Did I want to go to Havana? Yes and no. No, because I go somewhere everyday when I’m at home and vacation (this one anyway) is about sitting and doing nothing. Yes, because it’s Havana and I’m here and who knows if I’ll ever come back.

So off we went really early. First to be picked up – it made for a long trip. I’m not a big fan of guided tours/bus trips. I like to go at my own pace and I’ve found there is always someone on those tours that either ruins it, is dumb, ask too many questions, gets lost or is rude. Or all the above. And I’ll tell ya what, this one was no different. I love my fellow Canadians but oh man where there some folks…

We went though the city of Matanzas which is the capital of the province, also named Matanzas. It looked neat, everything here is so different compared to what I’m used to. The cars, the buses, the scenery, just how day to day life looks in general.

The countryside is nice, lots of leafy valleys and green, green, green. I did briefly doze off, our tour guide had a very monotone (but informative!) voice. I liked seeing the neat little old houses tucked away with cows in the yard and random roadside bars.

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We stopped at one just over halfway to Havana. I didn’t get anything but was watching two cats scour the floor for food. One disappeared under a tree and next thing you know, had three kittens with her! They were SO small. The little runt was one of the smallest cats I’ve ever seen. I played with the little black one and his grey brother kept jumping on him. These sweeties were not like the resort cats – these ones had fleas but I couldn’t help myself. After a few minutes it was time to go!

We arrived in Havana about 45 minutes later.
It was everything and nothing like I expected. Lots of people, lots of colourful old houses and smelly cars. I was not expecting how built up it was, like office buildings and apartments-  it was taller than I expected, I always thought of it as a ‘short’ city.

Driving though was just incredible. I love old architecture and this city is not short of that, though all I want to do is take a big power washer and spray everything down. Our first stop was Revolution Square – probably some of the most recognizable scenes in the city. There is of course the government buildings featuring the iron images of  Che Gevera and Camilo Cienfuegos. Across the street is the  Jose Marti Memorial. That includes the star shaped tower that Fidel Castro built and it is high enough so he could see all around his island to make sure no one was attempting to invade. Or so we were told.

We had about 15 minutes there before it was time to move on. Our bus drove us all around and we got to see some cool buildings. We drove past the federal building which is still under construction so we could not get close or stop.

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Then it was off to this store where they sell rum and cigars.

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Unfortunately this was not a tour which takes you to an actual rum or cigar factory. Our group had done that on their last tour and I was really looking forward to it. So I do recommend if you’re going on a tour of Havana, make sure this is included. This time they just wanted your money. The owner of the store briefly explained the different rums and prices points but that was it.
As we waited to get back on the bus, I just sat and watched the people go by. People watching is so much fun, especially in a new place. It’s so busy and it’s just so interesting to watch the people and see how their daily life is. Some kids in school uniforms walked by and one was carrying a pigeon. I don’t think it was a pet, I think it was dinner. Our next stop was this area where they let tourists off and we walked down a couple streets and saw a few buildings. To be completely honest, I don’t know what most of them were. This is part of the reason I said I don’t like guided tours. It went too fast and if I don’t have an interest in what your showing me, I won’t absorb it as well. I like doing my own research and then going and seeing things. The scenery itself is great and I loved walking around and seeing the buildings and really getting a feel for old Havana but I can’t tell you what I saw. We did stop by the Cathedral of The Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception and the surrounding plaza. This cathedral has been visited by the last three Pope’s including Pope Francis earlier this year.


We also saw a few places frequented by Ernest Hemmingway. Our journey took us to the Hotel Florida for lunch. It was pretty traditional, pulled beef, rice and beans. It was good! One of the best meals I’ve eaten so far. We had to make small talk with some of the other people, a few of them weren’t so bad but one guy – yah that guy – I wanted to tell him to stop talking. A band serenaded us as we finished our lunch.
After that it really was just more walking. Our tour guide didn’t give us much time to stop and look at things. I didn’t get the chance to take many photos either. We stopped by a gun museum, an old church that had been converted into a concert hall – they had a enormous Christmas tree inside, a couple more plazas and the only mosque.

We were then given a hour of free time but I didn’t feel like walking around any more. We walked back toward the bus area that we were meeting at and did more people watching. A few people asked us for money but left alone for the most part. A man did ask my aunt for a lighter and then started talking to us. He was standing along the water line fishing. He told us all about the life he has. He makes about 20 pesos a month and his rent costs 12 but that includes utilities. He said that they do get some subsidies for food but we weren’t sure what that included because he was saying something about baby formula was not included. Maybe we just misunderstood. He was saying how many of them are not happy the embargos are being lifted and they really don’t want the Americans to start coming into the country. He was really interesting to speak with and we enjoyed it. He gave us each a peso coin to show us what their money looks like. While I’m sure his intention was to get money from us too – we were almost happy to help him because he at least took the time to engage and talk and ask questions. I gave him a Canadian loonie and my aunt gave him some Canadian money and some CUC’s. After that though, we started getting harassed by others who saw us talking to his man and giving him money. Thankfully it was time to get back on the bus.

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We made one more stop in the city at one of the forts – we took a quick look inside, it was pretty cool. At little claustrophobic in some of the walkways. The views back on Havana were the best part!

We made another brief stop at a roadside bar area. No kitties this time but they did have Pina coladas in pineapples! I was told I could put as much rum in it as I wanted!

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Now we’re back at the resort. The last people to be dropped off! Time for dinner and bed. Tomorrow – beach.

Oh look! A swan! (I think)
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