Posts Tagged With: history

Museum of the Revolution (Museo de la Revolución) in Havana

In a previous post I gave some history on the Museum of the Revolution and I thought this warranted some further photos from inside this former presidential palace and some practical tips for a visit.

Museum of the revolution (Museo de la Revolución)

Tickets cost CUC 8 per person, at time of writing, and for a further CUC 2 you can get a guided tour (English tours are available), however, there really is no need to have a tour, as the majority of the exhibits have English translations (it does help however, to have a little knowledge of Cuba’s history). Once you have your ticket you are required to hand in your bags, as no bags are allowed, however, cameras are allowed. There may be a little wait at this point as the museum only has so many bag tickets, so you may have to wait until someone comes to pick theirs up before you can hand your bag in (we only waited a few minutes before a ticket was available).

The museum descents chronologically from top to bottom, with the top floor also housing some art and a gift shop. I suggest you follow the signs to go up the stairs and start at the top and work your way down.

Revolutionary art on the 3rd floor

It was Governor General Aubert who, in 1909 decided that a new venue for the Provincial Government was needed. The original design did not include the tiled cupola and was added to the design at a later date.

The tiled cupola

In 1918 the building became the Presidential Palace when President Mario García Menocal took possession of it while it was still under construction. Construction was finally completed in January 1920 and the building was officially inaugurated.

The Carrara marble main staircase is not open to the public, but is wonderful to view from the bottom steps or from the third floor. It dominates the lobby and leads up to the second floor.

The Carrara marble staircase

The Salón de los Espejos is a replica of the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles and was under renovation when we visited, so although we were not able to enter the salon, we still had a great view looking into it from the top floor.

The Hall of Mirrors (Salón de los Espejos), a replica of the Versailles original

The wall detail in the Hall of Mirrors (Salón de los Espejos)

The presidential office is another part of the building that you can only view from behind a barrier, but the room does give you a good idea what it may have looked like during its heyday.

The Presidential Office

The other side of the Presidential Office

One wonderful room that was open to us was the Salón Dorado (Golden Hall), which is made of plated yellow marble with gold embossing on the walls. Four canvases mounted on 18-carat gold sheets grace the walls.

The Golden Hall (Salón Dorado)

The former palace is an important part of Cuban history. From 1959 to 1965, after the revolution, it housed both the Government and the Council of Ministers, and in 1965 the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba was formed here. In 1974 the presidential palace transitioned to the museum to the Cuban Revolution, two years later witnessing the approval of the 1976 Constitution, and in 2010 it was declared a national monument.

The Cuban flag on the inside court

Note that there are not many opportunities to sit down, so if this is important to you, be prepared that you may not get the chance to rest. I did find a vacant chair on the upper floor in one of the exhibit rooms, as did some others, and we all took the chance to take a rest and cool down, as the upper rooms were very hot indeed.

As you walk downstairs make sure you take a close look at the walls and you will find some bullet holes, a leftover from an assassination attempt in 1957 on the then president Batista.

The 2nd floor of the museum

The ground floor also contains a little bar (with fantastic aircon!) where you can get a mojito or some bottled water. After cooling down venture to the outside part of the museum, which amongst other items contains Castro’s yacht the Granman, which is housed in a glass building and can only be viewed from the outside.

Despite the fact that some of the exhibits could do with some better English translations, we thought it was well worth visiting this museum. We visited on a weekday in early May this year and did not find it overly busy. All in all I think we spent about 3 hours here and you could easily spent more time here.



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Havana’s Buildings – Part 3

Havana is a city full of surprises, least of all its buildings; everything can be found here; newly renovated houses, crumbling colonial builds, public buildings, and old majestic stone mansions.

This next set is a mix of new and old, some of which we discovered during our classic car tour (more of this in a later post).

I have no idea where this building stands (I think it was somewhere in the Vedado district), but we passed it on our car tour. The gold decorative detail really drew me in; clearly it has been renovated and I’d like to think that this is how it originally looked. I would love to go inside and have a snoop around – maybe next time!

