Havana Travel Blog› entry 1 of 11 › view all entries
Built around a deep natural harbour, Havana is one of the most impressive surviving colonial cities in the Americas, and the modern city presents an overwhelming feast for the senses, where crumbling tenement buildings and 50s style American Cadillacs and DeSotos rub shoulders with colonial grandeur and revolutionary zeal, and all to the hypnotic beat of the salsa.
Founded in 1519 the city’s fame and prestige only came about with the Spanish conquests of Mexico and Peru, when its strategic location at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico saw it eclipse Santiago as the country’s capital. For two centuries this remote outpost of the Spanish Empire played a pivotal role in the expansion of Spain’s colonial interests in the Americas and at one time it was the most fortified city in the New World.
The rise of American influence, in direct opposition to the fall of Spain’s power in the region, saw the city hurl headlong into the 20th century, becoming a positive haven for the worst excesses of western decadence. Gambling,prostitution and alcohol much of it run by the mob with tacit agreement of the Government all made Cuba a centre of excess.
This all came to an end in 1959, when Fidel Castro expelled the Americans and set the country on its socialist course into the history books.
We arrive at the airport late in the evening and make our way to the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.Perhaps the most famous Hotel in Cuba. Opened in 1930,among its first illustrious guests were artists, actors, athletes and writers such as Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardener, Jonny Weismuller,Buster Keaton, Rocky Marciano and Ernest Hemmingway. The hotel's reputation as a deluxe host is backed by patrons such as Winston Churchill, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, scientist Alexander Fleming, and innumerable Heads of State and European monarchs.