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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Havana hotel, breakfast and historic neighborhood

 Hotel Inglaterra in old Havana, seen behind the statue of Jose Marti, is one of the oldest hotels in the city. It was a great headquarters for my first two nights in Cuba. 

My hotel the first two nights in Havana couldn't have been better located, next to the Paseo del Prado and opposite Park Central. The Hotel Inglaterra opened in 1875 and is one of the oldest in the city. See its neoclassical exterior in the background of the above photo of the Jose Marti statue which I photographed in the middle of the city's Central Park.  Every afternoon a crowd of men gathers in a corner of the park to talk about baseball. It's a passion for Cubans, and even though I don't speak Spanish it was easy to tell what they were talking about. Cubans, like my Italian friends, use a lot of body language in their speech. They are a gregarious and friendly people eager to show off their city and helpful to obviously lost tourists. But after a day or so, which included a walking tour, it became an easy city to navigate.

The hotel coffee shop invites lingering for dessert. 

The hotel's interior is beautifully appointed with intricately designed ceilings, stained glass windows many with ornate grills, and colorful mosaics.  Its top floor boasts a bar, a whirlpool, and seating areas for super views over the rooftops.
This is just part of the huge breakfast buffet included for guests at the Hotel Inglaterra

Breakfast is included here, just as in hotels in Europe. It was really huge with  lots of fresh fruit, eggs prepared in several ways (including 3 minute and 5 minute soft boiled eggs) pancakes, cheeses, meats, cereal, yogurt, dark and rich Cuban coffee and tea.

 It was obvious that my breakfast eggs were from free range chickens. Their yolks were deepest orange and their flavor was so very very eggy.

You don't see familiar brands of yogurt or cereal or anything else in Cuba. There are no fastfood chains, no factory farming, and I saw no supermarkets. Foods are homemade and from scratch.   Of course that takes a huge workforce but everyone in Cuba is guaranteed a job so there are people working lots of positions,  like restroom attendants, not seen in our own country in many years. Groundskeepers everywhere keep the parks and four central squares immaculately clean and weeded.
The morning sun shines through stained glass windows casting a cheery glow over breakfast eaters in the hotel's dining room. Note the ornate ceiling and scrolled grillwork over the arched door to the lobby beyond.

I was on what's called a people to people tour, aimed at acquainting us with Cubans and their lifestyles. Ours had a culinary focus and included lots of interesting food experiences. It's busy, includes a lot of walking on cobblestone streets, but is incredibly interesting and very worthwhile. It's one of the few ways Americans can legally travel to Cuba and the tour's activities are not optional.

Choosing to instead spend a day at the beach could jeopardize the tour operator's license issued by the U.S. Treasury Dept.
Ours, organized by Bob Older of  Delaware- based  Creative Travel, Inc., included round trip air from Miami, hotels, home stays,  most meals, guided tours and visits to several interesting places all within 50 miles of Havana.
Overhead screens in Miami show the 8:30 a.m. flight to Havana on Sun Country charter.  


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Blogger Alwin martin said...

After reading your thread, I also want to visit Cuba and absolutely want to do caving there. Is american travel to cuba safely? Give your reviews on it..

July 25, 2014 at 6:46 AM 

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