On August 4th a close friend called and asked if I wanted to take a trip. It was short notice and those are often my favorite. Needless to say, I said yes and 12 days later we found ourselves in Havana, Cuba.
Within the first hour, we were awash in the difficulties that define Cuba. We had hired a driver, affectionately nicknamed Tio (uncle), and waited nearly four hours for our rental car. To be clear, yes we had to rent a car for our driver to drive and yes, even with a reservation we waited nearly four hours for it. If this sounds insane to you, it’s because it is. Such is life in a supply-limited country derailed by decades of a US embargo.
Havana is as dilapidated and beautiful as they come in spite of its war torn facade. Buildings are falling apart and others are already crumbled to the ground, yet they still hold their vibrant colors that glow in the bright Caribbean sun. Cars retrofitted with parts from all over the world look clean and pristine as if they just left the factory. The street art is creative, imaginative, and rivals those of artistic capitals around the world. Lastly, the people, with an average annual salary of around $350 (exception: drivers), are some of the most giving and loving people I’ve met.
A fellow traveler once said to me, “Tourism is like watching porn; traveling is like making love”. I pride myself on being a traveler skilled in blending must-see tourism with hidden gems. However, I’d be lying if I said we found those gems instead of cruising Havana, eating like royalty, drinking the smoothest rum, and smoking the finest cigars.
Cuba is a time capsule filled with the best of the 50’s and coated with the patina of revolution and isolation. It is rico (rich) in history, culture, and flavor and although roughly 100 miles from the States, the two countries are worlds apart in every way, including current decade. Even though it was just for four days, the 50’s were some of the best times of my life.