When we bought our tickets to Cuba – back in Februrary – I had all the time in the world to research possible destinations and create the itinerary to end all itineraries. Then life happened, which for me included the hectic process of starting a new job, and suddenly we were going to Havana in 3 weeks with no plans. Oops.
The only thing we actually organized before getting on the plane was accommodation in the neighborhood of Havana Vieja. Old town Havana, with its cobblestone streets and ornate, colorful buildings, is what I thought of when I thought Cuba.
The location turned out to be perfect for us. We were walking distance to most of the things we wanted to see, even in the heat. Because you guys? OH MY GOD THE HEAT. Or rather, the heat plus the humidity. Take these pictures: the first is after having walked out of an air conditioned restaurant. The camera couldn’t deal any more than we could, hence the crazily fogged lens. A minute later, it was able to actually take a normal picture again.
I plotted out what I thought were reasonable walking routes, but the weather meant that even I, the girl who once walked 8 miles on a morning stroll around Sao Paulo, opted for afternoon naps over seeing it all.
What we did see, however, was exactly what I’d hoped for. Beautiful buildings, many of them to my surprise already in great condition or under government-mandated restoration. Whatever your thoughts on the Castro regime, there’s a certain level of organization that comes with absolute rule. The upside of that is things like the government getting to just decide it’s going to put money toward restoring buildings in order to attract tourists and make more money.
Plus, there were the cars. The “American cars” – a phrase which will be yelled at you many times a day as their drivers offer you the chance for a ride – are in amazing condition, and their vibrant paint jobs add even more color to the city.
Taxis come in four flavors in Havana: the 1950s cars, regular modern cars (yawn), coco taxis and bicitaxis. Cocos are scooters with a two-seater bench in a coconut-shaped shell. Perfect for the narrow streets of Havana Vieja, where the big American cars would get stuck. Bicitaxis are bikes with a trailer, good for short distances when the heat meant we just couldn’t walk any more.
In the tropics, heat and humidity mean one thing: thunderstorms. It rained every afternoon except one, and the rain was absolutely torrential. This didn’t stop us though, as all of the bici taxis have roofs and plastic side panels they unfurl in bad weather. Plus the light post-storm was gorgeous, and the drop in temperature was always welcome.
And of course, rain means top notch sunsets. As if Havana Vieja needed any help winning my heart.
More in this series:
We’re going to…
Preparing for Cuba
Snapshots from Cuba
La Bodeguita del Medio: following Hemingway in Cuba
Communist Cuba: seeing it for ourselves
Our Havana tour
Trinidad, a colonial gem
Cuba’s best beaches
Getting adventurous in Cuba
The casa particular: where to stay in Cuba
One day in Viñales