Robaina's plantation

Saturday 17 August 2019

The Lost Art of Embedded Sidewalk Signage (Havana)

                     If you've gotten this far (actually reading the post) some of you might be wondering what I'm talking about. Let me start by saying that a few years ago an artist entered the Havana Bienal with a series of pictures similar to the ones I've posted....and I wondered the same thing. I now understand, it is an Art Form, one hardly used today but still evident along Havana streets. There was a time when shops or department stores embedded their names into the sidewalks in front their buildings and it's still there for you see when you walk along the streets of Havana. The actual building may not be there or at least the original store but the sidewalk has survived decades of people marching over them and the signs may be the only thing remaining. Some are simple scrip with only the name of the place being displayed while others are a quasi work of art. All of these signs were found within the downtown core, Habana Vieja & Centro Habana, mostly along Galiano, Obispo and Monte. Maybe the next time you take a trip to Havana you might look down as well as up.

Obispo Street

The Hotel Sevilla opened on March 22, 1908 and is still operating today

The Komfort Mattress store on longer the same store

Hotel Bristol at the corner of San Rafael and Amistad. Once a luxurious hotel, it's decline came after the openings of Hotels Riviera, Capri and The Habana Libre in the mid 50's. Today it's used as public housing. 

Woolworths at the corner of Galiano and San Rafael. Cubans referred to it as the Ten Cent store is now operating under another name and nowhere near resembling anything of it's past

Fin de Siglo department store at the corner of Galiano and San Rafael. It was one of the most important commercial establishments in Cuba before 1959. It operates under the same name but only a shadow of  what it once was

Laboratorios Vieta - Plasencia SA (Calle Reina #310) was the fourth largest laboratory in Cuba before 1959

Thursday 15 August 2019

Calle Neptuno (Havana)

                  Anyone who's visited Havana has either walked on or by Calle Neptuno. It runs from the Northwest corner of Parque Central, up to the Havana University. I couldn't find any history about this street on the internet but it's a major artery that's mapped in 3 districts of the city, beginning in Old Havana, running though Centro Habana and ending up in Plaza de La Revolucion (the district). It's lined with shops, restaurants and a multitude of residences. It's in varying degrees of disrepair, from dilapidated up to the well preserved. Many buildings could use a paint job, some are under repair and a few are actually closed completely. You'll find low rise and high rise and all sorts of different kinds of businesses, some of which might be surprising and refreshing....and many Casa Particulares (local room rentals). This is a street that contains one of the taxi routes for the Almendrones (Classic Car local transportation). Just wait for them to pass by and stick out a finger to flag it down to take you to the other part of the city (sometimes it's easier said than done). It's only a few kilometers long, I walked the length of it in about an hour. It's a great way to get a better idea of what the city is really like and how the locals live, away from all the touristic stuff. The architecture is beautiful, even if it's a little dirty and it's completely safe, at least during daylight hours. If you're spending more than just a couple of days in the city, I recommend taking a walk along Calle Neptuno, it's worth your while. The pictures below only depict a small part of what you'll find. The pictures start at one end, Prado, but after that they're in no particular order.

Prado y Neptuno

Just Leaving Prado

Almedrones (local taxis on their route)