Home Page of All Travelogues

We welcome comments. Please send them to Stephen and Dawn

First Time in Cuba
February 22 to March 7, 2023

Planning    Havana    Trinidad/La Boca     Leaving Cuba    


Our Cuban Google Map

The map will open in another page and show where we are staying and places we might visit. The Black numbers are from the book "100 Places in Cuba Every Woman Should Go".
Cuba map
We do not remember how Cuba came into the picture as a possible destination. I was influenced by Social and Economic Justice concepts which were beginning to have a presence in travel writing on the internet.

My brother Johnny had been there a couple of times and his trips seem so exotic and adventuresome.

We also have friends who have gone with groups to Cuba, namely Pastors for Peace and Witness for Peace. They both remarked on the vibrant dance and music culture on the island. Several months ago, Global Arts Live brought one of those dance companies, Malpaiso Dance, to Boston. They are an energetic contemporary repertory company that performs a variety of work. We hope to perhaps catch them in rehearsal or performance while we are there.

When I started to investigate Cuba I learned that there was a lot of information about Cuba on the internet and very little was still up to date. The currency situation has changed. The "Cukes" are gone, the exchange rate changed drastically last August (2022). The mandatory medical insurance is weird, the premium is part of your airline ticket. What you can do there as part of the "In Support of the Cuban People" is vague to the point of incomprehensibility. American Credit cards are not accepted. Euros get a better rate than Dollars. we might have to take cash to cover the whole trip as ATMs won't work. As always, opinions revealed more about the writer than the reviewed. But I began to get a good feel about the people I would stay with and meet. I looked at a video about a trip that Rick Steeves did with just his family, no camera crew. He loved it.

Rick Steeve's home movie In this travel lecture, Rick Steves describes his experience traveling through Cuba as the US began easing decades of travel restrictions for American tourists. Expand your travel horizons and learn about the time-passed elegance of Havana, Cuba's classic American cars, fine $5 rum, the best Cuban cigars, and the idealistic charms of this remarkable island and its people. (Produced by Seattle's KCTS 9.)

After reading other similar travel blogs. We decided to go.

Now for how long? One week seemed too short, three weeks too long, so two weeks it is.
Our first place we will stay in Havana. Located in the very center of the Capital of Cuba, being a construction from the 1890s, Lovely Havana Rooms, is a charming and warm 5 bedroom Bed & Breakfast property owned by a young Cuban entrepreneur. This place is in the best location to discover Havana on foot, since it is very close to the Malecón and the Central Park of Havana.

The first Item on our itinerary is the Fabrica de Arte It is on the Time Magazine List of the greatest 100 places in the world. We will also visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Center is the western part of the city and Cuba Libros, an English speaking Book Store run by Conner Gorry who wrote "100 Places in Cuba Every Woman Should Go".
Our Google Map of Trinidad/La Boca

We found our out-of Havana destination, Trinidad, a beautiful colonial city. We will not stay there but visit it from La Boca, a small fishing village on the south shore of Cuba where I think it will be quieter at night, (all is relativer). You can find it on the map at the top of the page, under the blue 80 ° line.

Our place in La Boca will be Hostal Cuba,
A beautiful modern sea view room with private bathroom, air conditioner, one king size bed and one single bed, fan, safe box, 40 inch led TV, minibar, hairdryer, hot and cold water 24h, restaurant service, vegetarian and gluten free menu.

We had to finally give up the idea that Aeromar was actually going to fly to Merida from Havana on March 8. The flight which had been hard to find has just faded away. So I made a reservation with a slightly less shaky Airline, Viva Aerobus that is scheduled for the day before. I bought all the extras to make the flight comfortable and if I ever have to argue about refunds or seats, I could do it from a higher starting point. We were cancelled us out of our casa for our second stay in Havana after we return from Trinidad/La Boca because it was only for one night. I found another. The information is below.

This amazing house in the heart of Old Havana is perfect for couples, solo adventurers, business travelers and families who wish to discover the beauty of Havana while staying in a comfortable and elegant place. Close to popular places such as El Capitolio, El Floridita, La Bodeguita del Medio and La Plaza Vieja, among others.


Here is where we are staying in Havana and my map of the Cuba Trip.
Our Google Map of Havanna Casa Particular in Havana, Lovely Room
First Casa Particular in Havana (Link to Airbnb Site)

The travelogue is getting off to a ragged start. I am having trouble getting to s3 at amazon from where I serve the photos. The internet is spotty. Of course if you see this, it means I have suceeded.

Again, I am going to jump in where we are now and then I will go back to the beginning and fiill you in.

