I am still trying to process Cuba and Havana. But I will tell you I left a bit of my heart there. It began with a snafu with our room reservations that showed us the heart of the people of Cuba. We were without a place to stay for all of ten minutes. And our new hosts not only found room for us but made us feel like family before the day was out. Casa de Sergio y Miriam was only the beginning.
To a person, every Cuban we encountered was kind, helpful and full of joy. We were never lost for long or without a suggestion for something new to see. Someone always stepped in to help. And along the way shared their story with us.
And so many places to see. We spent our first day exploring the neighborhoods around our apartment. People watching as everyone went about their day in the narrow, colorful streets. I believe one of the reasons we met so many wonderful people was because we wandered the streets away from the tourist areas.
Havana is the perfect illustration of the idiom, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” because behind the aging facades were beautiful apartments, restaurants and shops. Hurricanes, age and economic downturns have taken their toll on these beautiful buildings, but the intelligence, ingenuity and hard work of the people of Havana have kept them, not only functional, but warm and inviting on the inside.
And even those that are completely abandoned hold their own fascination and tell a story, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of city life.
I traveled to Havana for research and by the second day had found most of what I had in my mind for locales. Art is everywhere, galleries are everywhere, both traditional and decidedly abstract and I filled my camera and notebook with examples.
Once I felt I had what I needed, then I relaxed and soaked in Havana and all its charm.
I found myself eating mostly vegetarian meals because everything was so fresh and tasted amazing.
VanVan’s was one of my favorite places – and had the best lemon pie ever, not to mention the great musical decor.
And speaking of music, it was everywhere. In the streets, on the buses (which we mastered), in the restaurants, on the plazas. It became the soundtrack of our days.
And then there was the architecture:
Plaza Vieja is one of the tourist hangouts. It is almost completely restored, colorful and bustling with people from all over the world. We would hang out there at the end of our days, soaking it all in. We walked miles each day exploring the rest of the city.
We took a double-decker bus one morning to explore areas outside Central and old Havana. We toyed with taking an old car, but opted for the open air bus instead. Riding in one of the 1950 cars was on my list, but our days were so filled, we were never able to fit it in.
We did find time to spend a day at the beach. Baby soft sand, clear blue-green water and palm trees. It was also fun to take the bus there, see the sights outside the city.
There is still so much to absorb from our trip. More story to tell and hopefully, I can do it justice in Underway. A special week for sure. And it is the people who I will carry with me. Kind, intelligent, hardworking and proud. And I feel like I have family there that I would happily return to visit.