Adios almost….

We all slept until 12pm due to the weariness of our day trip. Baby and I had some oatmeal we brought with us and we just hung out for a bit. My hair was a mess and I did not bring a single comb or brush with me. I had to rely on an old toothbrush I found in my bag, water and some hair oil I brought to work some magic. After I did the best I could, we got dressed and made​ our way through the door.
I had a set of gift bags left and so we took them to a primary school close by. We went to the bank to change money but there was a problem and we didn’t quite understand so we got stuck with the hotel rate. This wasn’t so bad as we had a WiFi card we had to use and once that was done we cruised down to the Malecon. The rain caught us and we ran​ back to Hotel Presidente and as soon as we got there it stopped! Not even a minute! We were grateful as we didn’t have an umbrella. There is one in our casa but we left it.  

Anyway, today we were going to go the Museum of Belles Artes (again), the museum of chocolate and the jardin for Princess Diana but we were cutting it too close. So we changed course. 5pm is the common closing time for most attractions and we left the hotel to 4. We hailed a cab and asked to be brought to the Ferry. Here, we paid $0.10 CUP each and hopped on. We were going to the island of Casablanca. We enjoyed peanuts and chicharron from the vendors. The ride was very short and smooth and we enjoyed the view. We were going to see El Christo de La Habana. That is, if we didn’t miss and fall in the water. You literally had to jump off the boat on to land. It was quite interesting.

Kids have a way of bringing people together and as avid football fanatics, baby asked to walk when he saw a ball being kicked around. Hubs and baby played a bit with the guys on the street then we were back to our hike up a path. The view of Havana was beautiful. I imagined at nights it’s even more glorious. We took our pics and once again baby found himself a new group of friends. This time, musicians. They wittingly gave him 2 maracas and allowed him to play as they sang and played their instruments. We later learned that we grossly overpaid for the instruments but as per hubs it was for the memories.  There is also an electric train to see here but we weren’t sure about walking around and so we decided to catch the next ferry. We bought some churros from a street vendor and while they were yummy, they almost made me sick. I knew they looked bad, they way they were being made wasn’t sanitary either but they were delicious. Immodium saved the day thankfully. We went back to Havana and walked about the city before stopping in to get our very last peso pizza. 1 CUC of deliciousness. This time with peppers and onions! We sat beside an older man on a bench and ate as he cat called the girls as they went by. All while telling hubs that he can’t look! Lol. We decided to walk to see the canon show but as we were 2 hours ahead we cruised on the Malecon as we went along.  At 9pm, it went off but we were at the wrong spot and it wasn’t a big a bang as we expected. We laughed at our misfortune and started walking towards our home before hailing a cab.

We packed our things and headed to dinner at Idillio’s again. I began to feel sick after eating the paella and so we took off. I had a headache from when we were chilling on the Malecon and it wouldn’t go away. Plus, all that street food was starting to ride my stomach so I knocked out and left the boys to party.

 

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Hello Havana…

From the night before our casa owner let us know that they would be replacing the elevator and so it wouldn’t be available from 9am-12pm. We were supposed to wake up and leave with him to go on the road but when he came by at 8:45am we couldn’t make it! Lol. We did stay awake though. We washed and sterilized bottles then prepped for the day. We booked our tour with Cubatur at Hotel Presidente then went to the bank to change money. Now listen, the eyebrow game in this place is something crazy. Men and women alike have well done brows and well, I got a little jealous. We made a stop at a barber shop down the road and for 1 CUC I was brought up to standard! I loved them!
We walked down to the Malecon and caught a cab to what should have been Almances San Jose to do some souvenir shopping. The driver was unable to find the place despite asking multiple people on the way, so we decided to just go to El Capitolo and sort ourselves out from there as it is pretty central. All that driving for only 3 CUC was a steal to me. It was just a bit annoying that taxis in Havana don’t know a lot of places. Even when they asked other taxi drivers. As faith would have it, we got dropped off on San Jose street and there was a sounvenir shop right there! Sigh.
We went in for a bit, but the prices were out of our reach.  While walking down the street I felt a loose grip and realized that my slippers had gone rogue and no longer wanted to protect my feet:-(

