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  Havana (Cuba)

  Havana, the capital city, can veer between inspiring and depressing. The inspiration comes from Havana's people, whose friendliness and hospitality seem boundless. But Old Havana is falling apart, and attempts at putting it back together have quite a ways to go. To walk its narrow cobblestone(鵝卵石) streets is to encounter sections that occasionally resemble earthquake zones. The government can't afford paint that resists salt air, so the color peels off the exteriors(表面)。 For many buildings, maintenance is long overdue: Sagging balconies are supported by planks, and the facades of once-beautiful buildings are etched by huge cracks.

  Old Havana is still very interesting, however. Dilapidated as they are, the buildings really conjure up(回憶起) the earlier times. It has an authenticity that is missing in some other countries' overly refurbished historic districts, which can seem more like living museums than neighborhoods. In the past few years, renovation has accelerated, at least in the streets that tourists see, with construction crews working on entire blocks at a time. But buildings that can't bring in tourist dollars as hotels, restaurants, shops or museums are left to crumble. In the Central area of Havana, very little work has been started yet. One of the areas under renovation that's generated the most interest is Plaza Vieja, which is lined with colonial baroque mansions that will be converted into galleries, little museums and boutique hotels.

  While most of the details on the art-deco buildings lining the streets are crumbling away, the Spanish colonial structures are well preserved. Be sure to see the Museum of the City of Havana, the Cathedral de San Cristobal de la Habana and Castillo de la Fuerza.

  You'll also run across a few Hemingway haunts in Old Havana, including La Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio, two of Papa's watering holes. Be sure to take a look at some of the photos that line the walls of La Bodeguita del Medio: You'll recognize many celebrities of yesteryear(不久以前), including Nat King Cole, Errol Flynn and Frank Sinatra. You'll also notice photos of Ted Turner and Jane Fonda, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Redford and other recent visitors.

  Across the harbor from Old Havana is El Morro Castle and La Cabana Fort.

  Central Havana, labeled Centro on maps, has little of interest to tourists, but Vedado, a modern area, has tourist hotels, nightclubs and the fascinating Columbus Cemetery, where the headstones and monuments are reminiscent of those in New Orleans.

  Do take the time to walk along Avenida de Malecon, the road that winds along the city's extensive waterfront(濱水地區)。 If the sea is up, you'll see groups of kids playing in the waves that splash against the seawall(海堤)。 It makes a great picture. A visit to the waterfront is best undertaken during the daylight hours, however. For a tour of a cigar factory, go to the Fabrica Partagas in Havana.

  Sites relating to the struggles of socialism are spread throughout the city. They include the Museum of the Revolution, located in the former Presidential Palace, and the motor launch Granma, on which Castro returned to Cuba in 1956 to renew his revolutionary fight.

  At night, take in the glitzy show at the open-air Tropicana Club, seemingly unchanged since its opening in 1939. Rain can cancel the show, so keep an eye on the weather. Tickets, which include bus service, can be purchased at the better hotels.


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