Havana



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Havana
The nearest beaches used by locals are at Playas del Este (Eastern Beaches), which is about 13 miles east on the other side of the bay. Now that Cuba is no longer subsidised by the former USSR, and since it is boycotted by the USA, the country is effectively bankrupt. There are shortages of nearly everything, including petrol, soap and toiletries; all food is locally produced. Look out for genuine Havana cigars (buy only from approved shops or factories and do not buy at reduced prices on the street as these are likely to be illegal fakes and will be confiscated by customs), rum, embroidery and any local souvenir that may appeal. The latter are sold from colourful stalls in the square in front of the cathedral. Calle Obispo, a pedestrianised boulevard connecting Parque Central with Plaza de Armas, has mainly tourist shops and a couple of interesting antique pharmacies. During the daytime spend it sightseeing in the Old City, including many well-preserved Spanish colonial buildings such as the former Palace of the Captains General (with museum) and others around Plaza de Armas; Castillo de la Real Fuerza (1577), the second oldest fortress in the New World; Central Park and surrounding turn-of-last-century buildings, especially the Capitol (now a museum) The nightlife offers a varied evening. Most hotels and restaurants provide musical entertainment (rumba, salsa and other Latin American music/dance). There is the famous Tropicana nightclub (still with the same dance show as it had in the 50s); a few other nightclubs with cabaret; discos, some at the bigger hotels; ballet, theatre, dance and music. . Although those with knowledgeable, well-connected or well-off guides may find good food, in general it is of a pretty poor standard and limited choice. Quite a lot of restaurants in the Old City and the Vedado area, as well as in the hotels, with a la carte restaurants in the 5-star hotels probably the best available, but not cheap. Expect every imaginable variation of pork, chicken (some of the toughest ever encountered), rice, black beans and potatoes. Lobster and seafood can be a (relative) bargain, but fish is not common.