We are trying to grab a cab to go to the Fabrica de Arte in the western part of Havana. We were told to go down to Neptuno Street and flag one down there. It is a little difficult so we walk toward Old Havana which is more touristed. We stop on a corner where there is more light and talk to a couple of guys with pedi-taxis and agree that it is much too far for them to pedal us out there. We keep waving at taxis and a third guy has joined in to help us. I sneak $3 dollars out of my wallet to give him if he really helps us. Behind us, a tall beautiful woman stands, perhaps waiting for a taxi, perhaps not. Finally, we pull one over and immediately the woman tries to snare it but our new friend stops her immediately. The Cuban. voice, I think, makes the difference, and worth the three dollars that Igive him. We negotiate the $15 dollars as the fare and we are off. It is not quite a taxi, I think he mostly does tours because as we turn on to the Melecon, he explains all the hotels, especially the National, as we pass them. We are soon there, we learn his name is Renaldo, and ask him to return at 11:30 to pick us up. I take a picture of his license plate so we can find him later. Another challenge accomplished. I may talk later about how I create large challenges where there are really only small ones. If challenges were mountains, I hope to have learned just to climb them, not to imagine how tall they might be.
Back to the beginning
Wednesday, Feb. 22, 4:28 AM
The alarm goes off and our travel day begins. Everything works as planned, except we left the milk in the fridge, instead of the freezer. Kenny will come by and either take it or put it the right place. The Lyft came. We got ourselves and our bag checked in, got through security and found our gate. It took one hour from our front porch. We frittered the time with filling water bottles, getting coffee, doing the New York Times crossword puzzle. The flight to Miami went smoothly and soon, after we had lunch, we found ourselves waiting at another gate. I checked with a customer desk and we seemed to have everything we needed to board our plane and fly to Havana.
Here is what you need:
Up-to-date Passport with 6 months left
Cuban Tourist Card (If you fly from the US, it will cost around $100. We sent away for them online and filled them in at home)
The dviajeros PDF with the QR codes that we got from the Cuban Government after we filled out their online form.
Of course, your boarding pass. (Keep it with your documents when you are in Cuban. It may prove that your have 30 days of medical insurance. This is very vague)

All this was good for Feb 2023. I recommend setting your search engine to within the year to try to get current information for the situation. Things change rapidly.
Getting into Cuba was quick and formal, mostly achieved by sign language. We went through a series of stations. Someone making sure we had our pdf, someone then to read the code on them, someone to check our passport and stamp our card, another to guide our bags through the X-ray machine. All faintly military, very stern. It would be the last time we would see of this type until we leave when I imagine we will see them again.
Getting a taxi was as simple as getting to the taxi stand, but having to fend off a young woman who wanted to intercept us and lead us off to some other vehicle, I suppose. We got our taxi the normal way except that after only a few yards he stopped to talk to a friend and then asked us if he could drop his friend on the way because his car had broken down. We of course said yes and were on our way.

The road was somewhat similar to the United States, but full of people! People waiting for or running to busses. People waiting for colectivos. People in all sorts of vehicles. Just a lot of action and energy. We got to our place in the centro fairly easily although the driver drove the last half block the wrong way on the one way street. Getting in was complicated. because we did not know the simple trick. Climb the stairs, ring the bell, wait for the click and push the door open, say hola and climb the second flight of stairs and we are home. It was complicated by a whole bunch of kids sitting in the doorway and on the stairs. We would later find out that they were students in an after school program taught by our host's father for student who were preparing for tests in school. We were in fact being hosted by the whole family. His mother and father took care of breakfast and most of the taxis and map creation and restaurant suggestions.

The first restaurant that was recommended was the Concordia, about flve blocks away. And three flights up to a rooftop terrace. We had tacos of vavious kinds and mojitos. The food was great, but the drinks only so so. The view was great too with the dome of the Capitole appearing off in the distance behind Dawn. Stephen with rice in beans Dawn with the Capitolio behind

Stephen with rice and beans. Dawn with the Capitolio behind. The end of a long travel day

Havana is a city of great contrasts. The neighborhood we are staying in, el Centro, has lots of street rubble, either half-built or half- demolished buildings, peeling paint, people moving on foot, bike, motorbike, very old American cars, pedal taxis, tuk tuks, some "official" yellow taxis, and an occasional horse-drawn cart. Yes, there is material poverty, but the people here are rich in spirit, very friendly and appreciative of American visitors. The three generation family we are staying with is a group of kind, helpful people. Juan Carlos and his dad speak much better English than I do Spanish! I have a lot of difficulty understanding la Señora's Cuban Spanish, but we all manage.

red wall
Dawn's yoga view out the front classroom window

On our first full day here, we walked about five miles, including a visit to the Museo de Arte Cubano, a fascinating visual history of their art from the 15th to 21st centuries. Much early work was like the finest European art of the era. There were movements reminiscent of the American Hudson River School, then Cubism, then on to the very intense art of the revolution.
large statue
I took a photo of the immense sculpture in the courtyard. Although we could find no label with attribution or title, it was clearly made of detritus from the ocean. To my eye, it commented on pollution and climate change.
We did some walking around town and tried to craft some meaning out of what we were seeing. In an urban environment when resources dwindle, one has to make choices. Here the exteriors of the buildings have been allowed to deteriorate and the resources have gone inside the buildings. The building where we were staying was not painted up outside, but was perfectly lovely inside. Havana looked a little war-torn. A building on the malecón would look like a bombed out building and there would be people leaving in the buildings on both sides of it. For us, it is difficult to see.
Ruins, Havana perhaps like Rome at the end

White restored building
A Saved Building

The Old Plaza

Dancer on stilts
Dancer leading us into the restaurant

Musicians in the restaurant
I bought their CD, and finally got to play it when we got home.

