We made it! We all came through customs in Havana without any major glitches. All our bags arrived (after a slight delay), and none of our group even had to open any bags. We climbed into our bus and were taken to our hotel on the edge of Old Havana—the Hotel Parque Central. We had a late dinner at the hotel, then went on a short walk down to the ocean and walked along the Malecón before returning to our hotel for a well-deserved rest.
The weather today (Sunday) is wonderful—in the low 80’s, and sunny with big puffy clouds. (Last night the temperature dropped down to a comfortable 68.) Today we visited the Presidential Palace. It was completed in 1920, and became the home of a string of corrupt dictators, the last one being Batista. After 1959, it was converted into the Museum of the Revolution. In the evening we visited the massive fortress across the harbor from Havana and saw the canon firing ceremony. Cubans dressed in the uniforms of Spanish soldiers from the 1700’s performed the ritual culminating in the firing of the canon at 9pm. The “bang” can be heard throughout Old Havana, located across the harbor.
Afterward we returned to Old Havana and had a late dinner at La Bodeguita del Medio restaurant, a favorite of Ernest Hemingway. It was a pleasant first full day in Havana, and we are looking forward to the next week here. We will learn more about Cuba’s health care system, and we have medical equipment and supplies to donate.