Robaina's plantation

Wednesday 31 May 2017

Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales (Havana)

                  The building, located on the eastern side of the Plaza de Armas, is the former residence of the Governor's of Havana. It now houses the 'Museum of the City of Havana'. It was designed by architect & engineer Antonio Fernandez de Trebejos and Zaldivar, along with the Havana architect Pedro Medina. The construction of the building began in 1776 on the site where a heavily damaged Parroquial Mayor church was to be demolished, it was complete in 1792. Most of the construction material such as; brick, marble and wrought-iron was imported from; Malaga, Genoa & Bilboa, to ensure good quality. The building originally housed the governor's residence, a prison (closed in 1834), as well as being used as the meeting place for the city council. The last of the Colonial governors left the palace in 1898, after Cuban Independence. US military governors used the building between 1899 to 1902 and was the presidential palace of the Cuban Republic from 1902 until 1920. In 1968, after once again becoming the offices of the city council for some time, the palace became the City Museum.
              This thick walled, square building that has been built in the Cuban Baroque style has not been changed much since it's construction. The front of the building has an arcade with arches and local limestone has been used for the facade which you can see from all the fossils embedded into the stone. The small windows are all fronted by balconies on the facade as well as on the floor above with the much larger windows. But the most beautiful feature in my opinion is the huge open courtyard, commonplace for houses of this period. The rooms are filled with many interesting artifacts, there's even a 19th-century fire engine manufactured in London on display on the ground floor right next to several carriages of the period. The top floor contains the rooms of the governor's residence which have been preserved with much of the original furniture and decoration. Also upstairs, the Hall of Heroic Cuba which contains many objects and paintings from the different wars of independence as well as many of the flags important at that time. The building is also home to the 'Office of the City Historian' which is headed by Eusebio Leal and is responsible for the renovation work in Old Havana. The statue in the middle of the courtyard is that of Cristóbal Colón and was added in 1862, it was brought from Italy.
            There is much more to this building than meets the eye. I read that there are 40 different rooms containing memories of an extinct era and I have to say if there weren't 40, it was pretty close, it's certainly a long list. In my opinion the largest and most complete of all the city's museums. This spot is definitely worth a visit but go when you have some time to spare because there's way too much to see....the Photos don't do the place justice. Admission is just a couple of dollars.

Palacio de Los Capitanes Generales
Calle Tacon No. 1 e / Obispo and O 'Reilly
Habana Vieja

Tuesday - Sunday 9:00am - 5:30pm

Hall of mirrors

Polychrome wood sculpture 'Senor de la Humanida' 18th century

Cuban Hero's Room

1st Hall of Statues

Manzana de Gomez mall (Havana) home of the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski

                        According to Wikipedia: Manzana de Gómez (Gómez Block), a 20th-century building in Havana, was the first shopping mall in Cuba. It is 5 stories tall. It was built by José Gómez-Mena Vila from 1894 to 1917. The landmark structure was the first European-style shopping arcade in Cuba. The Manzana de Gómez, was the first entire city block built in Cuba in the beginning of the 20th century completely for commercial use with two inner diagonal streets that cross the building in all directions integrating the pedestrian circulation with the outer fabric. It is bounded by Neptuno, San Rafael, Zulueta and Monserrate streets.
                       As written on the Hotel's website :
Originally built between 1894 and 1917 as the first European style shopping arcade in Cuba, Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana is situated in the heart of the old Havana with a direct view of the Capitol and the Great Theatre of Havana and amidst UNESCO World Heritage sites. The famous Castillo del Morro is accessible within a 10 minute drive. Experience the first true luxury hotel in Cuba and indulge yourself while staying in one of our 246 large rooms or suites with extra high ceilings and French windows opening out to the old city. Experience a variety of restaurants and bars, which also includes a one of a kind cigar lounge and a roof top Panoramic Restaurant and Bar with spectacular views over the old city. Relax in our spa, fitness center and rooftop pool.

For reservations and inquiries, please contact us at

                        It shouldn't be a question of whether or not the general populous can afford what the shops are selling, it's part of the tourist package. I wasn't aware that the mall would have a Cigar Shop and since I needed a cigar for dinner I decided to buy something to smoke. There's no denying that it's a beautiful space which was being enjoyed by numerous smokers (probably because you can't smoke in the hotel) but the pricing.... I bought something small, a Monte #4 cost me more than 10cuc. For those of you who travel often to Cuba, you know that's double what this cigar should cost. If that's any indication of the markup on the other products being sold at this mall, I wonder if can survive. There's no denying that they've done a wonderful job on restoring this space, I'm definitely going to have a meal on their rooftop patio one day soon.

Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski
Calle San Rafael e/ Monserrate and Zulueta,
Habana Viejaa
+53 786 99100

May 2017

2005 (left) 

2014 while under renovations 

Tuesday 30 May 2017

Al Carbon (Restaurant) Havana ...a return visit

                   I understand that I'm posting these comments not long after a current one talking about the same place. The reason is that I returned to have a complete meal here just two months afterwards and enjoyed it so much I had to let you know sooner rather than later. If you recall I was on a mission to cram as many eateries into a short period of time and realize now that Al Carbon was much better than I had thought. A friend suggested I try the Suckling Pig next time, claiming it was the best thing on the menu. If you're health conscious I suggest you don't ask how it's cooked. They do, what amounts to deep-frying the piece of meat before roasting it over charcoal. I know it's a heart attack on a plate, especially the crispy skin, but how often do you eat something like this. I dove into it and it was absolutely delectable with my side of arroz congri which itself had noticeable chunks of pork. This dish is definitely not for the weak of heart. As a starter I had something equally as heavy, Blue Cheese and Chorizo Fondue, basically a Blue Cheese Soup with pieces of roasted Portuguese sausage thrown in. It wasn't what I expected but in a way it simplified things. The cheese was a little more liquidy than what I would expect from a fondue but it made it less complicated to eat. The piece of toasted baguette that came with the appetizer soaked up the liquid nicely. My wife on the other-hand had the Cream of Pumpkin Soup without the Blue Cheese but they omitted the Serrano Ham as well...she opted not to send it back as she was perfectly satisfied saying it was the best she'd ever had. As for her main course, she went with an old school dish, Arroz con Pollo a la Chorrera (Yellow Rice with Chicken). Yellow rice with chicken might sound a little mundane to us foreigners but myself coming from a background that puts a great deal of emphasis on their culinary culture, 'Arroz con Pollo a la Chorrera' is a dish that would or would have been cooked by one's mother or grandmother, in this case during better times. The dish was much more than it's content and she wasn't overwhelmed with it but enjoyed both the presentation and flavour....nothing can beat your mothers cooking. We had our dessert somewhere else. I know this became one of my wife's favorite places, since she asked to come back a couple of days later. The wine list is scattered and prices can be a little staggering in some cases or overpriced in others. There weren't many wines that were reasonable....cheapest was $34 and 4 in total, under $40, out of 17 reds, look closely at the wine list I posted. The wine we had was $47cuc and 7.30 Euros in Spain, that's a huge markup. What made everything better was the best service we've had anywhere in Cuba by our server Jennifer, she was spot on and excelled beyond her young age. Needless to say, this has become one of our go-to spots. We were going to try their original restaurant which is located on the upper level, 'Ivan Chef Justo', but it was closed for renovations.

Al Carbon
Calle Aguacate No. 9 Esq./ Chacon
Habana Vieja, La Habana
53 7863 9697


Blue Cheese Chorizo Fondue 

Pumpkin Soup

Arroz con Pollo a la Chorrera (Yellow Rice with Chicken)

Suckling Pig

Arroz Congi