We walked to this well-known and recommended place for lunch, Bodeguita del Medio with its autographed pictures of famous people, including the premier of China. On the way, we came across some stunning street dancers on stilts with their musicians following behind. After we were seated inside on the top floor of the restaurant, we were joined by more musicians, Tradison, playing well-loved Spanish songs. Lunch was so copious we had no dinner that night, instead we each had two excellent cocktails at the Fabrica de Arte Cubano, an amazing place that deserves its own paragraph!

Fabrica de Arte

In 2014, some enterprising artists including X Alphonso converted an old cooking oil factory into a wonderland of experiences. The Fabrica de Arte Cubano (FAC) has a warren of different rooms on several levels, plus outdoor courtyard spaces and a couple of large, flexible spaces with huge video screens that host performances and dancing. The place is filled with contemporary art of all kinds. I took a picture of a wall installation in the shape of Cuba, the materials: various colored keys! cuba created with keys
Expand the photo to see details of the keys

As we came out of a bar after our first drink, the hostess directed us to a concert that had just started. It was a wonderful a cappella chorale. bar tab

There are also about a dozen bars in the FAC, all serving spectacular cocktails, a restaurant by reservation only and a couple of tapas places. The tradition seems to be that you get a drink and can walk around with that glass (real glass, no plastic cups) in hand as you visit the different spaces. The payment method is clever. You pay a cover on entering, and each person gets a card that vendors fill in based on what you drank or ate. When leaving the building, you present the card and pay up!

At the entrance there is a sign that says that the patrons are not under any obligation to consume anything.

Of course there are also tip jars.

The highlight of the evening for me was being inspired by a DJ and young dancer, moving in his own world. It was so sweet to let loose and dance!

We brought along a bunch of over the counter drugs to leave with the Cuban people, since it is so hard for them to get them here. The Martin Luther King Memorial Center is a community center that does all kinds of good work. Here is a picture of us with Liz, our connection at the Center

MLK center
and then we took an American car/taxi to lunch at Cafe Libros,

cafe libro
a bookstore owned by Connor Gorey who wrote "A Hundred Things a Woman Should See in Cuba"

had lunch and gave our hats a break.

International Art museum

So far, the contemporary art we are seeing mostly concerns itself with climate change and species loss. Medusa's Hope, the temporary exhibit we saw here by Koen Van Mechelen used taxidermy of animals that had died natural deaths as his material. He also created beautiful pieces from feathers of chickens who had died naturally. There was a live chicken installation too.

Medusa's hope

Two llamas entwined on the floor

A beautiful glass ceiling

We went to Los Nardos Friday night for dinner. It was very formal, but amazingly inexpensive. Two main course, two cocktails and tip came to $20, although he did bring our twenty back because of very small tear in it. It is right across the street from the Capitole and down the street from the Alicia Alonzo Grand Theater of Havana. They are two beautiful buildings and as you can see, well lit. I love the gold car in front of the Capitolio.

Capitolio Building
The Capital building, I love the car.

The Grand Theater of Havana
The Theater is named after Alicia Alonzo.

(From Dawn: Actually, the restaurant that we thought was Los Nardos turned out to be another one downstairs, owned by the same business entity. It was very elegant, including a wine steward and cloth napkins. One odd thing about it is that the tables were rather high so it felt like you were a kid sitting at the grownups' table!)

Restaurante Bulgaria

Dawn listening
Saturday, Feb 25
After walking around in Old Havana for a while, we now felt the need for a break. I saw this place before the guy outside holding a menu saw us. Later, we found that his name was Victor and he was a retired teacher. I saw shade and when I was closer I heard music. It was a restaurant, but I felt sure that they would serve us a couple of drinks. Dawn had a diet seven-up and I had a beer. The band consisted of four young musicians and a drum machine. They played and sang well, playing only one song we recognized from the Buena Vista Social Club. Eventually, I ordered a pizza that Dawn and I shared. We never saw any Bulgarian dishes on the menu.

Dawn listening, the reader behind her hat

Dawn got to say good bye in Dutch to a couple of guys as the left and then speak French and English to a foursome from Montpelier, France. It was a very chill place. I saw a young woman at the back of the place nursing a mojito and reading her book. At four, the band was done for the day, announcing that they would be back tomorrow, 9 AM to 4 PM. That is paying your dues in the music biz. Dawn went up to thank them as they packed up and we left soon after.

