changed my mind. This part of the city merits an afternoon's exploration.
                     Starting from the 'Plaza San Francisco', behind the church is where I would begin our walk, going towards and ending at the 'Estación Central de Ferrocarriles', the Central Train Station that's currently under renovations.

1. Jardin Madre Teresa de Calcuta

Walking away from the Plaza San Francisco, in the back of the convent of the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco de Asís, is a beautiful garden. Within this garden sits a sculpture dedicated to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Church of San Nicolás belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church and small tombs containing ashes of important cultural personalities both Cuban and foreign. It's about time I visited this place after walking past it dozens of to Calle Churruca.

2. Havana Club Rum Museum

Once the colonial residence of Count Mortera, this building is now home to the Havana Club Rum Museum. Constructed between 1772-1780, it has been declared a Cultural Patrimony of Havana by UNESCO in 1982. The bar is always open to the public, no cover charge, just pay for your drinks. Otherwise, for a fee, tours are given in several languages at different times of the day. The place has been set up like a Rum Factory showing all the steps involved in the manufacturing of the alcohol. At one time, they said that a small amount of Havana Club was actually produced in this facility. After the tour you're taken to the bar for a sample of Havana Club's finest.
Avenida del Puerto #262, esq. Sol

3. Dos Hermanos Bar & Restaurant

This Bar-Restaurant, considered one of the most famous in Havana, was construsted by the González brothers from Spain in 1894. Frequented in it's heyday by the likes of: Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway, Marlon Brando & Errol Flynn, it now caters mainly to regular tourists. I don't know about the restaurant part but it's certainly one of those places with an Old Havana feel that warrants a stop for a Mojito.
Avenida del Puerto #305, esquina Sol (+53)7861 - 3514 open 10am-midnight daily.

4. Catedral Ortodoxa Rusa de San Nicolás de Mira

Every time I've come here I've never found this Greek orthodox church open. The only one of it's kind in Cuba, it was consecrated by Bartholomew I Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop of Contantinople on January 25, 2004, with Raul Castro and other personalities in attendence. The outside is beautiful and different from all other churches I've seen in Cuba. I can't wait to find it open one day....maybe you'll be luckier.
Calle Churruca esq. Avenida del Puerto

5. Hotel  Armadores de Santander

I've only walked by a couple times and this past time I wanted to try to get a drink on what I thought this hotel might have, a rooftop patio. Overlooking Havana bay, it would make for a wonderful view. They did but unfortunately it was under rennovations...better luck next time. This 32 room hotel is one of the oldest in the city having been built in 1897. Was closed for some time but re-opened it's doors in 2002 after extensive rennovations.
Calle Luz #4, Esq Avenida del Puerto

6. Parque Aracelio Iglesias

This parquette that sits in front of the Hotel  Armadores de Santander was once the site of the now nonexisting Hotel Mascotte. It was later renamed Hotel Luz in honor of the original owners of the mansion or original building. In the mid-nineteenth century the mansion was acquired by new owners who decided to turn it into a hotel. It functioned as a hotel until shortly after 1959 when due to lack of maintenance it deteriorated and collapsed. It remained an empty lot until finally this park was built on the site. In the middle of the park is a statue of Archbishop Makarios.

7. Antiguo Almacen de la Madera y El Tabaco 

The original structure, which was a Tobacco and Lumber Warehouse, was built in 1906, the construction of the docks close by were approved in 1860. The revitalization of the Avenida del Puerto and beyond included this building. The original owners of the warehouse were The Havana Central Railroad Company which used it as a steel warehouse. It had it's own railway lines connected to it and modern cranes, very advanced for it's time. In 2014, the old warehouse was restored by the Office of the Historian of Havana and converted into a small brewery and a restaurant which opened it's doors to the public March 14, 2014 with a capacity for 400 people. The food is not as good as it used to be when it first opened but still worth a visit after your eventful, the beer is very good. Right next door to the the Almacenes San Jose (the tourist market) and good spot to energize before that next stop.
Ave del Puerto y San Pedro, tel. (7)8647780

8. Antiguos Almacenes de Deposito San Jose 

Once located in an open air space behind the Plaza de La a little out of the way of the Old Havana environs. However, the main Havana souvenir market, now being in an enclosed area, makes it an ideal place for shopping for your friends and family back home. Rain or shine, you'll find that perfect gift under this roof and a few things you may not have imagined. The Iglesia de San Francisco de Paula is across the street.
Ave del Puerto y Calle Cuba 

9. Iglesia de San Francisco de Paula

This is one of the most important monuments in Cuba both for it's Artistic & Architectural values. Constructed in 1668 to act as the chapel for the 'Hospital de San Francisco de Paula' that was once located next the church. In 1940 the hospital was demolished but the church was left standing. It ceased to be used as a church after 1955. By 1990 it was taken over by squatters using it as a residence and deteriorating it further. Shortly after that the Cuban Government and the Office of the Historian of the City of Havana took over the building and restored it to it's present state by October 2000. Today the site is used as a concert hall for groups playing Classical Music and as an Exhibition Hall for Contemporary Plastic Art and Religious Themes by Cuban Artists. 
Avenida del Puerto e/ S.Ignacio y Leonor Perez (Paula)

10. Parque de los Agrimensores

I have driven by here so many times that I've lost count, I finally decided to walk by and take a few pictures. This little parquette is a train lover's dream as it's filled with several retired locomotives dating back from the late 1800's onward. Across the street from the Estacion Central de Ferrocarril de La Habana.
Avenida Egido at Calle Arsenal

11. Estación Central de Ferrocarriles

Under renovations now for the last couple of years....until who knows when. Built in 1912, it's a far cry from what we are used to in North America but it's exterior architecture, once the scaffolds are removed, is quite beautiful. Worth taking a peek inside since you've made it all the way here from the start of this walking tour....that is, providing the repairs are done.

                 There you have it, a morning and afternoon walk through a part of Havana that is often neglected. It contains a variety of sites of interest as well as a couple spots where you can have a pint and/or a bite to eat. It has a long way to go before it's filled with throngs of tourists, take advantage sooner rather than later.

Edificio de la Aduana

Jardin Madre Teresa de Calcuta

Dos Hermanos Bar & Restaurant

Catedral Ortodoxa Rusa de San Nicolás de Mira 

Havana Club Rum Museum

Hotel  Armadores de Santander

Parque Aracelio Iglesias 

Michaíl Christodulu Muskos (1913- 1977)

Escuela Nacional de Formación Aduanera (ENFA)

Agustín Lara (1897 - 1970)

Pedro Vargas (1906 - 1989)

Iglesia de San Francisco de Paula

Antiguo Almacen de la Madera y El Tabaco 

Antiguos Almacenes de Deposito San Jose 

Parque de los Agrimensores

Estación Central de Ferrocarriles

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