HAVANA – DON’T GO FOR THE BEER

But do go for everything else.

Mrs RM had always wanted to go to Havana. In the end, I think I fell for it even more than her. It has a shambolic beauty, characteristic of Genoa and Naples which I also love. Although lacking the hills of those two, it’s possibly even more aimlessly walkable, even if my boys were embarrassed as I continually peered into people’s homes to gawp.

What sets Havana apart for me is the colour and random art. At times it feels a bit like a walk round the back streets of the Northern Quarter, or Bedminster during a heatwave, only safer.

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This was one of the most relaxed places we’ve ever been to, with only the mildest form of touting for taxis, always with politeness.

In the square mile of old town closest to the harbour, some exceptional restoration work has created a compelling mix of hotels, cafes, small museums and public spaces the match of anything I’ve seen.

Outside the old town, many long lanes look shabby, with crumbling buildings the norm. But streets such as Brasil also contain fantastic architectural touches and a few modern looking bars starting to energe from the refuse and rubble. Refuse collection isn’t great, but the place doesn’t smell that bad.

 

There aren’t hundreds of bars in the centre, and cocktails dominate over beer, with the very malty Bucanero and drab Cristal the only local beers I saw outside the two brewpubs. Those sold for about £1.50 a bottle, with Brahma and Mahou the two usual imports at a couple of quid.

The best known brewpub is La Factoria on Plaza Vieja, full of Canadians drinking from those 2 litre self-serve tubes. It’s an attractive little place with gleaming coppers but rubbish beer, both the cloudy and the dark one.

Worth a visit for the car and the live music though; don’t ask for a top-up though.  We did get enough free peanuts to bury us with, to be fair.

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The better brew pub, Cerveceria Antihuo, seemingly recently opened in a dockland warehouse, had decent Mahou type beer, and great views over the sea to the fortress and across to the Iglesia de Paula.  More beer tubes, but a much less touristy crowd.

More touristy reflections (and the cars) tomorrow, though possibly omitting the bizarre riverside Christmas Eve chicken sacrifice we stumbled across. 

 

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