(From Dawn: There was a young woman playing flute with the combo. I really liked her style and did my best to compliment her as we thanked and tipped the band on our way out.)
With Our Wonderful Hosts

Our Airbnb Review of Lovely Room in Havana

The best thing about staying here is the wonderful family. Juan Carlos, jr. and his father and mother are so warm, welcoming and helpful. His dad gave us a hand drawn map of the area with restaurant recommendations and other sites to see. They also helped us get taxis to the outlying parts of town and then a collectivo van to Trinidad at the end of our stay with them. The room and private bath here are clean and perfectly comfortable and is accurately pictured on the website. It is one flight up from street level. It is an inside room, but you can open shutters in the room that allow in natural light from across the hallway. Their home is in el Centro, not the tourist district but only a few blocks from it. El Centro has all the energy of a real neighborhood, but we found it quiet at night. Señora makes wonderful, copious breakfasts. Juan Carlos, sr. is a teacher and runs a school in their home for ambitious young people to help them with the tests they take in schools. He invited us to observe his Saturday morning class. We were impressed with the students' seriousness and focus. For a welcoming experience of the real Havana and a comfortable stay, we highly recommend staying with Juan Carlos' family.

And the family dog who watched out for us at the top of the stairs.
Our last night, we returned to the Concordia restaurant for our last dinner and then came home and packed. In the morning we had our last breakfast and said good-bye and waited for the mini-van colectivo that would take us to Trinidad and the fishing village of La Boca.

Trinidad/La Boca

Travel, Walk and Dinner

Monday, Feb. 27,
We arrived after about 5 hours on the road. Most of it was in a taxi-minivan that picked us up at our casa in Havana already having picked up four other people. We loaded our stuff in the back and then we were loaded in. Dawn in the final seat in the back row, myself in the middle row, boh of us on the left side. The cab driver then worked his way across to the old town to pick up the final passenger who was installed in the front seat. All this accompanied with some holas and buenas diazs. We were all kind of quiet as we drove through the tunnel under the bay of Havana and out onto the highway.
I am going to interupt myself here to mention that I am writing on our second floor terrace as the sun comes up, first on the hills and mountains across the river and then the town itself and me. The fishing boats have been coming down the river and out to their station in the small bay in front of town. I saw two spear fishermen walk down the street as I got up to take a picture. Dawn has joined me carrying her yoga mat. It is cool enough for our fleeces.
spear fishers
Two Spear Fishermen in the morning
Back to the trip:
The road is wide, only vaguely delineated. Again it accommodates all kind of vehicles: Trucks, people on horseback, horsedrawn two wheeled carts, walkers, busses. There is a lot of cross traffic. It is all a little chaotic but well oiled.

Our fellow passengers:
The woman in front is from Spain. She has a comfortable seat but ends up somewhat isolated from the rest of the group. She talked the the driver. The guys in my row, one was from Madrid but now living in Majorca, Spain and the other also lived there but his mother was French. After many years there they were still learning Catalan. Back with Dawn were two travelers from Brazil. She was a professor in Biology and spoke English well, he had more difficulty. The conversation developed slowly but eventually the back two rows were talking about languages and places we had been. In the middle of this, I found out from the driver that over the phone he had arranged for a taxi to take us from Trinidad to our place in la Boca. I did not tell Dawn this so she was surprised that after we got into Trinidad, we pulled into a side street and were cross loaded into a taxi that was waiting for us. But before that, about halfway on our trip we pulled into a Pondera and the driver got out, put on a grease suit and began to remove the front left tire. We surmised that a ponchera was a tire repair place. We stood around for awhile and then went across the highway to a couple of food stands under some trees. Not much traffic. It was easier than crossing Cummins Hwy. in front of our house at home. When we saw that the tire was back on, we returned to continue our voyage. We stopped once more so the driver could peer under the hood for awhile. No explanation in English was provided. He drove very fast, but we did arrive in one piece.

colectivo car
Our young and friendly fellow travelers and our car taking a break

Dinner and Breakfast at Hostal Cuba

After we arrived, I reconfirmed that we would like dinner and breakfast for our first evening and morning. Our host's son appeared in his waiter's outfit on our terrace and began making up the table outside our room with two table cloths, then plates and cutlery. The sun had just set so we organized the outside lights and I added the lights inside our room to put a glow on the window next to the table. Once we sat down, two soup bowls appeared and then after another trip down the stairs to the kitchen, he appeared with a tureen of soup which he carefully ladled into the bowls. And then after a cheery "Enjoy" he returned down the stairs and left us to eat our soup. We both thought it was pretty much like a minestrone, very simple and tasty. The rest of the meal proceeded in the same fashion. The salad was next, then the fish, then the flan with sliced fruit for dessert. All delicious and elegant. Our siver candlesticks would have fit in perfectly. We organized breakfast so that at 7 AM the table would be remade and a pot of coffee would appear with two cups which we would drink and then meditate and then at 8 breakfast would begin to roll out. First some bread, ham and cheese, then fruit and then eggs, always decorated with a happy face! As we prepared for the day, they dishes would secretly and silently disapear.

egg1 egg2
Our happy morning eggs

Photos around Town

Fishing boats moored along the river

Beautiful clouds came in one morning

Dawn and Hosley
Dawn and Hosley (we do not know how to spell his name)

: red flowere
Something cheery in the morning

This was our view from a nice place on the water where we had a drink but did not return.

