Postcards from Havana

Cuba is, without a doubt, one of the craziest countries I’ve ever visited and I found Havana to be beautiful and overwhelming in equal measure.

First of all, you can’t go to Cuba with the expectation of an easy, luxurious beach holiday. Getting things organised and done is hard. Accommodation standards are questionable. Tourist prices are high. The quality of food and transport is very different to what you’re probably used to.

That’s kind of what makes travelling to Havana so rewarding though, and the one thing that can’t be matched is the atmosphere.

Cubans are such beautiful and kind people and it shows through everyone that you meet. Everyone and everything is loud. Music is playing on full blast and it feels like every street is hosting its own street party, 24/7. Cuba is a country where life is simple and family comes first. Families sit around a table on the sidewalk playing boardgames in the evenings. Groups of friends stand around fixing old cars together. Grandma’s sit outside chatting to their neighbours. Kids run around playing football against the crumbling walls. A man wheels his cart down the road all day and night, selling home-made bread biscuits and blowing his whistle for attention. It’s such a beautiful thing to see and experience first hand.

I went to Cuba with an expectation of seeing a fairly backwards and destroyed city, untouched by the Western world and with some beautiful scenery. To be honest, it was all of those things. But what I saw and experienced was so much more than that. I never expected to find so much raw beauty in a city as underdeveloped and run-down as Havana.

Every single person you’ll speak to will tell you that ‘you have to go to Cuba now before it’s too late and it all changes’. Who knows if that’s still the case now, but I’m happy that I got to see it the way that it is right now. Whilst of course I wish nothing but a happier and easier life for the people of Cuba, I also selfishly loved experiencing the authentic, simpler life of Havana.

I thought I’d pull together some of my favourite photos that I think perfectly captured my time in the unexpectedly stunning Havana. Hopefully it’ll give you a taste of what it’s like and what you can expect if you get a chance to visit soon.

I mean…. the view coming in to land in Cuba says it all, really. The most beautiful flight I’ve ever been on.

 

Havana_rooftops

First views from my Casa’s rooftop terrace

 

A butcher’s shop across the road. I assumed it was abandoned at first but it’s quite hard to tell, there’s every chance it was just closed!

 

Havana_florist

The florist. Most businesses and shops on the streets were run from inside homes. They weren’t set up or dressed like shops in any way, just like this one.

 

We found this amazing rooftop jazz bar, Cafe la Flauta Mágica, across the road from the American Embassy. Weirdly we were the only ones in there, maybe because from the outside it looks like you’re just going into someone’s flat. There aren’t any signs until the elevator doors open up on the top floor. We spent the afternoon drinking mojitos in the pool overlooking all of Havana …

 

And this was the view. The Cuban’s put up an entire field of flag masts across the road from the Americans. It made me very happy. 😉

 

Although it’s the tourist thing to do, jumping in the back of an old classic convertible car and going on a tour of the city was one of my favourite moments in Havana. We saw so much that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise, and we paid our driver a little extra to drop us off at the other end of town rather than just do a loop around the beach area.

 

We drove past all the important landmarks like the famous Plaza de la Revolución

 

Then he took us to this insane park in the middle of Havana that I felt like we’d driven about 3 hours out of town to see. Luckily, I’d managed to chameleon myself to my surroundings with the jumpsuit choice 😉

 

Before the reforms, Cuban’s weren’t allowed to run their own businesses and restaurants weren’t really a thing. So to cater to tourists and some locals, the Cubans took to setting up their own restaurants from the comfort of their homes. They’re called Paladares, and you absolutely have to eat in one if you go to Havana. La Guarida, above, is one of the oldest and best in Havana. It’s found inside what feels like the ruins of an old apartment block. Once you’re inside, the building is amazing. I walked up the stairs with my jaw dropped the entire way.

 

After our first two nights in Havana, we went on a tour of the rest of the country. When we got back we’d moved accommodation to another Casa, this time with our own little private balcony. The room was incredible and the host was so friendly that we were chatting for hours. This was the view from our room at sunset.

 

Queues for the local bread shop.

Plus a few more snaps from walking around and exploring the streets…

Almost every single photo that I made Ben pose for on this day was crashed by an excited local who wanted to get involved or have a chat.

 

Seeing Havana was such a good travel experience and whilst I don’t think I’ll be going back any time in the near future, I’d love to visit again in 5 or 10 years time to see how it evolves and changes.

Have you ever been to Cuba? I’d love to hear about your experiences and first impressions.

Kamila x
LNG

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