Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Our Man in Havana 3: View from the Top

When I visit a new city, I always try to find a tower, church steeple, or high viewpoint to see the lay of the land. When we arrived in Havana, my co-travelers and I checked into the Park View Hotel on Calle Colon. And by luck, the Park View had rooftop access.
An advertising brochure claims that the Park View was one of Havana's most sophisticated hotels in the 1920s. Maybe so, but it looks like it has barely been vacuumed or cleaned since then. Some character-building adventures:
  • Room 1: 1 cm of water on the bathroom floor, with more water dripping through the ceiling. OK, they had a second room for us. The lady at the front desk was very courteous.
  • Room 2: only 2 towels total. OK, one can serve as the bathmat, the second we shared. 
  • Shower hose: burst upon use. When repaired, the new hose was too short for the head to mount in the holder on the wall. 
  • Safe: locked, and no sign of a key anywhere. Was a previous guest's possessions still in it? 
  • Hot water: we had plenty, but some of our friends in other rooms never had any. 
  • Elevator: worked, but the electronic display showed floor 6 all the time, and there was no sign of any type of safety inspection. 
  • Breakfast: the fruit was good, but the rest mediocre. The tablecloths were stained and clearly well-used. In the hotel's defense, much of the food in Cuba as of early 2017 is not skillfully prepared. 
As for the view: the restaurant was on the 6th floor. Just off the landing, there was a narrow spiral steel stair that went up somewhere. I ascended and saw an unlocked door to the roof. Well, this was a treat. The photograph above shows the view looking west with the Straits of Florida to the right.
This is the view to the north towards the mouth of the harbor, or the Canal de Entrada. Note the construction cranes - Havana is beginning to rebuild. Visit soon if you want to see old Havana, The building on the very right is a former cigar factory. The bellhop in the Park View said the cigar factory had some major collapse in the center and all repair work had come to a halt.
To the southwest, the big building with the oval windows in the attic is the prestigious Ballet Nacional de Cuba (Cuban National Ballet School). It has 3000 students. In the evening, on the nearby Prado, you often see little girls in their tutus with their parents.
Room with as view: our second room, the one without a cm. of water on the bathroom floor, had a great view of adjacent rooftops. I love these complicated urban scenes. Note the pigeon pens on top of the green corrugated roof.
I also took a Tri-X photograph with my Leica camera. This has a more gritty urban feel, but you lose the color data. More Havana to follow....

Color photographs taken with a Fuji X-E1 digital camera. In the first picture, I used a Leica 50mm Summicon lens on my Fuji. The black and white photograph is a Tri-X 400 exposure taken with a Leica M2 camera. Click any picture to expand to 1600 pixels wide.

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