Travel writer Rick Steves visits Havana, Cuba
Travel writer Rick Steves recently visited Havana in Cuba ahead of the anticipated influx of Americans, to discover the city's charm and culture. He visited the five-mile-long Malecon and Havana Fort, delving into its history while highlighting the reasons why it should be on every traveller's destination list.
Rick Steves, author of European travel guides and host of radio and TV travel shows, recently visited the island of Cuba to learn more about its capital city.
Situated just 90 miles south of Florida, Havana is an oceanfront city that is rich in history and culture.
Steves visited the five-mile-long Malecon that stretches along the seafront and was originally built over 100 years ago to keep the crashing waves away from the city. The Malecon is susceptible to flooding during tropical storms, and its adjacent district is also regularly flooded as a result.
The coastal promenade is a popular hangout for locals and holidaymakers, and people go to fish, play music, or just hang out with beers and friends.
The old fort in Havana represents the city's history with maritime invasion and visitors can wander around the crumbling rooms. Mr Steve wrote:
"Havana was the obvious spot for those Spanish conquistadors to establish a safe and thriving port to serve the needs of colonial trading ships. To sail to Europe safe from pirates, ships from throughout the Caribbean would gather here into a huge convoy for the twice-annual crossing of the Atlantic."
The city has two millions inhabitants, and old cars are still the main method of transport with colourful classic American 1950s Chevrolets cruising along the uncrowded roads.
The travel and trade embargo that was enforced by the U.S in 1960 has locked Cuba in a time warp that resembles the times of the 1950s. Following news that the two countries recently resumed diplomatic relations, the communist island nation is likely to change significantly in the near future, with improved technology, hotel development, and growth in the transport system.
These changes won't happen immediately however, and there is still time to capture Cuba's authenticity before the U.S completely lifts the travel embargo for its residents. Mr Steve noted:
"Before the Revolution, Havana was a playground of the rich and famous. A few vestiges of those Sinatra and Hemmingway days survive -- like the stately Hotel Nacional de Cuba."
Nacional de Cuba Hotel is located in the Vedado district in Havana, close to the capital shopping district and tourist attractions, and just a few steps away from the sea. Built in 1930, the hotel's art deco style attracted celebrities such as Winston Churchill, Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra.
Holidaymakers can visit Havana's Catedral de San Cristobal; the maritime museum, Castillo de la Real Fuerza; and the Old Town, a UNESCO site with restored buildings and the tourist square, Plaza de Armas.
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