DAY 1 in Cuba- Wait, lets back up to the part that our flight got canceled, so our trip got pushed back a day, & a day added to it.
REAL DAY 1- We flew out Saturday. Flew to NYC, then to Havana. The flights weren't too bad. Flying first class made for great leg room and snacks, which I THROUGHLY enjoyed.
We landed in Havana, where close to nobody speaks English. I don't know if you have ever flown out of the United States, but when you land in a foreign airport, it gets a little confusing. Lets be honest- any airport is confusing, especially when nobody speaks English. So anyways, I am the only one who can speak Spanish (mom claims she can understand it, just not converse), and as soon as we land we are rushed by a taxi man to follow him and he will take us to the bank. So we are all like, "yeah, sure. Sounds like a great idea." Mind you- the taxi is about the size of a smart car and a half. Mom, dad, me, & Brian crammed into one of these makes for a very hot and intimate car ride.
We got in the taxi and drove 30 minutes to a bank. Brian and I hung with the non-English speaking taxi man while mom & dad went inside. We are then surprised by the taxi man as he takes us all to this Cuban restaurant. We thought it was so neat.... until we saw the bill. Cuba is by far much cheaper than the U.S., just not at this restaurant.
We then are taken to our Airbnb. Oh, yeah- there is no wifi in this country except for at specific hotels, and you have to pay $6 to use it for an hour. Needless to say, we could not get in touch with our host, so thank goodness she was right around the corner when we arrived at the house. She lead us through a gated door, up some stairs, down a long hallway, to another gated door, which was our room door. The door takes about 7 minute of pushing, lifting, sweating, and turning the key to actually open (this made for good entertainment when dad was the one trying to open the door).
We tried to cool off for a few minutes (there is no AC in Cuba either. Just window units and box fans.) and then we headed to the Hotel National. It was stunning at this hotel. The only reason we did not stay here was due to the fact that the government runs it, and we wanted to support the people of Cuba, not the Cuban government. I had an incredible Mojito here. We then saw the Cuban Missiles Crisis tunnels, and were able to explore around them.
That first evening, we watched the sunset while we sat(sweated) on the Malecon. This is a place on the water's edge that many Cuban people gather for the sunset. After the sunsets, the Cubans continue to sit on the Malecon and drink their box rum (not very good) and chat with each other. Many vendors prance up and down the Malecon at night selling roses, grapes, pop-corn, or candy. We then ate our supper from a street vendor along the Malecon. Despite staring at a pig's head while the man (who was smoking a cigar) tore me off a piece of pork, it was quite delicious.
DAY 2- 4 hour taxi ride from Havana to Trinidad. We swapped taxis half way because our first driver was literally "tired of driving". Once we arrived in Trinidad, we were greeted by our host, Anthony. HE WAS SOMETHING ELSE. I'm talking about life of the party- AT ALL TIMES. He was blaring Despacito so loudly, we could hear him in the house from two streets over. We explored Trinidad that afternoon. We found a beautiful church. BEAUTIFUL. That evening was a dream. Brian and I were able to climb on top of our roof & lay and watch the stars. We both saw two shooting stars. Incredible. Also, there was this friendly little dog whose yard was the top of the roof. The neighbors told me that the dog falls off the roof quite often, but the owners of the dog are crazy and continue to leave it on the roof.
DAY 3- We woke up early and decided to hike to a waterfall & swimming hole. This hike turned into a 5 mile hike, all up hill. On the way up to the swimming hole, we stopped at a lookout, and I was able to hold a tarantula!!!!
The waterfall and swimming hole were stunning. Freezing, but so stunning. Of course Brian jumped straight in. It took me a minute because ya know, not a huge fan of swimming in ice water. Once in, it was so refreshing. I'm not sure how we hiked up hill to get there, and then uphill to get back, but we did. On the way back we grabbed some coconuts to drink and eat. SO NEAT!
Once we finished the treck back, a sweet man greeted us at the top of the hill. On our way to the waterfall he told us
, "Estás sonriendo ahora pero llorarás más tarde", which means, "you are smiling now but you will be crying later". We laughed at first because little did we know, he was right. The hike back would bring us to tears. The hike was brutal & Brian told me we had to smile when we saw this man again, just so we could prove him wrong. So here we come, smiling so hard, when the man ran to us with bean beaded necklaces. He started yelling "CHAMPIONS" and gave us these necklaces. I guess Brian's smiling strategy worked?
We headed back to the house for a much needed nap. Oh, don't brush your teeth with the sink water...because you'll throw up rice that you had for lunch...while in a cave club... all over your boyfriend's shoes (thanks for holding my hair Brian).
