Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Cuba!


Cuba was fabulous. An ideal quick getaway, but with opportunities for more extensive travel, Cuba is a great place for Americans (while we are able to take advantage of the open doors). My husband and I traveled on a person-to-person educational visa, one of twelve options now given to Americans that wish to visit the island on their own. It was all streamlined for us by our airline, JetBlue, as well. We loved our trip, and I'd recommend Cuba as a destination for anyone.


The architecture is pretty incredible, and while it is sad to see so much of it crumbling before your eyes, it makes for incredibly reich ambience and atmosphere. I've been many places, and there is nowhere like Cuba. The lack of western advertising was quite refreshing, frankly. I really felt like we were getting away from it all here. It helped that we did not use the internet during our stay.
I did feel we were getting an education down here. We had a lot of chances to talk with locals.


The old cars are everywhere, There are lots of Russian cars too, but there are simply so many old American cars that it's just a typical thing after spending a short time there. What is terrible about them though, and something no one seems to talk about, is the exhaust. The fumes from these cars are dirty, real dirty. It makes the air thick in some areas, and the heat doesn't help. I hope they get some new stuff soon, for the sake of their lungs and their health. Of course the cars are cool and romantic though, and I never got tired of seeing them.





Another wonderful part of Cuba is the amazing people. Those we encountered were friendly and helpful. I'd taken my little instax camera and had a good time taking portraits of people and handing them out. The first victim was the guy below, one of many strangers we interacted with - no tour guide, no proper Spanish required (most people don't speak much English, but it's not unusual either).


We tried to get around on foot a lot and see as much as we could. Even with the exhaust, Havana is a great walking city and there is so much to see. We spent a few days there and still there was more we could have done; we were never bored. It was inexpensive too, surprisingly so for an island, and one locked out of doing business with the US. 



The weather was gorgeous too. It was hot during the day, but down by the water there was a great breeze and things cooled off quickly at night. Our little homestay had air conditioning, but it wasn't necessary. Finding a place wasn't difficult, I just used tripadvisor like I normally do, except I dug up an email address using a B&B/Casa name from tripadvisor and googling it. These places do of course book travelers all the time, just not from the states. I made our arrangements over email.



The waterfront of Havana meets the sea, and where we were walking obviously there wasn't a beach. Lot of locals were out fishing though.






We had a nice time on this strip, meeting dogs and snapping photos.




The fort below is part of the old city wall. We did not end up going over to that side of the city.
Havana is a big place.






Instax people, above, and paid posers in one of the main squares close to the cruise ship dock.




There are a few old pharmacies, some still in operation, in Havana. We had a look inside a couple of them. It's a fun throwback but not somewhere we spent more than a few moments.





There are many charming old plazas in the city. We stopped in several of them for people watching, resting and relaxing. 



Central Havana has been beautifully maintained. While the dome is surrounded in scaffolding at the moment, this is another wonderful part of Havana.




Havana at night was gorgeous, and safe. We spent several hours strolling around in the evening and one night, stayed out quite late. There were many people out even after midnight; it never felt unsafe.


















We had some tasty food in Havana, at decent prices.



The Plaza de la Revolución of Havana has several  monuments to its leaders, a fitting way to end the post. We loved Cuba, and would like to return to see more of the country one day.





When we returned in early January 2017, our trip through customs was very easy. I cannot say what that might be like now, however.
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