Havana is the capital city of the Caribbean Island of Cuba. Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean. It was colonized by Spain, and this is reflected in every aspect of life in Cuba: the food, the language, the dress, and even the way Cubans dance. There is no other way to describe Cuba except as a city lost in time. It is unlike the usual crowded cities filled with people going about their daily cares. Everything in Cuba goes a much slower pace than I am used to, but I love every minute of it!
I must admit that I had my reservations about visiting a country that did not have such a great relationship with the United States but once I was there those fears went away. One of the best parts about Cuba was the fact that I could wonder anywhere without feeling apprehensive. Crime is not a problem in Cuba and the locals did not harass me, as I have experienced in other Caribbean islands. I enjoyed a sense of freedom that was indescribable.
What to Do
There are a number of very interesting historical sites that are worth visiting in Cuba. My first stop was Old Havana. This is one of the typical tourists stops that I was excited to see. The bus tour was very informative and then I had the opportunity to wonder around and take pictures. As the name suggests, this area is filled with old cathedrals and other buildings which feature the most exquisite architectural designs. There are also dozens of little shops and cafes where I enjoyed authentic local dishes and a few familiar items as well.
I was also able to visit the Casa de la Amistad. It felt as if this was the hub for all the really exciting Cuban parties every weekend. The entire location is a very stately mansion and all the action happens right in the center. You can also choose to enjoy a quiet lunch there in the week since the location is really very impressive. On the weekends, various bands come to play cover versions of reggae, rock n roll, and even Spanish songs. Sometimes they even feature dancers and drummers to make the party even more exciting. It was awesome and I danced until my legs almost gave out.
The Bacardi Building was another stop my weeklong tour of Havana. I was not disappointed. I have seen many photos of this gigantic art deco building but they did not do it justice. I really enjoyed getting a closer look at this amazing architectural achievement.
One of the last places I visited before I was the Museo de Bomberos. When translated, this literally means museum of fire fighters. Before you ridicule the idea as being a boring way to spend my trip, just take a few minutes when you get there to see all the cool relics inside. It was the façade on the outside of the building which was designed to look like a historic monument that drew me inside in the first place. Plus, this museum opens occasionally so it was a bit like an adventure to finally get to see the items on display.
There was so much to see that I did not spend a lot of time at the beach as I usually would when visiting a Caribbean island. The only beach I got to visit was the one that was most important to my local tour guide; El Malecon beach. This is where Cubans often gather whether day or night to be with each other and observe nature. I could easily see why that was so because the views were breathtaking.
While I had a great time riding around in my tour guide’s vintage car that was typical in Cuba, I did face some challenges. I had a hard time finding people who spoke English. This was especially challenging when I chose to see the city without a guide. On my next visit, I plan to learn how to formally introduce myself and how to ask for the restroom. Hopefully, they continue to allow tourists to visit their beautiful island without any major restrictions.