Tuesday, 30 January 2018

EXPLORING HAVANA - DAY TWO

On the morning of our second day in Havana, over breakfast was served on the front patio of the hotel which overlooked the square and the park behind it, and we laid out our plans for Day Two.
If you read my previous post, you would recall that after spending Day One in this city we had quite mixed feelings about it.   However, we agreed that we will not make up our minds until we spent more time here.  And with that we walked out of the breakfast room into another hot and steamy day in Havana.
EXPLORING HAVANA
We took a walk along Calle Obispo admiring the architecture of the government building along the way towards  Parque Central, the cultural hub of Havana to visit Palaceo de Bellas Artes (Fine Art Palace) also known as  the Universal Art Collection situated nearby.

The museum's collection holds international exhibits dated from as far back as 500 BC such as a Roman mosaic from over 2000 years ago to items from modern times as well as temporary exhibitions.  As we approached the ticket counter, the clerk informed us that due to the recent hurricane that had raged across the Caribbean, the top floor of the museum was closed hence we wouldn't be able to view the works of many famous artists.
Palaceo de Bellas Artes
Nevertheless, we bought tickets and went inside.  True to the clerk's word, not many rooms were opened for viewing and didn't take us too much time browsing through the ones that were open.  While we were on the landing, admiring the beautiful glass work of the ceiling, a very unusual sight caught my attention - a big hole in a wall right underneath it that mustn't been caused by the latest storms and hadn't been repaired yet.
Palaceo de Bellas Artes
Not daunted by this small incident, we left the museum for our next destination, Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonco, a home to Ballet Nacional de Cuba.  As we approached the building, we noticed a sign announcing the schedule of the English speaking guided tours of the theatre and joined the queue.
Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonco
While my husband was waiting for our turn, I approached the box office and enquired about any  performances that might be running during our stay.  To our delight, the was a perfomance of  the ballet Carmen on our last night in Havana.  We couldn't wish for a better way to conclude out time in Cuba as Carmen is one of our favourite productions and immediately purchased the tickets.

When the clerk told us the price of two tickets in row B, we thought she made a mistake.  Bearing in mind that we had to pay almost twice more as tourists, it cost us about 40 Australian bucks.  Back at home we would pay around 200 dollars each!!!
Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonco
Our spirits soared, we went inside for a tour.  The interior of the Palace looked exactly what one would expect from a traditional European Opera House - marble staircase, red plush chairs, crystal candelabras, slim marble columns supported the high vaulted ceilings. 
Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonco

Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonco

Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonco
 The tall windows have opened onto panoramic view of the Parque Central on one side and to the El Capitolio (National Capital Building in Havana) on the other.
El Capitolio

El Capitolio

El Capitolio
There has been some controversy about its architecture and and its close resemblance to the Capitol building in Washington.  Previously shunned as a symbol of US imperialism, this neo-classical marvel is undergoing a renovation which commenced in 2010 and once completed, will be the home of the Communist Government's National Assembly.
El Capitolio

The building and the area around its perimeter looked immaculate, the grass and the hedges were trimmed, the pavement smooth and clean.  A lot of money, millions of dollars, I believe, have been poured into this project of national pride and glory.
EXPLORING HAVANA
But once we walked past the Government edifices proclaiming the glory of socialism and ventured further afield just to the other side of Parque Centrale, we were met by the same sad picture of  poor living conditions that we saw on our first day in Havana.  And that was the reality.
EXPLORING HAVANA
What we admired though, was the spirit of people around us.  You can feel their optimism for a better future, their energy contagious, their love for life spills onto the streets from early morning till late at night and the sounds of TV loudly blaring from the open windows and doors of their humble dwellings, laughter and music follows you everywhere.
EXPLORING HAVANA
I can't recall a meal whether it was breakfast, lunch or dinner without a group of musicians playing and singing music to the crowd's delight.  What impressed me the most was how talented and skillful they all seemed to be, given the fact that most of the instruments were so worn out to a point that  a guitar may not have all of its strings.  Still the music which they played was sublime.

EXPLORING HAVANA
 We were smitten.  Our perception of Havana had totally changed, it  grew on us and we slowly began to understand its life, its rhythm and people who live here.
EXPLORING HAVANA
And on this high note we went out to dinner over which we discussed our plans for Day Three.
EXPLORING HAVANA
Until then,

Anna
xoxo