We were sad to leave our lovely Casa in Playa Larga but it is nice to be back in Havana after two weeks on the road. Maura greets us like long lost members of the family.
We head out on the now familiar streets where the vibrancy and energy, the smells and the sounds of the city tantalise our senses. People rattle small musical instruments to draw our attention to their tiny shop, otherwise missed in the mass of other sights crowding our vision.
A beautiful old building housing a gallery is worth a look. Attendants wave us in but soon make a feeble attempt at guiding us round the art in hopes of a tip.
A young man claiming to be a Canadian Punjabi attempts to befriend us as we sip our generous limonade frappes. His English is perfect and his spiel is beguiling but I am sure it is a scam of some kind so we deter him from joining us. I had seen a man claiming to be a Mexican try the same thing with two other foreign women on our first stay in Havana.
The local young men trying to befriend and help you are much easier to spot but it does require persistent head down walking on to deter them. Do not engage, is my catch phrase for these occasions.
We meet so many wonderful people though, generous, helpful, happy in themselves.
Our last full day is finally the excursion to El Morro, the massive fort on the other side of the channel entrance to Havana Harbour. Built in the 16th century to try to protect Havana from pirates not to mention the French and the English invaders.
We walk in the footsteps of so many in this long history of Havana. Those who tried to protect the city and where fierce battles were engaged, but also where many more friendly visitors came to visit the massive fort and to admire the Havana skyline from the other side over the centuries.
In a bookshop in tiny Remedios, I found a book called Travelers’ Tales of Old Cuba. Fascinating letters and diary entries the first being from 1678. There are many descriptions from travelers in the 19th century most of whom include their visit to El Morro.
Cuba has a rich and often bloodthirsty history. The original trusting inhabitants were wiped out. It was the haunt of pirates and the location of a slave trade triggered mainly for the sugar plantations.
The English finally took El Morro from the land side in tne 18th century after failing to breach it from the sea. There is a very good history of that bloody battle located at El Morro itself.
There are so many memorable things about Havana and Cuba. At dawn, men call out in the street, sometimes with a whistle in the city to attract attention, selling fresh bread and other produce. The jolt to your senses as the cannon belts out its regular 9pm round, so loud from where we are staying in Havana Vieja.
Patience is the word here for so many things. I love the road courtesy, seeing no evidence whatsoever of road rage. A horse and cart or a bicycle taxi blocking the way is no problem at all, no matter how long it takes to pass safely.
Life has freed up in the last 7 years or so and in general many people have a little more than they did. However it is expensive and still hard to get many things. Absolutely anything could be repaired on the street by someone in Havana is my memory from 10 years ago. Now it is rarer to see a repair man on a pavement stall.
We met Antonio working one of his three jobs as a carpark attendant who was struggling to make ends meet. Another lovely man, a Doctor, waiting to collect tourists with his beautiful 1951 classic car, shared a little about his life. No matter your occupation, everyone is paid the same, so any connection you can make with the tourist dollar will help to make life easier.