Travelogue – Havana, Cuba

I never thought I’d make it to Cuba for a vacation, but lucky for me I have some wonderful friends who insisted we make it happen.  My post is a bit delayed, we went back in January, so I hope this information is still useful and relevant despite the recent changes in travel policy.  
It was an easy direct flight from Newark to Havana, and after a slightly harrowing airport meet up situation, we found our driver and made it to our casa particular.  I highly recommend finding someone who has recently returned and might have a few spare CUCs on them as the line for money exchange at the airport was hours long.  We brought Euros to exchange as there is a 10% additional fee for exchanging USD.  Once in downtown Havana there are a few places to exchange money, and most hotels will do it if you are staying there, but hours are limited and there are lines, so plan ahead as there are no ATMS!  
I almost turned back when we were ushered into an open air elevator that lifted us ever so precariously to the 6th floor to our apartment, but it was gorgeous as soon as we were inside.  Fair warning, plumbing is not what we’re used to in the States, the shower was a mere dribble and by the end of the four days I felt like I had been camping.  If you need more “amenities” (or toilet paper on a Sunday) you may want to consider staying at a true hotel, or planning ahead as stores that sell toilet paper are not open on Sunday!
Unreal view from a bedroom in our apartment
Once we settled in, we headed out to old Havana to do some exploring. 

Cocktails at El del Frente
We jumped in a cab to dinner at Le Chansonnier then to drinks at Espacios where we literally rubbed elbows with Enrique Iglesias!  

Day 2 we were up bright and early for a walking tour through old Havana.  

Hemingway’s famous daiquiri joint – we walked in and promptly out as it was overcrowded with tourists and smokey from cigars.

We packed into a classic car for a tour through greater Havana, stopping at Cafe Laurent for lunch then mojitos at Hotel Nacional.  
We had one more full day in Havana to explore on our own.  Highlights included a visit to Fusterlandia, Finca la Vigía (Hemingway’s home, a great option to make a stop on the way to or from the airport), souvenir shopping at the San José artists’ market and the Cuba Revolutionary Museum.   

The streets were pretty magical to just wander and get lost in.

We did explore 2 live music venues:  El Gato Tuerto and La Zorra y El Cuervo (be sure to get in line early to get a seat).  

Stay tuned for our day trip to Viñales and details on where / what we ate!
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