Ancón Beach Day

Tuesday, February 28,
After coffee, meditation, breakfast and yoga, we decided to head to the beach. The coast right here in town is really best for fishing, not swimming, as it is very rocky. Our lovely host in the Hostal Cuba said that if we liked walking, it was only about 2k to a small beach, much closer than the famous Playa Ancón. So we walked and walked. It was a bit after noon, the hottest time of day, with barely any shade. That 2k seemed to stretch to 3 or 4 on a typically pot-holed Cuban road. A couple of motorcycles, cars, and a van passed us.

It looked something like this except it was blue.

Then a little blue, three-wheel vehicle stopped beside us, and the young man asked where we were going. He said the beach we were looking for really wasn't good for swimming, that Playa Ancón was the place to be and he owned a restaurant there. He said we should get in his little vehicle and he would take us since he was going there anyway. When I asked how much, he said "free."So he moved some packages off the little backseat so we could sit there.

It was a slow and fascinating ride, and we were ever so grateful that he found us. It turns out that he is friends with our host family, having stayed here himself for a time when he was renovating his own place that will open next week as a restaurant/hostal. He adamantly refused the Cuban pesos we gladly offered him and said we could drink and eat at his restaurant instead. He set us up in lounge chairs on the beach and asked one of his English-speaking employees to take care of us.

So we had a couple of drinks and split a lunch of camarones. The beach is gorgeous, white sand, clean, gentle water, nice atmosphere. When we paid the tab, we left a tip that the servers seemed particularly grateful for. Plus our friend, Albaro, had lined up a taxi to take us back to la Boca. I told him he was our savior, our "Christo del Dia!" This is another example of the friendly generosity of the Cuban people.
beach lounger areas
Our beach area where we were taken to and did nearly nothing

Into Trinidad

Wednesday, March 1,
We are staying in la Boca to be near Trinidad but not in Trinidad. Stephen read that music and dance clubs in town play loudly and late, so he decided to stay in this fishing village. We visited Trinidad yesterday because everyone says it is a beautiful, colonial town. We had the idea to stay there through dinner and do some dancing before getting a taxi back to la Boca. Hence I wore a skirt and sandals that I could dance in. Error!! I forgot about the cobblestone streets, in addition to the familiar sidewalks that are punctuated with holes, rocks and uneven surfaces. So walking around town was even more of a challenge than in Havana.

The center of Trinidad certainly does have its charm, with a central plaza, old church and well-maintained colonial buildings. However, you couldn't go into the church, and no one hung out in the plaza because it was in full sun. We visited the archaeological museum with its shards, bones, pottery, and skeletons from various eras.

It was becoming clear that I wasn't going to last through an evening of dancing. We found a shady spot for a couple of expensive, by Cuban standards, lemonades, and Stephen had a chicken sandwich. There were shops and galleries to peruse, but we didn't feel like shopping. My mantra in recent years has been No expectations, No disappointment. Nevertheless, I think we had somewhat high expectations of Trinidad, based on what we read and heard. Hence we were somewhat disappointed. To be honest, we are finding Cuba somewhat difficult to manage, in spite of the aforementioned lovely people. So we seem to be tired a lot, even though I have now recovered from a two-day bout of traveler malady. It is certainly possible that we are getting just a little too old for traveling this close to the ground as we have always done.

A little sad note:
Here at the Hostal Cuba, the hosts have a tradition of flying the flags of the countries of their guests. Today we noticed Austrian and German flags were hung from poles on our terrace in honor of the couple staying downstairs. They are Austrian, but he was born in Germany. As I suspected, no American flag. Although many Americans visit Cuba, in support of the Cuban people, it is probably illegal to fly an American flag here for reasons that we sadly know and wish were not true.

We also went into Trinidad to buy Internet cards from ETECSA, the agency that is in charge of the telephone and Internet systems in Cuba. You get an hour of Internet for 25 Cuban pesos. they are easy enough to use. Once you get on Wi-Fi, either public or private, you just enter the username and password from the card onto the login page that appears. We thought the password, Raspe con cuidado, somewhat strange, but we put it in anyway. It did not work. After three times, we returned to the office to be told that we needed to scrape off our passpassword to find the real one underneath. Raspe means scrape. so then it worked, but we had a little trouble turning the Internet off. This experience goes a long way in explaining our day in Trinidad.

Throughout our stay in Cuba, people have been approaching us offering hings like carriage tours, cigars, national money and big american car rides. Today we accepted an offer to take a horseback ride to the National Park and take a swim at a waterfall. We paid $10 in pesos as a deposit and were told we would be picked up at out hostal on Friday at 9:30 am. Stay tuned in to see the results.

To get back to la Boca we returned to the street where we had been dropped off and hung around. Eventually, someone came up and asked us if we wanted a taxi. We said yes and he went up the street and started talking to a guy in a old chevy and then waved at us to join him. For the standard $10, this time in pesos, the chevy would take us to our Hostal. Our driver did not look old enough to drive but he did well enough avoiding the potholes and rough surfaces.

