Havana Real Good Time
I had the most incredible opportunity this summer to cruise to Havana, Cuba. It was even more lovely than I could have imagined.It was a quick trip. Our ship was only docked for a day and a half, but still, I felt so much of the culture and the flare of this city during my short stay.
From the moment our ship approached the harbor I was absolutely enchanted with the water colored landscape. No photo could do it justice. As our ship drew closer we were greeted with the honking horns of commuters and Taxicabs and the smell of sea air and burning Diesel fuel. After docking and standing in customs lines that seemed to never end we were finally ready to explore this candy colored city.
We made sure not to make any plans for our first day, but Havana had plans for us. We stepped out of the terminal and crossed the cobble stone streets and stumbled upon The Plaza de San Francisco. This town square was filled with hustle and bustle but mostly the hustle part. This is a spot where locals know that you’re just getting off a ship and looking for something to by for your kids back home. Think key chains, caricature artists and ill-fitting t-shirts galore. A few steps past the chaos of “can you take my picture” a cotton candy pink building caught my eye. The Casa de Carmen Montilla, an art museum, and it was free.
After gushing over this indoor/outdoor art collection we were off the next spot. I should tell you that I had two financial exchanges that I was determined to make during my trip. A straw fedora big enough to fit Nick’s noggin and all the cigars that I could possibly afford with what ever money I had left.
I should also tell you that if someone offers you a deal on cigars that seems to good to be true then it likely is. It is easier to buy and sell contraband cigars than I could’ve imagined but luckily I had done some research before my trip. Never ever buy cigars from anywhere but a cigar cafe’. The fakes become more and more difficult to spot with the naked eye.
We spent the rest of our afternoon roaming the outskirts of the heart of Havana. It was impossible to turn a corner without crossing paths with one of the cities free-roaming furry residents. Dogs and cats lounged in the shade of cafe’ awnings as if they owned the place. And I loved it.
We stopped at parks, popped into bars, and were greeted by locals along the way. It was almost dinner time so we headed back to the ship to slip into our evening wear for our next adventure, the world famous, Tropicana Night Club.
We bused just out side of town and watched the landscape fade quickly into rain forest. Where the heck were we going? The flicker of neon lights grew brighter and brighter in the distance until we were there. This was not just any night club. This was a night club that was built during the hay day of mob. It’s isolated setting offered the best place to hide and the surrounding forest made for and even better place to run. The entire cabaret is outside and it keeps it’s promise to present a show unlike you’ve ever seen. With a price tag of a about $100 per person expect a bottle of rum to enjoy with your guest and a Cuban cigar for the gentleman in the room. Seriously, you only get the complimentary cigar if you’re a fella. But the show… the show was all the fun. The only thing brighter than the lights were the stars overhead. And the drinks were surprisingly as cheap as they were strong. At least the pinacolada that I ordered was. There was an energy in the club that was so hard to leave but we had a tour to be up for in 4 hours.
Yosel, our guide and the owner of I Love Cuba Tours, met us in The Plaza de San Francisco, he said we were easy to find because he had never seen anyone with pink hair before. I think we were easy to find because we may have been the only 3 people awake at 6:30 am in all of Havana City. Josel was a perfect guide. We walked and walked and he talked and talked. It was a private tour, thankfully cause your girls asks a million questions. He was a man who knew his country. As a former university professor he answered any historical question so well and as a resident he was diplomatic about any social question primarily regarding the current and past political elephant in the room. After hiking through the empty streets as the sun came up we were met with the cutest darn kelly green Oldsmobile, and when I say cute I mean COOL. And boy did it drive. We zipped along the coast to what was promised to be the most charming beach within half hour of the old city, Playa Bacuranao. Playa Bacuranoa means the people’s beach or something like that, and it sure was. Situated down the beaten path a few miles from any hotel sits the ruins of what was once a grand Mid-century Modern tourist attraction some time ago. There are a few local booths in the remains for locals to grab a bite to eat or a cerveza (or three). After a leisurely stroll and all the stops for photos we could hear the engine of our ship in the distance steaming up. It was our time to say good-bye. We hopped back into our ride and were off to the terminal.
Hasta Pronto, Havana. I’m sure we’ll meet again real soon.