Exploring Havana, Cuba

I woke up feeling pretty refreshed, but definitely not ready to get up. It was 3am after a very long day by the time we made it to sleep the night before, so I could’ve easily slept in late. We went upstairs for the hotel breakfast and it was a mediocre buffet. I wasn’t totally sure how the food would be in Cuba. The view from the breakfast table was great.

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After breakfast, we decided to take a walk around and see what there was nearby, but as soon as we got outside, a man offered to take us around and give us a tour in a car. He explained all the places we could go and was very excited to hear that we are Americans because he had lived in the states for a few years. We decided to take him up on his offer. The car was a 1951 Chevrolet convertible and it was awesome.

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We drove around the city and saw many military areas, monuments, beaches, markets, and general city life. It was a great way to get a sense of the city and see so much.

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We stopped in a famous cigar shop that has the world record’s longest cigar displayed on the ceiling.

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We stopped for lunch in a local place for lunch and had amazing lobster like nothing I’d ever had before.

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He drove us to places where there were no other tourists so we could really see how people actually live in Havana. I think it’s always important to break out of the tourist bubble on some level and see different parts of a country.

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We drove out to Ernest Hemingway’s old home and were able to tour the beautiful and very spacious property

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And the views from his home were incredible!

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The drive back was a little long and I had a hard time keeping my eyes open after the five hour tour of the city. Once we made it back, I was happy to clean up and climb into bed for a short nap. Once we got up, we decided to head upstairs for dinner because there was music playing all evening on the balcony. We had a delicious meal and relaxed for a few hours just enjoying the music and watching people dance.

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It was a day filled with excitement. By 11, we headed to the room to relax and get some rest so we were ready for another day of adventure.

Flying To Cuba!

I have been interested in going to Cuba for so many years, so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to make the trip. Since the flight from Toronto to Cuba is only three and a half hours, I didn’t think the trip would be too intense, which was dumb on my part – considering how much I travel, I should’ve known better. We started off the day in the morning with a three hour delay, causing us to stall on making the drive up to Toronto. The drive wasn’t too long, so after getting across the border we stopped in Niagara Falls for a quick lunch in one of our favorite Japanese restaurants. Then we had another hour and a half drive to the airport and arrived a few hours before our flight. After checking in and going through security, we found our gate and sat around for a long time. I have a lot of experience in airports, but it gets boring none the less. We explored meal options and decided on Indian food real quick, got some snacks and water for the trip. When we got back to the gate, it was ridiculously crowded and chaotic and after we made our way through the crowd and found a seat, they informed us that our gate had actually been changed. So we made our way back through that chaos and headed to the other end of the terminal. We waited another 45 minutes until we finally started boarding, several hours after our scheduled departure. We were all a little nervous and unsure about transportation and hotel checkin once we eventually would arrive because it was getting later and later at night. Because Cuba is different from many other countries in a lot of ways, we weren’t entirely sure what to expect.

If you’ve read my posts before, you know that my flights often tend to be very delayed with my luck. After boarding, we sat at the gate an extra half hour then had to get the plane de-iced and sit there for another half hour so we were another hour delayed than the expected delay. I sat next to Canadian two siblings , a boy who was about thirteen and a girl who was probably sixteen. The sister was trying to be the responsible one of the two and make sure the brother knew how things worked, but she didn’t seem to actually know what she was talking about so I tried to help them as best I could with questions and concerns about flying and planes. They were really adorable. The flight went by pretty quickly once we finally got going. The Sunwing flight had wonderful service and was quite an upgrade from many airlines. They started with complimentary sparkling wine for every passenger, had hot towels, chocolates, and a meal – most airlines don’t do such things anymore for shorter flights.

 

Once we arrived in Varadero, we had to go through customs, which was relatively easy and then get our luggage. When I travel to other countries, I’m never completely sure what to expect with customs and because of the political issues between America and Cuba, I was definitely curious. It was pretty standard though. They had cute dogs running on the baggage claim machines like it was a treadmill as they sniffed everyone’s bags.

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Once we got outside the airport, we exchanged money. Because Cuba doesn’t have systems that accept credit cards, cash is how people pay for everything, so there has to be some planning involved. We found our bus and got on. With the delayed flight it was after midnight by the time we started our two hour drive to Havana. I had a hard time staying awake on the drive and found myself drifting in and out of sleep. I was happy when the scenery changed and we made it to the city because we arrived at the hotel shortly after. We weren’t sure what the hotel would be like because the hotel we originally booked had been oversold and they moved us to this one instead. By the time we got there, we were so happy just to have a bed to lie down in that it really didn’t matter at that point. I slept so well through the night. It felt amazing to know I’d be waking up in Havana the next morning!