April 30, 2014

The Streets of Havana and the In-Betweens

Photos of Havana. Havana is such a photogenic place with so much going on that I feel it deserves its own post. Particularly Old Havana where it's nostalgic and full of old American cars.

Essentially you can live like a king in Cuba if you stay away from tourist traps (uh hem, Veradero) and you are smart with your money. We booked a hotel in Santa Maria. It’s a small town right by a beautiful beach 20 minutes away from Havana by bus. The first few days we were living like ballers. We tipped like a North American (and they loved us for it), drank too much, ordered way too much food while enjoyed the company of the locals.

Guanabo is a small town filled with locals and it is a 5 minute drive from Santa Maria. The town has plenty of delicious and cheap places to eat. Our favorite place was ‘Little Chicken’ where you can get a 3 course meal and drinks for $12 - $15 CDN. It was one of the most delightful restaurants I have ever been. Since we spent a lot according to Cuban standard and we tipped like North Americans, the restaurant loved us so much that they offered us Cohibas to smoke. $15 to get treated like Royals. If there is one place I miss in Cuba it would be this place.

The first bar we went to was in Santa Maria. It was completely empty until we showed up, and then chickas “magically” appeared out of nowhere. They must have smelled dollar bills from tourists especially from Mr.Fannypack. Needless to say the next morning was a write off.

“I thought she liked my personality but oh well I only spent $20. Super affordable!”
“How can her or any of them like our personality when they don't speak the same language?”
“Well. No one will even notice you with $20 in Canada. Except desperate crack whores. I say it’s still good.”

Everywhere we went we joked to “make it rain”. Everyone got tips from us. Taxi drivers, hotel service staff, scammers, pregnant moms that approached Mr. Fannypack, or really anyone that approached Mr.Fannypack. We were all bleeding money from drinking too much, ordering too much food and generous tips that within only 3 days in I was down to $90 while one guy was down to 40 cents and the other was down to $3. There was no bank to exchange money where we lived.

“Shit. What are we going to eat tonight?”
“Well, we can’t afford to cab. So lets just get drunk in our room and eat at Casa Club across from our hotel.”

If Casa Club was in Canada they would have rejected our entrance from our smell of rum, but not in Cuba. The menu consisted dishes of “Ropa Vieja” which had translation beside that said “Old Clthes” for $5.15, “Ballotin de Pollo” which had translation of “Chicken Ballotin” for $5.30 and “Bistec de Cerdo Embutido” which had translation of “Byproduct pork steak” for $4.75.

“Uhm… Does ‘old clthes’ mean old clothes?!”
“I can’t even afford to eat ‘old clothes’!”
“What the hell is a byproduct pork steak?!”
“From now on we need to learn to say ‘how much’ and ‘too expensive’ in Spanish, so we’re not stuck getting drunk in our room and eating old clothes with a side of byproduct pork steak.”
“And 10, 20, 30 and 40 in Spanish.”
“What about 50?”
“50 is too high. Nothing here is worth 50 dollars.”

It’s a bit sad that everything has a price tag. If a girl hisses you on the street it isn’t because she hates you, she is actually cat calling you.

“Meet Jose Manuel. He is this bar's owner and he gets chickas.” AJ said to me.
“He is good looking.” I said.
“He is for sale.”
“Everything can be bought here, haven’t you realized?”
“Does he speak English?”
“Okay. I guess I can just pull out a bill and point at my crotch and say ‘Si! Si!’”

Obviously I was joking. But it’s pretty damn close that everything can be bought minus a ticket to get out of the country for the locals. Cuban women are all very attractive and more than you think would be willing as they make so little. In clubs there are attractive women like ones in those Latino music videos just hanging around and waiting to be picked up. I lost count of how often I see 50 year old white men, “greaseballs”, we call them, with a young Cuban woman. While it is illegal for locals to step onto hotel property, even the security guard and the police can be paid to turn a blind eye, if necessary.

And because of that, now whenever I hear single old men going to Cuba by themselves, my brain will automatically give them the side eye and label them as a greaseball.

In one of our drunken stupors we decided to go for a hooker watch at 1:30am in Santa Maria. The streets were empty. Not even a taxi in sight. Even Jose Manuel was absent. “Everyone is partying in Guanabo.” The Jose Manuel replacement said to us. For the first time I noticed how dingy these bars and restaurants were. Every building is runned down with wires hanging out somewhere and with some sort of structural damage.

“These places are sketchy.” I said.
“No sketchier than going for a hooker watch on Monday at 1:30am.” AJ reminded me.

How judgmental I have become! And no wonder our last night spent at an all-inclusive hotel in Veradero was a disappointment. Sure, the beach was nicer than Santa Maria's and it felt good to be able to communicate in English rather than hand gestures with the very few Spanish words we knew, but the food was bland and the meat was overcooked. The place was filled with tourists whose only purpose was to eat and lay on the beach. The night club on the resort felt like a highschool party of misfits with tourists and tourist gears. They danced to their English pop songs and embraced familiarity. It felt tame. It was too polished and too comfortable for me.

I knew I was heading home when as we boarded our plane, the little kid who sat in front us asked his mom to play on the iPad. Ahh. Us spoiled North Americans. We are so unappreciative of how good we have it. As much as we bitch about our jobs, our boring lives, how lucky we are to live in our country, where we have the freedom to make our own choices and create our own future. And on top of it all, can afford to have and follow our personal moral compass.

