Our first day in Cuba

Havana Travel Blog

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Malecon, after arrival and a little bit sleeping and breakfast, we went to the walk on Malecon

We arrived 4 hours later than we were supposed to, cause our flight from Madrid was delayed. So instead of arriving at 23:30 on the 10th of March, we arrived 3:30 on 11th March. The journey was 12hrs, cause we had a stop at Santiago de Cuba (so technically we visited the eastern part of Cuba as well:)), lots of people departed there.

12hrs was not as bad as I had thought, but it is no fun either. Legs (specially knees) were really hurting. And as we came with Cubana, there was no entertainment programme:) Also we had 3hrs flight from Berlin to Madrid and 2hrs from Tallinn to Berlin, before these 12hrs... Good thing was that we spent a night in Berlin.

At the airport we changed the money (1EUR=1,36CUC) and took a taxi (10CUC per person, it was a minibus and took 3 more people). The taxidriver was really friendly and talkative, unfortunately we understood almost nothing of his talk with others, cause it was of course in Spanish!:) But he rang a bell for us in our casa and waited with us, to make sure, that someone comes to open.

We had booked Casa Luis Miguel (Calle Campanario # 63 entre San Lazaro y Laguna, Centro Habana) by e-mail and just before leaving I had sent an e-mail that we are coming, but arriving late in the night (didnt know that so late!:)), just in case.

.. and he had been waiting for us. He was very sleepy (but friendly) and could not understand what day it is and what day we were supposed to arrive:) I explained that our flight was delayed. He said that he does not know how to register us, as the temple on our touristcards says that we arrived on the 11th of March, not on the 10th of March (as our booking says) and we want to leave his casa on the 11th of March... He offered us Cuban coffee, which is very strong, sweet, without milk and offered in a tiny cup (reminds me of Greek coffee) Not to my taste at all. But luckily for me, the cup is realy really tiny...

We finished our coffees, thanked our host and went to sleep. Luis Miguel had taken our passports to register us, but he was still thinking what to do:)

The room was nice, the house is old colonial style with very high ceilings.

Luis Miguel is interior designer and he designed the rooms in the hous and i must say it is a good job:) lots of old style stuff:) And it was a relief to speak English, cause since Madrid we had been in an evironment where everybody speaks Spanish (except us).

At 10 we had breakfast. The meals in the casas are really big and delicious as well. First they bring fruits, then juice (natural juices, very very good), omelet, ham and cheese, bread and coffee. If you are lucky the coffee is without sugar:) Sometimes you have to ask for milk, but usually they bring lots of milk and its is warm milk. The fruits are delicious (cannot compare with the ones sold in Estonia). I dont like pineapples, but on this trip I once even ate them and they were really good!

Luis Miguel gave us some tips on Cuba, most of it I knew, cause I had read a lot about Cuba before the trip, but I guess it was helpful anyway.

Specially, that he gave us his backpack, cause he said that for some reason people think that if you have a handbag, you have money and passport etc in the bag and they try to snatch it, but backpack is of no interest to them. So we put our money and cameras to the backpack and went out to take a little walk, before leaving Habana (our bus to Vinales was at 14 o`clock. Luis Miguel said that we should have booked the bus tickets to Vinales before, cause it is high season and it is not easy to get the tickets - you have to plan your trip, he said!, but he could get the tickets for us through a friend... I really didnt like his comment about planning the trip, I think I had planned a lot! I had read 3 travel books about Cuba + lots of websites. How much an a person read about a country anyway?:) I had booked his casa for 3 nights and a casa in Vinales for 2 nights! I couldnt book for more, cause I didnt know how long we want to stay in Vinales and where we`ll go after that).

So we went to walk on Malecon. It was really really close to our casa. And it was very nice. We walked and took some photos. Then we saw a bar/restaurant and thought of drinks:) As soon as we looked in that direction, a guy started to wave to us to come to the bar:) Crossing the Malecon is not very easy, specially on your first day in Cuba:) We couldnt manage very well and the guy came to help us:) He took my hand and said that the yellow lines in the middle of the road were meant for us to stand there:) So we arrived at the bar. We wanted of course mojitos, so we were sent to the second floor.

It seemed that the time was a bit early for the drinks, but we were still in Europe time (Estonian time was 7hrs more, so instead of noon for us it was 7pm:)).

Everybody at the bar was really exited about the two blonde with blue eyes:), but still we didnt get mojitos, but cuba libres instead:) At least we took a picture with a cute barman as well.

