Cuba

Cuba was definitely on my to-visit list for a long time now, and I am so happy I was able to experience it. Words and pictures cannot capture the spirit and warmth of the Cuban people, but I’ll do my best to give it some justice 🙂

(For some reason my pictures turned out blurry when I uploaded them here, so I apologize in advance!)

A few tips / things we learned the hard way:

  1. Bring EUROS! Go to your local bank and exchange dollars for euros. Then when you arrive in Cuba, you can exchange euros for CUPs. If you are in Cuba exchanging dollars for CUPs, they will charge you a 10% fee right off the top. Then you will loose more from the exchange rate which is about 1USD = .98 CUPs (yes, the Cuban dollar is stronger than the US!!) If you are exchanging euros, then there is no fee, just the difference in the rate
  2. Brush up on your Spanish. Perhaps 2-5% of people speak a tiiiiny bit of English. Luckily, I was able to communicate enough to get around with my broken Spanish, but I wish I would have brought a book to learn/translate more
  3. Plan your trip in advance. Whenever I travel, I do a little bit of research of the spots to visit, best rated restaurants, etc. but for the most part I tend to wing it and ask locals once I arrive. This was difficult to do in Cuba since people don’t speak English (per above) and there is no wifi. The lack of internet didn’t bother me, but it would have been very helpful to look up places and distances. So if you are a planner, make sure you look up everything and map out locations prior to arriving in Cuba.

Miramar – Airbnb

We stayed in Miramar, which is a wealthier neighborhood in Cuba. The main street was lined with embassies (which were old colonial houses rather than corporate buildings!) The entire neighborhood also bordered another coast line, which was rocky but still beautiful. It seems there were huge hotels and pools at one point, but they are all deserted now. I assume this was all booming before the revolution and maybe they will rebuild it back up one day. It certainly has great potential!

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avo

Our Airbnb had a MASSIVE avocado tree in the backyard. Say no more.

fishing

I came out super early one morning before the scorching heat and saw fisherman lining the coast

dog

This little cutie was our host’s

pool

The empty pools

 

goat

No trip would be complete if I didn’t find some goats in the street! My dream job is to raise goats and make cheese, naturally.

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Hemingway’s House

I love to read and writers fascinate me, as they are often interesting / weird individuals.  Hemingway’s house (& bar) were high on my list of things to see. It didn’t disappoint! His house is about a 20 min drive from downtown Havana. It rests on top of a large hill (similar to Bob Marley’s house if you have ever been). The built of the house and surroundings is absolutely gorgeous! His views are spectacular, and he even had a single room, perched on the highest peak, with a telescope for looking out at the stars.

room

His bedroom and on the bed is the original newspaper with the headlines when his wife died in a plane crash

house

Hemmingway loves to hunt exotic animals (none of the heads throughout his house are actually animals from Cuba). They think he took trips to Africa & brought them all back

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grave

He lived with 57 cats (yes!) and 9 dogs. These are the graves of his dead dogs…

hemingway

This was the bar he frequently visited (he was a big drinker) and ordered mojitos

 

 

Beach (& Food) – Santa Maria Playa

I love, love, love the beach! We spent 4 days at the beach, which was about a 20 min drive from our Airbnb. Cuba has many beaches, all which are much farther apart then I naively thought. Varadero is the most famous beach, but considering it was 2 hours away, we didn’t want to commit 4 hours in a car to go there – Santa Maria was incredible enough!

Book

Quick plug for Into the Water, Paula’s second book. if you loved Girl on the Train, you’ll love this one! Finished it in 5 days because I couldn’t wait t find out the ending!

drinks

You can stay hydrated throughout the day with $1 beers or $3 mojitos/cuba libres

volley

One of the days, the Cuban National volleyball team was by us, doing a photoshoot

Beach

fish

Local fisherman didn’t have fishing boats but would instead go out into the ocean on the bicycling boats (don’t know the proper name). They would catch buckets of sardines just by throwing nets

 

dad & me

The weather was really hot. Like 100 degrees hot. So I spent most of the day either submerged in the water or under an umbrella – & I’m still peeling!

 

palm

pina

Two of the days I ate pineapple for lunch. It was soooo good! There were little huts of food vendors selling all sorts of yummy food – fried plantains, chicken, rice & beans. But the fruit was by far my fav! (and just $1!)

tamale

Another day we bought homemade tamales from a man that walked around the beach. Again, they were delicious and just $1!

playa

 

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Havana Vieja – Old Havana

We spent a day touring Old Havana with our lovely guide, Tony. The buildings in Havana are all so beautiful; a mix of Spanish, French, and Cuban architecture. One of the biggest things I found fascinating is that everyone in Cuba has a job. We did not see a single homeless person on the streets. The government makes it a point to employee everyone, regardless of your skill set or any disabilities. There was a blind man singing beautifully at one of the restaurants we had dinner in one night. They also have two different types of currencies – CUP and CUC. People that are poorer, pay in CUC which is 1 to 24. A guy explained to me that this is so everyone feels equal, instead of gathering food stamps or feeling uncomfortable shopping in certain stores.

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church.jpg

capitol The Capitol Building

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coast4

This is the other side of Old Havana. It’s a 7 kilometer stretch of nothing but ocean! In the morning, the pier is filled with fisherman and in the evenings you will see the sidewalks crowded with people strolling hand in hand, listening to music, or enjoying bottles of rum 🙂

 

che

The people are most proud of the Revolution, and the 3 national heroes depicted everywhere are Fidel, Che, and Raul. I’m hoping to pick up Che’s biography for my next read!

hotel

We came back into the city at night for dinner and drinks. This is a hotel that was so beautifully lit up

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flag

This waterfall is in front of the famous Nacional Hotel which is where Obama stayed when he visited Cuba

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Malecon

This was my close second favorite! Malecon is a huge fort on the edge of the city and sea. It opens up around 8:00PM and people can walk through the grounds, explore different rooms that are set up like mini museums, and at 9:00PM is a traditional ceremony where a canon is fired! The view of the entire city is spectacular and it was probably the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen!

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At the entrance

maleconmalecon7malecon6malecon5malecon4sunsetme malecon

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