We all want want we can't have. And for decades, the island that sits a mere 160 km (roughly 100 miles) from the Florida keys was a mystery to inhabitants of the United States. The political grudge began when Fidel Castro came to power in the late 1950s, shortly followed by President Kennedy's issuance of a permanent embargo, ending all trade relations between the neighboring countries. And since then, Cuba built a reputation for the novelty of, what I'm calling, the 'The three C's"- coffee, cigars, cars.
And many classic cars there were.
A 1959 Chevy to my left. A '53 Bel Air Sedan to my right. A 1957 Ford Farlaine behind me. They were everywhere! One of my favorite things to do when traveling, or in general really, is to wake up at the crack of sunrise and walk the city streets as the locals prepare for their day and go through their morning rituals. I grabbed a cuban coffee from the local panaderia and enjoyed the the backdrop of color on the buildings and from the cars itself. Snapping away, taking pictures while sipping a cafe con leche.
But cars weren't the only thing that amazed me about this country. The people of Havana are so photogenic. I couldn't help but stare. Its as if every wrinkle on a face, the dark brown eyes, every grey hair had a story to tell. I'm not usually one to take photos of people but I felt the urge to do so on this trip. This urge stemmed from a conversion I had with a friend while we were in Cartagena. I always admired his ability to casually approach people and capture candid photos. He challenged me to give it a shot when we were exploring Colombia but I was shy. I almost felt a bit rude and intrusive, like I was getting in their personal space. But one of my personal goals this year is to step out of my comfort zone and further challenge myself. Put myself in situations I normally would refrain from. And, so I did.
Hands down, this one is my favorite.
Oh, about that last 'C'...Cuban Cigars.
It was pretty dope to visit this country before crowds of U.S. citizens invade this space and materialize it into something different. There's something special about Cuba and I'm hoping to experience it one more time before the masses arrive. So let me know if anyone wants to make their way down as I may join you. But in case anyone is visiting anytime soon, here are a few things to consider:
1. Cuba is not cheap. You would think the dollar would stretch its value as it would in Mexico or South America but it doesn't. Currently, credit cards issued in the United States are not accepted anywhere so be sure to bring enough cash with you.
2. Bring Euros not USD. For the best rate, exchange your Euros at the airport. Yes, the airport. Banks are closed on the weekends and the lines are long.
3. There's no wifi. Well, that's not 100% true. There are a few wifi hot spots scattered throughout town. You know you're in a wifi zone when you see crowds of people gathered around a street corner and everyone is on their phone. You'll need to purchase a wifi card sold on the streets by locals for $3 CUC ($3.50USD) for one hour of use.
4. Cuban coffee is amazing. A cafe con leche or cortadito, I'll take it all. But good luck finding whole coffee beans. It was VERY difficult to find a bag. We hit up several local supermarkets, coffee shops and other stores to no avail. Thank goodness for Duty Free!
5. Miami has better Cuban food than Havana. This is mainly due to the limited access to quality meat and veggies in Cuba. Believe you me, I throughly enjoyed the late night Cuban Sandwich bites.
Muchisimas gracias, Jess, Jen and Pio for making this trip happen ;)