Old Cars & Rum Sodas

Very easily, I could write this post about all the things everyone tells you about Cuba. The people are really nice. The beaches are beautiful. The food isn’t very good. We experienced all this on our recent girls’ vacation. We also experienced much more.

Like many visitors to Cuba, we wanted to “see it before the Americans got there”. While in reality, Americans have been finding their way to the island for some years now, we got our wish and managed to meet only Canadians and Europeans.

Many of whom, were visiting the island (and resort) for the third, fourth, twelfth time or even more! I couldn’t imagine going to same place year after year. “What do you do?” I wondered. I enjoyed the ocean and relaxing with a book, but by day four I was tiring of applying sunscreen every two hours. (A”first world problem” for sure.)

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Along with the owner and driver (a good-looking, young guy who attracts ladies like us), four of us crammed into this grand, old car.

The travel book says to “open your mind and heart to allow Cuba to show you all its charm and surprises”, or something like that. By this point, we were getting used to those surprises and indeed, we were even finding them a little charming. We rode in countless cars (old and older) which felt more like riding in a tin can, and we didn’t bat an eye anymore when the “taxi” our hotel called wasn’t a taxi at all.

 

The Real Cuba

Our spoiled Canadian taste buds couldn’t stomach the canned vegetables or fish, so we resorted to eating like locals: rice and beans, chicken and cabbage. Except we weren’t eating like locals. Cubans can still only dream of having access to all the food they could want for every meal of every day. A family of three might only get 120g of chicken in a month. This, according to a guest who was visiting her in-laws.

 

It was this encounter where we started to realize and really experience what the repeat visitors had been telling us. First, we were seated without a reservation at our resort’s Cuban-themed restaurant. Following dinner (which included the chef literally running out to get my friend a chicken), the restaurant broke into an impromptu dance party when a man from Quebec set his Bluetooth speaker on the bar and started blasting spanish music.

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Be prepared to dance when you go to the Tropicana!

There we were, four thirty-something Ontario women dancing and laughing and downing rum and soda like it was our job. We didn’t have a care in the world. The least that we were the youngest people at the resort. At that moment, the eight middle-aged women who referred to themselves as the “Breezes’ Bunnies”, three Cuban servers and the Quebec couple were the best company in the world.

 

So, maybe that’s it. To truly let go of our cares, we have to go to a place where there are literally no distractions (wifi is basically non-existant). Just music and dancing. It must seem twisted to Cubans we have more “stuff” than they can imagine and we need to escape it to really enjoy living. Like many countries I’ve visited though, they are far richer in happiness. And in some respects, this is what puts food on their table.

Exploring Old Havana

Unfortunately, my camera was stolen by someone on our plane (right?!) so I was left with my iPhone to capture the colours and stunning architecture of Old Havana. Here’s a few shots. To see more of my favourites, check out Instagram.

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3 thoughts on “Old Cars & Rum Sodas

  1. Hi Jen,

    New reader here! I just found your blog, as I was searching for fellow farm girls who love to travel. Glad I found yours!!
    Question: did you go to Cuba with friends from your hometown? I want to go there, too, before it gets too touristy. I would love to know more!
    Thanks,
    Ash Breanna
    herheirloom.blogspot.com

    1. Hi Ashley! I’m also glad you found my blog and thank you for your comment!

      To answer your question, I went with a pretty random group of girls to be honest. My best friend from my hometown, one of her friends from college and one of her friends from her hometown! We had a good trip and we went for the same reason! I will say Varadero is quite touristy no matter which way you cut it. It’s only resorts and markets set up to sell souvenirs to tourists. If you can set up a trip that takes you out of Varadero, you’ll likely have a more unique experience. That comes with it’s own set of challenges though also. I have noticed there are some groups doing ag tours in Cuba. The “real” ag area I’ve been told is in the south, so if you want to mix some ag with sun & vacation, then it might be worth checking out resort areas in the Southeast (Santiago de Cuba way). That being said Havana was beautiful and is totally worth a stay.

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