December 7th – This morning we were all up bright and early to view Havana, which was not as pretty as our twilight view. Our first move (after some delay caused by the custom house and health officers) was to go ashore in one of their many boats. We were rowed by a man who could not speak a word of English to the Custom House, where we had our trunks examined. It was quickly done and it seemed to me very negligently. We might have taken many valuables. We then took two ________, Nora and Mrs. Del Bareo in one and Mr. D. Mr. Matthews and myself in another. Mr. M. sitting with the driver. We drove rapidly to the Hotel Angleterra which is situated pleasantly outside of the city wall. We saw many amusing sights while passing through the streets, men, women and children in great variety. The first thing which attracted our attention was the great variety of vehicles, which are indescribable. They have some very handsome horses here and some excessively poor. The beasts of burden are the most remarkable; imagine an animal so laden with green fodder that you can only see a portion of its face, feet and tail, its mouth muzzled. The load extends two or three feet each side the animal being short and small gives it a very grotesque appearance. The Spaniards are all neat looking on the street. The gentlemen have white pants, white vests and black vests, sometimes light coats. The ladies all appear without bonnets, generally a veil thrown over them. Their dresses are very long. The ladies are generally in carriages; they seem to walk very little. Girls, negroes all females are all bareheaded. It is amusing to see how the colored race try to ape fashions. You will see them trailing their long dresses, seldom fitting them. There are a number of Chinamen here engaged in the lower occupations, at the Custom House, in the markets, mending wares, etc. The ladies usually wear black lace mantles thrown over so as to cover a portion of the face. The negroes were three Bandana handkerchiefs as a mantle; the little children one.
Here we are, at the Hotel, with which we were agreeably disappointed. We had a delicious breakfast, which was truly grateful after sea fare. After this was over, we were shown our rooms, which are almost indescribable. We are in the fourth story, with no prospect of being removed. Our bedroom floor is brick with an oilcloth on it; iron bedstead covered with cloth like a cot. There are no ceilings, simply the rafters, painted or whitewashed. Our bedding was good, linen sheets, scenic calico spreads, which reminded me of old times, native pictures on them. We have a very obliging chambermaid, who speaks English, a black woman. It is a rare thing to hear English. One certainly ought to understand the language of the country they visit. After seeing our rooms we dressed for sight seeing, but went a very little distance, as it was too warm that time of day. The weather is like our summer, we dare not go out in the middle of the day. We drive in the day and walk at night. The nights are generally cool. The houses are singular, built of stone, painted or whitewashed in several colors, white, blue and yellow and only one story, flat roofs, with no chimneys. The handsomest residences are two stories, built of stone, with balconies in front and courts in the rear, where the children have a place to play. We can see a great deal of the manners and customs of the people on the street. They have a carriage way where the servants congregate. In the adjoining room is a piano, two rows of rocking chairs, where everyone sits opposite to each other. The front window is all barred with straight rows of iron, about two or three inches apart down to the floor, some with curtains drawn, others not, so that we can readily see them in passing. You seldom see the gentlemen at home in the evening. This Hotel is situated just outside of the city wall. Opposite it are two squares laid out fancifully, within walks. One of them has four fountains in it. There are iron settees and chairs all around. Here the gentlemen meet in the evening and we sometimes meet ladies walking through them. This is entirely a Catholic City. Protestant churches are not allowed. Everyone who desires to go into business here is compelled to swear he is a Catholic, whether he is or not. The bells ring a great deal. It is very quiet in the daytime, but noisy at night, as almost everyone is on the street. Carriages seem to be running all night. Nearly all the private conveyances are elegant. Last night, Sunday, we saw a great many pass the hotel, many with coachmen and footmen. The streets all around us are wide, so that they have plenty of room. The livery is dark blue or black faced with gilt or silver broad bands on the hats.
We went to the Cathedral yesterday, but did not see or hear much of the worship. It was amusing to see the mode of worship. The church has a marble floor. The servants would precede their mistresses with a rug which they would spread on the floor before the altar. Then the ladies followed and kneeled on the rug, said their prayers, arranged their dresses, recognized the gentlemen. All wore veils or mantles. We have been out several times with our veils and find them much cooler than bonnets. Everyone stares at us, which is as amusing to us as we are to them.
Our visit to the Capt. General’s house. It is the largestest and coolest house we have seen. His garden is beautiful. The coconut trees are cultivated here; he has several rows of them. He has many singular plants and trees, names of which are unknown to us. There is a large stream running through the grounds, forming in several places a waterfall. We saw a nice row boat on it for the family. We saw an aquarium and an aviary. It rained while we were there, so as to prevent us from going all through it. We have visited several other gardens. At one place a man gave us some roses, which were like our June roses – very sweet. At another we saw a very pretty rustic cottage built of small branches and twigs. It would surprise you to see how fresh everything looks at the market – fresh lettuce, radishes, onions, tomatoes, okra, cabbage, etc. They have delightful fish here, crabs, shrimp, rubies and a variety of others that that we do not know the names. We cannot recognize that it is so cold and unpleasant at home, it being so near Christmas.