Our trip to Cuba may have started out with some headaches, but they quickly dissipated as we found ourselves walking down streets frozen in time. Each moment a scene out of a 1950’s movie, classic American cars driving down the street, 1950’s architecture, and a Betty Boop themed restaurant.
After our breakfast at Betty Boom (yes, I said Betty Boom) we booked a classic car tour around Havana through our Air BNB friend. He called up a friend who owns a pink 1950’s convertible and we headed off on our tour.
We were driven through Parque Almendares and found ourselves mesmerized by curtains of green vines draping over old twisted trees. This park holds Cuba’s oldest tree – a 300-year-old banyan tree.
This park is quite significant for Cubans who believe in Santería (meaning rule of the saints) and rituals often take place here. It is accepted that this is a good place to come to make sacrifices to the Santería spirits. Unfortunately, the park is littered with trash- leftovers from the rituals and sacrifice.
After winding around the park we were headed up a hill when the car sputtered to a stop. Our driver got out of his car and our car started to roll backward, thankfully our trusty travel partner Alex quickly put his foot on the brake.
After our driver fixed some things under the hood we headed to the wooded neighborhood of Vedadado. Vedadado means “forbidden” as it originally was a military area restricted from civilians. It lifted its restriction in 1858 and became a gridded neighborhood that would soon be developed into a mix of middle to upper-class mansions and businesses. Many of the buildings are deteriorating as Cubans do not have the means or supplies necessary for the upkeep of the buildings.
Next, we visited La Plaza de la Revolucion which has a giant steel sculpture of Camilo Cienfuegos and Che Guevaran. Underneath Che Cuevaran you can read “Hasta la Victoria de Siempre” -to victory always. This square is one of the largest in the world, comprising over 11 acres and includes the sculptures, government buildings as well as the Jose Marti memorial.
We soon found ourselves in Old Havana on the iconic El Malecon, a street, and seawall familiar from many movie scenes and quickly became accustomed to the thick sea air that slugged off the harbor. A skittle bag variety of classic cars passed us as we made our way down El Malecon.
La Habana Vieja- “Old Havana” is where the main city center is as well as the capital building, the theatre, and many other famous buildings.
Our guide informed us Cuba still burns crude oil for most of its electricity, but is looking for cleaner energy alternatives. I am eerily suspicious that is a contributing factor to why my once white shorts were a greyish-yellow color when I returned to Mexico.
We asked our driver for suggestions about where we should go next on our Havana adventure. Suggesting Havana Club we excited our pink stallion and thanked our guide for our wonderful tour.
We booked a tour at Havana Club – once the classiest private clubs in Havana and dipped into the bar to have a few mojitos while we waited. Listening to the band warm up we turned to a small corner in the room and watched through a fog of cigar smoke as President Trump delivered new travel policies for Cuba. Minutes later the tv was turned off and all was forgotten as the band played on – “Guantanamera, guajira guantanamera”.
After our tour of the Havana Club, we ventured out to walk around the city some more. Wandering without any destination in mind is my favorite type of travel; allowing moments and experiences to find us.
After wandering the rest of the day we eventually made it home to our casa where we spent the night sipping on some Havana Club rum and playing dominoes. Until tomorrow…