For this month's travel linkup the theme is all around unexpected journeys and things that you didn't expect to see/experience. As Cuba is a bit of an unusual one and one of my favourite places I've ever been to, I thought I'd focus on this beauty and tell you a little more about it! After longing to go to Havana for over ten years (since I was around 11 years old), I finally went and was so worried it wouldn't live up to my expectations. Like I had full on nervous butterflies just from worrying about that. But in actual fact it very quickly surpassed them and I had the best time ever! So, what things surprised me the most?
I'm a control freak visiting Cuba was so important to me, I did every single bit of planning the trip by myself. I managed to persuade my friends Ciara and Jasiminne to come with me, and although I asked them to tell me specific things they wanted to do/see so I could slot them in to the itinerary, both of them were pretty great to travel with and allowed me to just take charge. So, after all that planning and months of research, the things that surprised me the most...
1. The food is really pretty great
Before we went everywhere I read online said the food was awful, but if you know exactly where to go then the food is freaking awesome! On our first night we went to a government run restaurant, where it cost us just 5CUC (around $5) for a huge plate of meat, rice, and veggies. But it was so gross. However every meal after that was insanely good, as we made sure we ate at the Paladars, which are basically restaurants in people's homes and front rooms that are super popular in Havana. Our favourite Paladar was Paladar Los Mercaderes, which serves the most amazing pineapple lobster and mojitos! Also, Havana has their own fast food chain - El Rapido.
2. Everyone is super friendly
Not that I didn't think they would be before we arrived, but my Dad freaked me out by telling me it was dangerous for three young women to go gallivanting around Cuba alone (although he says that about every country I go to...). The thing that surprised me was just how friendly everyone was. Not once did I ever feel unsafe, and once you get past the weirdness of being whistled at in the street constantly (this is just how Cubans show their appreciation for women - it's totally normal and you see it and experience it everywhere you go), it's easy to walk around with no cares in the world!
We experienced a lot of kindness from Cubans, especially from the family we stayed with for the first 3 nights, and the waiter from a restaurant who took us out to the coolest nightclub in Havana on our last night with his friends, and then a couple of them drove Jasiminne back to our hotel when she felt ill. Also Ciara is a salsa dancer, so when we heard music coming from a bar on the street and saw lots of people dancing, she got itchy dancing feet and this guy kindly danced with her, haha!
3. Everything is really cheap
Like, really cheap. I'm talking you can take taxis everywhere and eat and drink everything you want and only spend £300 on that in an entire week. I mean ice-cream (or, helado), from a street seller only cost 5p. FIVE PENCE. And it tasted amazing!
4. Some lucky people are allowed smart phones and internet and fancy cars
When we stayed at our 5* hotel in the Miramar district, we saw a lot of government cars that were BMW's and Mercedes'. This really surprised us because obviously we only expected to see the old American cars. And when Alejandro (the waiter) took us to the nightclub, Fabrica de Arte Cubano, we witnessed Cuba's elite (a night out at the club is the price of a normal Cubans monthly salary). Teenagers and young adults taking photos on their smart phones and connecting to the internet to go on social media. Most people in Cuba aren't even allowed social media and internet access.
5. The feeling of something being 'not quite right' is strong
Everywhere you go you just experience weird little things that remind you you're in a country filled with oppression and communism. When we took a ride in an old car the drivers were happy to talk and answer any questions we had...apart from political ones. When we asked something about the politics in Cuba they literally pretended they hadn't heard us and refused to answer.
Then we wanted a bottle of water one afternoon so casually strolled into a supermarket...except it was a rationed supermarket and we were hastily thrown out. Another time we tried to go into an internet cafe to see what it was, and again, were asked to leave. And the most memorable experience was at the hotel when we made a phone call to our friendly waiter Alejandro, and the woman on the desk tapped into our call to listen in to it. Weird.
We really loved Cuba, Havana especially, and I would love more than anything to go back before it changes. Despite the problems in the country, it really is a special place.
How to link up your 'unexpected journeys' post
Just pop your post up over the first week of the month (the 1st - 7th June 2016), and add it to the linkup widget found on the co-host Carolann's blog! Simple :)
If you're planning on heading to Cuba, check out my Cuba Travel Guide!
PIN FOR LATER:
Find me: Twitter | Youtube | Bloglovin | Instagram