Touchdown to my first visit to Cuba! A country I had always dreamed of but did not believe would ever be possible to visit due to the previous U.S. embargo lifted around two years ago now allowing travel to Cuba for American citizens such as myself.
After we arrived in Havana and settled into our casa particular our hunger lead us straight to Viky’s, an upscale restraunt which was recommended by our host. We started our meal on the balcony but quickly moved inside after our chilly daiquiris weren’t mixing well with the Havana night winds.
The decor was upscale black and white with strong attention to detail. A house musician played the piano while we dined on our ridiculously inexpensive lobster and sipped on daiquiris.
The next morning our host at our casa particular made us a delicious Cuban breakfast, complete with a mango smoothie (a popular drink across the country due to the many mango trees), eggs, pineapple, papaya, tomato, cucumber, and bread. A meal we would soon learn with slight variations is the traditional Cuban breakfast. After stopping by the shopping center Carlos III a few blocks from where few were staying in Centro Havana to wait two hours in line to exchange our currency to the local CUC, we headed out to check out the one of the most photographed sights in Havana: the Malecón.
Less than a minute after arriving a friendly man from the Dominican Republic asked us to take his picture claiming he was a tourist, then tried to convince us to visit a cigar shop which we later found out he would make a profit if he takes tourists to. This was repeated by another man also from the Dominican Republic about ten minutes later, and I was also swarmed by three children between these two occurrences appearing to be trying to pickpocket me. Needless to say, keep a close eye on your belongings here and don’t believe anyone who seems too friendly.
We spent about half an hour on the Malecón dodging crashing waves and taking too many photographs. We also observed two women performing a ritual and throwing meat into the ocean that we believed were a part of the Santería religion that has gained popularity in Cuba.
From there we walked down the promenade on the Paseo del Prado where we found an adorable little cafe called Terrazas D’ Prado. The cafe had great mojitos, incredible food, friendly service, and loving cats roaming about that I snuck a few bites of the delicious pescado (fish) I had ordered to.
Thankfully we were under a covered part of the cafe when we began eating because an unexpected downpour began halfway through our meal. This caused all other diners to pick up their tables and rush them under our cover.
We continued down the promenade to the capitol building, having to frequently duck under Havana’s crumbling arches to sit on covered steps in order to get out of the rain. I was completely in awe of the crumbling architecture on the surrounding streets that echoed a completely different style of life so many years ago. Not knowing the upcoming forecast, I made the mistake of wearing velvet Aldo sandals which quickly became soaked in the downpour. But I wasn’t going to let wet feet ruin my first full day in Cuba!
After exploring the area around the capitol we decided to grab drinks and a quick snack at the well-known establishment Sloppy Joes. This bar reopened in 2013 after being closed for 48 years but was previously frequented by celebrities and was a prime destination for U.S. tourists during the prohibition era. Though it was overly air conditioned (which on a normal day would have been fine, but on a cold rainy day was highly uncomfortable) the warm sliders and strong drinks made up for it.
Jet lagged and ready for some dry clothing, we decided to head back to our casa particular and get some rest for exploring the Havana castles the following day.