Robaina's plantation

Monday 10 August 2015

Hotel Raquel (Habana Vieja) Havana

                   I've probably walked by this building dozens of times without entering, without even giving it a second look. However, on this day I had plenty of time and my eyes wandered in it's direction. How could I have missed this building on all the other occasions that I passed by. The lobby itself should have lured me in for some pictures. In my defense, the structure's neighbourhood isn't the prettiest in Old Havana but Plaza Vieja is just down the street and Plaza de La Catedral isn't that far either. Hotel Raquel is considered a luxury boutique hotel and is decorated in a Jewish motif, something that's hard to miss. All of the 25 rooms have been given a Hebrew name as well as a number and all artwork hanging on the walls or sitting on pedestals depict either Hebrew religious personalities or scenes. When I asked someone working there what the deal was, he told me that the hotel's benefactors for the restoration were a Jewish organization. The hotel is actually located in the Jewish quarter of Old Havana just six blocks from the oldest Synagogue in Cuba.
                  The Hotel was originally built between 1905-08 but not as a hotel. It changed many hands through the years after various companies went bankrupt, even being the offices of the National Institute of Fishing up to 1968 and used for the manufacturing of tobacco afterwards. As with many of the buildings in Havana this building had fallen into disrepair and by the 1990's Habaguanex began the restoration process with the objective of turning it into a hotel that finally opened it's doors to the public in April 2003. The lobby is spectacular, a must see, topped with a beautiful stained glass roof that can be seen from here. The ride up the open wrought iron elevator is an experience in itself with a view of each floor while you slowly pass it on your way up to the roof. It was hot that day so I couldn't stay on the roof too long, just long enough to take a few pictures. It's set up as nice romantic getaway with benches and plants thoughtfully scattered around. The views are okay but not really photo worthy, too many ugly obstacles in the way of anything worth shooting. I took the stairs down to the lobby stopping at all the floors to take pictures, that's when I noticed the Hebrew theme. The lobby itself has a beautiful bar and restaurant as well as a couple of stores. It was worth a visit, I tipped the doorman who took me to the top floor. If you're into the architecture check it out, I only spent 15-20 minutes there and it's close to a couple of places (Plaza Catedral, Plaza Vieja) that you're likely to visit anyway.
                   Let's not forget the fact that it's a hotel and that you might want to stay there, it's in an excellent location. I haven't spent the night here so I can't comment personally but coincidentally I bumped into a couple from Belgium that were staying here and they said they were enjoying their stay and would come back. The prices aren't bad considering it's a Havana hotel, a Standard Room... from CA$90 and (4) Junior Suite Rooms... from CA$151. These prices were taken from a site on the internet but I would look around. Keep in mind that there will be an increase of about 15% coming up this new season. It seems everyone wants to go to Cuba now.

Hotel Raquel
Calle Amargura, No. 103 esq/ San Ignacio,
Havana Vieja, Havana
tel. (537) 860 8280

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