Havana was a whirlwind that sucked me in from the very beginning, it had me feeling every emotion possible! From the very beginning landing at the airport and after waiting 2 hours for my backpack, I thought I was at rock bottom and had lost everything! Luckily I didn’t just resign myself to it and leave the airport with the pitiful sheet of paper the help-desk gave me to register the loss. After another 30 minutes a helpful Cuban man pointed out an unclaimed bag in the distance! I literally cried with relief as if I had found a lost child haha! I don´t think I ever really considered that my backpack is my whole life until the moment I thought it was gone! It would have been pretty ironic as well as I just got a new backpack and new gear brought over with my mum so it was it´s first trip out!
However since my first initial scare Havana presented nothing but fun and smiles! It´s unlike anywhere I have ever been before, on every street and alleyway people are on the doorsteps socializing, relaxing and often partying! Music pumps from the houses and dancing in the street is not just acceptable it´s encouraged! Me and the girls I was travelling with even joined in the fun and busted out some Bachata in the streets on my birthday!
Of course because everyone is out of the streets its inevitable that they want to talk to you and more often they do want to try and make money from the tourists. Its essentially the only way for them to make a decent amount of money in this Communist country! Being a girl over here as well definitely has it’s ¨downsides¨, depending on your outlook I guess! Literally EVERY single man hits on you, although I have experienced this in all the Latino countries I’ve been to so far, Cuba certainly has the most forward men I’ve ever come across! In my first taxi journey from the airport the driver proposed to be my Cuban boyfriend for the night and take me dancing, of course I politely declined however he still cheekily asked for a kiss when I was getting out of the car!! Little did I know that it would only be the first of many cheeky proposals and a sign of things to come!It’s impossible to walk down any street without a cries either in English or Spanish of “beautiful lady”, “will you dance with me” or my personal favourite “do you want a Cuban boyfriend for the night?”!
Honestly I began to think I would leave Cuba with an ego 100x the size but it actually got extremely tiring and by the end I had to zone out it was making me feel so uncomfortable! It’s a shame really because to be honest Cuba has a very high concentration of attractive guys……on the outside anyway!!Accommodation in Cuba comprises of either hotels which are of course horrendously expensive or “Casa Particulares” which are essentially people’s homes where they rent rooms to tourists! It’s the perfect way to meet someone new as soon as you arrive and it certainly made me feel at home straight away as Sergio and Miriam the owners of our Casa in Havana showed us nothing but kindness and hospitality! As the saying goes “mi casa es su casa”!
We were staying in Habana Vieja (Old Havana) which is a mesmorizing place to wander staring at the stunning buildings; some in pristine condition however the majority in tumble-down or complete disrepair! It was a little saddening to see the lack of money available to restore these buildings to their glory in some parts of the old town, as in the more touristy area’s particularly around the Plaza’s the buildings were magnificent. However I did appreciate the charm of the old abandoned buildings as it only added to the electric atmosphere in the streets.
As well as plenty of wandering around Havana Vieja and the various plazas, taking way too many photos of the iconic colourful vintage cars and old buildings, walking the Malecon is also a must do especially late in the evening when it positively comes to life! It seems like everyone in Havana congregates on the walls of the Malecon as families and friends are chatting, eating, drinking, dancing and just enjoying life! It’s an incredible sight and infectious to be around, it was certainly one of my favourite moments especially as it was my birthday and I was hanging around with a few Cubans that we met! For great bars and some salsa dancing we ventured to Obispo street in Havana Vieja and Vedado around Calle O and Hotel Nacional for more bars and a club scene! Safe to say my 4th birthday away from home was another memorable one!
For some culture and history the Museo de Revolution in the old town is a must-see, however I would definitely recommend to read up on some background knowledge of Che, Fidel and the revolution beforehand. It’s also in the Palace which is a stunning building in itself and the site of a revolutionary attack mounted by student groups as an assassination attempt on Batista; you can spot the bullet holes on the staircase of the entryway! The Plaza de Revolución in Havana Centro is also worth a visit to see the large depictions of Fidel & Che with their accompanying infamous quotes on the sides of two tower buildings. I can personally say however that it is quite a walk from Havana Vieja so it might be wise to grab a taxi.
I only had 3 days in Havana initially and then 1 night before catching my return flight to Mexico and I can honestly say that I didn’t feel it was enough. I think I only just began to scratch the surface of everything this odd city has to offer and I am definitely planning to return at some point, hopefully when my time can be a little more open-ended!