Last week I wrote about the volunteering portion of our recent trip to Cuba, and today it’s more about the fun things we did on our free time. Mike and I, along with another couple arrived two days earlier than the group, and we stayed on four days longer after everyone else had returned home. My husband plans out these trips, and he really can’t relax while the group is all there. So, we have learned to go early and stay late in order for him to have some actual vacation.
We took two separate day trips to Havana, which is about a two-hour drive from where we were staying in Varadero. Havana is a beautiful old city, and it has a lot of energy.
We spent time in the old section, and I am thrilled that they have placed so much emphasis in restoring the buildings. A couple in our group had been there five years ago, and they saw major improvements this time. That makes me so happy. I am all for restoring the old.
We stopped by some of Ernest Hemingway’s famous hangouts. They were packed, but it was still really cool to be someplace that he felt was special. His home, which is located outside of Havana, is open for tours, but we just didn’t have time to go there. Maybe on our next visit……..
We stopped by the famous National Hotel, and toured the bunker that is located on their property. We also had afternoon tea there, but it ended up being afternoon coffee because they were out of tea.
When we took outings, we ate our meals in privately owned restaurants as instead of those owned by the government. We literally walked through a little garden door like this one, and ended up in a big restaurant in someone’s back yard that was packed with happy people, happy music, and great food.
We saw this guy in one of the restaurants where we ate. I thought he looked just like Jesus, and I asked if we could take our photo with him. He laughed when I told him why. The lady with my is my son’s mother-in-law Janet.
The whole country is just loaded with colorful vintage cars. The men really loved them.
One night we rented convertibles and took a moonlight tour of the peninsula where Varadero is located, and then they took us to a delicious private restaurant for dinner.
We also rented a horse and buggy one day for a ride back to the hotel after shopping at the market. The horses were everywhere. People who have figured out how to work hard to make a better living have an easier life in Havana.
We went to Al Capone’s Cuban house. He (alledgedly) ran rum to the USA during the prohibition days. His house was right on the water.
This was Al’s neighbor.
We also went to the Cuban home of Irenee Dupont de Nemours who founded the Dupont company. It is now a hotel/golf resort/restaurant, but back in the day, it was their vacation retreat. We took a day visit there and then went back for dinner one night.
Its bar was in one of the most beautiful settings I have ever been to. I always try to imagine what these places were like in their hay day when they were used for their intended purpose. I had my best pina colada there.
We did a very touristy thing and visited a crocodile farm, and this man worked there. I loved his weathered look. He kept that baby in his pocket.
These guys were very ugly and probably very hungry.
We also went to the Bay of Pigs, and this is it. It was such a dark time in our history, but it looked very benign in person.
One of the reasons we wanted to get to Cuba now was to get there before it becomes “Americanized.” The Russians, Canadians, and Europeans have been going to Cuba on holiday for years, but we fear that American tourists will be more demanding, and with that some of the charm and purity will be lost. This sanitized pristine resort that we saw is a perfect example of what I am talking about. I like to stay where the real travelers stay rather than the tourists. There’s a difference.
Mr. Right and I are planning to do a bicycle trip in Cuba, probably next year. Our travel plans and bicycling trips are all planned for this year. It will be a great way to see Cuba from a whole other perspective. I want to write one more post about our trip to Cuba to offer up some travel tips for those of you who plan on going there soon. Meanwhile, you might enjoy this book about it.
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