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! Booking completed in May and then 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.
However, there was a thrill to the journey as well. When I booked this great price tickets, it was only after 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 wasn't sure if we can fly. 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 ever present green trees, I think I wasn't expecting it to be so green.
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 atmosphere of the city. Old streets, old houses and very happy people around you.
Just wandering around the streets of Havana gives you 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!
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.
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 'touristy & crowdy'. Nothing wrong with that, I just wanted to see more rural and less explored parts.
The beaches are heaven; wide & white sand beach & warm Caribbean sea, full 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 (separate post on that) 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.
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 strenghten my fascination with this country! The trip was amazing and I hope to be back in Cuba soon.