Here in Havana

streets-of-cuba

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Though just three short hours in flight, landing in Cuba was as if landing a few fifty years back in time…Where classic American cars are everyday staples, bright colored buildings line the streets looking more like archaic ruins of strategically placed art, thus making every street corner picture perfect. Where salsa music brings life to the city, Internet is virtually non-existent and Havana club mojitos are essential with every meal. A place so worth venturing to and exploring, one unlike I’ve ever experienced before.

We landed on Obispo Street, down the way of Villegas and up a winding staircase where our airbnb humbly rested on the third floor. Overlooking the Havana streets from our balcony, as old time Chevys parked and locals hurriedly walked the avenues below. It’s busy, it’s chaotic, it’s loud and nonstop, but its bustle brings beauty and vivacity, making the city rather charming.

I’ve round up a list of great restaurants, places to visit and things to do. Though a fantastic country to see, you come home appreciating and loving your life that much more. Hashtag blessed.

Enjoy!

MUST STOPS/ MUST DO’S

Francesca’s Bakery in the town square for the best cappuccino you’ll ever have, delectable pastries and bomb breakfast.

Also fantastic breakfast at O’Reilly Café where 4 CUC will get you 2 eggs, toast, fruit and coffee that’s really great!

Floridita for strawberry daiquiris and a wild, music filled atmosphere. This place is always slammed so take note!

304 O’Reilly for tacos, empanadas and octopus… a giant watermelon mojito there is also a must! Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.

Hotel Nacional- a beautiful hotel situated right along the Malecón (you can compare the Malecón to Lake Shore Drive of Chicago). Grab a drink (Piña colada, AMAZING!) order a Cuban sandwich (delicious) and smoke a cigar overlooking the Malecón. It’s truly a sight to see.

RENT AN OLD CONVERTIBLE and take a town tour! It’s the best way to explore the city, top down and makes for the most amazing photos!

Varadero- a two-hour drive from Havana will get you to this beautiful sandy beach. Round-trip cost $120 with a driver. A great way to get away from all the hustle and bustle for a day.

Get lost in the city streets! Sometimes the best way to explore is not having a plan, not knowing where you’re going. So venture off into the unknown, you’re bound to find some really cool spots and get some really rad pics.

TIPS for traveling CUBA!

• Before you go, exchange your USD to EUROS here at any main bank branch. When you arrive in Cuba, it is much easier to exchange the EUROS for CUC as the euro is worth a little more than the CUC and there is no 15% tax like on the USD.
NOTE: the lines to exchange are very, VERY long…be prepared to wait in a winding line down the street and around the block, or head over to Hotel Nacional where the exchange rate is a tad more, but saves you loads of time! And REMEMBER! Always bring extra cash, as there are NO credit card systems anywhere!

• If you’d like to purchase Cohiba Cigars, don’t buy them anywhere off the streets, as they are made with banana leaves and therefore a fake Cohiba. You can purchase the real deal also at Hotel Nacional, or as we chose, a “cigar factory” which in reality was truly a scene out of the movie “Taken” cue- fear for life.
NOTE: Two ways of determining your cigar is legit-
1. Roll it in between your hands; if the tobacco is falling out from the bottom, it’s really dried up banana leaves crumbling.
2. If you press down in the center, the cigar should easily press down, indent, then return to its original state like a sponge. The “moisture” is what makes it real.

*You purchase your travel Visa at the airport…We had a layover in Miami and purchase the visa for $100 directly at the gate before boarding. Very simple.

Here’s a link to where we stayed– our host was very accommodating though didn’t speak a word of English, so brush up your Spanish- you’ll be needing plenty of it in Cuba!

Happy New Year, big love and well wishes to you all!

xxx

ps. one of the oldest Havana NYE traditions are the locals, getting people walking the streets wet with buckets of water from above! Once the clock strikes midnight, beware- because you will most likely and unknowingly be drenched! So. Much. Fun.

Reminds me of the polish holiday “Smingus Dingus” after Easter.

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