Do any of you out there work for the IRS? No? Good. Because a few years ago, I did something that wouldn’t really fly with our federal employee friends: I packed up and went to Cuba.
What prompted me to do such a thing? Well, I met a girl, Andi, through CouchSurfing in New York, we were chatting over IM, and decided we were overdue for a trip. We wanted somewhere warm and tropical. We thought about Tahiti, but it was too far and too expensive. She said, “hey, I’m just putting this out there, and I totally get if you don’t want to risk it, but…how about Cuba? I’ve always wanted to go there!” Without hesitation, I said, “why not?”
And within 24 hours, we had our flights booked to La Havana (Habana), routing through Cancun, Mexico.
I won’t say it was the easiest trip either—rather, everything in the world that could happen to us did: plane caught on fire, money was stolen, we ran out of cash and, of course, couldn’t take out anymore at the ATM—but it was an adventure, that’s for sure.
Havana itself was gritty, and there wasn’t a ton to do besides a little salsa-ing—I took lessons, and it was awesome—and stare at the stunning, albeit dilapidated, architecture that was everywhere we looked.
Marvel at the cars, which were also everywhere.
And, oh yeah, the beaches, they didn’t suck either.
Side note: You haven’t lived until you’ve had a fresh mojito straight from the source.
Or smoked a Cohiba, apparently, though I can’t vouch for that firsthand having never smoked a cigarette or cigar for that matter (my travel mates, however, did sample the goods).
Can we just talk about all the anti-American propaganda for a minute (most of which had to do with Bush, naturally)?
It was every two blocks and truly insane. I even got accosted by a military man in a bazooka for having the audacity to capture it on camera.
We stayed at the famous Hotel National for two nights when our flight to La Isla de la Juventud was canceled and we had nowhere else to go.
We weren’t too bothered.
Nacional also boasted this awesome “No Trumpets” sign. Good thing they gave me a head’s up as I frequently travel with my trumpet in my carry-on.
Though right across the street from the hotel was the U.S. Embassy, which Fidel had the decency to block with nearly 100 Cuban flags. Here’s what I gathered from Wiki: “The Mount of Flags in Anti-Imperialism Park…obscures the U.S. interest section’s electronic billboard.” Keep it classy, Castro.
Cuba was not my favorite place I’ve ever visited—not by a long shot—but it is so steeped in history and culture that you can’t not appreciate it. As for possible plans to end the Embargo? Well, I’m not so sure how I feel about that. For one thing, it’s a cultural hub that everyone should be able to visit; on another hand, it sure is nice being able to visit a place where there’s not a Starbucks and McDonald’s on every corner.