I’m fortunate to be part of a family that values travel – in fact, our family tends to travel together almost once a year which apparently is not standard, especially when the children of the family are nearly all in their 30’s (I’m 29 and I’m holding on to it as long as possible). It was just a coincidence that exactly 1 week before I was meant to go, Obama announced his intention to normalize relations with Cuba.
Now that I’ve gone and come back safely, my mom is totally OK with me divulging the details. Truth be told, I was telling everyone I knew and their cousin too about my winter holiday plans. I mean, CUBA! How could I not tell everyone?! It goes without saying that I’m always excited at the opportunity to travel, especially to a new place, but the fact that I was going to a place where one is “forbidden” to go?! What an adventure! So against the law!! Sort of. But anyways – it was one of the most beautiful, intriguing and fascinating places I have seen. The amount of history, and stories behind the statues, neighborhoods, bars and restaurants was just beyond and as much as I would like to write about everything I saw, that would make for an exceptionally long post so I’ll just focus on the highlights, mmmkay?
Cuba is an extremely green country. Foliage covers so much of the land and because Cuba is nothing like, say, the concrete jungle of New York City, that equals to a lot. Unfortunately we flew into and left Cuba at night, so I didn’t get to see with my own eyes but, I’m told that the aerial view of Cuba is magical. I saw some of it as we explored areas outside Havana like Santa Clara and Varadero and I can’t say enough how stunning the country is. Even with the societal imperfections – it’s still a sight for sore eyes.
Food was fantastic and I ate e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Rice and beans. Pork. Seafood. Lots and lots of seafood. Some of our eating out was in Plaza de la Catedral – which is one of the main squares in Old Havana. It’s a heavy tourist area yes but it was so beautiful. The architecture all around the city reminded me of my other favorite city: Barcelona (which is a no brainer considering the relationship with Spain). Did you know that the mojito originated in Cuba? I didnt. And it is claimed that the drink came from a bar frequented by Ernest Hemingway called El Bodeguita del Medio. We went there for lunch, mojitos and live music – does it get any better? It was a perfect afternoon.
Music was everywhere as we walked around town. It was as if the city of Havana had a permanent salsa soundtrack which I personally love. We saw the Buena Vista Social Club Orchestra at the Havana Cafe – a lounge surrounded by decorations from the 1950’s. One of the guitarists, nicknamed “Abeulito”, killed it.
Probably my favorite part of this trip was exploring the relationship Ernest Hemingway had with the island. Hemingway had a deep admiration for the country and the Cuban people have showed equal esteem for the writer – cues of Hemingway are seen almost as much as other Cuban icons throughout Havana. His first “residence” was at Hotel Ambos Mundos, a small studio where he resided after his divorce and prior to moving into Finca La Vigía, where he wrote The Old Man and The Sea.
On our last day, we went to Museo de la Revolución, where you can learn in painstaking detail all of the events leading up to and post revolution. The amount of artifacts they have on display is fascinating – I left wanting to know even more.
These are just some of the highlights that made this trip so memorable. I’m so lucky to have seen it, especially before the floodgates of capitalism take over the island. If you have the opportunity: GO SOON! I cant wait to go back.