Needless to say, we had an excellent trip!
It started out with an extra 3hr delay in Toronto due to poor weather and another 20minute delay because of a missing flight attendant. It was snowing lightly in Toronto area and our plane to Havana had to be de-iced before we left. I managed to get some sleep in the airport but I was still pretty bagged by the time we hit Havana. We should have arrived at 2:30pm Havana time (+4hrs on PST) but didn’t end up there until about 6:30pm. Luckily I actually brought a couple cigars because the cigar shops we’re closed by that time, so I lit one up in the taxi on the way to our Casa. Sumeet managed to sleep on the plane so she was doing OK.
After about a 15minute drive we we’re at our Casa. Anita, the daughter of the guy who runs the website was there waiting for us amazingly, with our flight delayed almost 4hrs I figured she wouldn’t be there but she was. Not suprisingly she informed us that the Casa was full but had another ready for us. It was on the opposite end of town that we wanted but was only about a 15minute walk away from our preferred casa. Old but clean rooms, kitchenette, bed box spring from 30’s and extremely poor water pressure.
After cleaning up and getting dressed we headed to “La Roca” restaurant, a place suggested to us by Anita, it was very well priced (so there would be locals there) and it being Dec.31st there was a comedy/music show. I had a Beef Filet Mignon and Sumeet had Spaghetti, add-on about 5 drinks and our bill was a whopping 27$.
We had great weather the 1st few days, then it got a little stormy for a few days – the days we planned to hit the East Havana Beaches. It actually only rained for about 10minutes the total time we we’re there but it was very windy on one day, got some cool pictures + videos of the waves coming in the on the Malecon and me running away from some huge splashes.
We met some really cool locals walking through the streets, we walked through centro Habana which is the poorer area of Havana. We didn’t see any other touristas in that area. Always had someone ask us ‘where ya from?’. All the Cubans thought Sumeet was from somewhere in Latin American – Columbian, Chilean etc, some locals even thought she was Cuban.
I got the hook-up at the Partagas Cigar Factory store. While Sumeet and I we’re having an expresso and cigar at the cigar-bar, I noticed a Japanese guy (Nakamura) I could have sworn I’ve seen in the Habanos Festival pictures or Partagas dinner pics. He was talking to another guy beside us and he mentioned about going back to Vancouver and I introduced Sumeet and myself to him. His name is Sergio and sets up parties for cigar lovers across the world, the Japanese guy was Nakamura, he imports/exports things from/to Cuba/Japan. Sergio immediately invites me into the Partagas VIP room, where we we’re given free rum and Nakamura gifted me a 5yr aged Robaina Robusto!! The best Robusto I’ve ever smoked!! Here’s a pic of all of us together at Maison De La Floata ( a great restaurant with excellent flamenco dancers). Also met Lachina, 3-time world cigar-roller champ. Nakamura invited me to go visit a legend in tobacco farming – Don Alejandro Robaina!! It’s by invitation only and I gobbled up the chance of meeting him even though he speaks absolutely no english. His farm is in the city of Vinales in the province of Pinar Del Rio. It’s about a 2-1/2hr ride from Havana. We had a huge lunch which was awesome, live band, cigars & scotch. I met Robaina and his son, grandson, and great granddaughter even (she’s only 1yrs old). The whole family was very warm, his wife welcomed me as if I was her own family, thats part of the Cuban way, family+friends are everything to them. Unfortunately there was only one seat left for the trip so Sumeet couldnt make it but she was great and urged me to go even though we we’re away from each other for about 10hrs. Here’s the pic of me and robaina.
We did a lot of walking, every morning we’d wake up, have breakfast, and then walk along the malecon to the Capitolio area, go for a coffee at the partagas factory, go to Castillo De Farnes (near the flordita) for lunch and some drinks. We hit the Museum of the Revolution, which is pretty cool especially for 5$. We spent a couple hours there, they breakdown the history into different rooms starting when the Spainiards 1st landed and slaved the local indigineous peoples all the way up to Fidel took power. We hit a lot of other cool shops – musesum of chocolate (should see the air condtioniners in that store), the Dark Room – have to go there to see. Also, Havana or Cuba in general is extremely safe, violence is rare, tourism brings a lot of money for them so you can find a policeman on every 3rd or 4th corner. Sumeet and I didn’t feel threatened at all.
The architecture all over Havana is unbelievable, like being in a time-machine. We’ll never do a the resort thing again, the resort thing was nice but boring after the 2nd or 3rd day after doing the same thing. The East Havana beaches are only 15minutes away by car from downtown and are almost as nice as Varadero. Our preferred Casa was available for the 2nd half of our trip and was a huge improvement over the last one. Nice big 2 bedroom, with a huge living room, eating area, nice big bedroom, TV etc and at 35$ a night its a no-brainer, add a few bucks a day for breakfast and your set. We had lobster dinners for about 7 out of 10 nights. “Gato Tuerto” “Maison de la Floata” “La Roca” are excellent restaurants, Gato Tuerto is right next to the Hotel Nacional so it was really close for us, great Lobster – “Compay Langosta” (battered lobster) and “Gato Tuerto Langosta” (Mozzarella over Lobster). Drinking is cheap there too, they have little convienence store stands all over the place, a huge bottle of Havana Club and 2-liter of Cola for 8$.
Thats our trip in a nut-shell. We look forward to going back sometime. Here’s the link to the rest of the pictures.