Havana was a whirlwind tour. Prior to flying to Cuba we’d arranged a night at a B&B (Casa paticularrs) in Havana through Home Stay. It’s a great way to find affordable accommodation in Cuba and I totally recommend it if you are a bit more on the adventurous side. Our first day in Cuba we asked around to find someone who had a classic American car that would drive us to Havana. Yesterday morning we got picked up in ’54 Chevy for our adventure to Havana. The pre arranged price was $140 CUC which I think was the return rate if we’d planned on returning the same day.
Our driver was well aware that you got a lot more in life with a smile and a handshake especially if that shake included a tip. We started our trip at 8 and we had a lovely combination of guided tour and time to relax and enjoy the ride. Our first stop was at the tallest bridge in Cuba and the lookout. There was live music, drinks, a washroom, vendors and a lovely view. However the parking lot that was a car show in the making was equally as appealing.
Our first stop in Havana was at the castle to pickup cigars then it was into the city to do a lovely guided car tour with a few scheduled stops. Although the parking was free each time we stopped he tipped a guy that was there keeping the cars safe. It made you wander how much money he walked away with at the end of a full day after fuel costs and tipping costs.
Our tour included…. it was so nice having a vehicle to show us around so we got a better lay of the land.
After a slight mis-communication about the arrival time at our B&B we arrived 2 hours early. Our driver made yelled up at our building until a neighbor responded. Who then got in touch with the owner who arrived within 5 minutes to let us in.
We enjoyed a bit of downtime in our air conditioned room prior to heading out on foot to explore our neighborhood. Although there were lots of signs indicating a room for rent we were in a less touristy neighborhood but the appeal was being 2 blocks from the waterfront walk way. We located some ‘landmarks’ in relation to our location and then headed off with no particular destination in mind. We saved the waterfront for a bit later in the day when it’s suppose to be popular with locals and zigged and zagged through the streets of … occasionally asking directions to a ‘casa de la cambrio’. Everyone was happy to help however my Spanish wasn’t good enough to fully comprehend the directions. Eventually we went in to an air conditioned lobby of a large hotel knowing they could do an exchange for us. I asked the rate which was slightly lower than the rate we got in our lobby in Varadero I was going to exchange more money as practically everything needed to be paid in cash. She then told us in broken English that there was a tadeka Casa de Cambrio just a block away that would have better rates. So we continued on our adventure confident we could find the exchange office. When we did I was happy to notice it was across the street from a giant ice cream parlor I’d read about. We waited in line with the mostly Cubans waiting to exchange money. I was surprised how many were exchanging money vs going to the bank next door. I’m guessing either exchanging tip money or switching between convertible pesos and national ones. We then enjoyed some ice cream before circling around to the water and back to our B&B. We had a bit more downtime before venturing out after dark to find a restaurant from the guide book. We found the street and block but couldn’t find the restaurant so we went to a different one. It was located on the roof top terrace and was excellent. The food in Havana is much better than the food at our resort.
The next morning we got up and had a hot shower and breakfast before catching a taxi in a pink convertible ’52 Chevy to the giant art market. We explored the 1000s of pieces of art in various styles as the market began to come to life. My favourite piece of art was still in Varadero so I crossed my fingers it would still be there when I got back.
The next stop was the Havana Club Rum tour and drink at the bar.
We then started wandering the streets of old Havana which I could do for days. We generally zigged and zagged in the direction of a few of the places on my to see list.
Although I’d wanted to try catching the Hershey train back to Matanzas and then a taxi to Varadero the locals all seemed to look at me like I was ‘loco’. It wasn’t the first time my travel plans made people think I was crazy. When we first arrived at our B&B we had our owner phone for information and found the trains to be 4am, 11:30 and 4:20. The 4:20 would have worked well timing wise but although we couldn’t figure out why he knew that was a train we shouldn’t take. The 11:30 was ok but not the 4:20. We felt 11:30 was too early so arranged with Pedro for a 4pm taxi back to Varadero. When we met our taxi it was a small Russian car. We hadn’t been specific about what type of taxi we wanted. The drive back was in eventful and I slept most of the way. He did stop in the art market in Varadero so I could get the piece I wanted. It was a low key night back at the resort but we did take in a evening show at the pool.