Turns out Camila Cabello was telling the truth when she crooned ‘Half of my heart is in Havana’…
I have always been an avid traveller since childhood. In fact, living out of suitcases and just travelling is my definition of an indulgence, and of course, always a source of inspiration for my work.
The Caribbean Islands have always been on my wishlist for a long time and Cuba with its colourful history, vintage culture and icons such as Fidel Castro and Che Guevara who continue to influence contemporary generations, fascinated me a lot. So, this summer during my annual holiday to Canada, I decided to get on a flight to Havana on my birthday eve!
The next morning I found myself in an old fashioned airport that seemed as if it belonged to a different era. I was welcomed by whiffs of sultry, balmy air and a beautifully quaint city.
In a time capsule…
I had booked myself at the lively Iberostar Parque Central – a Spanish colonial-style hotel that had a live band in the lobby. The hotel is very conveniently located right in the entertainment district of Old Havana and the central square, which is the hub of all activities.
There were magnificent government buildings from the 17th century, quaint colourful houses and graffiti walls dotting the streets. I think these contrasts summed up Cuba for me. Lively people, chilled mojitos and reggae music along with rich Hispanic and Caribbean culture made me feel glad about my rather impulsive travel destination.
Fun thy name is Havana
Colours are out in full force in Havana. And, we explored the old forts, old colourful houses, coastal area as well as the buzzing in a pink vintage Cadillac. We ourselves became almost 10 shades darker while thoroughly enjoying the glorious sun after a gloomy Toronto weather!
Evenings in Havana were reserved for music and dance. We checked out numerous music bands and tried out some salsa moves while visiting various night hangouts such as Centro Cultural El Sauce, La Gruta and La Cecilia for the typical Cuban experience. It was just amazing with infectious energy.
No work, all play can make us very hungry! And, Havana did not disappoint. The city is a gastronomic paradise even for a vegetarian like me as I gorged on the fabulous Caribbean and Mexican cuisine.
I tried out pineapple rice, plantain chips, black bean curry, burritos (Duh!), mango salsa and so much more. The natural produce is incredibly fresh and locally produced. So, it is very delicious. Then, we washed it all down with refreshing Piña coladas and sugary Mojitos perfect for the tropical weather.
Despite being an island, the nearest beach to Old Havana, the Beach Santa Maria del Mar, is at least 30 minutes away. Being a communist country, all beaches in Cuba are public. Staring into the Caribbean waters, with lots of people and music is a great way to spend a day doing nothing.
Cuba me liberó!
Cuba has a rich history and some remarkable tangible structures of art and architecture. You can see the confluence of art, music and culture everywhere. I bought some exquisite handcrafted silver jewellery, lovely sketches, the very quintessential Cuban cigars and rum to carry home along with a Cuban festival mask for my office. Havana is the perfect getaway for those who are looking to experience a happening tropical and exotic destination full of energy along with an old-world charm.
Like someone once said – Cuba is such a beautiful country, and everywhere you go, there are music and people dancing - especially in Havana.
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