2016 was an epic travel year which allowed me to take my second trip to the forbidden country of Cuba. This visit allowed me to stray further out from Havana to enjoy spots like Varadero, Cienfuegos and Trinidad. I’ve had the opportunity to write about my travels there on a professional level, and my post on Essential Tips & Tricks For Traveling To Cuba will have your logistics handled. 48 Hours in Havana will ensure you don’t miss a beat.
The aforementioned articles will help you organize your trip to Cuba on a logistical level. But what about how Cuba is going to make you feel? That matters too.
Cuba’s been on my mind this week, especially after hearing that Fidel Castro passed away. The joy of having a personal blog is that I don’t have word count or an agenda. I can simply tell you all the things floating around in my head about this magical land. So I will.
Cuba’s colors are initially mesmerizing. But what lies beneath is usually crumbling squalor, and that can be surprising or jarring to first-time visitors.
The vibrant, bold colors, the locals pacing the streets pushing fruit carts and smoking cigars, the Spanish-style black iron railings…even when the paint is peeling and buildings are falling apart, there is still such an ambiance about Cuba. It’s a lot to take in all at once, and really proves that something can be broken and beautiful at the same time.
The country spurns a deep sense of creativity and inspiration to those willing to absorb and accept it. Cuba is land still stuck in a different time, and it’s hard to decide if they are 100% on the right track, or entirely backward. Perhaps a bit of both?
Long blocks of colorful homes and shopfronts lined along cobblestone streets in Trinidad make the city an endless stroll filled with photo opportunities. I never knew there were so many colors of the rainbow. You won’t see any Soviet grey, surprisingly. However, the influences of the Soviet Union are everywhere.
You’ll see them in the Russian car parts, an excess of sidecars and names on electrical appliances I don’t know how to pronounce.
Salsa dancing in the Plaza Mayor every night in the balmy, steaming Cuban air kept me wide-eyed in awe late into the evening. Live bands tooted trumpets and banged out rhythms, inspiring tourists to wiggle their hips and attempt the dips and turns the locals perform so effortlessly.
We stopped so our driver could buy some fresh fish on the way back to Havana on a small fruit farm. I remember as a child going to an Amish farm on a school field trip, seeing how they washed, cooked and cleaned. This farm seemed just as rural and even more old-fashioned.
Welcome to a world where little boys always have scraped, dirty knees and little girls play with rusty, old knives in wooden rocking chairs.
There was that meal I ate in a small village en route to Havana at 1920 restaurant. As I was led to the back of a quiet house in what seemed to be a complete ghost town, I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.
Stepping into a colonial restaurant, with wooden chairs and an old television blaring reggaeton, I immediately felt at home. After a glass of fresh lime juice and crispy fried chicken (most likely slaughtered in the backyard) I paid my $4, my belly-full and ready to nap the rest of the way to Havana.
Revolución signs were everywhere, and flashes of Ché will never leave me.
Watching the sunset from the Saratoga rooftop, cocktail in hand wasn’t just relaxing because it was beautiful to see the colors melt into dusk.
It was beautiful because the typical buzzing of my whatsapp was silenced, the pings of my emails weren’t dinging, and the lack of contact with the outside world that often had me stressed out during the trip began to fade, leaving me with a deep sense of inner peace one can only discover when they truly disconnect.
I still dream of sitting in a vintage car taxi, my sweaty skin sticking to the plastic leather, the springs poking me, as street vendors sell mani to drivers at stoplights.
I dream of the humid, salty air while walking along the malecón seawalk late at night, watching lovers kiss and aspiring musicians strum the guitar.
I dream of endless renditions of Guantamera…a tune that never seems to leave my mind.