U.S.A. – Cuba

We are in Havana! We stayed  a few more nights in the comfortable airbnb in a suburb of San Fran. In addition to bringing the motorbikes to the harbor for their journey home, and preparing ourselves for Cuba, we have been doing  a lot of eh .. cooking and cooking and cooking haha! What a joy to have your own kitchen again after months cooking on a one-burner gas. We made pasta with homemade pesto sauce, fresh lasagna, ravioli with a sauce of grilled pumpkin, goat cheese, nuts and sage etc etc. We shared the house with Andrea, a young woman from Minnesota who has moved there for work but hasn’t been able to find a permanent living space yet. And that was very nice. In the evening with a glass of wine she told us everything about America that we did not know and we had interesting discussions with her about Trump, poverty, possession of weapons in the USA, drug problems in San Fran and so on. I also did a lot of reading. I have bought a book about the history of GMOs (you have a lot of genetically manipulated food in stores here) and am still trying to form an opinion about it.

Preparing for Cuba was quite a bit of work. What made it somewhat difficult is that we have the Dutch nationality but fly from the USA. For example, you cannot check in beforehand and where the Netherlands says that you must say that you are a tourist when applying for a visa, the USA says that you should not do that. In addition to a visa, you must have an insurance statement, an exit ticket, a yellow fever vaccination certificate. And then you have to fill in a tourist card and two other trivial forms on the plane. But eventually it wasn’t that big of a problem in the end. The trip to here went well. From San Fran you fly to Miami in 5 hours and you can immediately switch to the flight to Havana. The last flight was only half full so we had a lot of space. It is only a 45-minute flight from Miami to Havana. Along the way you see tropical islands with azure reefs around it, gorgeous !

And then you are suddenly in Havana. Wow where do I start! I absolutely love it here! It is really a different world. At the airport you have to hand in your entire paper trade to the right people, but that went very quickly. Apart from your passport and the medical certificate, it was not really looked at. None of the extensive interrogations that we did receive in Canada and the USA, and which I was a bit worried about. The customs officers were very friendly, they are just in the middle of the hall at wooden desks haha. We had previously ordered a taxi that took us to the hostal, which was just as expensive as on site. Once outside, you will be surprised by a thick, warm, damp blanket. As if you walk into a sauna. And you can smell cigars right away. In the taxi to Havana Vieja we were amazed. Everything and everyone just walk the “highway”. I saw huge, dilapidated buildings and palm trees full of coconuts. The air smells different, a bit sweet and it reminded me of Indonesia or Taiwan. I always find it a bit wonderful, flying. That you can be in a completely different world in a few hours.

The hostal was really great, actually it is a casa particular. We are in the middle of Havana Vieja at the back of the building. On a sort of courtyard. You hear everything here.  People laughing, someone is playing the trumpet, a screaming baby, rattling pans in the house next to us and people loudly communicate  from one floor to the other haha. And we’re at the back of a bakery so it smells delicious here. We have to climb 7 stairs. The room has air conditioning .. what a relief. Normally I never pay attention to that but now that is very nice. A small jet of water comes out of the shower, but it is hot. And the fridge is filled with bottles of cold water and cans of bavaria and holandia beer (never heard of). And the breakfast people…. Oehlala .. that makes us pretty happy. Tropical fruit salads with banana, guava and papaya (and another strange fruit that I have not yet identified). Omelet, papaya juice, sandwiches and pancakes with mango sauce. And very strong coffee! We have breakfast with all the other guests at one large table. Also with a German family with two girls around the age of 18. The parents were doing a Salsa course (I can’t imagine just thinking about it, the heat!!). It reminded me of the nice city trips that my parents took with my sister and me when we were that age, and how much fun that always was.

Our German salsa friends also thought it was a bit hot, she showered three times a day and when we walked past their room in the afternoon, dads were there as standard with the door open in his underpants on the bed hahaha. There was also a shared living room with a balcony where you could sit and watch the people on the street for hours.

On the first day we walked through the city. You don’t actually have to do more than that. Everything happens on the street. People are always outside. At the end of the afternoon there is music everywhere. Very nice! The bars are overflowing and people are dancing in the street. It is exactly as I had imagined Havana. Fluttered buildings, busy and warm, beautiful old squares, street dogs and cats and of course the beautiful cars. For every beautiful old American car, there is also an old Russian Lada by the way. The second day we walked part of  the Malecon. That 8 km long boulevard along the sea. A lot of things happening there too, a video clip was recorded for a band in which the band members were protected from the sun with umbrellas. It was just too hot. The kind of heat from which all your clothes stick to your body after 10 minutes of walking, grose. In the evening we went into the city. Everywhere bands are playing. On the old square three played nicely through together haha. We hop from one bar to the other. On the third day we walked to the Capitola, this time a little earlier in the day. But it is still very hot.

We try to eat locally but that is not that easy. Because so little was available in Cuba, they do not have a very strongly developed kitchen. We have eaten Mexican, Italian and donuts with strange sweet pastries with cheese and powdered sugar for lunch. There are many Italian restaurants because those ingredients were easily available. There is really no vegan food. We were already a bit prepared for that and to let our stomachs get used to it, we put some cheese and egg on our menu again in San Fran. But everything is pretty cheesy here and my stomach has been hurting for days.

It is not that busy here with tourists anyway. It is still the last of the rainy season and the tourist season  starts in November for real. From the rainy season we only notice something in the evening. Then you have very heavy showers with thunderstorms. Fortunately we have received an umbrella from our German friends. But during the day it is just dry. You will be bothered on the street. But nobody really insists. If you say no, it ends immediately. Much less annoying than in Istanbul or Marrakesh for example. Oh and something nice that we have discovered, Cuba is of course the land of rum .. and you can simply order your mojitos “para llevar”  here, take it to the streets. Then you get a glass jar with a mojito in it (yes they are very inventive here) and you can just walk on the street with it, we bring the jar back the next day. We also had a jet lag again. I a little more than Erik. It is foggy in my head haha. On day one, I really had to do my best to stay awake. After our city walk, when Erik went to get lunch I did not succeed and at half past ten I was back to sleep. After lunch, Erik fell into a deep sleep. When he was awake again I fell asleep. So that went well haha. This time I take it easy because on arrival in Vancouver I did not do well. Too much, too fast, combined with a severe cold from Iceland, which made me almost faint on the third day. We have a few days to explore the city and then we move to the host family for the course .. Hopefully they have air con ..