Havana Day 2. We awakened from our stupors. Every drop of our available energy was exhausted the day before on traveling and exploring Old Havana (see my first blog post Welcome to Havana! Day 1). We slept hard, and now our batteries were recharged and ready for our first full day in Cuba. We decided to be prepared and made sure we had the Cuba app in maps.me downloaded. Oh did I mention our Airbnb had WiF?! HUGE score! If you haven't heard, accessing WiFi isn't the easiest thing in Cuba. You have to buy an internet card for about one to three dollars an hour, then find an open area (park?) where wifi is available. So when I heard that we would have continual access at our Airbnb for a small $5/day fee, I was elated. It wasn't the strongest connection and sure some apps like Instagram just wouldn't work, but nevertheless, it was just enough for us to communicate with loved ones and get a little YouTube fix.
I mentioned in my last post (Welcome to Havana - Day 1), that part of my research was looking at some of my favorite online influencer's Cuba posts. One was Monroe Steele of fashionsteele.com. Her Cuba travel blogs are awesome. (If you're not following her, like seriously, WYD with your life? LOL) One of her many recommendations was Cafe Archangel in Old Havana for breakfast. You can get a massive breakfast including amazing Cuban coffee, juice, toast, eggs, fruit, and ham, all for 4 CUC (1 Convertible Cuban Peso = $1) When my friend and I read that and saw the pictures, we made that our first stop. We got dressed, packed our bags for the day and headed out on today's adventure.
This time we got a red older classic Cuban car as our taxi ride to Havana. Our driver carefully looked as he drove up Havana's narrow streets filled with distressed buildings. It is indeed a small little cafe. If you aren't paying attention, you'll miss it, but we did find it. As we climbed out of the cab and asked how much, the driver borrowed my phone to use the google translator. 13 CUC. We paid him and headed in. Once inside, you're overwhelmed by the charming decor. Blue and white tiled tables that look like they were converted from old Singer sewing machines, a collection of Starbucks cups from different states and countries, plants, and tons of vintage items that made me smile. Thrifting and vintage = happiness. We took a seat and perused the menu, shocked by the reasonable prices. I went with the Arcangel breakfast, my daughter got the omelet, and my friend got the American breakfast. Everything came with juice and coffee and toast. We shared the fruit platter that came with my food. It was plenty. You will NOT leave unsatisfied. It was the perfect late morning breakfast/brunch meal. Afterwards, my friend and I shared a drink called a "Tropical Antidepressant". All I can verify is that it contained rum, was delicious, and did what the name suggested. Total bill: 19 CUC. I love Cuba!
We decided to use the bathroom before leaving. I followed a pathway to the back of the restaurant. A lovely older woman greets you and hands you a small piece of toilet tissue and a hand towel to dry your hands. She then informs you that it costs .25 Cuban cents. Uhh OK sure. I nervously dug in my bag and found some coins from the airport. This was our first (and only) encounter of paying for a bathroom, but hey, I did my research. I read about this, so I wasn't shocked. I would recommend packing individual wipes in your bag. You don't get a lot of tissue when they hand it out. Also, don't forget, no flushing.. Yeah, put your tissue in the wastebasket. Cuba's sewage system can't handle toilet tissue. It's a habit that I found extremely hard to break for four days. Honestly, paying for the bathroom was totally worth it, because believe it or not, it was even more charming in the back of the restaurant. Quaint and gorgeous!
After breakfast, we needed to find our way towards Hotel Nacional. It's very obvious that we are tourists, so everyone wants to offer us a taxi. Try and do research on how much the average rides cost. Ask the locals; your hosts, workers at hotels,etc. Being informed and negotiating your price in advance is wise. We bargained another classic car to the Hotel.. 8 CUC.
My friend had a meeting at the hotel. Hotel Nacional is beautiful. Everything that you would expect a fancy hotel to be. You can sit in the back, listen to music, and sip cocktails or coffee with a view of The Malecon. It actually started to pour, so my daughter and I made ourselves comfy. I continued on my Mojito mission and waited for my friend to have her meeting. We met a young woman from Los Angeles. It was nice to talk to someone from home, and very refreshing to see another woman of color traveling alone. Get out there and do it, ladies. Travel! Live in the present.
My friend's meeting was rescheduled, so that gave us an unexpected change in plans, and some free time. The rainstorm had actually ended and the weather was much more tolerable. We wandered around outside and found ourselves in front of a row of classic cars. After being approached a few times about taking a tour of Havana, we figured what the heck. You simply can't come to Cuba without doing this. We got a super cute candy pink Cadillac Convertable for an hour. We got a tour of all the interesting and historical spots in Havana while riding in a sickening, gorgeous car. We asked to have the tour guide to end our tour at The Malecon. It just so happens that it was Carnival in Cuba! Bonus excitement!
We sampled food, listened to music, and people watched until we couldn't stand anymore. We walked back in front of Hotel Nacional and caught a taxi back to our quiet apartment. Day 2 completed. So much culture absorbed with each and every one of our senses. Success!