Cuba - First Impression are forever...
Cuba has always been on my wish list of places to visit. And I have been thinking for some time to travel there. Then suddenly in 2016 I found great deal flights and hotels and quickly booked my trip! Find out what was my first impression of Cuba, has the expectation met reality, and would I ever go back?
With booking completed in May I had to wait till October for my trip.
My head full of pictures that I saw, stories that I've heard, Buena Vista Social Club on my playlist all the time, the excitement and the hype was building up before I arrived on the shores of this beautiful island, the biggest of the Caribbean Islands.
Like with most of my adventures and travels, there was a thrill to the journey as well. When I booked this great price tickets, it was only after that I checked that October is the end of hurricane season. I thought it can't be that bad, it's the end of the season, right? Guess what?! Just before our travel hurricane Matthew destroyed Haiti, eastern part of Cuba, and devastated a lot of Caribbean islands. I am sure you have heard of this on the news every day for 2 weeks if not more. I wasn't sure if we can fly but the airline V-company did not cancel our flight, and so we went to the airport ready for the trip! The flight was a joy and bliss (as always with V-company). As we landed in Havana, hurricane Matthew was approaching shores of Florida. Lucky for us ufff
First impressions... are forever make them count - and my impression of Cuba has been wonderful. I remember vividly the route from the airport to the hotel, the small streets of Havana leading up to our hotel. The colourful houses and the ever present greens, I think I wasn't expecting the island to be so green.
Photo: Plaza Vieja is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Havana in itself is magical, with buildings that seemed as if they are stuck in time, or has not changed since 1950s. And it is partially true, there's no money for renovation, and Cuban people are not wealthy enough to restore or redecorate. But it all adds to the authenticity and the specific atmosphere of the city. Old streets, old houses and very happy people around you.
Just wandering around the streets of Havana you get the great vibe, music played by live bands on every corner, and in almost every restaurant, and as a big fan of Buena Vista Social Club - a music to my ears was all around me! Having said that, as a tourist you want to see the places...El Floridita - famous bar where Hemingway used to drink and where Daquiris are rumoured to be the best! Hmmm I'm not sure... I had a mojito ;) It is described as touristy place, and most definitely you can hear languages from around the globe. But you know what, it's a great place to visit anyway. At the end of the day you can say you had a drink where Hemingway used to drink!
Photo: Cuban rhythms on every street corner, here a band having a break.
Museum of Revolution where you explore the history of turbulent times of Cuban past, as well as revolution that shaped Cuba we know today. Famous plazas, that is squares (eng.) with mostly photographed UNESCO restored square - Plaza Vieja that gives you an idea of how Havana could look like if the upkeep work was carried out continuously.
Photo: Postcard from Cuba - Capitol Building and a classic car
Capitol building that is a copy of the one in Washington is also an impressive building, and a great photo opportunity if you catch a classic car in the background. Just wandering streets of Old Havana you come across a lot of beautiful narrow streets, where the atmosphere is what you expected - different to any other place in the world... it's Cuban. 😊
But Cuba is not only Havana, while indulging in historical sights and culture I came to Cuba to enjoy beautiful gold sandy beaches as well. I opted for beaches of Cayo Santa Maria, perhaps not the first choice for some, however I decided to avoid Varadero as it is deemed 'crowdy'. Nothing wrong with that, I just wanted to see more rural and less explored parts.
Photo: Floridita - Hemingway's favourite bar where he used to sip on mojtos. Allegedly the best daquiris in the world.
The beaches are blissful; wide & white sand beach & warm Caribbean sea, gives you feeling of relaxation. That was what I was looking for. While at Cayo Santa Maria, I ventured south of the island to visit Trinidad. A colonial gem on the south coast of Cuba. A small town, very calm almost as if deserted.
On the way to Trinidad, we had a pit stop at Spiritus Sancti and quick stroll through main square and it's busiest street. We also enjoyed our lunch there. Experience other towns if you can, they are all very charming and beautiful.
After busking in the sun, and snorkelling on catamaran we came back to Havana before our flight back to London. And since we had some spare time on our hands we booked a classic car taxi to take us around Havana to places which we did not visit yet. We gave our driver free reign and told him what we already saw and asked him to show us what else, in his opinion, we should see. He took us to rich neighbourhood which was full of colonial houses, mostly occupied by embassies (but you can see how proud he was showing us those beautiful houses, so we kept admiring). But the best highlight of our ride was so called 'Fusterlandia' - a neighbourhood created by an artist Jose Fuster which I did not know about before, and it was not coming up in any research I did before. I think it is Havana's little gem.
Beautiful beaches of Cayo Santa Maria and turquoise blue sea
Overall, I'm still in love with Cuba. I was mesmerised by its culture before I got there, and once I was there it only strengthen my fascination with this country! It was what I expected and even more. The trip was amazing and I hope to be back in Cuba as soon as possible!