After a few days in Varadero, we scheduled a driver to come pick us up in a classic 50’s pink convertible and drive us all the way to Havana. The drive took a little more than two hours, and the salt from the ocean when driving on the coast sure as hell got in my hair as you can see below. (Click on photos to enlarge)
In hindsight- the drive was longer than i expected and i should’ve worn a hat. My scalp was sunburnt the day after… oops. When we arrived we were promptly dropped off in the middle of the old city at Plaza De San Fransisco and waited to find our Airbnb.
The airbnb we rented was located in the heart of the old Havana and was perfect for us. A small kitchen with a lady who made us a traditional breakfast in the morning, the coffee was GOOD. We also had really good air conditioning and two bedrooms with separate bathrooms. For anyone traveling to Cuba, i’d highly recommend getting an airbnb in Havana- was really easy and made me feel a little less like the tourist i was.
Our first day we decided to wander around the city a bit- we walked along the Malecon and i stopped to pose whilst dad took pictures of every single classic car we could find. It’s such a surreal experience being in Cuba.
After a while we sat down for drinks and snacks at a little cafe located on the corner of what felt like one of the main ‘shopping’ streets. Mojitos and Bucanero beers all around! I’ll tell you what- the cuban take on pizza sure is different.
Me being me, i of course wanted to look in the shops. I still have no clue how the shopping works in Cuba, or where you go to get what as every shop seemed to have a little bit of everything, yet nothing all at the same time.
Pictured above is the Farmacia Taquechel (an old pharmacy) that i believe they have turned into a museum. Really nicely kept and cool to see! Then we took a rickshaw back to the apartment because mom wasn’t feeling quite 100% yet, and i got a migraine from the long car ride in the sun. I skipped out on dinner in order to rest up for the next days adventures- but mom brought me back some bruschetta and fresh lobster from dinner. The food in Havana was only slightly better than Varadero.
On our second day in Havana we decided to get another classic car to show us around the city & the sights. Havana really isn’t that big of a city after all. Dad rode shotgun with our driver who barely spoke english yet kept mentioning a green elephant, how bizarre.
Some of the buildings were being restored and others were just down right beautiful to look at with the sunshine and blue skies as backdrop. Riding in a convertible seeing the sights was at least ten times better than the usual double decker tour bus!
After about an hour riding around different neighborhoods we got to a green area where we drank some water and got some shade. Mom and i lost dad at one point, but when we all gathered back by the car the tour guide had something he wanted to show us. So we all followed him along the road in a single file line looking even more touristy than before. Finally we got to see his beloved green elephant…
…basically just a branch with leaves that just happened to be in the shape of an elephant. That gave us all a good laugh and reaffirmed that my dad wasn’t crazy, our driver really did keep mentioning the green elephant.
Next up on our ride around Havana was some sightseeing. Did you know there’s a China Town in Havana?! Small world i suppose.
Finally we got to Plaza De La Revolucion, the one place i had really wanted to see. We hopped out of the car to take picture of the large murals on the square. Another surreal experience- the square is huge but it just feels so misplaced. I guess it’s where they used to hold political rallies.
We had our driver drop us off at the Hotel Nacional De Cuba to end the tour. We sat outside on their terrace and enjoyed some refreshments looking out at the view. This probably turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip. The hotel really is STUNNING. I wish we could have stayed there for a night just so i could lay out by the pool one day and feel like the royalty that’s all visited.
All in all i feel lucky to have seen this side of Cuba, i hope that the lifted trade embargo improves certain aspects of the country but doesn’t ruin the culture. Cubans are such happy and nice people, if i ever go again i’ll for sure get a local tour guide to show me more of the cuisine and nightlife!