I have a large, plump mound of ice in a fancy glass - a daqueri - and it slumps like a hot, drunken snowman into its bath of triple sec, sugar and rum. "Ron", as the locals call it.

As every minute passes, he snoozes further downwards into the boozey puddle. The view over central Havana from the roof top of the Hotel Saratoga is complete. It’s 28 degrees, perhaps even a little warmer; the pool is rippling gently.

Caribbean blue sky slips down behind the mango groves. A fondant-yellow church, and a slab of ocean fills the gaps along the horizon.

Broken tarmac floods up the roadside kerbs, and chunky pavements wash up around the feet of squat colonial relics which face the wonky squares and up-down streets of Old Havana.

The tumble-down buildings sit together like grand old ladies made up in powder blues, pinks and yellows, and they drip in ornamental lace and pearl plasterwork. Years of overpainting have marshmallowed any hint of the once-crisp friezework. Not an inch has escaped a good, soft and thick coat of pastel.

Jalopies putt-putt their way along the grand boulevard running from the domed Capitolio down to the Malécon; hotly pursued by the lead-filled plumes they blow. Seventy year old Chevvies and Buicks wheeze about in chrome and scarlet, royal purple, mustard, watermelon green and hot tangerine.

Chequerboard-playing pensioners perch on the kerbs under the tall marble arcades that fringe walls of the grand but musty municipal buildings, and cheeky taxi jineteros tout for work.

Down the boulevard, the top floor ballroom of the century old sky scraping Hotel Sevillia shines out through its Versaillian windows. Its vast columned lobby is filled with bottle green and orange tiles which are held against the walls by ancient grout and the swell of old cigar smoke.

You can perch upon one of a dozen uncomfortable sofas here (the springs gave up many years ago), drink something strong and listen to Guantanamera again, imagining the parties when Al Capone used to rent the whole place out for the weekend.

This post was first published on Sun Mar 04 2018 originally on, my former personal blog

Andy Higgs
The author

My name is Andy Higgs and I am a business founder, design leader, occassional surfer and travel enthusiast based in the UK.

More of my travel and business writing can be found here, or you can subscribe to the feed for these posts here.