  My hero got me a new pair for 7 CUC at said souvenir shop. *facepalm*. Once back on track we made our way to Sloppy Joes for a delicious lunch! My gosh! The meals were so good and we had a very refreshing Coke! Our sloppy joe, chicken with vegetables sandwich, mojito and coke came to 19 CUC.  We couldn’t complain at all. It had a North American flair and was the perfect break we needed from all things Cuban. It felt like we were in an embassy lol. Once we hit those doors, the annoyance from struggling to communicate all over, picking food conscientiously to avoid illness and dealing with the unorganized taxi system just floated away. It truly felt like a safe haven and the food being excellent was a much needed bonus! Even baby ate a lil. We have no complaints even though we had to maneuver eating while controlling him on a stool as there’s no tables and chairs. I wanted to go to the Museum of Belles Artes but as they were closed on Mondays​ we went across the road to the Museum of the Revolution.
It was 8 CUC each and while it was very interesting, it was also extremely biased. A few pieces were in English and an English speaking guide is there if you so desire.
There were a few pieces of blood stained clothes of warriors that gave me the creeps. As we walked through each room every one was very quietly, it was as if they were all taken aback at the blatant victimization in the language or the brutality in the revolution itself. Either way, it’s a MUST see. My hubby thoroughly enjoyed it and seeing military artillery such as planes, boats and trucks was very cool as well. Not to mention we got souvenir pieces, 10 pieces for 5 CUC, a leather covered ball for 2 CUC and 3 shot glasses 5 CUC. We shared a small tub of ice cream before heading out. We walked 7 mins to Plaza Vieja where we just chilled on the side of the curb for a good hour. I walked around for a bit but there wasn’t much more here for me as it was a bit hard to understand and locate the attractions in this area.  Nothing is in English as the country doesn’t cater to English speakers despite the fact that Cubans don’t visit these attractions or know of them! Due to it popularity, I tried a croissant with ham and cheese from Cafe Bohemia and much was left to desired. After a while we decided to go home. We walked toward the Plaza de la San Fransisco to find the Malecon spot we left from before. During this walk we saw some teachers outside a school and gave them a few bags of the gifts we brought to give to the students. At the plaza we found the Jardin de Teresa Calcutta. As an extremely non religious person, I enjoyed this garden so much! I was raised in Catholic schools all my life and so the works of Mother Teresa was taught all over. It was a very beautiful, serene rest spot and I would recommend it as a break from the crowds, haggling and hustle of the streets. We spent a few minutes here then caught the cab of a lifetime! 6 CUC to take us to the monument of Calixto Garcia. We said no, and it went down to 5. We decided to take it and things got interesting. I wanted to stop and take a photo of a beautiful monument of a face I saw and somehow we communicated that. I showed him where it was and he turned around in the street and allowed me to take a couple pictures. It was so beautiful. When I was done I got back in the car but he didn’t drive off. He spoke and all I caught was ‘Donde?’ And I told him the same destination and he got so upset, hitting his steering wheel and all! I said Cuantos, quentas? (How much?) and the tirade continued as we sat quietly watching him. When he was done, he said 8 CUC to Hotel Presidente and we said ok. We had no issues paying more but his reaction caught us so off guard. When he got to Hotel Presidente, would you believe he got out, ran around to my door helped me out to the point of almost lifting me. Then, he took out all of our bags and took my son who was sleeping from the husband and helped him out as well. Introduced himself and asked us our names then he did a curtsy!! What a quack!! I thought this was hilarious as this comes after mentioning to hubs that almost every tourist I saw had a very shocked look on their face when their cab rides come to an end. We even witnessed 2 quarrels between taxi and guests over the cost of their splashy old car ride. The taxi world in Havana is very funny, a sad funny if you will. They hardly learn to communicate with you and they make up their prices as they go. The biggest trip we found was when we said no to their prices, they would say they are not a ‘collectivo’ when they are! As they will toot at people asking if they need a taxi while you’re in their car. When you say no they will also lower the price! You have to haggle twice as hard, or just walk! Havana, I must say is a walking city. There is TONS to see and do everywhere, so the walk isn’t dreadful. There are monuments all over the city and even though you can’t Google ino on a lot them they are still unique. There’s a lot of Greek influences across the city as well. We mainly took taxi or collectivos to far areas but walked around for the most part with baby in hand. The only regret is not bringing an umbrella stroller, which while it might not make it due to the roads; would have eased the child carrying burden somewhat. We had a good laugh at crazy man ‘Luis’ and walked home to prep for our day. We realized we needed to change more money for our final 2 days as we blew the budget of 40 CUC per day. While daddy when to Hotel Presidente, baby and I went to the park but the slide was broken and almost ripped a chunk of his skin out. Another section had no bars on either side and he got scared to play so we left. When we went home a Celine Dion concert was going on in English and we sang out our little hearts as she belted hit after hit after hit! Even hubby ‘air guitared’ it once or twice. Dinner was a to go box of queso pizza from Razones after prepping for our day tour to Vinales and doing a light packing for our departure home. There was a music video countdown going on and we had fun in bed singing all the songs​ and dancing, enjoying the fact that Cuban people would know certain entertainers such as Justin Timberlake, Sean Paul, Shawn Mendes, Alessia Cara (Btown represent!!), The Weekend, Selena Gomez, Chainsmokers, Imagine Dragons, Maroon 5, Sia and Rae Sremmurd. We especially cheered when Sean Paul hit the screen​ singing Rock a bye baby, rock a bye! As ignorant as it sounds we cheered as if these artistes ‘made it’ lol. Sadly, there was no Drake or Justin Beiber. Dia Cinco was complete!

