Robaina's plantation

Tuesday 31 July 2018

Hotel Armadores de Santander (Havana)

                 This is a spot that I haven't seen past the entrance, I have never stayed in this hotel. The most I've been able to do here is have a cold beer on their patio downstairs. On my last visit I asked if I could go up to their rooftop terrace, which I had read has a wonderful view of Havana bay, but was told it was under renovations....maybe next time.
                 The Armadores de Santander Hotel can be found at the corner of Calle Luz and Avenida del Puerto. It occupies three buildings of different ages and styles which have gone under an intensive restoration process. The main building was built in 1897 by José Cabrero Mier who came from Santander, Spain. Before then, there were two houses on this property, one of them was occupied by another gentleman from Santander, Ramón Herrera y Sancibrián, a well-known shipowner. By 1884, Herrera's offices were located in one of theses buildings and remained there for several years after which his descendants took it over until the 1890's and bought the building next to it known as "La casa del conde de la Mortera". From the early 1900's, this property had become home to many different activities: Candy Store, Bar, Barber Shop and Cigar Shop to name a few. By the end of the 19th century it's known that an inn was operating in one of the buildings rented by José Moure García called The Four Nations. By the 1930's the upper floors had become a brothel and in the 40's and 50's a hostel.
                   As with many of these older buildings, the deterioration was quite evident during the later part of the 20th century and so by 1999 the Office of the City Historian took it over and began restorations that lasted until 2002. For the most part both the interior and exterior of the buildings were restored according to the original plans and reopened as a hotel.
                   It's worth a visit, especially if you can have a drink on their rooftop terrace with the view of the bay. But regardless, I love these older hotels, they have so much more character than the new ones being built.....and besides, it's along the path of the Avenida del Puerto.

Monday 16 July 2018

Restaurante Dos Hermanos (Havana)

                         As we continue our walk along the Avenida del Puerto we come across our first watering hole. I had driven by this place dozens of times, always noticing the sign across the building but I had never walked by it....until this past March. The sign says restaurant and at one time, decades ago, this place was also known for their food. Today it seems like the typical government run establishment serving up the usual tourist fare both from the kitchen and in the dining room. That's not to say that the place is terrible, on the contrary, the atmosphere in the dining room with the Old School Cuban band pumping out all the greatest hits from the Buena Vista Social Club, it's the perfect spot to chill and take in the local color while sipping on a mojito or cerveza.
                        The bar was originally opened in 1894 by the González brothers from Granada, Spain, who constructed the original building. During it's better times the bar was frequented by US sailors docked at port and later by many Americans eluding prohibition by looking for a place to consume alcohol close to home.....Havana, Cuba. Some famous guests from the old days include: Alejo Carpentier, Graham Greene, Marlon Brando, Errol Flynn and Ernest Hemingway. After the Cuban Revolution in 1959 the bar was closed for many years until 1994 when the Habaguanex Tourist Company of Cuba renovated this famous space.
                        They did a great job with the renovations and despite the sappy traditional atmosphere (in my opinion, because of it) this is a perfect spot to have a drink or two, some say they make a great mojito. It's not fair for me to criticize the quality of their food without having tried it, I only assume that it can't be that good. However, don't expect a gourmet meal coming out of this kitchen.

Calle Sol y Avenida del Puerto #304
Habana vieja
Phone:+53 7 861 3514
Hours: 12:00am - 12:00pm

Thursday 12 July 2018

Havana Club Rum Museum (Havana) 2018

                 This once colonial residence owned by Count Mortera is the building used as the home of the Havana Club Rum Museum. The building on Avenida del Puerto was constructed between 1772-1780 and 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 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. If you're lucky, you'll find a live band playing at the bar to help enhance your rum drinking experience. Tours were 7cuc last time I was there but the price may have gone up with the increase in tourism. It's a nice was to spend 30-60 minutes.

Museo del Ron
Ave. del Puerto #262, esq. a Sol, Habana Vieja
(+53) 7-862-4108 / 862-3832 / 861-8051
Open Mon-Thurs, 9:00am to 5:30pm
Fri-Sun, 9:00am to 4:30pm
Tours in Spanish, English, French, German and Italian

Saturday 7 July 2018

Catedral Ortodoxa de La Virgen de Kazan (Orthodox Cathedral of the Virgin of Kazan) Havana

                  This edifice has been elusive to me in that I have yet to find it open after trying to enter so many times. Nonetheless, the exterior offers an array of photographic opportunities but the interior remains a mystery to me.
                  Located on Avenida del Puerto, between Sol and Calle Santa Clara, it was built on a plot of land where in 2004 two buildings had collapsed due to deterioration. Construction began February 14 , 2006 and was consecrated on Sunday, October 19 of 2008 by the Metropolitan Kiril of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, current Patriarch of Moscow, with the presence of Raúl Castro Ruz. This was seen as a show of Russo-Cuban friendship. The Cathedral covers an area of 1,200 meters in front of the bay of Havana and occupies a total area of ​​200 square meters. The walls of the church are between 45cm and 80cm thick because the diameter of the arches requires supports able to resist their weight. It was designed by the Russian architect Rostislav Vorontsov and his Cuban colleague Jaime Rodríguez with engineer Pedro Rodríguez being the structural designer. Both Cubans traveled to Russia to become familiar with this type of construction. The Cathedral is of Byzantine style with six domes, two laminated in gold (the largest and the smallest) and four in bronze, which are crowned by four crosses of solid gold. Agreed with by the ecclesial Russian authorities, the project was executed with specialists and workers of the Office of the Historian of the City, led by Eusebio Leal Spengler. The building of this temple also benefited adjoining homes and restored shops in bad condition as well as favoring the dock, the streets and the sewage system within it's vicinity.
                 I will continue to try to get to see the inside of this church but as I said, if you can't get inside, the exterior offers great photographic opportunities.

Catedral Ortodoxa de La Virgen de Kazan
Avenida del Puerto e/ Sol y Santa Clara
Habana Vieja, Havana