Cuba is known for its resorts and beaches, but it’s just not the traveling I enjoy. Habana, on the other hand, the capital of this beautiful country had my curiosity and had been on the top of my list for a long time. Traveling to me is the synonym to adventure, discovery, and exploration and this city delivers. Finally – I can have my own opinion of this country and not talk about the crappy food in hotels (the cuisine is actually delicious in the right places). This city has my heart and here are my top reasons why.
Time warp. No surprise that Havana is known for its classic older cars. Ever since that episode on The Kardashians – even the average American knows it. I have to say I was surprised by how many there were and how cool it felt to be “amongst” them in this big city (population over 2M). What a treat! The colors – the vibe – took some marvelous pics that all look a little surreal for 2016. Combined with the old colorful crumbling buildings – it was awesome. Wifi is something you buy by the hour and servers are limited- I guess all and all the lifestyle is flowing in the same direction. Get ready to slow down your pace to the Caribbean.
Art. Cuban artists are hot right now in the art world. I had the chance to walk in many artist’s studios open to the public. It is a fascinating experience to learn about art directly from the source just off the street! As I walked in Martalena studio, I am well greeted after I spend some time alone with two pet cats. Later I am shown the cat inspired paintings (cute). Kind of cool. I barely understood my host (I don’t speak Spanish), but I must have spent a solid 20 minutes “talking” and laughing about art/life with this lady. The artist is established and noticeably unique. The encounter felt very “raw,” and it was memorable. I did purchase a beautiful painting by a Cuban Artist known as Pango but no luck in meeting him this time!
Live Music. I had the pleasure to enjoy dozens of performing artists over four days. The amount of live music playing in restaurants, bars, and streets is overwhelming in a good way. Talented musicians playing violins, cello and tres (a Cuban origin guitar) were humbly playing their hearts out. Even saw some a Capella singers. Cubans have a love for music and performing which is evident in the Capital.
Tropicana. Since 1939 this cabaret show has been up and running for Cubans and foreigners alike, and I can see why. The Moulin Rouge of the Caribbean is spectacular. As you arrive at the establishment – classic cars keep pulling up with people dressed to kill coming out. I felt like I was in a 50s Hollywood movie – all glamor. This burlesque-inspired show has amazing costumes, enthusiastic dancers, and music that keeps your head bopping. A bottle of rum for each makes Cuba Libres easy to overdo. Why not. At the end of the show, I “represented” Canada to come on stage. They played Justin Bieber’s Sorry the moment I stepped on, – they have an excellent sense of humor the Cubans. Either way – JB is still my favorite guilty pleasure. We even got to do the Macarena with the dancers. Epic night. Check out an extract of the show here–> video
Coppelia Ice cream parlor. Arriving at this famous ice cream parlor, it was overwhelming. Dozens (maybe a hundred) of people are standing around in different lines. Turns out they try to separate the foreigners from the locals. I decide to take the bullet and wait an hour for ice cream (#CaribbeanPace). Good thing I did. It wasn’t the ice cream that made it memorable (though it was quite delicious) it was the Havanans. I met a Cuban who ended up helping me order and even paying for my ice cream (the much cheaper local rate). So friendly! We had a good laugh trying to talk. I thought I was going all out with three scoops, but he had fifteen!!! The older lady to my right had ten… I was shocked! They love their ice cream and seeing them enjoy it after waiting so long showed their ability to appreciate the little things in life that we sometimes forget.
Food. Since the government relaxed its restrictions in 2011- delicious affordable plates are available all around the city in paladares and restaurants. This and a mojito – you can’t go wrong. Did you know that rum was invented there? I didn’t, but now I even know the process of making it now – thanks, Havana Club Museum. This city is very cool with an endless list of things to do. My travel bug has been satisfied once again, and I can’t wait to go back!