On our first full day in Cuba, we knew we needed to make the most of our time. Our Airbnb hostess, Iraida was amazing and provided us details on cab fare expectations, etc.
We headed out and grabbed our first cab around the corner from our Airbnb, headed to Plaza Central.
After arriving to the plaza, we headed out to find some street food breakfast. We found this cute little spot, were we paid 20 pesos (less than a dollar) for a breakfast (tortilla y jamon) sandwich, fresh juice and a cafecito. I must confess, it was probably the best breakfast we had the entire trip!
During the day, you were able to see what you couldn’t see at night. The gorgeous architecture of the buildings was astounding. You can tell than when they were constructed, they were sights of magnificence. But in the daylight, you also saw the deterioration, the faded paint, the peeling paint. While there was evident pride in the area, there is a lack of resources to keep the city shining as it should. I found myself falling in love with this country, but saddened by the restraints upon it’s potential glory. The people were sweet and always asked where we were from and became excited to hear we were from the states. Some seemingly saw dollar signs at the mention of being American. For those who kept up longer conversation, we were able to tell them that our mother was Cuban and then they began to relax and speak to us as though we were a long lost family member.
We made our way to San Carlos de la Cabaña for the Feria Internacional de Libros where both Fernando and Mora were presenting their books. We didn’t really know what to expect, but throughout the streets, we saw advertisements of the fair and everyone seemed to be aware of it. When we arrived to San Carlos, we found what resembled to be a state fair atmosphere outside of the fort. There were tents, carousels, fried food, hot corn and people everywhere!
We made our way to the church where they would be presenting their books. Since we arrived a little early, we explored the fort and of course, took some more pictures.
We then headed to the church where there was a panel of four authors who spoke on their books:
Afterwards, we ventured back to the city to O’Reilly 304, a super cute tapas and fusion bar. They have two locations across from one another, the empanadas, croquetas and the drinks were great!
We did some more wandering as the sun started to set, soaking in the architecture and the live music. We stopped at a restaurant in the plaza for a drink while a band played in the background while the sun went down.
We headed back to the Airbnb to rest and freshen up before heading out to to check out a jazz spot for the evening. When we got home, the lady of the house was there, she offered us a cafecito and ended up spending the most of the evening talking about Cuba life. She was open and honest and allowed us to ask any and all questions. The people of Cuba are a delight. They love to talk about their country and their lives. They want foreigners to know what it truly is like to live in Cuba. Life in Cuba is hard. You start to realize how easy and wonderful it is to live a in a free country. The Cuban people are happy and hard working. They have such a drive and passion for life, yet as you continue to speak to them, you hear the frustration in their voices. The frustration of not being able to succeed or to only be able to succeed to a certain extend due to government restrictions.
Our host has been to the United States on several occasions. I asked her what it was like, the first time she came. She shared that she cried the first time she walked into JC Penney. She couldn’t believe there were so many things for you to select and purchase. They don’t have stores like that in Cuba. I realized that quickly because I didn’t bring good walking shoes. I decided that I would buy some at the first store I saw, but there were no stores to buy at. The scarcity of supplies in Cuba is astonishing.
She said that when her husband went to the states for the first time, he was amazed at how quiet the cars were. How all cars have air conditioning and technology. You don’t see that in Cuba at all. Any new car in Cuba is somehow government affiliated.
We talked with her for a couple hours, to the point that we were too tired to go out. But since we were hungry, we ventured out to Don Cangrejo for dinner. We took a 15 minute cab ride into a suburban area. The restaurant was pretty quiet for a Thursday night, they usually have live music over the weekend. There were only two other parties there as we dined. The service was classy and the seafood was great.
We made the cataclysmic mistake of not taking our cab drivers number when he dropped us off. Thing is, that this restaurant isn’t by any major roads, nor in a busy area, especially for a Thursday night. By the time we left the restaurant, it was about midnight. We had to walk a few blocks to the main road and there was hardy any traffic. We walked for about 45 minutes to an hour before we scored a cab to take us back home.
It was a wonderfully full day and when we got home, I called dibs on the shower. The shower was great! They had a water heater, so it was perfect! But after I lathered up, the water seemed to lessen, until there was no more. I panicked slightly and tried to shut it off and on. Luckily I was able to get enough to rinse down. I tried the sink.. nothing. I started to wonder if it was just our shower, or the entire house, but the homeowners were already asleep. We just went to bed and decided to wait until morning to address the issue.