Categories: Cuba

Feeling the Heat in Havana!

A Warm Welcome

Havana – the very word conjures up exotic images of a classic cars, cigars and rum cocktails. We had wanted to visit for so long and finally we had made it. We were greeted at airport by Felipe, the host at our casa particular (Cuban Bed and Breakfast). He drove us to his home in central Havana, pointing out places of interest as we went. Arriving in Cuba felt like being transported back in time. We knew Cuba would be different. However, nothing had prepared us for the sight of so many 50’s classic cars on the roads. In fact, it was nothing less than spectacular.

Street Art on a Grand Scale

At the apartment we were introduced to Odalys, Felipe’s wife. The couple were warm and welcoming and our stay with them was one of the highlights of our trip to Havana. Our cute room had a fridge and air-conditioning (which was a godsend in Havana’s humidity). Additionally, it even had a balcony overlooking the lively street.

Ku on the Balcony at the Home of Felipe and Odalys

A Breakfast Feast!

Every day Odalys would make us a huge breakfast. It consisted of a massive plate of fruit each, bacon, eggs, toast, cheese and ham followed by cake. Not to mention fresh juices and coffee! It certainly kick-started our day! In fact, it kept us going until late afternoon, which was handy, as Havana isn’t particularly know for its cuisine. On Ku’s Birthday, Odalys even sang ‘Happy Birthday’ in Spanish and made a special cake! As a matter of fact, the level of hospitality we received from the couple was incredible. We can’t recommend them enough. See airBnB link for our hosts details: Odalys and Felipe

Breakfast – and this was merely the first course!

Classic Cars and Cocktails

Havana was visually stunning with its crumbling colonial buildings and classic cars. The music, as expected, was excellent. In fact, we discovered a great bar called Los Dos Hermanos (The Two Brothers). Because we enjoyed the bar so much, we actually went there a couple of times. The mojitos were strong and the band had the audience in the palm of their hand.

Music was Everywhere!

Highlights

There were several highlights during our trip to Havana. The Afro-Caribbean music in colourful Callejon de Hamel on Sunday morning was impressive to say the least. Also up there, was a two-hour tour around town in an orange Buick. Additionally, we loved our visit to the quirky and creative enclave of Fusterlandia in the neighbourhood of Jaimanitas (see photograph below). We also really enjoyed wandering the streets and plazas of the historical area. Afterwards, when the heat got too much, the sea breeze on the malecon provided much needed relief.

Fusterlandia
Ku at Callejon de Hamel

Cat City

There were an abundance of stray cats in Centro Historico, located in the heart of Havana. However, the locals appeared to do a good job in feeding them. The cats gathered in the small parks, where bowls of food were put out for them. As we were missing our furry friends from our housesitting gigs, we were happy to befriend them.

Cute Cat in one of the Parks

The Museums

Havana is home to several decent museums. We chose to visit Museo de la Revolucion and Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes La Habana. In all honesty, we didn’t find the Museum of Revolution to be particularly well-presented. Having said that, the building itself was impressive. In fact, the exhibits that were located outside (including a bullet-riddled delivery truck) were more engaging than those inside. Naturally, Fidel Castro featured prominently.

The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes La Habana was housed in a stunning building. There was an excellent array of Cuban art on display. In fact, we both really enjoyed perusing the exhibits, which were primarily contemporary. Many of the pieces had a political perspective. As a bonus, there was also a good café on the ground floor.

The bullet-riddled truck
Exhibit at Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes La Habana

Life in Havana

There is another side to Havana. It is clear to see that many people are suffering from a lack of basic items. People can be seen lining up outside shops which appear to have limited stocks on their shelves. Poverty is rife and life is tough for many.

The Infamous Che Guevara Sign

From a visitors perspective, internet is limited, as is decent food, especially for vegetarians. We found that in many cafes, bars and restaurants, service wasn’t particularly friendly or prompt. (With the exception of Dos Hermanos and a veggie-friendly café called Arcangel). Havana is substantially more expensive for tourists because it has a dual currency system. Rum, however, was unbelievably cheap!

T taking the convertible Buick for a Spin

Overall, we were really pleased that we made the effort to get to Havana, but we do not think that we would return. It is a fascinating destination and is like nowhere else in the world we have ever been. Having said that, it is not without its issues.

It was time to head back to Mexico, where we were going to spend a few days relaxing on the island of Isla Mujeres.

journey-junkies.com

We are T & Ku and we are from Brighton in the UK. We are passionate about travel and adventure and have been living out of backpacks since 2012. We housesit and backpack our way around the world and have carried out around 300 housesits to date. Our philosophy is 'Travel Light and Linger'. We haven't checked a bag for over ten years after we discovered the advantages of travelling light. We also prefer to linger in places we like and return to countries we love. Our connection to a destination is far more important to us than 'collecting countries'. Our favourite countries to date are the equally colourful and compelling India and Mexico, two countries we have returned to repeatedly. We also love the remote landscapes of the American South West and are passionate about hiking and camping. We provide inspiration, travel tips and in-depth destination guides based on our knowledge and experience from many years of exploring the planet.🌎

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