Havana’s numerous bars are in many ways all rather similar. All of the places listed here serve Havana Club as the house rum. Few have a decent rum selection besides the basic Havana Club range (i.e. the blanco through to the 7 Años). Those that do offer alternatives tend to do so only at the higher end. Popular top shelf rums include Santiago and Vigia 11 Años, and Havana Club Barrel Proof and 15 Años.
Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category
Art Deco meets Neoclassical in the lobby of Havana’s Hotel Nacional
Freely as the rum flows in Havana, the selection is limited. Most rum countries are like this, but Cuba may be unique in the total lack of imports. Even Bacardi is conspicuous only in its absence. No Bacardi is remarkable enough, but even more peculiar is that many Cubans name Bacardi as their favorite rum. More on that curious situation later. . .
Revolutionary decor in Havana’s Coppelia ice-cream parlor
Well over a year after I left the place, I’m finally writing about Cuba. I didn’t stay as long in Cuba as I would have liked. The lack of Internet in Cuba made work, and hence a lengthy stay, difficult. My stay lasted only five or so days, but during that time I devoted myself fully to drinking in the sights – and the rum.
I left Guatemala on a dawn flight, transited in Panama, and was in Havana by early afternoon. From arrival Cuba had its own unique feel. Havana airport was slightly worn, but red painted girders and splashes of yellow made it seem bright and cheerful.
The Merced in Antigua. . .
Far too late, I am finally throwing together a mini-account of my Guatemala trip. The last year has been somewhat messy, hence the lack of blogging. For some reason Guatemala was hard to write about (perhaps because I did amazingly little while there) leading to my blog getting stuck in Haiti. Anyway, I need to write something about Guatemala before I can move on to the more interesting subject of Havana. (more…)
One place I very much wanted to visit in Haiti was the Hotel Oloffson in Port-au-Prince. Haiti no longer sees many tourists, but back in the day it rivaled Cuba as a Caribbean playground. The Hotel Oloffson, dubbed the “Greenwich Village of the Tropics”, saw all kinds of famous visitors, many of an artistic bent. In particular, Graham Greene was a regular at the hotel. The Comedians, Greene’s novel about Duvalier’s Haiti, immortalized the Oloffson as the fictional Hotel Trianon. I dropped by the Hotel Oloffson while taking a look around downtown Port-au-Prince. Port-au-Prince is not a nice city, so the Oloffson was a pleasant retreat in which to while away part of the afternoon.
While in Haiti I spent around a week in Cap-Haitien. Cap-Haitien was the nicest part of my visit to Haiti, being more pleasant, relaxed and interesting than Port-au-Prince. I stayed in the atmospheric old Hotel Roi-Christophe, parts of which apparently date back to the 18th Century. There was a serious oil shortage during my visit, the result of the road to Port-au-Prince having been cut by the storms and floods that had all but destroyed the city of Gonaive. The combination of the oil shortage and the nearby humanitarian disaster lent the city an air of crisis. There was no electricity, and nightfall saw UN patrols rumble through pitch-black streets. The hotel bar was a rare oasis of light, drawing in aid workers who sat around drinking beers and planning sorties to Gonaive. Even that oasis of light tottered on the brink of being extinguished. With no fuel available in Cap-Haitien, the hotel manager was forced to drive to the Dominican Republic border just to buy fuel to keep things going for another couple of days.
Chilean UN soldiers attend mass
An ominous darkness descends on Port-au-Prince
Deciding to visit Haiti
When I picked the Dominican Republic for a holiday I figured one of the benefits would be hopping across the border to Haiti, making it a sort of two-for-one Caribbean travel destination. Haiti has always interested me. Haiti was the setting for “The Comedians”, one of my favorite novels by Graham Greene, one of my favorite writers. Haiti is the only nation to have been formed through a slave rebellion. The slaves quite reasonably turned the call of liberté, equalité, fraternité against their French masters. In a typical example of hypocrisy it was years before the United States, itself founded on an anti-colonial rebellion, extended diplomatic recognition to Haiti. Haiti is also home to the Isla de Tortuga, once the most notorious pirate nest in the Caribbean. Then you have the imposing Citadelle, quite possibly the ultimate Caribbean fortress. Add a sprinkling of voodoo and the mix is becoming most impressive. To that impressive mix you can start adding drinks-related attractions, such as Haiti being the home of Barbancourt rum, the bitter oranges used to produce Grand Marnier, and the famous bar at the Hotel Oloffson – once known as the Greenwich Village of the Caribbean. New Orleans’ Peychaud’s Bitters also traces its roots to Haiti, with Antoine Peychaud having been born in Cap-Haitien. There are even vague rumors of an ancestor of mine having been born in Haiti. In other words, plenty of reasons to visit. (more…)
Some photos of Santo Domingo. . .
The presidential palace looks rather like the White House.
Below are some photos from Sosua and Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. . .
Sign leading to Sosua beach. Many of the road signs in the Dominican Republic are sponsored by Brugal rum.
From Port-au-Prince to Antigua via Panama: including two glasses of Carta Vieja rum and a mysterious bottom pinching French womanMonday, September 29th, 2008
I am now in Antigua, Guatemala, sipping on Mayan hot chocolate – which sounds like a tourist gimmick but may not be. I left the Dominican Republic about three weeks ago, spending a couple of weeks in Haiti before getting on a COPA air flight to Guatemala via Panama. The original plan had been to travel from Port-au-Prince to Guatemala City via Havana, but this proved a little difficult to arrange. Everything in Haiti is difficult. Internet and power in Haiti were absolutely horrible so I was pretty much unable to blog while I was there. Of course laziness also played a part.