After spending two weeks in Cuba, I had formed some pretty mixed opinions. First stepping foot in Havana, I absolutely loved the place, but Maria la Gorda saw me having second thoughts. But what impression did I leave with? What had my time in Cuba taught me about the country that I didn’t already know? Quite a lot actually! Here’s how we spent our last few days in Havana…
It could do with a bit more luxury
Probably a controversial opinion, but I’m a self-confessed hotel snob. I love clean, comfortable, well-equipped hotels, so after staying in some average places outside of Havana, I was in my element to be finishing off the holiday at the Iberostar Parque Central.
We had a great night’s sleep in our huge bed and an amazing breakfast from the enormous selection: cheeses, cold cuts, salads, hot food of sausages, croquettes and vegetables, yoghurts, cereals, pancakes, pastries, tarts, breads, smoothies, champagne, frui… wait a minute. What? Champagne?! Yes, you really can drink free champagne for breakfast. So I did. And here’s the proof.
The facilities were also second to none – there was a stunning rooftop pool with great views of the Capitol and the central park where we spent our last morning in Cuba. There was also a rooftop bar in the modern section of the hotel where we were gifted free drinks on our first night – whoop!
There was even a 24 hour medical centre, which was great because…
Mosquito bites are a pain in the ass (literally)
My bites from Maria la Gorda had become so irritating that we paid a visit to the medical centre to see if they could do anything. It turned out some of my bites had become infected, so a quick consultation, a few swabs, six medicines and one injection in the bum later, I was on the mend!
Cubans love irony
On our last few days in Cuba, we also visited the Museo de la Revolución, which is set in Batista’s presidential palace. This is beautifully ironic because Batista was the guy the Cuban revolution was fighting against!
The museum houses a load of random artefacts such as hats, guns, rubber stamps (ooh exciting) and life-size statues of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos. We also read about the people involved in the revolution, and learnt about how things changed once the revolutionaries were in power. The signs and explanations were mostly in Spanish but we survived!
It’s not the best museum I’ve ever visited, but it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re interested in the revolution.
There’s more to the food than fish, rice and beans
If you followed my previous posts around Cuba, you’ll know that fish, rice and beans is the staple diet of most Cubans (and tourists for that matter). We didn’t mind all that much because it’s one of my favourite meals, but it was still nice to have more choice in Havana.
A member of our tour group had told us about a great place along Brasil Street that served the most amazing shrimp. We were dying to see what all the fuss was about, so we walked all along the road trying to find somewhere that matched her description. Close to giving up, we started looking for somewhere else to eat and headed up Brasil Street in the opposite direction. There it was! A tiny looking bar/restaurant split over three floors, no name on the outside, exactly as had been described to us. The shrimps were fantastic, the drinks were delicious and everything was so so cheap! As we left, there were people queuing out the door and we could understand why. I’m afraid we still don’t know the name so you’ll have to find it for yourselves!
Look how happy I am!
Another great little find was Cafe de las Artistas. It’s down a quiet street in Old Havana where a few little restaurants have waiters outside trying to tempt you in. It’s definitely worth searching this restaurant out, though, because the service was impeccable, and the food and drink even better (they even offered to make me something not on the menu). It’s a great place to relax and soak up the atmosphere, whilst guzzling down every last mouthful of your cocktail.
Ernest Hemingway had good taste in bars
When he lived in Havana, Ernest Hemingway had a saying: “Mi mojito en La Bodeguita, mi daiquiri en El Floridita”. We wanted to test his theory, so on our last night in Havana, we headed out to El Floridita just around the corner from our hotel. Despite being one of the busiest nightspots in Havana, we managed to grab two seats at the bar and ordered two traditional daiquiris. Yum yum yum. The atmosphere was great, the barmen were attentive and there’s even a statue of Ernest himself propping up the bar. The drinks might be a little overpriced, but a visit here is still a must-do for all visitors to Havana.
Unfortunately, La Bodeguita isn’t nearly as good as Hemingway made it out to be. We visited on our last day in Havana, and even at 12pm the place was packed. Now, the reason it wasn’t great is they fill the bar with very expensive ready made mojitos that just need topping up with rum and soda. This means it’s very much geared towards getting tourists in and out as quickly as possible. The cocktails were still tasty, but there are much better places in Havana for a mojito…
Our Cuban adventure definitely had its ups and downs, but we finished on a definite high. Havana has fast become one of my favourite cities and I’m sure it won’t be too long before we go back.
Have you ever been to Cuba? What impressions did you leave with?