Once they lifted the travel to Cuba we knew we had to go! We had just separated from the military and that was a place you weren't able to go to when you were active duty. I am so glad we went for it. We did have to get a visa and we just claimed to be travel journalist (hence this blog)!
Wifi is extremely limited and we finally are able to get some. People in their homes here are not allowed to have it. Therefore, there are hotspots to go and use wifi. We arrived in Cuba. It was a little stressful in the beginning as I had read the night before of a blogger who said it was extremely difficult to get into Cuba on a tourist visa for blogging because he should of had a journalism visa. Therefore, I was a little worried; but just decided it was worth a shot. If you didn't know, you can't just travel to Cuba. You must obtain a visa and fall under a certain category of the 12 provided. The most common used by tourism is "support the people or Cuba" and journalism. Anyways, it was no issue and honestly they never even asked! Right when we landed and stepped out of the airport we had an action packed day
From the airport, we got a taxi for $25 to our Airbnb. The taxi driver got quite lost, but we ended up making it here. Our host, Pedro, is phenomenal. He was extremely helpful in tips and tricks of touring Cuba. In addition, he made sure to prepare us and give us adequate knowledge of the differences in Cuban money as they have two different versions. He highly recommended a walk to the other side of town, walking under a river by tunnel and that's what we did. We ate pizza and garlic shrimp with rice overlooking the ocean at a local restaurant for $12. It began to rain on the way back, but we stopped and got some ice cream and checked out the locals swimming from piled debris in the ocean. It is right next door to our place. Yay!! We tucked into bed quite early around 7pm as we were running off only 3 hours of sleep from the night before.
Day 2 was incredible. We got up at about 830. I know... over 12 hours of sleep haha! We grabbed some instant oatmeal and ate breakfast on the balcony. After getting ready for the day, we went to the bus stop and bought an all day ticket for the hop on-hop off tour bus. We got off at the revolution square and begin to walk around. A local came up to us and asked if we had a lighter and then begin to chat. He was really nice and asked if we liked coffee. He proceeded to walk us to the best local coffee shop in that area and that is when we knew he didn't want to just chat, but he wanted money or something. Oh well, what do you do. Of course, he ordered coffee and then our suspicions were confirmed as he informed us we had to pay for his coffee because they only took CUC currency (all tourists use) not CUP currency (which is what most of the locals use). We left the coffee shop and then he begin to ask for more money, we gave him a dollar because we didn't want to deal with it. We did learn quite a bit of history and culture from him, but we also learned our lesson on feeling like tourists that felt for their tricks.
At the next stop, we found a great local market. We both ate pizzas for lunch at a total of $2 ($1 a piece). After that we got ice cream at the biggest ice cream restaurant I've ever seen and that only way $3! It makes up for our incident earlier and keeps us on budget haha! After this stop, we picked up some souvenirs and got back on the bus headed to the capitol. The capitol was pretty, but it was amazing to see the buildings surrounding it. They were antiqued and dilapidated. Interesting at how gorgeous the capital was built up to be, but the buildings were the people live less than 50 feet away were run down, without sealed doors and really run down. Anyways, we got back on the bus and headed back for home. We ate more pizza at an Italian restaurant for dinner (they really seem to like pizza here in Cuba, it is everywhere) and we ate a pasta. Of course, we had more ice cream at el helado next to our Airbnb. Now we are at the local hotel to get wifi.
Day 3 of Cuba:
The third day in Cuba we hung out and walked the town. We grabbed breakfast at the ice cream shack just around the corner (croissants, yummy!) and then we decided to walk to the beach about 40 minutes away. The day before we saw a circus near the beach so we were going to check that out too! When we got to the circus tent to try and buy tickets, no one spoke English. With my lack of Spanish, lets just say it made for an interesting adventure. Eventually I got two tickets to the 8pm circus when I wanted the 4pm, but hey you just accept those small details when you don't speak the language. We walked to the beach after that and swam for a bit. Sadly, their beaches have a lot of trash on them. We still had a great time though!
After that, we walked back to the room as it was only noon and we had to wait until 8pm haha! Thankfully it was a blessing in disguise because a huge rain/wind storm rolled in. We napped until about 4 pm and then got up to grab dinner, jump on wifi (which is such a long process there) and walk back to the circus. We got to the circus just in the nick of time to get the best seats in the house, (the back right corner where you only see 1/2 the stage) yeah those seats! Regardless, we had a blast and I would have to say it was probably one of the best circuses I have ever been too! After that we walked home in the dark around midnight.
The next day, we packed up and said goodbye to our wonderful host Pedro.
We loved his Airbnb, but said our goodbyes and headed off to Old Habana, Cuba. We got to our new Airbnb and loved that too. Our view was of the capital of the apartment, literally right outside the balcony. We spared no time to get out and tour the town! We got coconut water from the locals, walked the old streets and ate at a wonderful restaurant La Farmacia (it tasted great until it made us sick the next day!) haha. That night we grabbed a taxi (the blue vehicle pictured below) and headed to El Morro Island. At El Morro at 8:30 pm they shoot off a cannon. It was pretty cool! Also, it was a beautiful way to watch the sunset and see the city.
That night, on the way back from El Morro I had the ultimate Cuban experience. We got another taxi that was a 1950's vehicle. As we were riding the guy was blaring loud Cuban music, lit up a cigarette and the wind blew it right in my face. I felt like it was the true Cuban experience haha. The next day was a little rough. I woke up feeling pretty sick and within in an hour Brandon was feeling sick too. In addition, we only had 8 dollars left for the whole day because we over spent the day before. Considering we couldn't find a bank to exchange money due to our language barrier and the fact Cuba doesn't take credit cards, we were in a bit of a bind. It was a blessing in disguise because we couldn't walk far from the room when we had to run back because we couldn't find any public restrooms. Overall, the town truly is a cultural experience, beautiful but dirtier than I expected. For me, the most interesting was that the meat just sat out with flies crawling all over it. We finally headed back to the room to chill out since we were not feeling well. It was so relaxing. I got to read for 7 hours straight and Brandon listened to his audiobooks. What a great way to end the vacation! Overall it has been a great experience and we want to return to Cuba to tour the green rolling hills! We had a great time and we will return! Off to Destin, FL for the week with Brandon's parents.