I must say already in this first entry (as i am writing after the trip:)), that the Cuban people are very very friendly. They speak a little bit English, but I wish we could talk Spanish. It would have given so much more to our trip. Also I love the fact that they know Estonia! Nobody ever knows! Even in Europe they have no idea, not to mention outside of Europe! But most of the Cubans know! Because they studied Soviet Union at school and also they knowledge of geography is usually very very good. (good education i guess:))

After we had enjoyed our first cuba libres, we took our bottles of water and went back to the casa, where the taxi Luis Miguel had called for us, was already waiting.

It cost only 5 CUC to the bus station and it was the only taxi we paid by the taximeter. At the bus station, as soon as we got off the taxi, a guy asked us if we are going to the Camag├╝ey, but we wasnt. Soon a girl asked if we are going to Vinales and proposed that we would take a taxi instead of bus with her and 2 more girls. Its faster and the same price. We agreed, but at the end she could not find a taxi for 5 and left with the other 2 girls. This girl was full of black-and-blue marks for some reason...

We had to wait for a person to come to sell us tickets:), but at least she managed to show up. We bought our tickets and went to the waiting area. Soon we realized we had forgotten our passports to Luis Miguel! He had forgotten to give them back to us! We called him, but his wife speaks no English and she said that Luis Miguel is not at home.

We had no time to go back to his place, so we thought that we have to manage with the copies of the passport. If it is not OK, then we`ll take a taxi back to Habana.

The waiting area was really cold (and the bus was even worse!). I had read everywhere, that Viazul buses are really cold because of the airconditioner, but I didnt realize that the jacket is not enough, I should have taken my socks with me as well (i only had flip-flops, so my feet were turing blue at the end of the trip). When it was time to go to the bus, we realised that nobody else had big backpacks besides us and then Katrin remembered that somebody from the luggage desk had called for us (I didnt notice cause we were talking), but she thought it is the typical hola, where are you from? beautiful girls/eyes:). Now we went to ask if we have to give the bags away somewhere, because i had read that you cannot take the big bag to the bus with you.

A guy told us that yes we had to give our bags to the luggage desk, but realized that our bus was leaving soon, so he sent us to the bus. And there were some guys with bikes and bags and then a guy gave a receipt for the bag and we checked that the bags will be put on the bus:).

I think we had traveled for 2 hrs, when the bus suddenly stoped under the bridge. It was raining. The bridges were very interesting places, cause lots of people were standing under the bridge, waiting for the cars to hitchhike (some are waiting for buses). It was very interesting. But after 2 hrs under the same bridge, not so interesting anymore:) But some of the people were still waiting for a ride... It is very usual that a truck comes and everybody climb up to the platform (i dont know the right word) of the truck. At first we didnt know what was going on, because all the information given was of course in Spanish! And they say Viazul is tourist bus:) but a little bit later one mexican guy was explaining to the canadians behind us, that our bus was broken and we were waiting for a new one.

It arrived 2hrs later.

Our flight was delayed, our bus was broken... we were late for every place:) And our passport were in Habana. We were a little bit worried...

But when we arrived in Vinales, the shock was that you almost couldnt get out of the bus, because of the mob of people wanting you to come to their casa:) I had seen something like this in India, so it was not that big of a shock, but in such a little village... we saw people with signs, that they have best casa, but also signs with names, so Katrin told me, that maybe there is a sign with our name. I didnt think so, because we had not asked our casa owner to come and pick us up, but just in case i looked around. And there was a sign with my name on it (a little bit misspelled, but mine:)) It was pretty girl, very friendly. I went to her and we kissed on cheeks and she told me, that the Potato (the guy who had booked our casas for us) had called, that we had left our passport to our casa in Habana, but that they will send the passport tomorrow with the first bus. But because we have no passports we have to stay not in her casa, but her friends. She said something like the passports are needed in Vinales and the copies are not enough... Also she said, that we cannot be seen in Vinales until we have our passports. So we went with her friend and said see you to her. We thought that she will come to pick us up tomorrow.

The friend was very talkative and spoke English, which was again relief for us. She lived in a pink house with her mother, father and brother. She gave us a pink room:) and asked if we want a dinner. We did. Also in the house were 2 french women, but we saw them only for a second when they were leaving to go out.

The room looked ok, not very pretty, but we thought that we will stay only for 1 night anyway. We were very tired, so we were not troubled that we cannot go out. We took the shower and went for the dinner, which we had chosen to be a fish. The dinner was ok, but not as good as the breakfast at Casa Luis Miguel. And the casaowners - the girls mum and dad - do not speak English! After dinner, which of course was huge (do we look so big or they think we really eat that much or we look starved?), we wrote a little bit of travel journal and I looked my LP a little bit, but soon we went to sleep, because it had been a very long day. It was just our first day in Cuba, but it felt like we had been here many days already and seen a lot:)

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Malecon, after arrival and a littl…
Malecon, after arrival and a litt…
photo by: mario26