Welcome to Cuba!  a local  vendor cheerfully poses
The Cuban Capitol

With this announcement from President Obama in December 2014, the tides of change for Americans to court friendship with an exiled neighbor after 50 years of defiant discord sent waves of excitement, anticipation, suspicion and mystery to curious travel seekers within the US and its outlying hemispheres.

For me it was enough to hasten travel plans to get to the picturesque antiquity of Cuban life before the influx of curious tourists scour its native surroundings. My visit to Havana, Cuba is a dream fulfilled.

Cuba Accommodations
How to enjoy a great stay on a budget in Cuba

On Trip Advisor for Cuba I selected my lodging at La Casa de Ana.  This homely bed-breakfast forty five minutes from the airport, offered a selection of amenities that met my individual, single female traveler taste.
Ten days of accommodations anywhere in the Caribbean tourist towns would easily have exceeded $1000 US.  My costs for my 10 stay at La Casa de Ana was under $350 US.
The most memorable part of my stay in Cuba is the warmth and hospitality that I received at La Casa De Ana.  From the moment of arrival, the owner Ana extended a hearty welcome.  With her staff, I was treated to freshly changed linens daily, a selection of fresh cooking delights with choices of lobster, shrimp and grilled fish dinners at my request.
La Casa de Ana, the home is  a simple residence in a neighborhood surrounded by the decay of old buildings and the bustle of local enterprise.  But the charm of the atmosphere at La Casa de Ana remains untainted. I felt the nostalgic appeal of home, away from home.

How to travel to Cuba

To get to Cuba, I booked travel roundtrip from Washington to Bahamas at a price of $425. A local Bahamas travel agent confirmed my round trip ticket between the Bahamas and Cuba for $450.

Until all the diplomatic sanctions have been lifted, travelers to Cuba can get a temporary visitor visa from any country that has unrestricted travel between their nations.

Some United States nationals circumvent the ban by traveling to Cuba from a different country (such as Mexico, The BahamasCanada or Costa Rica), as Cuban immigration authorities do not routinely stamp passports, but instead stamp a Cuban visa page which is provided, and not permanently affixed to the passport.


 Important Facts to know about visiting Cuba
Fact 1.  In Cuba, there are no ATMs that accept US banks credit cards, as of May 2015.

Fact 2.  All tourists must have some form of validated health insurance or have to purchase insurance for their stay at $3 CUCs, Cuban currency per day.

Fact 3. As a US tourist, this is their custom.  No need to ruffle the angst of the Cuban overworked and underpaid Customs representatives with American arrogance.

Fact 4. Cuba poses a strikingly different modus operandi, than the usual and customary formalities of inter continent travel.  Black fishnet stockings are the rage fashion adornments of many of the Cuban lady luggage customs representatives.

Fact 5.  If English is your first and only language, eye coordination, hand signals and unintelligible utterances will be the choice selection of communications, in a predominantly Spanish speaking environment.

Fact 6. Tweak your Spanish vocabulary with words other than Si Si and Muchas Gracias.   Practice a full sentence, even in broken Spanglish, Cuantos dolares por favor?  Will be a saving sentence, before any transaction is conducted

My first impressions

Cuba Vintage Cars

Cuba Vintage Cars   gcw2015

As you exit the airport, the vintage cars are an assortment of antiquity preserved in chasses of yesteryears.  They adorn parking lots and roadways.  They are resplendent in their aged antiquity.

Most of the cars are over sixty years. The vintage Chrysler models, the De Soto, the Bel Air convertibles are mechanical automotive dinosaurs that are maintained with functional and pristine care.  They are utilized mostly as taxis and specialty transport for the tourists.

Although most of the antique vehicles are part of family legacies in Cuba, they are not just the model car by name brand.  By virtue of ingenuity and craftsmanship, even while trade embargo stalled the economic vigor of commerce and international exchange with the US, Cuban nationals were able to procure parts from around the world, and customize the engines of many of the vehicles seen on their roadways.

There are no regulatory emissions standards in Cuba. Seat belts are not worn as a pre requisite for safety, The cars are not equipped to go over 60 mph,  nor are they gas efficient, but!, they are still operational after almost 65 years on the road.  They have also exceeded the lifetime mileage of cars with over 300,000 miles of odometer readings.

But they are trophy cars and Cubans have created an industry of mechanical technician artisans.  Under these hoods there are the United Nations of parts from China, Russia, Holland, Germany, America and Venezuela.  They are fitted together, working to keep the machinery, intact and timeless

Cuba  Buildings and Architecture

In Havana, the relics of historical grandeur adorn the majestic edifices throughout the city.  The stamp of enshrined Catholicism is reverently showcased in the intricate designs of cathedrals and convents.

My visit to the Cristobal Colon Cemetery (Havana) where over 1 million graves are earthed was a haven of proud Cuban nationalistic and revolutionary history.  Cuba’s history is not buried in revolt, it is celebrated in the timeless art of tombstones and sepulchers and ornate marbled statues that adorn the cemetery grounds.

That the valor of Cuban militia is found in the names encrypted on headstones of Italian Corrado marble honored with opulent artistry is reverent and celestial. The ancestral names heralded for their lives dedicated to fighting to death for Cuba to live, are the same names of many whose legacy continue to the furthest Caribbean islands.

Reminiscence of ancestral lineage were the reminder names of Hernandez, Gomez, Martinez, Gonzales, Pereira, Sanchez,  all of whom are surnames that exist as far South as my own country of birth, Trinidad and Tobago.

In the town of Havana, stands the Cuban Capitol.  In what is an amniotic resemblance of the Washington, DC Capitol, but to the Cuban enthusiastic pride, one meter higher, the building is a formidable representation of a duality of worlds, severed by political deviation, but aesthetically duplicated in its design

On my first drive to the beach, I was driven in a 1945 black De Soto Chrysler vintage automobile, to Playa del Este Beach.  It was a Wednesday and I arrived at the beach around 11 am.  There were hardly much people there, except for the mojito stand and some folk who were there to ensure that the lounge chairs and umbrella were properly paid for.  For the whole day, $2.  ( for this blog the Cuban dollar currency /CUC is actually equivalent to .97 US and for simplicity it will be dollar for dollar) is the rental for the umbrella and chair.

After 2pm the beach visitors and more locals began to populate the surroundings.  With my $2 mojito and a freshly grilled red snapper meal for $10, the value of my beach visit was phenomenal.

For the rest of my ten day stay, I got to tour Havana and visit Nacional de Cuba Hotel.

The novelty of my Cuba visit is highlighted by being chauffeured on tour of Havana,  Habana to native Cubans,  in a red 1965 Chrysler Bel Air convertible.

I remain charmed by the wonderful hospitality of the people who made my visit extremely memorable.  Enjoy visiting my memories

A memorable Visit to Cuba