The Hotel Nacional is a grand old hotel that has seen better days. The rooms and corridors are musty and could do with a face lift. But you can see how majestic it once must have been. The rooms are large with plenty of space and the main reception area still has a grand feeling about it. The ceiling is beautiful. The hotel itself overlooks the Malecon, the broad roadway, seawall and boardwalk that strehches 8km along the coast from Vedado, to the Harbour Mouth in Old Havana Town. Today the Atlantic waves break high over the sea wall. In fact today the weather is very poor and parts of the Malecon is closed to traffic because the sea is breaking over the road. The hotel grounds are quite extensive with two swimming pools and a tennis court though today they are naturally empty. A nice bar is on the veranda of the hotel ground floor where one can enjoy mojitos and snacks.
We head to the large basement restaurant where they put on a really good breakfast which should keep us going for a good part of the day.
We are here to take photographs so even though the wind is up we decide to get out and explore. The plan for the day is to go to the Old Town, Havana Vieja, to look for our guide, Ramses, who will take us to Trinidad de Cuba for a couple of days, and then to take a bus tour to orientate ourselves.
We get a feel for the town which is very run down but the people are friendly and some of us are brave enough to ask for photos and to get some architectural shots. People seem happy to pose but others come looking for money or want to sell you cigars or other tat.
Our tour of the City in truth was not great, a combination of the weather and a poor route. We end up back in the old town and this time we find Ramses's shop but he is off today.
Though when we get back to the hotel and having a rest before going out I get a nice surprise and a call to the room from Ramses who is down in the lobby and a couple of us meet him, and he's a good guy. We find a good Paladores, a home restaurant where we have a very good meal and head back to the hotel for a few night caps and to listen to the music on the veranda. Off to a good start let's hope the weather picks up.