Thursday, May 4, 2017

Welcome to Cuba

The drive to Fort Lauderdale from Vero Beach to take a Jet Blue flight to Cuba, took longer than the flight to Havana.
I was surprised and thankful at the ease of obtaining our visa’s at the airport in Lauderdale. Our reception by the Cuban Government at the Jose Marti airport was gracious and efficient. Having neither a long wait in the Customs Line, or the baggage line; we found ourselves outside in the Caribbean sunshine of one of the lesser traveled spots in the world, looking for a taxi in town.

It is not an exaggeration that airbnb has changed travel to Cuba and in fact, the world. Travelers who were staying at the expensive hotels available to tourist’s in Havana were few and far between. Liannet’s condo and our official headquarters for the week, is located in the neighborhood of Vedado/La Rampa. 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 Tele’s and a concrete Kitchen. No internet, no WIFI, no Google.

Whats not to love of this view?

The 50’s apartment was great and I worshiped the view every moment we stayed there. Between myself and my traveling companions, we have hundreds of shots of the city from the 19th floor balcony.
One of the most famous locations in Havana sits directly in front of us, The Hotel Nacional de Cuba. 

The first 6 floors of this large 1950’s apartment building where our condo resides, is a medical clinic. A small state, owned grocery sits behind us, where there is only Nescafe Instant available for purchase. I thought I was in the middle of the land of coffee? Thus began our search for espresso coffee grounds. Or windmills.

Terrace, Cafe' Laurent
Stuffed Tostones

Lunch was had at CafĂ© Laurent  ;
a 4th floor apartment transformed into a private restaurant, or “ Palador. “  Though our meal hit the spot, we did not dally there, in spite of the view and the ocean breeze  from the patio.

Morro Castle at the mouth of Havana Harbor

The next chore was buying an internet card for the phones. HAHAHAHAHA. There is very little access to internet in Cuba, and it is neither good nor fast. The official Telecommunication company of Cuba, is Etecsa and in a little downstairs office of a giant, crumbling Soviet Era apartment building, Harvey procured an internet card. 5 hours of internet for 1.50 an hour. One can tell where are the hot spots are in Havana, by the masses of people sitting on curbs and in parks with their cell phones out. I opted out of any internet for the duration of our trip. For the first time since beginning to blog about our travels, I am writing after the fact, in the comfort of home.

Your ride is waiting

Despite our best efforts, we never located a store for groceries that day except for the Government store behind our building. In fact, we never saw any stores at all. No clothes, no liquor, no drug stores. Nada. Nunca. It’s a bit surreal coming from the good ‘ol US of A, where we can depend on a gas station, drug store or grocery store on every street corner, to a major city where seemingly there is nothing and no Google to help find what you need. 

Fidel - Revolution Square

The day was rounded out with dinner at La Paida , another palador, recommended to us by a taxi driver. La Paida is an outdoors, family restaurant, where a ½ grilled chicken will run you 6.00, with a side of moro rice and rum cocktails cost fifty cents less than bottled water. Chickens and cats roam the very clean premises, looking for handouts from plates. We were the only foreigners having dinner there and that made it taste ever, so much better.

David, Marissa and Harvey at Hotel Nacional

Waiting for the Mojito's to arrive

The colorful wreck, center, is our headquarters

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