Wednesday February 20th began, as per usual, at 7 in the morning.
We got woken up by a clear but friendly voice declaring the time and weather as is customary aboard T/S Gunilla. After breakfast, we hurried up on deck in order to catch the taxi boat that was to transport us to land. Standing there in our navy blue polo shirts with the Gunilla logo embroided on one side of our chests and our name on the other, we soon realized that we were in for a long wait – like every morning thus far in Havana.
After a while the boat came, and after taking three laps in order to fit everyone in the little blue boat with a capacity of only 18 passengers we were all at quay, and subsequently we met our guides Arturo and Beatriz. Split up into two groups, we were taken on a walking tour around Havana’s old city visiting Plaza San Francisco, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de Armas and Plaza de Catedral. During this tour, Beatriz who guided my group around told us interesting stories concerning and the historical background of every square we went to.
After a few hours, we were all quite tired after walking around in the scorching sun. We were taken to a restaurant we had been promised would be a local place. Naturally we were looking forward to seeing what back alley situated, (family run?), creative and unique establishment we would be taken to. Would we be served creole food from a hundreds of years old recipe right from the pot in someone’s living room or eating chicken cooked by someone who had slaughtered the animal themselves? We soon found out that we would be not – our lunch place was to be La Bodeguita del Medio, which of course is the gem that is so well hidden that almost no one has been there before. Well, no one other than Hemingway (it was his favorite mojito place), Rihanna and Mohammad Ali. Practically no one.
But let’s not rant more than necessary – the food was the classic Cuban foods beans with rice, grilled chicken, pulled pork (there called ropa vieja, translated as “old clothes”), fried plantains and a salad along with an alcohol-free mojito. It was very good, and after finishing our lunch, we headed towards Plaza de la Revolucion and José Martí Memorial. In the memorial was an interesting exhibition on Martí, Cuba’s national hero who led an independence war against Spain in the late 19th century and after taking the elevator to the top which offered a wonderful view of Havana from above we took the obligatory pictures of Che Guevara’s gigantic picture on the façade of the Ministry of Interior.
From there we went back to the terminal where the taxi boat to Gunilla lay, but seeing as I didn’t have watch duty that day, I and a few others instead decided to go toward Havana’s Chinatown. We strolled around for a while, got some Chinese food for dinner and strolled further away, towards Vedado which is one of Havana’s three central municipalities. After walking around for two or so hours and then sitting down at a café for a cup of coffee we walked the Malecón home, joyous and thankful for the opportunity to be in Havana, one of the most wonderful cities I’ve ever been to.