I can’t remember last time I was looking forward to vacation as much as this year! Before going to Cuba earlier this month, I had only taken three days off the entire year (in April, when I was in Stockholm), and between October and April, I worked at least 4-6 h every weekend. Combined with a move, changing positions within my organization, and several work-related trips in the fall/winter (one covering three countries in a month), it has added up and I’ve been quite tired these past few months. Hopefully, the fatigue will be replaced with energy during the coming three weeks of (hopefully) sunny days, beaches and salty water, good food, and in the company of good friends! My itinerary? Very Euro-centric with stops in Portugal, France, Latvia, and Sweden!
Beach Bento from Algarve, Portugal: A pen, a notebook, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a scarf. Not much more needed here!
We spent our final two days taking in Cuba’s complex history at Hotel Inglaterra where colonialism meets communism, strolling around Havana Vieja, unsuccessfully trying to avoid Calle Obispo and all the souvenir stores, feeling overwhelmed when stepping inside Hemingway’s favorite bar El Floridita and quickly stepping out again, listening to a great band at Café Paris, admiring the beautiful architecture and artworks on the buildings along the narrow streets, and having mojitos at Hotel Nacional.
Our favorite dinner may have been at Paladar Los Mercaderes – relatively expensive but great food, lovely ambiance and really nice staff!
While on the southern side of Cuba, we stayed in the little fishing village La Boca, right outside of Trinidad and 10 km from Playa Ancon. According to Lonely Planet, La Boca is “off the beaten track” but really it seemed like a quite well-established tourist destination, only for Cuban tourists. But casas particulares are popping up all over the village, seemingly targeting foreign tourists, and although many seemed open to just check in at, we found our room on Airbnb. Lively, and filled with Cubans enjoying the boardwalk and the sea, we thought La Boca was so much better than the idea of staying at some secluded hotel over at Playa Ancon or up in Trinidad.
Thee were only a few restaurants around town and they are very simple, so our hosts fixed us dinner one evening. But even as I am from a fish culture, I had some my best fish and lobster to date here!
A hike through a tropical forest, passing by wasp nest formations, crossing streams on hanging bridges and little rocks, and walking through a blossoming field. And then, there it was! Cool, playful, and surrounded by hanging vegetation and rocks that had been shaped and polished by 1000s of years of water pouring over them! Beautiful and soothing!
Unfortunately, it was difficult to capture the beauty of the Salto de Javira waterfall.
Our rest stop of the day: Restaurante El Bolo Vista Gourmet. Despite guide book recommendations, I’m not sure if this is one of the best restaurants in town (most likely not…), but the view and the cool breeze are probably one of a kind in Trinidad!
Incredibly hot, incredibly beautiful, and well worth visiting! Here are a few pics from the 500 years old UNESCO World Heritage Site, the small town Trinidad:
As visible from the pics, although there are Cubans living in the old quarters, Trinidad is a bit of and open air museum. We almost enjoyed the drive from La Boca to Plaza Mayor equally, as it gave us a chance to see more of Cuban every ay life. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to capture that side with my camera.
On our first day in La Boca, we rented bikes through our host and set off towards Playa Ancon, allegedly Southern Cuba’s most beautiful beach. The 10 km (6.2 miles) bike ride was an experience in itself. The road, lined with Caribbean palm trees and bushes, and tons of flowers, followed the shore and had almost no traffic at all. Instead, we road through clouds of white butterflies and had to make way for small baby crabs who seemed to have a crossing over the road for a few kilometers. I’ve been to many places, but this was without doubt one of my most beautiful experiences!
We spent the rest of the day at the beach, and found a good spot at the second beach on Playa Ancon, after the main hotel/beach club, where there were fewer people and some domestic tourists as oppose to some of the other beaches that we saw. One our way back, we had dinner at a grill, where I had fresh grilled lobster. The simplest places often have the best food!
Fábrica de Arte Cubano, or FAC, in Vedado is well worth a visit! A club in an old cooking oil factory that hosts arts, photography, installations, and other. The crowd made me feel as cool (read uncool) as I do in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but the entire complex triggers the senses.
In the way that traveling is done these days, FAC was recommended by my neighbors who were here a few months ago visiting some acquaintances. We combined with dinner at the adjoining restaurant on the roof, also recommended by my neighbors.
A taxi ride away from central Havana is Fusterlandia. Still under creation and covering an entire block, this outdoor mosaic art by Cuba’s José Fuster is truly worth a visit!
After walking around the Fusterlandia neighborhood for a while, we walked over to Club Habana and spent the rest of the day at the beach in this charming institution with a somewhat murky past.