If you have been following my Instagram feed, you probably noticed I just came back from a brief trip to Cuba. Actually, it’s been almost three weeks (What!? Where does time go?). I spent four days, experiencing a city stuck in time, roaming the streets and singing along to catchy tunes on every corner.
Cuba had always been on my travel bucket list and it was really interesting to finally experience this culture firsthand. I stayed in a bed and breakfast, known in Cuba as a casa particular. The room was tiny but comfortable and it had a balcony that overlooked Obispo Blvd in Old Havana. A pleasant surprise was the daily carnival that paraded along this street. I got to witness it from my balcony one day and partook in it the next.
The house was very close to the city’s main sites; the famous El Floridita bar, La Bodeguita del Medio, the Capitol, Plaza de Armas, Plaza Vieja (my favorite) and Plaza de la Catedral are all walking distance from Obispo. I tried to squeeze into La Bodeguita del Medio to see what all the hype was about, and while it was truly an interesting place, I didn’t stay there to eat or drink (too packed!). But I did sing along to Guantanamera and Maria Isabel with the band and other fellow tourists. I loved hearing music all around me; almost every paladar (restaurant) had live music during lunch time.
One of my favorite experiences was riding around the city in a ’55 Chevy Monterrey; driving along the Malecón with the windows down was so much fun. I also smoked a cigar for the first time and actually enjoyed it!
My top picks of what to do and where to go in Havana include, enjoying a beer while listening to live music at Fabrica de la Cerveza in Plaza Vieja; having dinner on the balcony while enjoying the sunset at La Guarida; immersing myself in the afrocuban culture are Callejon de Hamel; walking around Fusterlandia, an artsy neighborhood converted into a work of art by Cuban artist Jose Fuster;visiting the San Jose Market for some souvenirs; and enjoying the Club Parisien show at Hotel Nacional.
This trip to Havana was an eye-opening experience and I loved every minute of it. However, I also witnessed the harsh reality of Cuba. I encountered a few government distribution centers, where Cubans receive their monthly allotment of goods per household. I talked to a few people that hesitated at first to share their feelings about the way they have to live but ultimately confided their daily challenges. Despite all this, the locals have learned to cope with it and make the best of their situation; they are true survivalists. Their thriving spirit is contagious.
I prepared a special post with FAQs to help you plan your trip to Cuba, click here to read.