Havana Through The Looking Glass
I feel as if Alice in Wonderland is the perfect reference for jumpseatjenny in Havana. I know it’s a stretch, stick with me here – being in an uncomfortable place that fills you with wonder and bewilderment while meeting some strange characters along the way. Pretty much the premise for Alice in Wonderland no?
Recently I’ve had the pleasure of ending up in Havana more than I ‘ve expected I would. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. Let's do the love first so I don’t jade you with my “hate” section. (heads up pics are all loves lol no hate)
The easy evening and early morning flights
- Passengers are usually great
Watching Spanish Netflix shows I can’t get in Canada
When I think of Havana I think of small wood-paneled rooms, original appliances (like a wooden general electric ice box), skinny pups and lively music.
Walking around there is a vibrancy about the city that is unmatched elsewhere. There are people interacting at every turn – sitting on stoops or sipping on drinks at a corner café. Further out of the city outstanding colonial mansions dot the streets in a grand but derelict fashion.
There is a generalization surrounding the food in Cuba as being bland and unappealing. I would argue that in any “all you can eat” scenario this is true. But if you are actively searching for good food it can be found. I highly suggest trying Ropa Vieja a dish of shredded beef in tomato sauce, found in many restaurants.
The collection of classic cars in Cuba is unrivaled and I am consistently in awe that with the limited resources available to Cubans they are able to restore and maintain so many ancient relics. Also, many of them are pink.
Don't love as much:
- The hotel we stay in
- the catcalling
- The breakfast buffet
- Hearing people say “My Fraaaand" everywhere I go
- The Cuban convertible peso
Most of all, the crew hotel consistently gave me creepy vibes which I was NOT down for. So after a small Havana hiatus, I decided to give it another go. What bothers me most about the city is that I KNOW I’m missing out on what makes it great/authentic because of my discomfort there. So little by little, I continue to push myself past my comfort zone and explore different areas with each layover.
I must also explain that usually while walking around the city it will be myself and another young woman or two, we stick out like sore thumbs and I think this is what opens us up to aggressive and perpetual catcalling. I’m sure if I had my fiancé by my side no one would dare to shout “Preeeetyyy Laydeeee” at me for an entire street until I turn out of sight.
Finally, Cuba has two forms of currency; the CUP and the CUC. The CUC is a Cuban Convertible Peso and is what tourists are expected to use, the CUP is the countries own currency and is harder to get your hands on. Essentially 1 CUC is worth 25 CUP’s.
The CUC is meant to be on par with the American dollar but the country charges a 10% fee plus the fee of whatever institution you may be getting money from. Tired of this yet? I know me too.
What I’m trying to say is that purchasing CUC in Cuba (and it can only be purchased within Cuba) is costly. Currently, if you exchange 100 CAD you will receive 77 CUC plus any transaction fees from your bank or Cuban institution. Take into account with every purchase you are always paying more…not a heap more, but it adds up!
That being said, I am still completely captivated by this city. I yearn for a deeper understanding of the country and its colorful past to bring deeper meaning to my exploration.
Purposeful visiting is tricky as I have to do so one day at a time (our layover is 30 hours) - and in the rainy season its not always so appealing! I'd be happy to share the information I find as time progresses, and am sure this won't be my last Havana post.