Bridget Gleeson Travel Writer

Cuba, at last

Havana is both exactly what I expected and the opposite of what I expected. That’s how it is when you’ve imagined something for so long.

The reality can be confusing.

Things look, more or less, like what you’ve always seen in photographs. But there’s a lot of stuff you’ve never seen, too, and a wider landscape they fit into, one that you hadn’t (couldn’t have?) pictured. The reality is not better or worse than the fantasy. It’s just different. This is always true.

And I’ve been wanting to travel to Cuba forever. Finally, I made it. I took a million photos and had a number of interesting experiences here – still processing all of it – but one day in Havana, as told through my Instagram feed, shows something true about the place. And can serve as a rough plan for anyone else who’s making the trip.

One day in Havana, in pictures:

Have a Cuban breakfast

I read someplace that if you’re staying with a Cuban family and they offer to make you breakfast, the answer should be SI. That was good advice.

It’s particularly easy to arrange if you’re staying at an Airbnb whose owner lives next door. Exhibit A:

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Call a cab

I did know there were classic cars in Havana. I didn’t expect every single car to be a classic.

This is what happens when you call a cab in Cuba. (Driver: smoking a cigar on the corner, waiting for us to come down.)

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Sip coffee on the terrace at the Hotel Nacional

Essential. The hotel’s wide, elegant rear lawn, facing the sea, is also ideal for drinks at sunset.

Café cubano: served with milk in the morning, served with sugar in the afternoon #HavanaCuba

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Hotel-hop

You don’t have to actually stay in one of Havana’s beautiful old hotels to enjoy their grand architecture and glorious lobby bars.

This is at the Hotel Raquel (est. 1908), an Art Nouveau gem in the Jewish quarter.

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Get out of town

For a little perspective, get out of Old Havana, preferably in a chauffeured 1957 Chevrolet convertible.

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Drink mojitos

Obviously. Ask for yours the way Al Capone used to like them: with lots of mint and two kinds of rum.

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Return to a room with a view

There are a lot of nice (and affordable) places to stay, especially in the neighborhood of Vedado, where the friendliest Cuban family hosted us.

I couldn’t resist trying to capture the view in watercolor.

My apartment in Havana has a spectacular view of an Art Deco landmark: Edificio López Serrano (1932) #artdeco

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Indulge in deep thoughts

Travel makes you think. Maybe you’ve heard.

 

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