So it goes without saying that I am ALL FOR solo trips. I’d book one in a heartbeat. But around this time, last year when I was thinking about Cuba as a destination point, I just knew I had to spread the word. Reason being is because once the embargo was lifted, Cuba became a hotspot in the American travel sector. So many people I spoke to had Cuba on their radar, as did I, so I wanted other people to be able to share in the adventures.
I traveled to Cuba in April 2017 with a group of my closest teacher-friends and a friend from college. We all had spring break during this time, so it worked out that we were all able to share this amazing adventure together.
|Fresh off the flight from JFK to Havana|
We booked our flight via JetBlue, which offers direct flights from JFK (in New York City) to Havana. What was super awesome was that we were offered the full price of what we paid for our tickets back in JetBlue credit if we left one day later. For a travelista like myself, this was music to my ears, because I was able to book a trip that June to Barbados for little to nothing by using this flight credit.
Our accommodations were through AirBnb. We stayed in spacious apartment in Central Havana, called “The Penthouse”. It was located in a busy city center with a lot of people, parks, stores, and food stands. It kind of reminded me of busy hub section area in NYC such as Fordham Road or Fulton Avenue. Our host was a mother and daughter who lived in the “penthouse” of a building right on the busy strip. There six of us sharing 2 bedrooms each (with balconies to boast), a large living/dining area, and a well kept kitchen/bathroom. We had the entire apartment to ourself, which was great, because we were free to come and go as we pleased and to bump our music as loud as our cares desired.
Views From “The Penthouse”
The Street Below “The Penthouse”
We stayed for six days in the capital city of Havana. with the exception of two day trips to a nearby city with and awesome beach (Playa Azul) and the city of Varadero.
Upon arrival and after checking to our AirBnb, we immediately put our bags down and went on the hunt for food. From doing so, we were able to bump into a chic eatery in which we could cure our famished bellies. We instantly made friends with the wait staff and bar staff, so much so that they invited us to party with them that evening.
Kalina, the Life of the Party!
|Hitting the Streets of Havana|
On our way back to “The Penthouse”, we decided to take the long route home and I am so glad we did. We were able to see the people of Cuba, in their element, living their lives. One thing about us is that we are super friendly and we love to have a good time, so when we walked past an apartment that was blasting Reggaeton, we immediately started dancing in the streets. From us doing this, the lady inside quickly unlocked her doors and invited us in to dance with her and her babies. What a way to start off our first few hours in Havana!
|Kalina Getting Down to the Reggaeton|
|Making a New Friend in Her Home
After getting some much needed rest from traveling that day, we headed out to the club I new friends recommended to us. After contacting them via WhatsApp, they stated they were tired and couldn’t join us, but we decided to go out regardless.
While in the cab (vintage car) to our destination for the night, we made a pretty distinct transition from the city to the suburbs of Havana. Gone were the hustling and bustling streets filled with buses, traffic and tons of people and entered a quieter area, manicured lawns and beautiful homes.
We pulled up to the club and as we walked up, we felt so many eyes on us, but in an unflattering way. Long story short, we were told we couldn’t enter the venue, without any reason. We went back and forth with the bouncers (the best we could in our basic Spanish) to no avail. Everyone else walked in effortlessly, while we were out there trying to plead our case.
Upset that we wasted money on a 20 minute cab ride, we started walking around to find a place to eat and salvage the rest of our night. As we were walking through the residential neighborhood, we bumped into a young woman and we asked her for any recommendations in the area. Through this conversation, we found out that the place we were trying to get into tended to discriminate against darker-skinned people (her words not ours). The young lady said that even she, had been denied access into the place and she knows for a fact that they only let in people of a particular shade. After her saying this it made sense, because the people that were being let in all looked similar.
This experience led to a heavy conversation amongst us on how the “shade” (of one’s skin) divide is prevalent, all throughout the African Diaspora. I remember having a similar conversation with locals of Cost Rica, years earlier when I lived there.
With that being what is was, we still ended up enjoying our night, finding a cool eatery/lounge in which to enjoy some yummy eats and talk about our aspirations for the five days ahead of us.
|Gorgeous Ladies, Even After a Long Day of Travel|