Robaina's plantation

Friday, 23 February 2018

Bicitaxi in Cuba

             According to Wikipedia, the cycle rickshaw is a small-scale, human-powered local means of transport known by a variety of names such as bike taxi, velotaxi, pedicab or bikecab (among other names) designed to carry passengers in addition to the driver. They are widely used in major cities around the world.
             Cuba has a similar form of transportation, here they've been given the name 'bicitaxi" (biketaxi). Although relatively new on the scene, since around the late 1990's when private businesses were allowed to open, it is essentially similar to a "Rickshaw" which has been in use for over a century in Asia. Anyone who comes to Havana can't help but notice the Bicitaxi, they're everywhere and a reflection of their drivers. There is no uniform look to them except that they're a 3 wheeled bike with room for 2 passengers in the back seat...or several smaller people (an adult with 2-3 kids). The drivers of bicitaxis have a habit of plastering their teams colours (soccer) on their machines as well as their favourite Cuban baseball team, drink of choice, and sayings, among a myriad of other stuff. Some are even outfitted with a boombox playing the top Reggaeton or Salsa hits of the time. The drivers can also tend to be a bit talkative, especially if you're a tourist. It's a great way to see the city as you feel like you're more in touch with your surroundings. I recommend asking how much it will cost to get you from point A to B as prices are not fixed and as a tourist they will always try to charge you more. It would be better to know how much before starting out as you will be overcharged if you don't afterwards. I don't take them often because I like to walk but occasionally when I'm in hurry or it's raining, I have no issues doing so and I'm actually happy to take a ride that usually costs me $2-3 for the distance I need to travel. They're not as haphazard as they appear to be, I recently learned that they too have to follow the rules of the road or risk being fined as someone driving an automobile would. Do yourself a favour if you're traveling to Havana for the first time, take a ride on a Bicitaxi.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Hotel Parque Central (Havana)

               Although I've never stayed in this hotel, I have never heard anyone say anything bad about this place. I have, however, visited several of it's facilities and in that respect it has never disappointed me. Whether it's been at the Cigar Shop discretely located on the 2nd floor, or the Steakhouse in a corner of the main lobby, I've always been pleased with quality of product and service.
               The Hotel Parque Central occupies one whole block of Calle Neptuno between Prado and Zulueta, its main facade rising from where the original existed. By 1990 the original building on this block was a ruin. These arcades were the only structures remaining after the main building had been demolished. The reconstruction began in 1995 and by May of 1999 the new Hotel Parque Central opened it's doors.

Hotel Parque Central Facilities

Restaurant "Mediterráneo"
Casual restaurant with á-la-carte service, prime location overlooking Parque Central & the Paseo del Prado, with direct access from both. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have never eaten here.
Restaurant "El Paseo"
Classic restaurant in a French traditional style with a piano player at certain times of the day projecting an elegant atmosphere. The service is professional and the steaks are of North American standards. In my opinion, worth the money if you crave a good steak. Not cheap.
Lobby Bar "El Pórtico"
Located in the hotel lobby, with an atmosphere of a subtropical garden. Anyone, guests and visitors alike, can sit around the lobby, have drinks and order some appetizer or hors d’oeuvres from their menu. In my opinion, the best part is that they allow cigar smoking. Many hotels are disallowing smoking nowadays.
Living room "Alameda"
I was not aware of this space having a name. I believe they are making reference to the second floor the only way to describe it. A lot quieter than the main lobby below and with comfortable chairs. A good place to hide from all the traffic and noise and maybe do some reading or homework.
Pool Bar "Nuevo Mundo"
Located on the last floor, by the pool. They make an amazing hamburger, at least they did the last couple of times I was here. Their Cuban sandwiches are good as well. The views of Parque Central and beyond are spectacular.

General Hotel Facilities
 Lobby Bar             A la Carte Restaurant                          Gallery
 Fax Service $                       Laundry $                                      Massage $
 Solarium              Medical Services $                           Tour Booking Desk
 Swimming Pool            Car Rental $                                       Babysitting $
 Currency Exchange Business Center Internet access in the lobby $
 Lifts                 Conference Room $                              Restaurant
 Wedding Legal Services $          Wi-Fi $                 Handicapped facilities
 Room Service $          Meeting Room                   Multilingual Staff
 24 hour Reception         Concierge Services               Fast Check In
 Fast Check Out       Catering for Events             Wheelchair accessible
 Space for Events and meetings         Smoking Areas only

Hotel Parque Central
Neptuno e/ Prado y Zulueta, Habana Vieja
+53 7 8606627

Restaurant "El Paseo"

Cigar Shop on Second Floor

Living room "Alameda"

Pool Bar "Nuevo Mundo"

Hamburger served on Rooftop Patio

View from Rooftop

Lobby Bar "El Pórtico"