This building has been beautifully restored

This tall and colourful building stands near the Monte de las Banderas, a plaza directly opposite of the US Embassy on the Malecón. In the background you can see the Edificio López Serrano building, which was built in 1932 and was Cuba’s first skyscraper. It is a replica of the New York Empire State Building (just with the lower 70 floors chopped off). However, I was actually concentrating on photographing the red and yellow tower, and only realized later that the Edificio López Serrano building was in the photo!

Standing tall on the Malecón, Havana with the Edificio López Serrano in the background

This imposing building is Havana’s university, which moved here in 1902. The original university was in Havana Vieja and was founded in 1728 by Dominican monks. This neoclassical complex was built in the second quarter of the 20th century and, other than the university, also contains a natural history museum and an anthropology museum. Some 30,000 students study social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, mathematics, and economics here.

Universidad de la Habana/University of Havana

Havana has a number of plazas throughout the city and each one is worth a visit. This baroque building, the Palacio del Segundo Cabo, stands in the northwest corner of Plaza de Armas, which is Havana’s oldest square, dating from the 1520s (it was originally known as Plaza de Iglesia). This building was constructed in 1772 as the headquarters of the Spanish vice-governor. Since then it has been a post office, the palace of the Senate, the Supreme Court, and the National Academy of Arts and Letters. It now houses a museum dedicated to Cuban-European cultural relations.

Palacio del Segundo Cabo, Plaza de Armas, Havana

For more buildings, please visit my previous Part 1 and Part 2 posts.

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El Morro – Guardian of Havana’s port

El Morro, guardian of Havana’s harbour

El Morro, or Castillo de los Tres Santos Reyes Magnos del Morro to give it its full name, stands at the entrance of Havana’s port and has done so since 1630, when the building was finished; the famous lighthouse was not added until 1844. El Morro is one of 4 forts build along the water built by the Spanish.

The fort has an irregular polygonal shape, 3m thick walls and a deep protective moat, and is a classic example of Renaissance military architecture. For more than a century the fort withstood numerous attacks by French, Dutch and English privateers (including Sir Francis Drake), but in 1762 after a 44-day siege a 14,000-strong British force captured El Morro by attacking from the landward side.

El Morro hosts a maritime museum which includes an account of the fort’s siege and eventual surrender to the British in 1762 using paintings, artefacts, and narratives in English and Spanish.

Walking into El Morro

The fort sits opposite of Havana’s old town (Havana Vieja) and your best option to cross the water is via a taxi or take a bus (there is a ferry, but that stops at the Fort Casablanca, about a 20 minute walk further down). To enter El Morro you go down some steps to something that does not look like an entrance to a major attraction and once you have paid your 6 CUCs you walk down a narrow walkway to get into the fort.

The views from El Morro out to Havana are fantastic and the travel guides tell you to try to visit to take in a sunset over Havana from the fort; we decided to go during the morning and had El Morro almost to ourselves.

The view towards Havana’s port

The exhibits in the fort are really interesting and the cannons are truly spectacular to see despite some of them looking a little worse for wear.

One of many cannons at El Morro

This building contains the story of the fort as told through paintings, artefacts and narratives

A view down into the fort from its roof

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Old and New

I love the juxtaposition of the old and new in London. Here you have the All Hallows by the Tower church with the Walkie Talkie building in the background.

All Hallows is the oldest church in the City of London and was founded in 675 AD, 300 years before the Tower of London. The church survived the Great Fire of London in 1666, but was extensively damaged in WWII, and only the tower and the walls remained, before it was rebuilt.

The Walkie Talkie building (officially called 20 Fenchurch Street) was completed in 2014 and is 37 storeys high. It contains the Sky Garden, a three-storey visitor attraction, including bars and restaurants.

All Hallows at the Tower and the Walkie Talkie building

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Seven Dials in London

Looking at Seven Dials in London today you’d be hard pressed to associate this area with anything but fashionable shops and cafes. However, this was not always the case.

