I just got back from Cuba. A place full of colors, beautiful beaches and has been dancing to it’s own beat for more than half a century. This was my second experience in the country. The first was a little more than 20 years ago. At that time, I saw a more closed Cuba, quiet, very sad, with little movement on the streets. A country with virtually no tourists. Now the changes are evident. The future is already starting to shape up and the “Fidel Era” is slowly drifting away. Just to remind you, Fidel Castro implemented communism in Cuba, in 1959, after the country had experienced a period of dictatorship. Since then, people had been taken their freedom of expression and lost their autonomy to come and go. Most recently, Obama decided to redo the alliances between nations, Fidel Castro died and a new Cuba is starting to shape up.
My roadmap in the country included Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Cayo Coco, Cayo Guillermo and Santa Clara. I am going to share today my week in Havana, the capital of the country. I arrived through Copa Airlines on a flight with a layover in Panama. In total, it was a 9 hour flight from Brazil. The International Airport Jose Marti is very confusing. My first tip is: “carry-on”, this streamlines the arrival. When leaving the airport, go directly to a currency exchange stand, to exchange euros for local currency. In fact, money is quite a complicated issue in the country, because there are two currencies that are used. One for the Cubans (Cuban pesos or cup) and another for tourists (pesos converted or cuc). And you will need to have cucs to pay the taxi. (a cuc corresponds to 25 cups.) You can choose between a common yellow taxi or a vintage car, those that are the trademark of Cuba.
Havana was founded in 1489 as a Spanish colony. It was discovered shortly before Brasil. This inheritance dominates the architecture of the city, in spite of the bad state of conservation. One of the places that most reveals the way of life in the city is the Malecón, an avenue of seven kilometers on the seafront where people gather to chat, date, go fishing, dance, smoke cigars, drink rum, and watch the sunset. But, there is no beach.
From there, walk without haste by the ancient center of Havana declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Visit the beautiful Cathedral Square, the Plaza de Armas, the Old Market Square. Be sure to make a stop in the Bodeguita del Medio to drink a mojito and fall in the Cuban rhythm called the “son”, a mix of salsa, rumba and cha cha cha that keeps everyone moving.
Among the shops of Calle The Bishop, visit the hotel Ambos Mundos where the writer Hemingway lived, go to the Capitólio, the Museum of the Revolution, the National Museum of Fine Arts, and of course, talk to the people, they are the most interesting part of the trip. In the late afternoon, in the squares, a lot of people meet with wi-fi cards in hand trying to connect. They are bought by 2 cucs and give the right to an hour of wifi. It’s funny yet hopeless. To send an e-mail from Cuba is hard work and expensive!
A good restaurant indication is El Carbon. My favorite in the city. Their most requested dish is the “cerdo ahogado”, after all, pork is the most consumed meat in the country. To stay in total comfort, I recommend the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski, triggered the best in town. The hotel occupies a historic mansion that has been used as a school and hospital, it’s awesome!
Next week I will tell you about the amazing islands of Cayo Coco and Cayo Guillermo, north of Cuba, where the turquoise blue caribbean speaks very loudly.
I wish you all a week full of love! Leave your comments below.