Arriving in La Habana was pretty much like arriving at any other international airport except for one thing – the airport looked like it was built in the 50’s. And in fact it was.
It had an escalator but of course it didn’t work. Customs check in went flawlessly. No one even asked why we were coming to Cuba. You see, a US resident cannot visit Cuba as a tourist but you can come on an educational Visa to meet the people. Let me just say, this is certainly an education and we are meeting the people. Matter of fact we are living with them.
We booked our casa particulars through Airbnb, and yes I was surprised you could do that. Our host Gema picked us up at the airport and we came by taxi the 20-25 miles to Old Havan.
First we had to exchange our money. We had ordered Euro from our Credit Union in North Carolina before coming to Cuba. Euros exchange one to one with no exchange fee. But at the last minute we decided we might need a little more Peso CUC because no US credit cards or debit cards are accepted in Cuba. We took a real loss on that because on top of the exchange rate they also charge a 10% fee for the transaction.
On the ride from the airport we enjoyed seeing all the vintage US cars and Revolutionary Propaganda. We didn’t really see anything that made us think Cuba was a communist country, just billboards about Che Guevara and Fidel’s revolution.
Hema’s mother Maite was at the apartment to greet us when we arrived. We had the one bedroom apartment all to ourselves.
The Cubans seem to like Obama and are excited to build a relationship with the USA.
We always go out walking once we arrive in a new city so after a quick navigation overview we hit the streets of Old Havana. First up was something to eat. Where better than where the Cubans eat? We found this little sign and saw these people eating really good food so we decided why not eat there. We didn’t see a health grade rating but what the heck. Our travels have taught us to eat like the locals.
We pointed at what the other people were eating and before we knew it we had a plate full of pork, rice, onions, tomatoes, corn fritters, and a banana along with a fruit smoothie all for about a buck fifty.
After dining on the streets of Old Havana, we started out walking again and in just a few minutes we ended up right in front of the Capitol Building and Central Park.
We also found The Floridita Bar, one of Hemingway’s favorite places and home of the daiquiri.
Next we had a horse and buggy tour of Old Havana. Barbaro was our guide and he spoke excellent English so we were able to understand much about the history of Old Havana and Cuba.
We had to make a stop for a Mojito and a cup of Cuban Coffee and where better than where the Mojito was invented – Dos Hombre’s Restaurante – Two Brother’s Bar.
To round out our first night in La Habana we had to take a walk on the Malecon , the street where everything is happening. It runs all along the ocean side from the Havana Harbor.