Living in the Ruins of a Beautiful City – Havana

As I walked around Havana, Cuba, I kept thinking that these people are living in the ruins of a beautiful city. It was weird. It was like this was the remnants after a catastrophic event. I have been in many poverty stricken regions around the world, but this was different. Most of the other places consisted of poorly constructed simplistic buildings. These building were once beautiful.

I spent three days walking around Havana and taking one of those hop on hop off buses.

Beautiful Buildings in Ruins

There are hundreds of old buildings in Havana that you could tell were once magnificent structures. I was always imagining what the city must have looked like. I wasn’t the only one. While I was gazing at these buildings I actually bumped into another woman doing the same thing! We were both looking up and admiring what once was.

These are just some of the old buildings I am talking about.






havana-building 15








There was some building rehabilitation taking place in the city. It seemed to me these were mostly limited to government and cultural buildings.

Train Station






Park Central



New Mall just getting ready to open







Streets of Havana

Perhaps the most picturesque part of Havana are the narrow streets with old cars and the once beautiful buildings.








Hop On Hop Off


I took the Hop On Hop Off bus to get to places a ways away from the core of the historic city. The two places I wanted to see with the buss was Revolution Square and Christopher Columbus Cemetery.

Revolution Square was pretty cool to see.




On the other side of the huge street in the square was a statue of Marti and also the platform where Fidel Castro and others give there speeches. That looked cool and I headed over there.


As I walked up to the platform I was confronted by a military officer who sternly motioned me to leave. I guess that is why no one else was there ha ha


I have always been fascinated with cemeteries. I guess I like the feel of being close to people who once lived. Especially famous people. The other thing I find interesting is that for many, this is their legacy. For that reason elaborate graves are built. The Christopher Columbus cemetery is a good example of people wanting to leave a legacy to show how important they were.








There was one particular grave that everyone stopped at and many leaving flowers. At the time I had no idea why. So I had to google it.


Here is what a Baltimore Sun articles says about it:

Amid the ornate tombs and mausoleums of the Necropolis Cristobal Colon, Havana’s city of the dead, lies the grave of La Milagrosa, a turn-of-the-century woman who died in childbirth, was mourned by a heartbroken husband and is revered by Cubans as their unofficial saint.

La Milagrosa, Spanish for “The Miraculous One,” was in life Amelia Goyri de Adot, who died May 3, 1901, while giving birth to a son. The infant, who also died, was buried in the same coffin as his mother, lying at her feet.

According to the story often told among those who visit her grave at the massive cemetery just blocks from the Plaza of the Revolution, her husband, Eduardo Adot y Lopez, was so grief-stricken that he would visit the grave as many as three times a day. He would leave flowers and knock against the cement burial vault with one of the four brass rings attached to the lid, as if to let her know he was there.

As he left, he would always back away from her grave, so as to gaze on it as long as possible.

According to the legend, Amelia was exhumed years after her burial and her body was discovered to be uncorrupted, a sign Roman Catholics have traditionally interpreted as evidence of sanctity. Moreover, the baby that had been laid at her feet was nestled in her arms.

Her husband commissioned a marble statue of his beloved Amelia leaning against a cross and holding the infant that died with her. Eventually, as the story spread, the lone visitor to Amelia’s grave was joined by a steady stream of pilgrims who saw her as someone who could intercede for them before a distant and unapproachable God.

The popularly acclaimed shrine to La Milagrosa is perhaps the most amazing aspect of this necropolis, founded in 1868, that is filled with the interesting and unusual. It is laid out in a grid with the same street and avenue names of the Havana neighborhood of Vedado, where many of the cemetery’s present residents once resided in life. The cemetery, named after Christopher Columbus, is notable for its ostentatious graves, with acres of angels, saints, cherubs, urns, crosses and statues of faithful dogs dotting the landscape….

But it is the tomb of La Milagrosa that attracts the tour buses and the ordinary Cubans who travel from nearby neighborhoods and from across the country, fervently believing that Amelia will grant what they ask.

“Everybody comes here, whenever we’ve got a problem,” says Gloria Maria Hernandez, who came from her home in Granma, a province in the eastern end of the island, hundreds of miles from Havana. “There’s a belief that she helps us.

[To come here] is a custom in our country.”

For a pilgrim who visits La Milagrosa, there is a precise ritual that must be rigorously followed. Those approaching the tomb, surrounded with a wrought-iron fence, pass on the right side and rap the brass ring several times against its cement lid, just as Amelia’s heartbroken husband did, to summon her.

Gazing at the face of her statue and placing a bouquet of flowers on top of the grave, they circle, stopping to touch the hem of Amelia’s skirt and the leg of her infant son. They circle to the other side, pause once more to rap with the brass rings, and walk backward to continue gazing at the statue, as her husband did.

Each person patiently waits a turn while another goes through the ritual.

Many who visit are mothers like Florentina Abrego of Havana, who came to ask that La Milagrosa grant her daughter a safe and healthy pregnancy. “Until now, she’s granted me everything I ask,” she said. “Look at all the miracles here. Many miracles. Many, many miracles.”

Other Sights

Some of the other sights while I was walking around . . .

Like the bar where Earnest Hemingway use to drink at.


Old Cars



Hotel Nacional


Walking the Malecon


Walking the Paseo de Marti


Castillo de la Real Fuerza


University of Cuba


Harbour Entrance





During the days it would get hot and I would be tired. To get away from it all I found a refuge at the Parque Central Hotel. There I would have a beer and just relax.