Seven Dials, London

Seven Dials lies sandwiched between Soho and Covent Garden in London’s West End. The layout was designed by Thomas Neale, and MP in the early 1690s; his design laid the area out in a series of triangles to maximise the number of houses as rentals were charge per foot of frontage and not per square foot of interiors (it’s all about the money here!). Neale envisaged an area that would attract affluent residents and so the names of the seven streets were chosen very carefully (as a side note, the original design was for 6 streets, a 7th was introduced late in the design stages – that is also why the monument includes only 6 sun dials).

The sundial of Seven Dials, London

The original names were Little and Great Earl Street (now Earlham Street), Little and Great White Lyon Street (now Mercer Street), Queen Street (now Shorts Gardens) and Little & Great St. Andrew’s Street (now Monmouth Street). Some of the original street signs can still be seen attached to buildings in the area. Unfortunately, the affluent residents never materialized, instead, the area became a slum, renowned for its gin shops (gin was much cheaper than wine in those days). There were drunken brawls in the streets, mobs would reign at night and women would sell their bodies to passers-by. It is also said that many a baby has been left at the Seven Dials monument.

The sundial column you see in the center is not the original, this one was installed in 1988-89, but it is identical to the original design.

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17 Gough Square, London

In my last post I alluded to Gough Square’s famous house, which sits at No. 17.

No. 17 Gough Square, London, Dr Samuel Johnson’s home

Dr Samuel Johnson lived at No. 17 Gough Square where he moved to write “A Dictionary of the English Language”. The house was built at the end of the 17th century by Richard Gough, a city wool merchant. The townhouse was part of a development in Gough Square, and it is the only one to survive from that time.

Unfortunately we did not have time to go inside, but apparently it has retained many of its original period features, such as panelling, the open staircase, and even the original door handles.

Dr Johnson’s dictionary was published in 1755 and from then on he was known as “Dictionary Johnson”.  Dr Johnson’s literary works are vast and varied and according to The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Johnson is the second most-quoted Englishman (a topical reference guide to his quotations can be found here). He most famously said “…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”.

Walk down to the bottom of Gough Square and you will encounter this statue of Hodge, Johnson’s most famous cat (he features in James Boswell’s Life of Johnson).

Hodge is sitting on a dictionary next to some empty oyster shells. Johnson was in the habit of going out himself to buy oysters for the cat. Today this would be extremely extravagant, but in the 18th century oysters were very cheap and eaten by the poor.

Hodge, at the bottom of Gough Square, London

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Gough Square, London

Gough Square in London is famous for being the location of Dr Samuel Johnson’s house. Dr Johnson in turn is famous for being the author of the first english dictionary. However, this is not a post about him or his house. Instead, this is a small glimpse of the other little corners and alleyways that exist around this area, which is just off Fleet Street.

Gough Square, London

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More from London

I haven’t really been very active with my blogging of late, somehow life got in the way in the past few months.

I find myself going back to my London photos again and again, and realizing that I still have a ton that I haven’t really worked on. So slowly I am working my way through them.

Here are a few that caught my eye this afternoon.

This is Leadenhall Market, which dates back to the 14th century and sits in the centre of Roman London. It used to be a meat, poultry, and game market, but is now home to boutique retailers, restaurants, cafes, pubs, and wine bars. It became famous world-wide as a Harry Potter filming location.


Leadenhall Market

St Katherine’s Dock is the place we called home during our stay in London earlier this year.

The docks were opened on 25th October 1828, and are situated between the Tower of London and the London Docks. Originally the area was home to a hospital, originally founded in 1148 by Matilda of Boulogne. The hospital, together with 1,250 houses and tenements, were pulled down in 1827 to make way for the docks. This left around 11,300 inhabitants looking for new accommodation elsewhere. These docks specialized mostly in tea from India and wool from Australia, New Zealand and the Falkland Islands. It also received a large array of luxury goods from all around the world, such as china, ostrich feathers, spices, mother of pearl, oriental carpets, and raw materials to manufacture perfume, to name but a few. Since the demise of the shipping industry, the area has been transformed into a mix of residential houses/flats and restaurants/bars/pubs.

St Katherine’s Docks

And finally for today, The Shard.

