- La Habana Centro and Vieja
- Ancon beach
- Discussing life with Cubans
NICE TO HAVE:
NICE TO HAVE:
On the bus back from Trinidad to Havana, I met two Argentinian guys, and we decided to make a stop in Cienfuegos. The city was founded by the French and is supposed to have very interesting urban planning, particularly in the downtown area of Pueblo Nuevo… But I don’t remember any of this, just a lot of cheap good food at a state-run restaurant, even more delicious rum and non-stop son, rumba and trova 😉
This year I had worked really hard, so I decided to spend 5 days on the beach relaxing. I chose the Ancon peninsula because it was way less touristy than other spots like Varadero, and probably more beautiful. And for the same reason, I decided to stay in La Boca, a small seaside village, ~5km from Trinidad and ~7km from Ancon beach, instead of the hotels on the actual beach.
When I arrived at La Boca, I quickly learnt that all the official homestays, the only ones authorized to host tourists, were fully booked. So I hang out with my backpack at the small town beach and by the “paladar” (small private restaurant), chatting with all the neighbors. A middle age woman named Manuela offered me lunch and to help me figure out where to stay. She shared some rice with beans, and explained to me how much food each Cuban gets through the ration cards (Short version: not a lot). Then she walked me to meet some young neighbors, Jose and his wife, who agreed to let me stay in the “bohio” (a wooden structure with dry palm tree roof) in the back of their house, for a few dollars. The only condition was I had to be careful getting in and out and not tell anyone where I was staying. The place was as basic as it looks in the picture, but would definitely do.
Travelling around Cuba wasn’t as easy as I expected. Most tourists are on some sort of organized tour, managed by a joint venture between the government and a foreign company, while local buses are all sold out (it’s Christmas holidays after all!). After a couple of days in Havana and a lot of asking around, I got a seat in a bus to Trinidad, ~4 hours west. On the road, we passed Bahia de Cochinos, infamous for the CIA-sponsored attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro in 1961.
When the taxi from the airport dropped me off, I was a bit in shock. La Habana Centro, the heart of the Cuban capital, was much more ramshackle than I expected, and so was the “casa particular” (authorized private homestay) were I was planning on staying. It was also my first full solo trip, and apart from booking these few nights, I had done zero preparation. But for the next 10 days, I would discover and fall in love with Cuba and its people.