No one has control on when or where they are born, I was so extremely lucky…….. on both counts. For the majority of people living in Cuba life is tough. Prior to the revolution it was even tougher.
The airport taxi whisked me straight to my prebooked casa particular, not far from the main entrance of Cemetario de Colon. No surprises there you might think. Bear in mind, however, that it’s not unheard of to give directions to a taxi driver but actually get dropped off somewhere else. The taxi driver gets a nice tip from the host, the host gets a guest, you get a room – but maybe not the room you originally booked!
A super useful app called ‘Maps.Me’ confirmed my location as Casa de Loly. This app became my best friend in Cuba. Google maps, being American, does not function here.
I rang the door bell and waited a few minutes; eventually an elderly lady opened the door, spoke my name, for clarification (I nodded) and proceeded to give me a warm embrace.
Loly chatted away in slow deliberate Spanish (making it relatively easy for me to understand what she was saying) before eventually showing me to my room, which was spotlessly clean. Equipped with a (large) comfy bed, en suite bathroom, and self contained kitchen – complete with fridge. There was even a roof top terrace. All this for £30 per night, I was impressed.
My next task was to find a shop, to buy provisions. This is when the reality of Cuba, and especially Havana, kicked in. Something I took for granted in Mexico were the numerous OXXO convenience stores, where you can just ‘nip’ in and buy anything that took your fancy. In Havana convenience stores are conspicuous in their absence.
I did eventually find a tienda with a reasonable selection of items. However, as was the recurring theme from here on, there was a long que outside. The phrase I quickly learned was el último? – the last (person)?
The next thing to sort out was a restaurant. Yet another challenge. Within sensible walking distance – 30 minutes – there were only two restaurants with anything like acceptable food – other than just bland looking pizza. Outside of the centre of Havana, good restaurants proved hard to find.
La isla de la pasta caught my eye, with its excellent menu, good prices, and super welcoming staff. The food was excellent, as was the wine.
Map of Havana.
Roof top terrace.
Musicians at la Isla de la pasta.
Next stage: A bus tour of Havana.