Robaina's plantation

Monday 31 August 2015

Art Pub Bar Restaurant (Havana)

                 The landscape of Havana is changing rapidly and nowhere is that more evident than in the restaurant industry. So many places are opening up now that the laws have changed that it's almost impossible to keep up, certainly so if you don't live there. On one of my walking trips through Old Havana I came across this spot and stopped in for a bottle of water. The sign and the name is what lured me in to take a look. What I found was a nicely designed restaurant-bar that doubles as a gallery. In this case photographs were on display adorned with camera props that made me think that photos are the usual exhibit here. There's a quaint little courtyard patio in the back set up with tables and chairs. They advertise music, tapas, meals etc.... but I forgot to take pictures of the menu, or maybe I opted not to because I only stepped in to take pictures (I took a copy from their website). I don't know if I would have a meal here but tapas are not out of the question, however, it's a little ways out of the main fray. It's located on Calle Brasil between Aguacate and Compostela, far from the usual tourist traffic. I'll be curious to see if they're still open when I go back this fall. I wish them the best of luck, it's a cool looking spot.

Art Pub
Calle Brasil no.306
e/ Aguacate y Compostela
La Habana Vieja
tel. (7) 861 5014
open 12pm-12am

Lonja del Comercio (Chamber of Commerce) Havana

                   The building sits majestically at one end of the Plaza San Francisco and was once used as the stock exchange. Today it's an office building housing local and foreign companies, news agencies...the BBC & AP, as well as the Habana Radio Station, the Brazilian Embassy and foreign companies with joint ventures in Cuba. I don't think anyone is allowed to go up top but this is Cuba and almost everything is up for negotiation, at least anything this trivial. You can definitely walk around the atrium, especially since that's where you'll find the restrooms for the café-restaurant El Mecurio on the ground floor. I've had a light meal here in the past and remember it being typical of the state-run establishments...the patio has a great view of the Plaza. The name comes from the bronze statue of Mercury, the Greek god of trade, that sits atop the building. What a fitting ornament adorning the place where commodities were once traded. The views from the roof are stunning and I'm glad I finally decided to ask if I could go up.
                   Construction on the building began in 1907 and was opened in March of 1909. The building originally had 5 floors, an additional floor was added later. It acted as the stock exchange up until 1959 when the revolution took over after which it was used as offices. The building suffered from neglect, as with many others in Havana, until renovations beginning in March 1995. It reopened on July 31, 1996, preserving much of the original. Some structural changes had to be made to bring the building up to speed with technological upgrades to services such as water, electrical and fire prevention...  There isn't much more I could find on the internet, I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Saturday 29 August 2015

Casa de Don Luis Chacón (Museo de Arte Colonial) Havana

              Anyone traveling to Havana with the purpose of taking in a tour of the old city must visit one of it's most beautiful squares, Plaza de La Catedral. The obvious reason of course is the Catedral itself and the not so obvious is the Bodeguita del Medio (where the mojito was invented) just 50 meters outside the Plaza. But there's a lot more going on if one cares to explore. One of the places to check out is directly across from the church on the opposite side of the square. Here sits the Casa de Don Luis Chacon or what it's known as today, Museo de Arte Colonial. This majestic structure was built as a residence in 1720 by the 'then' three-time Military Governor of Cuba, Don Luis Chacon, who had married off his daughter to the first count of Casa Bayona. The house is typical of the architecture of the time with two floors and a central courtyard.
              Since then it has gone through some transformations, all of which I can't find on the internet. It's safe to say that in 1963 the National Commission for Museums and Monuments rescued it from further changes and by 1969 it was inaugurated the Museum of Colonial Art. Today it houses a permanent exhibition showing furniture, decorative arts, architectural elements, latches and blacksmith elements, windows, doors, stained glass windows and much more. It also has a room for temporary exhibits on the ground floor where on the time of my last visit they were showing some works for the Bienal of Havana. In some rooms they've even recreated a setting (a sitting room, a bedroom) so tourists can imagine what life would have been like centuries ago in Havana. The furniture is from the 17th-19th centuries and may not have necessarily been in this particular house but was from somewhere in the city at some time.
               There isn't a heck of a lot of information on this house but if you make your way to this Plaza it's worth a visit. There is no cost to enter and it shouldn't take too long to walk through and take a few pictures....about 15-30 minutes depending on the individual.

Calle San Ignacio No. 61
e/ Empedrado y O’Reilly
Plaza de la Catedral, Habana Vieja
Phone: 862 6440/862 6468