Callejon de Hammel…

           Hubby was under the weather so after sterilizing bottles, baby and I went for a walk on Avenue de los Presidentes. We stopped on a bench and I fed him a bottle as the traffic rolled on. This strip is perfect for strolls, day or night.
There’s very nice restaurants on the way up and down and a couple notable monuments. We stopped at home to change his shoes as I wanted him to walk but every time I put him down he did so with a limp.
I later learned that he just ​didn’t want to walk at all and was tricking me. Anyway, on our second stroll we saw a sign for a Bodega and decided to step in. It turned out to be a market with veggies, meats and fruits.  It wasn’t as big as a market should be and the few stalls did not have an ample amount but a decent variety. It isn’t uncommon to go into stores and she empty shelves or fridges.
I wanted to purchase a mango, some bananas and a bag of pineapple but it was hard to control baby, understand the signs and struggle asking​ for prices.  Plus, the bananas were so small every time I looked away he found himself breaking the fingers off the bunch. Eventually we went back to our Casa. We got prepped for the day and was off!
We made a stop at the Simon Bolivar statue and took pics with the mural. We were on our way to Callejon de Hammel for the Sunday morning Rumba sessions. We tried to get a cab but the prices were outrageous! We were told 4, 5 and 8 CUC for a 5 minutes drive! We decided to walk the 25 minutes instead. The streets of Havana are extremely beautiful. The design of the buildings, to the people just lounging about, the children barefoot playing in the streets. Even getting a view of abandoned buildings is easy on the eyes. When we finally got to our destination the crowds were more than we bargained for. 

The meagre alleyway was pouring with people. It was so tight and hot. We made our way through the crowd and stop wherever we saw shade. As daddy was tall he took videos so that I could see later on, as I was stuck behind an extremely tall man.
We stayed for about 30 minutes then we headed out. It was a beautiful slice of culture but the crowd was unbearable. We paid 10 CUC for a bicycle taxi to Plaza de Revolucion where we took as many pictures as we could before the sun started lifting my soul!

The bicycle operator was clearly a hard worker but I didn’t not feel good having him carry our weight like that. It isn’t a job I’d wish on my worst enemy and this was the only time we took one. We flagged down a taxi and 5 CUC took us to Hotel Presidente where we bought an internet card, caught up with our loved ones, then made our way to Mi Coconuco. Picture a laid back set up of white plastic table and chairs. People dressed to the nines enjoying the cool breeze and view of the Malecon. We went with the 2L of beer, a cheese pizza and a pork and fried plantains plate.   The pork could have stayed, though it wasn’t​ bad, it was ok. We wanted to try a jerk stand right next door and bought 2 boxes of street meat.  Jamaicans can’t avoid jerk, or variations of it, especially when we see it being sold outside of our country. It was very tasty with the the onion, scallion marinade they pour over it. I didn’t eat too much though as I was already taking a chance with the pork from next door. We strolled home burnt from the sun and knocked out for an evening nap.  Our casa owner knocked just as I woke up and we caught him up on our day. We decided to walk to city in the night and walked up and down the Ave de los Presidentes again, then to Razones (my fave spot) to get a shot, a pollo asado with rice and peas and plantains and a serving of ribs for 13 CUC! We headed home and Money Train was on the TV in English. We snuggled up until we fell asleep and that was our day!

