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Mercedes and SusanBob on patio.JPG (41607 bytes)Back in Havana again we find our casa particular and drop off our rental car.  We stay two nights in Havana before catching our flight.  We booked this accommodation ahead and it turns out to be the nicest place we stay the whole time.  La Casa Blanca is a two-story private house in a leafy, residential part of the city called Vedado.  Jorge owns the house and his mother, Mercedes, helps him to look after it.  Jorge bought the house from a family member and worked for three years to restore it to its former beauty.  It has very high ceilings, a marble staircase and beautiful little terraces.  Obviously, the family was quite well off in pre-Revolutionary times.   Mercedes was born in Cuba in 1921, but her family was Spanish and quite aristocratic.   She is a beautiful and gracious lady and makes us feel very welcome.  We are delighted to discover that she loves to tell stories about her life and the old days in Cuba. Both she and Jorge speak excellent English, but sometimes in the middle of a story, she switches from English to Spanish without realizing it.   When we go back to Cuba, we will definitely stay at La Casa Blanca again.

 

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We spend our last day in Havana just walking around the neighbourhood, looking at the beautiful architecture.  Even the many buildings that are shabby and dilapidated are stunningly beautiful.  Any city in North America would treasure just a few blocks.  The occasional building has been totally restored, usually to house some kind of government offices.  These examples show what they could all look like with proper care and restoration. 

 

 

 

 

One huge mansion catches our eye because it is in excellent repair.  There is a guard at the gate so we ask him what the building is.  He tells us it is the residence of the British ambassador.  We are taking a picture through the fence when he suddenly leaps to attention and runs to open the gate.  There is an SUV waiting to get in.  As we step quickly back out of the way, the driver rolls her window down and speaks to us.  It is the wife of the ambassador and her children.  We say: “We have just been admiring your house.  Our house in Canada is rather like this one!”  She laughs.  She chats graciously with us for a few minutes, asks where we are staying and seems interested that we are staying in a private home. She says they like living in Havana very much.

 

Havana church.JPG (26944 bytes)During our rambles, we come across a large Catholic Church that has obviously been recently restored.  Since the pope’s visit in 1998, Castro has relaxed his restrictions on religion.  We are poking our heads in an open doorway to see if we can get a glimpse of the interior when an energetic little man bustles in and greets us.   He is the parish priest and gives us a personal tour.  He is ever so proud of his church and all the restoration work that had been done. 

 

On our last evening in Cuba, we go to a nearby paladar,  recommended by Jorge.   One last Cuban meal with a bottle of white Soroa wine, a cold flan for dessert and wonderful Cuban coffee.  In the morning, Maria, the Czech, appears in her Lada to drive us to the airport.  We catch our Air Cubana flight to Toronto and our adventure is over.

 

Cuba is a magical place. The beautiful scenery and the warm climate can be found everywhere in the Caribbean, but we don’t know where else there are such lovely people.  Without exception, those we met were warm, friendly and polite.  They are even polite to each other.  We never saw Cubans arguing or yelling at each other or being aggressive in any way.   A real bonus is the level of safety.  We never once felt afraid or insecure.  Even when we ventured into out-of-the-way parts of the city, we felt no sense of danger.  Apparently there is a certain amount of minor theft and pick-pocketing here and there, but serious crime seems to be unheard of.  One long-time Canadian tourist to Cuba told us you can fall asleep on any beach and wake up in the morning without worrying about your wallet or your personal safety. 

 

We plan to go back soon!

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