While I have made many drunken stupors there, I have carried home a sense of appreciation and enlightenment from Cuba and its people, along with an upset stomach that can’t take anymore rum… For now.


  1. What a creative way to reach enlightenment. Buddha will be proud of you ;)

  2. OMG.. super pretty post with fun sharing!

  3. wow!!! adorable picz!!! amazin post, sweety)))) xoxo <3

  4. Wow! what an experience you had, still cuba looks beautiful

  5. So glad it's been such a fun, food and drink and young person adventure time ridden trip! Love the photos, so raw, beautiful and colorful!

  6. Well at least it's a beautiful city!! I feel so sorry for the women in Cuba. It's not fair that they have to "spend" their time with these greaseballs.

    xx Mira


  7. This place is so beautiful...just a shame for the woman and people sometimes. I'd love to go to Cuba :) xx

  8. Loved reading your post and all about your experiences. It's refreshing that someone like you is actually writing the truth about a place, not just all the good things. And I'm sure it's pretty much a whole lot of great experiences. :)

  9. These are such fantastic photos - they make me wish to travel! The photo of the cat is, of course, particularly adorable! :)

    * i follow back on Bloglovin' *


  10. Loving those shorts! & Outstanding photography. Looking forward to your future posts. :D

    <3 Carsla
    Founder & CEO of Connect-the-Cloths
    A stylist, foodie, & writer's blog in development.

  11. I actually wouldn't mind getting shit faced drunk when I'm on vacation. But I feel like every time I go anywhere, with my friends, or my family, I always end up being the responsible one. The one who always has to take care of everyone else, because they decided to get drunk.

  12. The photos are amazing and, again, bring back so many memories. Seems like you had the best time.

  13. Haha, I love the way you share your stories; no nonsense and in your own voice. I can't believe how affordable the local food is! I always wonder why I pay so much for something like a sandwich in Canada.
    Your photos are gorgeous, too!

  14. Oh boy no fanny packs to Cuba. The pictures are stunning. Just beautiful.

    Allie of ALLIE NYC

  15. wow, love your blog!! Btw, thanks for your lovely comment on my post! I i will definitely be reading your more often!

  16. Even though Havana is old and run down, the pictures you took are beautiful! I'm glad you had a great vacation, but it also good to appreciate what you have, and how much we take for granted!

  17. God it's beautiful there. I love all the candy colors and how majestic buildings are next to dilapitating ones. It's such a beautiful mix. I'd just keep staring at the architecture there, it's stunning!

    xo marlen
    Messages on a Napkin

  18. I will read all your post again during the weekend that I have more time, you are right Habana is very photogenic and full of colour. Amazing pictures!!

  19. Havana looks very beautiful, but I doubt that I'll ever have the chance to visit since Americans aren't allowed to go. I guess if I want my tropical island fix, I can still go to Mexico and Hawaii.

    PS I don't know if you know this already, but from my small knowledge of Mexican food, old clothes is made up of strips of chicken, pepper slices, and other cut up vegetables in a stew so that it looks like strips of fabric.

  20. Wow these pics are amazing! love your outfits too xx


  21. These are gorgeous photos, especially one of the colorful buildings. Looks like you had tons of fun in Cuba, on the cheap to boot! So did you find that you have to speak Spanish to get around there?

    ♥ Gita @ mimiandchichi.com

  22. Eep! I know how you feel when it comes to spending a ton on vacation! I always get carried away with how much I spend on food and alcohol. It's okay though, it is called a vacation :). The city looks beautiful for sure. Colorful streets and it's right next to the ocean.

  23. Amazing pics,love this post,so beautiful!

  24. Hahah "is he for sale?"

    Same thing in egypt, trade camels for women. Your photos look amazing!

    LilynotLouise | Beauty and Food

  25. Ooh, I love your photos of Havana! Sounds like you had an awesome and interesting time there with your friends! We were there a few years back for our honeymoon and I have to say, it is one of my favourite places and I would love to go back there again one day!

  26. Money goes fast. I spent a lot the last time that I travelled for 15 days without realizing. When I arrived at home I felt guilty, but enjoy your time. You won't be in Cuba often. It's what I think. Hugs!!

  27. Gosh! I love the old buildings!!! I fancy things like that... yeah, old things... you look great!

    Beautiful photos!

  28. The architecture is pretty cool. It's weird seeing such clean streets. DC never looks that good. I tend to be too hard on the scammers, even though they're probably not much different than the pregnant women asking for help of the women who have to sell themselves to survive. All just trying to get by.

  29. Wow such a great time and experience for you guys and yeah on vacation money really goes fast. Never been there and I don't know if I would want to visit but i will have it on my bucket list to visit one day. Thanks for sharing all the stories and the photos.


  30. It looks like you had a really great time... I hear it is a really friendly place for tourists and everyone I know loves and cannot wait to go back. :)

    Thank you so much for your kind comment on my blog, I am back... still not sleeping but that is just my life right now... I missed blogging to much... have a great day :)

  31. Those buildings are beautiful. Such interesting architecture!

  32. So much goodness in this post, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I like that you guys went more authentic, and saw a bit more of the real Cuba aka got off the resort. The archtecture and the food must have been fantastic. Speaking of which, did you actually try ropa viejas? It is a super famous Cuban dish!!

  33. Wow nice blog post! the place has a beauty of its own. I envy you for being able to walk down the streets with all those architecture around! It shows so much culture and history. And your outfit looked very comfortable as well. And how will I not notice your hair! i love the color! what color is it???


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