Dia Tres…

I groaned as they rocked my body in an effort to wake me up but I opened my eyes instead of fighting back. ‘It was 4pm’ my husband kid and I jumped up thinking we had lost a day! It was only 11am and so we hung about for a bit. Today we’d see Fusterlandia and head to the beach close by after. Baby was a little under the weather and so we tried to create some sort of zen atmosphere so that he could sleep. He had a hard time and when he looked outside and started crying for us to open the door we apologized and quickly got dressed to go about our day. How could we waste his time like that? lol As we were about to leave, he threw up and caused a little panic but in no time he was back to being himself. We stood outside and hailed a ‘collectivo’. It took a good 5 minutes to get the address down pat and once again our maps.me app saved the day as that was what the driver and his passenger used to locate our first destination. He didn’t know of the place but he asked for 5 CUC and we hopped right in.  He made a stop to ask a lady friend for the destination and when we crossed cities he asked another driver but both him and his passenger shrugged and said ‘no’.  He eventually stopped where a fleet of taxi men were and as luck would have it, the man spoke English and was able to tell him exactly where to go. He let us know that we were very far for the driver and that it would be an additional 5 CUC. We didn’t mind honestly, as it was 40 CUC for a private taxi. We genuinely didn’t know where the fuck we were going either. All we knew as per the app was that we were 20 minutes away and the driver was very patient. He even played with the baby at random stop lights. We were grateful for his willingness to help. Fursterlandia was awe inspiring.
We eavesdropped on the tour guides spiel and heard that the artist does the homes free of cost. The concept is mind blowing and what it does foe the community is beyond exemplary. When we got to the main attraction a group of kids approached us but we couldn’t understand them. We saw a man go to them and give them his coins and told them to share. We did the same without thinking too much about it. I asked for a picture and they cracked us up with their poses!! One of the boys broke my hubbs heart when he asked for a baseball. We had actually brought 2 and left 1 at the casa. The other we had already given away.
I would recommend that If you decide to take gifts for children, go on the weekend and take them with you to Jaimanitas barrio, as the children will be around. After Fusterlandia we decided to check out the beach close by as it said it was only a minute away; Playa de Jamainatas. We were told to go around to get in and ended up walking a good 5 minutes away and had to walk through a path that led to a rocky, super small piece of beach.
We decided to go back around and walk across the baseball field then cut back across the hotel property.  It was too much trouble and the beach just wasn’t worth it. I got my beach fix with a dip and we left. The smell of the water stained our clothes. Luckily I had a few sachets of liquid Tide and was able to do a small soak and rinse when we got home. Sadly, this was the only time we got to go to the beach as the Playa del Este region was over 45 mins away.
We crossed the road and stood under a bus stop that was also designed by Jose Fuster. We flagged down a collectivo and presented them with our map. The driver and a female passenger worked things out and it would be 12 CUC. We agreed and got in. On the way, the 2nd passenger told us that he spoke a little English and was there studying to be a doctor. He also told us that they were planning to raise the price and that we should say no and pay the exact fare we agreed on.
We were grateful and as soon as we got to an avenue we recognized, I said ‘basta aqui por favor’, paid our fare and we walked home. The baby fell asleep from the weariness of the car ride and my hubby joined him shortly after.  I showered and went to walk the streets as sleep just would not come. I checked out a pastry shop and bought some cakes. I then visited a paladar that was recommended to us but was amazed by the setting. The prices were obviously way out of our league. A café bombon and an assorted croquettes from the tapas menu and a bag to take home my croquettes was almost 8 CUC!! I chilled there for a bit and caught up on my blog posts then made my way home. The VIP Havana ambience was real nice and I would recommend it as a date spot. It just wasn’t in our budget.
At our casa we played cards until we were ready to touch the streets again. At about 9pm, all 3 ventured out to Huron Azul for a Jazz show. We paid 5 CUC each and enjoyed live singing from a few artistes. We were extremely under dressed, hubs in shorts and I in tennis shoes. Nevertheless, we laughed at our situation and enjoyed the show. Only one performer spoke English and she turned out to be the best of the 3 we saw. Upon inquiry we found out that her name was ‘Choka?’ (not sure of spelling) and had been invited by another performer. We tried to get a picture but it seemed like she was gone and we weren’t in the mood to be any more trouble.  You see, when we walked in all eyes stared at us for awhile. Not only were we carrying a baby out this late but we clearly looked like we rolled off the back of a truck.
Everyone else was formally dressed. We left about 10:20 and went to El Idillio for a pleasant meal! So fresh and delicious, we both cleaned our plates. The rice with beans was the only thing that didn’t meet expectations but we were full regardless. We both had lobster meals and cocktails for under 25 CUC. The set-up of the restaurant was so perfect for families and babies. We didn’t want him disturbing other guests as he is a wanderer so we played racing and ring games together on the drive way as daddy settled the cheque. We were seated outside by garage and once all packed up, we strolled home to watch Backyardigans until we all fell asleep.