The Shard is now one of the iconic modern buildings in London; it was inaugurated in 2012 and opened to the public in 2013, and was designed to be a vertical city, containing offices, restaurants/bars, shops, a public viewing platform and apartments. It stands 95 storeys tall (310m high) and is currently the tallest building in the UK. I hope on our next visit to actually make up to the viewing platform.

The Shard

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The Neon Museum in Las Vegas

The Neon Museum in Las Vegas

Las Vegas is not for everyone, but I have to admit that I have a secret love for this city (well, not so secret now). We have been  a few times over the years and there is always something new to see and do.

On our last trip I thought it would be fun to visit the Neon Museum in the Downtown area. I am so glad we visited, as it was one of our highlights this time around.

Firstly, you cannot just walk around on your own here, you have to book a guided tour, which lasts 1 hour. It is best to book in advance online, and also note that the evening tours are slightly higher in cost than the daytime tours. We actually arrived early for our booked tour and we were able to join an earlier tour, so if you cannot book in advance you should still be able to get onto a tour if you just arrive at the museum.

Secondly, not all the neon signs are working, in fact, out of the over 200 sign 11 are working. This is due to the fact that restoration of these old signs takes a lot of money, time and dedication. However, all the signs are lit up with spot lights, so don’t fret!

The original La Concha Motel Lobby now houses the museum’s entrance, visitor center, and gift shop

The museum’s entrance, visitor center and gift shop are located inside the historic La Concha Motel lobby. The shell-shaped building was designed by architect Paul Revere Williams and is a striking example of Mid-Century modern design characterized by Atomic-and Space Age shapes and motifs. The motel lobby was originally constructed in 1961 on Las Vegas Boulevard South (next to the Riviera Hotel). In 2005 it was saved from demolition and in 2006 moved to its current location.

The building, as well as the Stardust sign in the yard, did immediately remind me of the cartoon series “The Jetsons”, which is from the same era.

The famous Stardust sign

The guided tour was very entertaining and informative. Our guide was just fantastic, she had previously worked at the Mob Museum down the road, so knows Las Vegas and its history very well. She was also very accommodating to people with cameras, recognizing that we wanted to get photos of the signs without people in it, so she said “as long as I can still see you, you’re okay”. Be aware that there are not many benches in the yard, so be prepared for standing and high heels are a no-no as the paths are gravelled.

All in all I can highly recommend visiting the Neon Museum as it really brings to live some of the history of the hotels, most of which have long gone.

The Liberace sign

The “H” sign

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Inside the Tower of London

Last week’s post concentrated on the outside of the Tower of London; this week I will share some of the photos from the inside of the Tower.

The White Tower is home to the Royal Armouries collection, which includes the 350-year-old exhibition “Line of Kings”. In the collection you will find armour of Henry VIII, Charles I and James II. There are also interactive displays, one of which lets you shoot a longbow and arrow (virtual arrow that is).

Inside the Royal Armouries

Detail of the engraving on Henry VIII’s armour

The wall of breast plates in the background is quite something!

This is a recreation of the King’s private hall and gives a real feel for what this may have looked like in the reign of King Edward I (1272-1307). The bed is apparently constructed to be easily taken apart for when the King and his household would move to another castle.

Replica of King Edward I private hall

These modern sculptures can be found in the White Tower.

This throne, a replica copied from the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey, stands in the upper chamber of the Wakefield Tower. This room was originally built to be a private chamber or bedchamber for Henry III (1216-1272). Under Edward I the room lost its original function and became an ante-room to the new chambers in St Thomas’s Tower. After Edward’s death the Wakefield Tower was abandoned as a residence.

Inside the Tower of London you come across a lot of narrow doors, hall ways, and stairs; some of them are unfortunately not accessible to the public. Our daughter actually commented on this and wished we could explore all those places that were cordoned off to us!

The portcullis of the Bloody Tower is apparently still working (so our Beefeater tour guide told us). They think it is originally medieval and was probably restored in the 16th century.

The portcullis of the Bloody Tower

And here is the bottom of the Bloody Tower portcullis.


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