Ojo del Toro

Since we didn't know our dinner plans we had not reserved dinner at our Casa so we had to find a place for our evening meal. From our previous walk along the shore road in town, we knew that there were restaurants there. Ojo de Toro (eye of the bull, bull's eye, eye of the bull shark, we don'tknow) was our first possibility and became our first choice. We went no further. When we had walked in the day before, it had been in the afternoon. There were a couple of guys there. one was pretty drunk and although he tried, could not maintain a conversation. He could not seem to remember what language he was trying to speak. Dawn was sure his friends were embarrassed.

Coming back this evening was a totally different experience. The terrace, beautifully lit with hanging lights, and the railing at the edge of the water had red and green navigation lights. It could be anywhere in the world, the Mediterranean, some lake in Italy or maybe the Florida keyes. It was elegant and rustic at the same time. Dawn had a house mojito and I had a caipirinha, both delicious. We had rwo kinds of fish, grilled and stuffed with ham and cheese and breaded. Again, delicious. At the end I had a seven year old rum that was good but not enough to require having another. At some point, the Austrian couple from our Hostal came in and sat at the railing and had a drink and watched the sea roll in and out.

Later, we had a chat about Cuba and our home countries and she finally said what I think we all believed, "At home, we have too much."

OjoDe Toro
The House Mojito
OjoDe Toro
Too cloudy for a green flash

Google Review for Ojo del Toro

if you are staying in Trinidad or at Playa Ancón, I highly recommend coming here for a sunset drink and then dinner. We were staying in la Boca so we ate here a number of times, always good food always interesting. It has the look of a film set where you would place your favorite actors to shoot the happy, romantic ending to your film. The lighting is perfect. After twenty-five years of travel, we can't remember a place that made us feel happier just walking in

A Day Off

Thursday, March 2,
Old Glory is flying! Our host's son said that they asked (presumably asked some government authority) and were told it was okay to fly the American flag! After all, as American citizens, our "license" to be here is in support of the Cuban people

American and Cuban flags
American and Cuban Flags flying side by side

The next day the Cuban flag flew from our deck, next to the American flag! It does my heart good to see this. The lovely, 27-year-old son of our hosts said they fly their own flag when one of the two rental rooms is not occupied. The Austrians have left, so now we have our two banderas, side by side. It seems symbolic of the people-to-people friendship that we try to cultivate here.

We are discovering that traveling is physically harder than it used to be. Today was supposed to be a beach day, but even getting a taxi seemed too much on a slightly cloudy day so we took the day off and took a little walk. We weren't too tired to put in another appearance at the Eye of the Bull for dinner and what turned out to be a show. Soon after we got there a young women entered with a large black nylon bag which we both guessed contained a musical instrument. OjoDe Toro
The assembly
Ah, the band is arriving. we thought. She unzipped it and pulled out a long paddle and then a bicycle pump looking thing and finally a rolled up piece of heavy material and when she got the chef to start pumping it we realized it was a inflatable standup paddle board. Our server helped it all make some sense when she whispered to us that she was the boss. Hwn the inflating had progressed to near completion, the owner crossed her arms and reached down and whipped her dress off off in one quick motion. The fin was quickly attached and the whole crew processed through the terrace, down over the rocks, got her and the board into the water and she paddled off from her knees. OjoDe Toro
The launch

At first, we thought that she might go out to the nearby fishing boats to negotiate tonight's dinner, but she paddled off toward the other side of the river mouth until we could no longer see her as night fell.

We do not know where she went, but about a half an hour later she was back, dragging her board through the restaurant. With the help of the server I managed to keep the tail end of her board from knocking over our food and drinks. Afer leaving the board at one end of the terrace, she went inside and put on her dress and came out and sat with some people, presumably her friends who were having dinner there.

On Horseback

Friday, March 3,
Okay, We have given Yuniel our deposit and it is a little past 9:30 and he pulls up in a taxi with driver. We pile in and begin our trip to the horses. It takes some time because as I am sure we have said, the roads are not good and the suspensions of the cars, which have already been beaten down, need to be coddled. On the other side of town, we meet our two quiet horses and Noel, our horseman. Without too much ado we begin our trip by walking our horses down a long hill to a flat area where we can mount. I have claimed a little experience and then get the smaller horse. Dawn gets the stirrups of her horse, Negrito, adjusted and then is gotten up on him. Instructions are to hold the reins thumbs up, move your hands left or right to go in that direction and back to stop. Then I am gotten up and we are off through farmland on the way to the National Park. Noel controls the horses from his position in the back. His encouraging call of Caballo keeps them moving and they seem to know the way, needing only the slightest directions when we meet other traffic. I can remember a little bit about being on on horse. Heels down for one, which I find diffcult. Some gaits need posting to prevent being a little battered in the seat. Other gaits can be ridden just by relaxing into the horse.

It took only about five minutes on Negrito for my adductors to start hurting! My horse liked to be out front so he was big on trotting, which of course, is a bit hard on the rider's butt. Although the saddles were Western style, I tried to do some posting to preserve my body a bit. Whenever Stephen's horse came alongside us, Negrito would forge ahead. I whispered to him in Spanish, like mas despacio, amigo, caminamos, bueno caballo. I love animals and have always been a bit hesitant about using them to carry humans, do work, etc. Stephen often reminds me that horses who are ridden probably have better lives than their wild counterparts since they are fed and cared for.

