On Hunky Hubby’s birthday, we took a trip to Cuba and it was both beautiful and heartbreaking. Cuba was fashionable, modern, and THE place to vacation in the 1950’s. Some say many of the casinos were run by the mob and Havana was beautiful, decadent, and corrupt. On New Year’s Day, 1960, Fidel and his friends stormed Havana and it became a communist country. Lately, relations between US and Cuba have been softening – or as it is often called, “The Cuban Thaw”.
We found the people to be friendly and welcoming. Carlos, “The Best Tour Guide in Cuba,” said that the people love Americans – it is just our governments who have the issues. Julian was the driver of our pink convertible and spoke little English, while Carlos was our guide to all things Cuba and spoke excellent English. It is kind of like being in a time warp between the 1950’s and today. Most of the beautiful architecture is crumbling with exception of government buildings or hotels where government or foreign officials stay.
As we exited the Norwegian Sky cruise ship, it was easy to flag down a pink convertible circa-1959. These old cars are everywhere! Of course, as we approached Parque Central (Central Park), we ran out of gas. Hunky Hubby and I decided Julian wanted to give us the full experience. 😄 Carlos, Hunky Hubby, and I walked across the street to Grand Teatro Nacional (national ballet) for Hemingway Mojitos while Julian sorted out the gas situation. This was a great time for Carlos to give us an orientation and get a feel for what we wanted to see. Hemingway is everywhere… Hemingway daiquiris, Hemingway mojitos, and many Hemingway bars.
Then we were off to Callejon De Hamel, a colorful narrow alley in Cuba full of street art and sculptures made by famous Cuban artist Salvador Gonzales Escalona. He makes his art from objects he finds. We finished the evening with refreshings cocktails at Big Black.
Then, we were off to buy Cohiba Cigars which is a whole other adventure I will post about another time. 😉
If you want to stay in a hotel in Havana, Hotel Nacional de Cuba, a historic 1930’s hotel with three restaurant and bars, as well as two outdoor pools was our next stop, and where I would recommend. Updated and beautiful with famous gardens and views of Havana Bay, Malecon, and streets. It’s where government officials and foreign dignitaries stay. We went to the Hall of Fame Bar, an opulent room, whose walls were covered with the photos of people who stayed there in more prosperous times.
Carlos said the best places to stay in Cuba are in private houses complete with staff for about $250 US per night. Then a stop for lunch at the Buena Vista Social Club. A fun place with Cuban musicians, excellent service, and food. The staff sang happy birthday to Hunky Hubby!
We had lobster, shrimp, and mojitos! Then off for some shopping at the market. At this point, we said adios and gracias to Julian and went exploring in the super crowded and fun market. Thank goodness we had Carlos to help negotiate prices. Hunky Hubby is also great at “the art of the deal”. Exhausted from all the fun, Carlos put us in a carriage back to the ship!
If you are considering going to Cuba, I would highly recommend it! If you would like to hire Carlos as your tour guide, you can contact him through Facebook Messenger at Carlos Luis Figueroa. I also recommended reading “The Cuban Affair” by Nelson DeMille before your trip. For my final tip, one US dollar equals one peso, which is important to keep in mind.