Havana, Mi Amor

“My mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita.” – Ernest Hemingway

Cuba, one of the last bastions of communism in the world, a forgotten country so close to USA and so far away…

My first trip to Cuba was in 2008. I joined an international Cuban tour organized by Cuban Adventures. And from then on, a life of Cuban adventures has started!

Havana (Habana)

Passing through the José Martí International Airport in Havana, is like being in another world, a world stopped in time 50 years ago: aged buildings, grandma fashion and smell of cigarettes. People were smoking while waiting to pick up their luggage!

I accepted a ride to my hotel from two men inside the airport. Their “taxi” was a very old, broken Lada soviet made car. Of course, no safety belt or taxi meter. The men were very friendly and smiling all the time, until they frown up…

You can see Cuba as an exotic place. Old, dilapidated buildings have their own charm.

La Maravilla, Havana

La Maravilla, Havana

Fidel Castro and Che Guevara billboards remind us about the Cuban Revolution.

Che Guevara wall painting

Che Guevara wall painting

Vintage, American cars from 50s and 60s are still on the road, and they are beautiful. Many of them are restored and a Chrysler may have only the original body, but the engine can be from a Toyota and the clutch from a Dacia (an old Romanian car).

Chevrolet

50’s Chevrolet

Vintage car, Cuba

American beauty

Falling in love with Havana and in Havana is easy! The city is so unique, so vibrant and yet so tranquil…

The Capitol, opera and Inglaterra hotel in Havana

The Capitol, Gran Teatro de La Habana and Inglaterra hotel

Street performers, Havana

Street performers

Parliament building in Havana

The Parliament building in Havana

Old Havana (La Habana Vieja)

Havana

Havana

Strolling through the narrowed streets of Old Havana, between old colonial style buildings and under clothes hanging high above on lines, you are going back in time. People are chatting, dancing rumba or enjoying a cigar. Children play soccer on the street. Bicycle taxis are waiting for customers. Old cars are repaired or painted. Stray dogs wander around…

The people are very friendly and knowing some Spanish will help. Bring lot of gifts from your country: chocolate, gum, toys, soap, t-shirts, anything is appreciated.

Havana boys

Welcome to Havana!

Colourful old building, Havana

Colourful old building

Old car being repaired in Havana

Old car being repaired in Havana

Havana market

Havana market

Street market, Havana

Street market, Havana

Bicycle taxi

Bicycle taxi

Plaza Vieja, with the beautiful Catedral de San Cristóbal, is a place where you can enjoy a “Bucanero” (Pirate) local beer on a terrace, smoke a cigar, listen to Cuban jazz and watch the people. Locals in colonial costumes “smoking” huge cigars are waiting for tourists to photograph them in exchange for pesos. Newspaper and peanuts vendors wander around, and, more discrete are the fake cigars dealers.

Plaza de la Catedral

Plaza de la Catedral

Catedral de San Cristóbal

Catedral de San Cristóbal

Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, Plaza de Armas

Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, Plaza de Armas

Malecon

From Old Havana, take a stroll along the coast, on the Malecon esplanade towards the Hotel Nacional, the former Mafia hangout. Big waves are crashing the Malecon. Groups of friends are enjoying the ocean breeze. More animation is in the evenings, especially close to Hotel Nacional, where teens are dancing in the night in the shadow of US Embassy. Life goes on!

Malecon tourists

Tourists on Malecon

Cabaret Parisien, Havana

Cabaret Parisien,  Hotel National, Havana

Hemingway

“Finca Vigia” was Hemingway’s house, near Havana, where he wrote “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Old Man and the Sea”.

Follow the steps of Hemingway: have a mojito at the picturesque La Bodeguita del Medio bar and a daiquiri at La Floridita!

La Bodeguita del Medio

La Bodeguita del Medio

Jazz

You may still be able to attend one of the Buena Vista Social Club’s concerts in Havana or go to a live jazz bar and listen to the beautiful music of Cuba!

Cuban musicians

Cuban musicians

Cigars

The devil is around the corner: a beautiful woman, a good cigar and a bottle of rum!

In Havana I added a new vice to my collection: the cigars! I wasn’t a smoker until I tried my first cigar. Enjoy it with Havana Club rum and with the elusive “beautiful woman” at the sounds of salsa, rumba or bolero!

Cuban grandma smoking cigar

Cuban grandma smoking cigar

The Other Face of Cuba

Despite the romantic view of Cuba, for the most majority of Cubans, life is not easy. Small, monthly rations of rice, eggs, sugar, meat, cigarettes, are sold through the “Supplies booklet” system in dark, state-owned stores.

Convenience store, Havana

Convenience store in Havana with food rations display

To survive, people help each other and corruption is a way of life.

Tips & Tricks

Do travel to Cuba, and travel now, before the country changes.

What I Tried

  • Crocodile meat
  • Cuban cigars (faked and genuine)
  • Mojito, Daiquiri, Cuba Libre
  • Parisien Cabaret
  • Fortune teller

What I Didn’t Try

  • Learning salsa

What I Didn’t Want, But I Got Anyway

  • Giardiasis
  • Lost VISA card
  • Stranded eight hours in Varadero airport due to “bad” winter conditions in Toronto – if you fly low-cost Sunwing, but no problems if you fly Air Canada…

Crazy Talk

  • “Katyusha” is a Russian rocket launcher, but also a patriotic name for a Cuban woman, an homage to the former Soviet protectors
  • “Anais” is a beautiful girl name, taken from a French perfume
  • Most toilet seats in public places don’t have the rim cover
  • How do you talk about Fidel Castro without telling his name? By mimicking his beard through up and down movements of your hand at chin level, using your fingers.
  • Cuba customs questions. Officer: “What do you work?” Me: “I am a web designer”. Officer: “Porno?” Me: “No. Government.”
  • Do trust the Cuban fortune tellers: “You suffer from love”, I was told…
  • Black magic is still performed in the country side
Black magic atifacts

Black magic atifacts

Plan Your Trip to Cuba

Cuba Photos

Palm tree on the beach

Palm tree on the beach

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