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.
Since Andreas and I both are in constant search of the authentic side of our travel destinations (i,e. our trips are less spa environments, smoothies and infinity pools, and more cold showers and Soviet-style “luxury” breakfasts…), we decided to stay at airbnbs for most part of the trip. For the first part of the trip, we intentionally avoided Havana Vieja since we would be staying there our last says in Cuba. Instead, we opted for an airbnb in Vedado, in a more residential area and only a few blocks from the waterfront and with a few communist architectural masterpieces (or monstrosities?) nearby. Best of all was roof terrace that came with and our host Arin’s lovely breakfasts! (Here on airbnb) Our first day, Arin also arranged with an old-school car to take us around for a few ours. Very touristy but also a very convenient way to get an overview of the city and to see areas beyond Havana Vieja. The number one surprise was the beautiful Jardín Botánico Nacional de Cuba with a lush green sea of hanging trees – like stepping into a fairy tale forest!
After our drive and Swedish Midsummer lunch on the roof terrace – my first in years and solely thanks to Andreas (although the selection of snaps on the table ended up being more for decoration that actual intake) – we spent the rest of the afternoon in Havana Vieja and had dinner at a Le Bodegita Del Medio (allegedly a favorite of Hemingway’s) upon the recommendations from my manager! And yes, we did write our names on the wall!