Wow. Havana is everything I could have hoped for. Truly beautiful and the people are so incredibly kind! And the cars! My goodness the cars are amazing!!! I’ve definitely fallen in love! 🙂 If you get the chance, please visit Cuba! You won’t be disappointed! 🙂 (I know, I say that about a lot of places but there’s just so many beautiful countries in this world) :).
I love how I thought it was going to be tough getting a visa… nope. You can literally just buy one at the airport gate for $100. No questions asked. (Yeah it’s not cheap, but not the most expensive visa either).
Landing in Havana was super easy too. I got my cash exchanged at the airport, again really easy. Now I’m not sure if you can exchange money in the city? I know if you hold a US credit card you can’t withdraw cash. (And adding as an edit, I met a very nice man from the US -who I’m pretty sure was a spy- but he said one can exchange money on the black market in town. He has a guy who’s missing a hand named Bobby who he goes to, but I think I’ll just keep my currency exchange at the airport) ;).
I got a taxi to my casa (don’t pay more than $25-30 depending on where you’re going). I asked my driver before just to make sure. The people are really lovely. I mean like really nice! Most don’t speak English but they really truly try to talk to you. My driver gave me a brief tour and played lovely salsa music for our ride in. So great!
In about 30 minutes we arrived at my casa. A lovely place in central Havana. It’s Casa Isabella if you’re looking for a place. Seriously the owners go above and beyond! So incredibly nice! I love the people here! I check in, they recommend a great place for lunch, and off I go to explore.
Havana really hits you. And I mean that in a good way. It’s exotic. It’s exciting. It’s exquisite (honestly I was just trying to think of another ex-word to describe it) ;). But no really, it’s amazing. I entered into Old Havana and realized this is the Havana that Hemingway experienced. It still has that retro vibe. It’s absolutely astonishing and I’m super in love with it!
I had lunch at Los Nardos which is directly across from El Capitolio. The food was amazing! The beef was so good! And my waiter was so sweet. He kept giving me roses and compliments. I didn’t realize I was semi-pretty in Cuba 😉 (so ladies take note if you want to feel beautiful! Even though you all are already beautiful it never hurts to be reminded) ;).
After lunch I set out to find El Floridita Bar that Ernest Hemingway use to frequent. I feel like he and I would have been great friends! I loved his Harry’s Bar in Venice! My goodness those Bellinis are good! And expensive, but oh well ;). Hemingway claimed that the best daiquiri in the world was at El Floridita. And I have to agree! It’s so good I almost kept ordering them but stopped since I did want to actually see things ;). I only had one, in case my amazing mom is reading this ;). Love you mom! But back to the bar, it’s lovely. And very crowded with tourists! I managed to squeeze in on a seat at the bar but it wasn’t easy. I sat next to this lovely couple from France and we chatted a bit. A great band was playing while I was there as well to give the full Cuban experience. I’m really loving this city. I’m just going to keep saying that ;).
I easily could have spent the remainder of my afternoon in this bar but I did want to see some things ;), so I left and headed towards the Museum of the Revolution. Really interesting by the way. I use to be really into Ernesto Guevara when I was younger. Yes, I’ve read and saw The Motorcycle Diaries a bunch of times ;). Not to be political or anything but I just feel like he had such beautiful ideals for people… but then he headed up the guerrillas, so there’s that. Not saying he was right or wrong I just really admired him. So yes the museum was really interesting for me. I actually learned the US did more than I thought it did to Cuba, which is sad but also kind of makes sense. But then I’m sure some Americans will say Cubans are exaggerating… who knows? No country is perfect. But I did learn that a shot down and killed US soldier spent 19 years in Cuba because the US didn’t want to admit to the world that they took part in the aggression with Cuba in 1961 so they didn’t want to ask for the body back. Hmm… they did finally make a request and the body was returned to the US in 1979. But that poor soldier’s family! Oh lovely politics. And to think I once had a semi desire to be a part of it, too bad it’s always a power play and not really for the good of the people, but, I digress ;).
I was ushered out of the museum at 5 (when they closed), and decided to walk back to my casa via the Malecón. (It’s the lovely street along the water.) I took a brief pause to take some photos of El Morro when a group of three musicians surrounded me. I’m always a goner when it comes to things like this. I always end up paying them money. The snake charmers in Marrakech, Morocco? Yep they got my money. So of course these lovely musicians did too ;). But I mean they sang two songs about me, even put my name in the lyrics lol! They want me to return for an encore musical performance tomorrow night, but I’m going to have to kindly decline on that one ;). Also just as a note to traveler’s going to Cuba, the people really are lovely and don’t ask for tips, I just felt obliged to offer them. They only make about $10 a month so I don’t mind sharing what I have with them. But I don’t want you all to think they’re begging for money, I didn’t find that at all really.
After stopping briefly at my casa, I continue my wander around Havana. A few locals talk to me on my way. They’re all so lovely. I met a guy who works on washing machines. Most of them have family in Miami- which is fitting since I’ve always thought of Miami as little Cuba ;). But the people really want to talk to you. They’ve been guessing I’m German a lot here. Nein, danke ;). I do find it interesting though that when I say I’m American they all bring up how only just recently Americans have been allowed in their country. Which I’m so thankful for!
The owners of my casa are so sweet! Like I stated before, and they set up a driver to take me to see the canon show at 9pm. Havana has been doing this for years! It use to signal the curfew but now it’s just a tradition they continue with. It’s really fun to see! They do a little show beforehand so it’s good to get there a little early.
I was picked up at 8pm by two lovely Cubans, Pedro and Manuel. Pedro spoke English which was great for me as my Español sadly is quite basic. I didn’t realize they both were actually going to accompany me to the canon but I’m really glad they did. They were so much fun! We laughed, we talked, and we saw them shoot off a canon! I learned that it’s mandatory for the people of Cuba to participate in two years of military service and the people who shoot off the canon are part of that service. Pedro said they have a tough one. They have to mow the lawn all day and then shoot the canon with this ceremony every night. Pedro is 3 months into his service but he said his is easier. Though he has to do it 6 days a week. He’s hoping to do a career with history after which I hope he gets to do! Manuel studied informational sciences. Really lovely guys. Pedro then told me the new Fast and Furious movie was filmed in Havana right by his house. He and a friend snuck into the wrap party and everything. How fun :). Actually reminded me of when a dear friend and I snuck into the premiere after party of A King’s Speech in Hollywood after I dug through the trash cans on Hollywood Blvd for VIP entry bracelets… aw good times ;).
Havana has taken a hold of me and I’m very excited to see where it leads me tomorrow. 🙂 Oh and any ladies thinking of going solo, it’s incredibly safe! I haven’t once felt like maybe I shouldn’t be alone. The people are really friendly! Yes a few will try and sell you things, but they won’t hurt you. Cubans are very kind. Or so I’ve noticed :). Love you friends! So much! Get out there and keep exploring this beautiful world :).
Happy traveling! 🙂
(Museo de la Revolucion)
(Che! Museo de la Revolucion)
(Museo de la Revolucion)