[2/12 & 2/13] After another inexpensive breakfast outside someones window (sandwich plus 2 fruit juices for less then $1), we caught the Viazul bus back up to Havana. We checked into the final apartment we’d stay at for the next two nights. I don’t like to say we had a favorite place to stay, everyone was so nice and the apartments were very good, however Emilio and his wife’s apartment was quite amazing. Situated in a very residential area of Central Havana (still only a 20 minute walk to Old Havana) within an apartment complex, it was the only rental in the complex. We got to see and hear Cuban families around us every time we were there. And Emilio and his wife were so nice and so organized. The apartment included free breakfast! (fresh juice, eggs, bread, butter, and jam in the fridge for us every morning).
We had brought the slow feel of Trinidad back with us to Havana. It’s a Sunday afternoon and we leisurely walked around Old Havana and watched all the Cuban families out for the evening; parents drinking beer or rum on the sidewalks while kids played in the streets or in the plazas with tourists trying to navigate their way around them. Live music was coming out of every restaurant and bar with locals and tourists dancing to the beat.
We had asked our hosts where they like to eat. They recommended a good place in Chinatown about 5 blocks from their apartment. IT WAS SPECTACULAR! We had a soup and fried rice with shrimp for $7 and it could have fed 5 people! We had to take most of it to go and give it away to a young family lounging outside their door. They were happy. As a side note…. we had to wait 2 hours to get into that restaurant. Waiting “in line” in Cuba is quite an experience. There is no physical line as we understand it here in the states. You ask who is “El Ultimo?” (who’s last), remember what they look like, then go wait where you’d like. When you hear someone else ask “El Ultimo?”, you raise your hand and you are no longer last in line. You just have to remember who is ahead of you. This is how it was at this restaurant…. UNTIL the waiter came out and took names. That’s when the confusion started for the next hour. The “line” was apparently fine up until us. The question was who was after us? The guy that asked “El Ultimo?” or the guy who put his name down after us. We felt lucky to have gotten in. At any point someone could have cut in front of us or kicked us out of line, but they didn’t. They were all very civil and knew it was “that family, then those two foreigners, then…???”.
We took the final full day in Havana very slow. We had two things to do; hit the arts & crafts & antiques market to find souvenirs and take a tour of the city in a 1951 red chevy convertible. If you are like us and not so into signing up for tours or doing the touristy thing, taking a tour in a classic car around Havana is indeed a must. Our driver looked like a cowboy (most do), and the car was such a blast to ride in. He drove us around to various far out neighborhoods for an hour ending with a ride on the Malecon along the water. What a treat!
[2/14] After breakfast we spent about an hour talking with our hosts before heading to the airport. They were both professors at a university and as such had the opportunity to travel for work to Europe and South America. They have their apartment on the first floor, their daughter and her family in the unit behind them, then the 2 bedroom unit upstairs they rent out on Airbnb. They had lots of pictures, books, and collectables around. We had been looking for a nice cigar box but couldn’t find a nice simple one. They had one in the rental apartment so we asked where they got it. Instead of giving us the location of purchase, they gave us the box. 🙂 🙂 🙂 The perfect souvenir for us.
Traveling to Cuba was quite the adventure. Because it’s so new for Americans to go there (legally anyway), it was hard to find information about travel insurance and visas. We bought insurance on Squaremouth from RoamRight and that was accepted. Instead of paying $100 for a visa in the states, we bought our visa at the check in gate to our flight to Cuba in Panama City, Panama for $20. Once in Cuba, things can certainly get frustrating. BE PREPARED TO BE VERY FLEXIBLE. Bus tickets were sold out to Trinidad when we wanted to go, so we went a day later changing our plans. We were sold a tour that included horse back rides; however the tour ended up NOT including horse back rides. It took 3 tour offices to finally buy tickets to the Cigar Factory (oh, you can’t buy the day before… we open at 9am but then nobody’s there…). Power and water went out at one of the apartments we stayed at at 11pm. We were too tired to get up and complain. Frustrations aside, Cuba is beautiful. The people are beautiful. We felt safer walking the streets of Havana at night then we do in L.A. I strongly recommend going to Cuba. We definitely want to go back and see more of the country (Viñales Valley, Cienfuegos,…). Adios.