We stop at a finca, an eco-farm growing some sugar cane, guava and other fruits and vegetables. We were offered some sugar cane juice which was crushed before our eyes and then mixed with lemon to cut the sweetness. They also serve alcohol but it was way too early for us. Lunch was offered for when we were on the way back. We were not sure. We are trying to eat two meals a day because they are huge everywhere.
Dawn behind a refreshment
We continue on our way passing small farm houses and their occupants. Soon we reach a coffee place in the woods where we see a bunch of tourists like ourselves trying out the coffee. There is no room for us so we remount and continue. I enjoy being on a horse. They find their way, giving me the chance to watch the dry countryside roll by. Finally, we reach our first destination, a large area for horses at the park entrance and a guy collecting the park fee, $5/person. Noel begins to guide us up the path to the swimming home, a little quickly for us and in an attempt to slow his pace down a little I tell him our ages. He is a little surprised and decides to let us go by ourselves and he will just wait for us back with the horses. I did not get the logic of this, but it seemed fine and we continued our way arriving in about fifteen minutes.

Grotto with Dawn
Grotto with Dawn

It had a lot of people there, some sitting around, some in the water. I would say all young. Dawn was already in something to swim in and I used a towel to discreetly change into my bathing suit. The water was great! Deep where you get in and then shallower where the gravel lands from the waterfall which was now dry in the month of March. It would flow during the rainier months. We swam and then hung out and the crowd emptied out until we had only a group of boistrous young men and the guy who sold drinks at the side of the pool. He pulled a stunt that I am going to let Dawn tell you about because I mostly covered my eyes.

The swimming hole was cool and deep and refreshing. Everyone there was at least a third our age, speaking Spanish, Italian, French, English. As we were preparing to leave, a skinny, barefoot, young man literally ran up the side of a rocky vertical cliff to about thirty or forty feet above the natural pool. He stood with his back to the pool, and then did a full flip in the air, plunged into the water, and I am happy to say, emerged alive! Phew! I was stunned and gave him a big Bravo!

Grotto with Stones
Grotto with Stones

On the way home, the horses seemed a little more enthusiastic, probably because they were headed home. We gave them a rest as we stopped for lunch at the finca. Even after sending a side dish back we could eat only half the food. It was so much. A quantity meant for a farm worker, I guess.

We got to ride up the hill that we had walked the horses down so we were soon at the end of the ride. We had our picture taken, Dawn looking nice and tall on Negrito. Yuniel was waiting for us with a taxi and we settled up and soon were on our way home.
Dawn and Stephen
Dawn Looking Tall in the Saddle

After we reached home, we were still full from our lunch and decided to just have a drink at Ojo del Toro. During our time there we had a blackout. Candles appeared, first in the kitchen and then at some tables. No electricity needed for Mojitos so the blackout did not interfere with our plans. We gort hjome easily and the building next door turned on its gerator and lit our neighborhood. A coiuple of hours later the power came on to a cheer that I could not recognize whether it was sarcastic or not.

Writing, and Then to the Beach

Saturday, March 4,
In the morning we worked on the travelogue, both pictures and writing. Around noon our hosts got us a taxi for the beach. It took 10-15 minutes because he came from Trinidad, but the trip was a lot easier than our first one. We arranged to be picked up at 5 PM.

Dawn sips
The lounge area where we hung out again ordering two coconut waters.

Dawn sips
Dawn enjoys her coconut water au natural

jsb sips
Stephen also.
After we were done, he took our coconuts, separated the meat and returned them to us. It was soft and delicious. Later we had lunch, taking swims as needed in the heat.Around five, we went back to look for the taxi. I had taken a picture so that I could recognize it. Sure enough, he was there and it was another easy trip back. Dawn usually sits in the front so she can practice her Spanish.

Two More Photos

We loved sitting on our deck and watching the night sky that ws dominated by the full moon. One could always look down and find job ends behind walls.

A beautiful full moon over the town

Stuff rarely gets taken away

Last Day in la Boca

Sunday, March 5
We lazed around again. We were tired. We still didn't know what this meant. But we would find out.

We wandered around other parts of la Boca, saw the water main break which might be semi-permanent because there is a story about motorcycle loaded with family and beach accoutrements. He did not know the local conditions and plowed right in. Everybody and everything went over the front. No one was hurt, but they all got everything on the cycle, and then turned around and went home.

We returned to Ojo del Toro for our last dinner. A pleasant evening and meal. The manager asked us to do a google review which we have done. Later we packed, paid our food and water bill and went to bed.

Hostal Cuba Airbnb Review

Hostal Cuba is a wonderful place to stay. The multigenerational family are all kind and helpful. Señora and her son speak good English and slow enough Spanish to help me understand. The lovely abuela does not speak English, but articulates Spanish with patience, for my benefit.

