Earlier this month I travelled to Cuba with my boyfriend. It was our first holiday in six long years and I must admit, preparing for it did become a little all consuming as I wrote list after list of things to pack - from clothing and shoes to cosmetics and medicines to snorkels and sun cream! The holiday was amazing and Cuba has really won my heart. For a country so shut off from the rest of the world, its people were always so warm and friendly, the history rich and intriguing and, though many of the buildings were in various states of decay, that decay was beautiful in its own right! (Or am I the only one who finds decaying buildings beautiful??). From what I had heard prior to visiting Cuba's capital, Havana, I was expecting a bit of a shit-hole, I must be honest. But in truth, the place was rather magical and not nearly as run-down as I'd been lead to believe. The ice-cream coloured buildings, whether decaying or preserved, had Hispanic charm. The cars, vintage American Chevrolets clinging to life, whizzed past, always crammed full of too many passengers. Yes, generally people here are poor and many will approach you looking for a pesos or two, but say "No" and we found they will move on with no bother. Others will approach you with simply a genuine interest in where you are from and how you are finding their city. We had a lovely conversation with a couple who told us where a free Salsa festival was taking place and gave us a few tips on the best sights of Havana.
Worth checking out if you are lucky enough to be going to Havana yourself are the many brilliant cocktail bars. We visited quite a few (I know, it's a hard life...), including several where Old Man of the Sea author Ernest Hemingway used to take his favourite tipples. From La Floradita where the Dakari cocktail was invented, to La Bodeguita Del Medio - one of the most famous bars in the world where visitors (us included) all write their names on the walls (and bar stools, and stairs... and any surface they can find!). Here you can have one of the best Mojitos you've ever had (it was invented here) whilst listening to a local Cuban band who will no doubt cram into the tiny bar, set up in a corner and play the charming Guantanamera and other such traditional Cuban favourites.
Visits to Revolutionary Square, with its impressive memorial to Jose Marti, a cigar factory and old presidential houses with peacocks roaming the courtyard gardens made up the rest of our trip, along with a night at the world famous club Tropicana - a full-on, colourful, tropical cabaret show with some of the most ambitious headwear I've ever seen on a dancer!
I hope this post has given you a flavour of Havana. Please let me know what you think of my snapshots below . . .
Let Lily Know: Have you ever been to Cuba or Havana?