We went to this bar inside of a cave (the one I threw up at). It was incredible. This bar used to be the home of a serial killer. He would kill children and hide their bodies in this cave. I'm not sure who decided to turn it into a bar, but it was pretty neat. At 10pm they spray the bats out, & doors open at 11pm. So we make it into this bar, for $3 (which covers you and a drink of choice, Mojito, ovi), and it's LITERALLY 10000000000 degrees, the smell makes me think of all the bats & OMG I'M GOING TO VOMIT AGIAN. Brian and I take a picture and I literally sprint out of the club and puke right next to the door. We go back to the house & I end up getting sick 3 more times that night. Brian woke up each time I ran to the bathroom, and would just rub my back. He is incredible.
DAY 4- Woke up feeling much better, only to get sick again. We then drove to Cienfuegos after breakfast & saying goodbye to Anthony. Once we arrived at Cienfuegos, me, dad, & Brian swam across the fisherman bay (right next to our house) to get to the beach. We were scared to jump into the bay at first, then all these Cuban children started cheering us on, so in we went! This was such a fun experience.
That evening we explored the shipyard and then walked around Cienfuegos. We found a street vendor and ate Cuban hush-puppies & churros. Delicious! We then found a government run castle type place, & I decided to explore. Everyone else was like, "you're going to get in trouble", but they quickly followed along.
Inside the castle was beautiful marble and incredible interior. It was 4 stories high with spiral staircases. So glad I decided to take a look inside!
We had hamburgers tonight. I think they were horse, not beef. RIP.
DAY 5- We were off to Pinar del Rio to stay at what was called the Pineapple Casa. This house was a farm to table home on tons of land. They had tons of chickens, cows, goats, turkeys, and all kinds of veggies, fruits, and coffee beans! By far my favorite house that we stayed at, despite the MEGA mosquitos that try and eat you alive when the sun goes down. We took it easy this evening & just hung around the house. The supper here was so fresh and so dang good. The best food we had while in Cuba. And look at my view across the table! Love him!
DAY 6- This morning we woke up and went and rode horses through the tobacco fields. This was incredible! Probably the most fun activity that we did, according to me! My dad's horse kept biting the Yucca every time it walked by. And dad would just say, "wooooooahhhhh", and continue to look traumatized! It was hilarious. We stopped at a tobacco house and we got to see how the tobacco was dried and then rolled into cigars. Dad and Brian thoroughly enjoyed this. They bought cigars and were able to smoke them while riding their horses. The tobacco farmer, sadly, only gets to keep 10% of his profit. The rest goes to the government. We then rode our horses to a sugarcane stop. The people who run the sugarcane squeezed the liquid out of the sugarcane and made us a delicious drinks with it.We then said goodbye to the horses and got a taxi to take us to Santa Juanita. Little did we know this would soon turn into a nightmare. Our Taxi driver drove us to the wrong house and then left us. We had no idea where we were and the people did not want us to stay at their home. So we began walking… With our suitcases and all… Down a long dirt road with nothing around. It was not funny at the time, and it's still a little sore today, but looking back it was quite hilarious. So glad Brian captured a picture of this. Then, and agricultural bus pulled over and picked us up. He then drove us to his friends house where we were able to stay. Once we got to the friends house, we decided we did not want to stay there. We wanted to go somewhere near the beach. We didn't know where, we just knew we wanted the beach. I was able to play with the two kids that lived in that house. They were incredible little boys! They owned pigeons, pigs, and a huge avocado tree (that they were very proud of). We then were finally able to get in touch with a taxi. He took us to Cayo Lavisa.
This place was incredible. It was the last house before the water, which we had to cross to get to a private beach.
We hung out at the house for the rest of the evening and watched the incredible sunset. This was the house that a man became my "Cuban boyfriend" as Brian would say. He was about 50 and brought me 9 mangos from his house (3 miles both ways) just because I said I liked mangos. Such a kind soul.
DAY 7- This morning we woke up to catch a ferry that would take us to a private beach. The ferry ride was incredible, and the beach was even more spectacular. We spent the whole day on the beach, snorkeling, swimming, and tanning. Lunch was free and it was a Cuban buffet. It was delicious. PS- to snorkel in Cuba is only five dollars. Today was my favorite.
DAY 8- We spent all day today exploring Old Havana. It was beautiful. We went to street markets, churches, and old buildings. Brian and I spent our last night sitting on the Malecon with one cigar & lots of Cubans.
Cuba was a trip of a lifetime. I can't wait to go back!! Thanks for the awesome graduation present, mom & dad!!