The upstairs room, including two decks, is as lovely as pictured. It is clean and has copious storage space and towels. We had breakfast there every day, with much fresh fruit, eggs, etc. Dinner is also excellent and beautifully served on the deck with tablecloth and cloth napkins. Odali's son serves meals with great care and professional pride. She also did some laundry for us, a nice treat for me. Everything is well done and very fairly priced. La Boca is a small fishing village with similar contrasts as we found in Havana. We also recommend la Ojo del Toro for drinks and dinner and a $10 cab ride to the beautiful Playa Ancón.
We are headed back to Havana and then leaving Cuba and going on to Mexico.

Leaving Cuba

Trip Back in a Shared Taxi from la Boca to Havana

Breakfast was set for 7 AM. We were up a little earlier to finish packing. Coffee and breakfast came together because the taxi could come anytime after 8 AM. It came pretty close to ontime with the chief of taxis guiding the driver in and out of la Boca and then back to Trinidad to pick up the other couple. A handsome pair, but not a romantic couple. Rather co-travelers and friends for a long time. He was half Vietnamese and half Czech. He lives in the New York area. She was a trauma nurse on Oahu, Hawaii. She originally came from Chicago. He was a cartoonist, now free-lance. He was the real deal as far as travelers went. He spoke a lot of languages and just got out there and did what needed to be done. She was quieter and a foodie, so she was disappointed in that respect. We had liked the food for its simplicity. For instance, fish with lemon and garlic.

They were good company, but the trip dragged. Dawn especially was exhausted.

It took the two of us with our different map apps to find the place, but we did and we were dropped a little early. Dailen's mother was there waiting for us, and because we were early, we sat on their rooftop terrace as the room was being prepared.

We went out to a tapas bar that evening to have a snack and met one of the oddest characters that we came across on the trip.
kilometro zero
Kilometro Zero, Tapas Bar
He was from Finland. He was a banker. He was on a strict diet because he was in training. He was training to become a boxer and he was here because Cuba had the best boxers in the world. He was going to participate in a Charity Boxing Event, in Madison Square Garden in New York City, the most renowned venue in the history of boxing. Talk about Type-A. I have been looking online for this event and have not found it, but I have found that MSG has smaller rooms for boxing than then arena. Maybe he is trying to survive in a world where banks hire professional boxers. Who knows? He excused himself early, to train or sleep, we can't remember.

Last Two Days in Cuba - Airbnb Review

Dailen and Santiago were perfect hosts. Because of an airline scheduling issue we could only stay with them one night. It was a very good last day in the country. We spent a couple of hours in the early afternoon reading and relaxing on their rooftop deck before taking the taxi that Santiago had arranged to the airport. The breakfast was excellent and copious, with the addition of a few small crepes to the fruit, eggs, bread, cheese and meat of a typical Cuban breakfast.

pink car pink car
Santiago suggested we sit in his car for a few photos. It was fun. It is almost road ready.

Their beautiful roof top terrace at night with small pool.


In many countries, tap water is not potable. In Mexico, they have those large water coolers with big glass or reusable plastic containers that can be picked up, refilled and delivered to homes or businesses. The agua seller has a particular call to let people know when his truck with water jugs is in the neighborhood. Here in Cuba, we have never seen this method. All potable water comes in plastic bottle, some maybe 2 liters, others smaller. In addition to the general trash problem, the plastic waste is a huge issue. For example, here in la Boca, there's a large shore side trash container overflowing with plastic containers across the street from a neat little home overflowing with Bougainvillea. We may have seen a garbage truck here yesterday morning, but I don't think its' a public service. Interestingly, in Havana, the only time we saw any sign of recycling was in the old town of Havana where they actually had bins labeled for glass, metal, and paper. I wonder if there really is such a program or if those containers are put in that particular place to make the tourists feel better.

Beer bottles and cans in the water.

Much prettier without them.

Clothes drying, someone lives here.

It is collected here, but not removed.

Getting to the Airport

Tuesday, March 7
After breakfast we packed and got out of our room so it could be cleaned for the next people. We went up to the roof and worked on this travelogue and read. I started a book by Kate Atkinson which I was not able to finish there, but later I did manage to get a digital copy from the Boston Public Library through Libby. Mid-afternoon our taxi for the airport arrived and we said goodbye and headed out. In Cuba I think radiators leak in cars. They are very hard to repair, and this car at some point just rolled to a stop because of over-heating. We were pretty close to the airport but I was not looking forward to walking the rest of the way in the heat. After a few minutes, it started up and we proceeded without incident. After he left, we spent some time worrying that he had not dropped us at the right terminal, but it was correct. Even with the stop we were early. Now where we expected long lines, there were none and the staff were friendly and competent. So we had quite a wait at the gate.

I should have spent a little more time researching what kind of money was accepted at the airport. I thought it was Cuban pesos only but it turned out to be the opposite. We were now stuck with about twenty dollars worth of pesos which eventually I gave to the woman who keeps the men's room clean. The flight went smoothly and as the sun went down we saw the lights of Mérida appear on the horizon, our second country and next stop on the trip.

Our lives were about to take a twist.
Planning    Havana    Trinidad-La Boca     Leaving Cuba
Next: Yucatan
Home Page of All Travelogues