I enjoyed my time in Havana but I was also happy to leave. I am sure there is a good reason why the city is like it is. From my limited reading and understanding, it appears Havana has suffered from extremes.

During the Batista era the city was the playground for the rich, famous and mafia. The poor were marginalized and treated like slaves. Many were executed.

Fidel Castro fought against the tyranny of the poor and ousted the rich from their farms and homes. Many fled and many were executed. The poor were now able to live in the houses of the rich.

Of course, without the necessary capital, the city decayed to where it is now.

There exists a complicated history with the US. While waiting for the shuttle one day, a man was asking people if they wanted a taxi. One gentleman and his girlfriend brushed him off. Right away the man started telling me how this guy was an american and they are so rude and arrogant. He couldn’t stand them. He asked another gentleman if he needed a taxi and the gentleman politely said no. The man looked at me and said see, this guy was polite. He isn’t american.

I also saw a bus that has a big sign on it, “End the Embargo, it is Inhumane.”

I was ready to go home- “Mexico” ha ha.

My Location from April 20 to 25, 2017



My Route back to Merida, Mexico, and the Zar Hotel




Hotel Club Atlantico in Havana, Cuba

After a week in Merida, Mexico, it was time to fly off to Havana, Cuba where I would stay at the Hotel Club Atlantico.

Planning to go to Cuba

While on the Yucatan peninsula I wanted to take an excursion to one of the nearby islands. My choices were Cuba, Haiti or Jamaica. Everyone I talked to said to go to Cuba. So that is where I would go 🙂

Most people who go to Cuba save up for the vacation and enjoy themselves at a nice hotel or an all inclusive. For me though, this trip is everyday life. The nice part is that it is everyday life for me ? The bad part is that I have an everyday type budget for the trip and not a vacation budget. I can’t afford a $200 a night hotel as I would on a vacation. Just think about it, that would be like spending $6000 a month in rent or mortgage payment. Far outside my pension bracket. Great for a vacation, but not for everyday living.

I decided I wanted to be close to Havana to sight see rather than choosing a beach vacation location like Veradero. I can sit on a breach or by a pool for a day or two but that’s my limit.

Expedia and didn’t provide many options for Cuba. I found Interjet Vacations, a Mexican company, that had lots of variety.

Choosing the hotel on my limited budget was the hard part. The hotels downtown Havana were either too expensive or dives, at least according to Tripadvisor ratings. There were cheaper hotels in the outskirts but not within walking distance to downtown. I didn’t want the added expense of taking a taxi everyday. Plus the hotels weren’t rated very high.

Finally I found the Hotel Club Atlantico. It was on the outskirts but the offered a free daily shuttle downtown. And the ratings were quite good. I booked it for a week.

Flying to Havana


The Interjet flight to Havana was practically empty.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I landed in Cuba.


From the photos of buildings and the old cars I knew they were a poor country. On the other hand, I had also seen pictures of people having fun at beautiful hotels and pools by nice beaches and turquoise water.

The Havana airport was not that nice and not well organized ha ha. But that is OK, they are a poor country. One of the first things I saw that was different ….. realize now that I am a man ha ha ha …. was that many of the female custom agents were wearing short skirts with fancy nylons. No pictures cuz I didn’t want to feel like a perv ha ha.

After passing through immigration my first project was to get Cuban currency. There were 2 exchanges outside the terminal. Both had huge lineups.


I waited for over a hour! Most of the movement didn’t come from people being served but rather people leaving the lineup upon the convincing of taxi drivers that they would stop somewhere along the way to their hotel to exchange money.

After finally getting money I caught a taxi for 50 CUC to my hotel. The Cuban currency for tourist, CUC, is equivalent to the US dollar. The locals have their own currency.

Hotel Club Atlantico


Remember that I mentioned the hotel was rated fairly high for my price range? Well, I am guessing the rating were based on Cuban standards. I did read in a lot of comments that you have to remember you are in Cuba ha ha.

The hotel itself is pretty run down. When I first arrived there was no water. The staff said that is because the water truck hadn’t arrived yet. Huuuummmmm

And I found out there is no Wifi at the hotel. Although for 2 CUC a hour I could use one of their two computers.

A couple days into the trip we had heavy rains. The hotel had leaks everywhere. Luckily not my room ?

The hotel is an all-inclusive, including alcohol! So that was a bonus. The meals though were not that great. But then Cuba is not known for its cuisine. Plus, I am a picky eater. I ate mostly rice, beans and potatoes. The potatoes were actually awesome.

After a walk around the hotel neighbourhood, I discovered it is truly in the middle of no where. No grocery stores or restaurants to speak of. Just beaches and some homes. 🙁 The hotel had a store but it only had alcohol,….


crackers, a couple of chocolate bars, and ice cream.

Throughout my stay at the hotel there were a lot of school groups staying there. Two from Canada. Perfect for them – nothing around – all inclusive – buffet – pool and beach – and close to Havana.

There were some positives though. They did have English TV channels, free shuttle to downtown, all-inclusive, nice rooms, a pool, and a beach.




I hate to think what the hotels were like that were rated low! It made me glad I picked a higher rated hotel. There were a couple nice hotels in Havana but just not within my non-vacation budget.

My Route for April 20, 2017



My Hotel Location from April 20 to April 26, 2017


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