As soon as Chile won their penalty shootout against Argentina, and just before Messi sulked and quit international football we went to sleep both very excited about flying to Havana at 6am the next morning.
In the car and on our way by 2:30 there were already mutterings of an afternoon nap but first things first we had to get our deposit back on our car!! The man when we returned it tried to say that there was an extra scrape on the car but luckily we had the documents signed saying that the car was totally damaged so once he saw them we got our money back and were on our way to Havana!!
It was only an hours flight but we both felt pretty knackered by the time we arrived and told each other that we had to be prepared for things to take that little bit longer and we should just try and take it easy.
First things first on arrival we needed to get some cash but unfortunately none of the cash machines would work for us so luckily I had a few pesos so managed to get 50cucs cash in hand. While we were trying to get our money we bumped into another Aussie, Tonn, who was having similar issues but had been given the name of a place where foreigners could easily get money. He had no cash himself so we said we would give him a lift in and make sure he was okay.
Lucky we did because it was here that we found out that our Australian bank was actually owned by an American bank and therefore none of our cards would work…bugger…problemo! They told us that our only chance was to ask the embassy for help and since Tonn was in a similar situation we paid for his taxi there too.
The Canadian embassy looks after Australians in Cuba so we went there first. Unfortunately they were shut for lunch so we sat outside and waited. It was at this point that we started worrying a little as to what was going to happen. We had been looking forward to Cuba since we first started think about the trip and it seemed a little cruel that we were seemingly in a bit of trouble.
Still by the time they finished their desserts they opened up and help came fairly quickly. It turns out Tonn just needed to transfer some funds into a different bank and he would be alright so we have him 10cuc so he could get to the required bank and then back to the embassy if required and sent him on his way.
We on the other hand had to ask for some emergency funds which they could help us draw from our account. They wouldn’t give us quite enough though so once we had the cash in our hands we walked off to the British Embassy just two blocks away. Here they would help us with as much as we wanted but we had to get someone in England to do a transfer for us. So with M&D in France Kelly was called up and after the initial laughter died down, she switched into Doctor Kelly mode and saved our skins.
We were not going to get cash straight away, but we’re going to get some eventually so the holiday was saved!!
So with cash in our hands we set off towards Havana centre and our casa (house/hostel) where we were due to stay. It was only at this point that we really started enjoying ourselves and looking around at all the sights and sounds which greeted us. We were expecting to see a few classic cars but it seemed as though every third car belonged in some 1950s gangster film! We were beginning to get very excited.
We arrived at our casa which is someone’s home where they are allowed to rent rooms out. In 1997 the rules were changed and people were allowed to rent rooms out to tourists and since then it has become a major source of income. There is a sign outside the front door which indicates whether rooms are for hire or not. Such a brilliant idea. All the places have to meet a certain standard including ensuite bathrooms and most places will provide breakfast too!!
Our host, Mercy, seemed very welcoming and excited to have us and we were equally as excited as our room was in a high rise right on the Malecon, right on the waterfront of Havana and just a few minutes walk away from the old town.
We didn’t hand around in our room for long as it was now about 5pm and we hadn’t eaten anything apart from a biscuit each since we had shared a sandwich in the airport at 5am. Needless to say we were in need of sustenance so stopped at the first place we found. Not the best but it filled us up and the beers were deliciously cold.
Now we were ready to start exploring. What a place to explore. Firstly we felt as if we had travelled back in time or arrived on some movie set!! The classic cars are just amazing and look just so cool cruising down the streets, the best bit being that they are actually used as taxis not just hidden away and preserved.
The second majorly beautiful thing was the buildings themselves with the narrow streets full of people just going along with their daily business. The buildings were in various degrees of restoration but all seemed generously sized with huge balconies and massive ceilings. We both were amazed and what we were seeing and asking each other for the camera every second. I swear we had taken 200 photos in our first hour on the streets.
It was straight away one of the most amazing cities we had ever seen and we both said how lucky we were that we came here last!!
As great a walk around was it was, Mojito time was calling and Sarah saw a white door with a small bar sign on it so up we went. As luck would have it we had stumbled across a fantastic rooftop bar, serving delicious Mojitos!
We couldn’t believe that we were actually sipping Mojitos in Havana, what an epic 8 nights this was going to be!! T
Still feeling positive outside the embassy waiting for help!
The view out of our window at our casa! What a view.
Two minutes out of the door and we had already passed half a dozen streets like this.
The buildings are all just so fantastic.
The combination of the cars and the buildings and the people make Havana one of the best cities to walk around and we had only been on the streets for an hour or so so far. Not much conversation between us just lots of oohs, aahs and look at thats.
At our rooftop bar enjoying mojito number 1!
Some more shots of the streets of Havana Vieja.