Arriving at the Havana airport was thrilling. I was about to spend two weeks in a country that few Americans have stepped foot on. The first order of business was finding a taxi into the city ($20). I had decided to stick with a Casa Particular – a rented room in a family home. My guidebook recommended Casa de Eugenio Barral Garcia. Walking into Eugenio’s home was like walking into a museum of nick-knacks. I was astonished by the colorful figurines, ornate chandeliers and gaudy fixtures that surrounded me – and also a bit afraid to take a step with my big heavy backpack.
I was told a room would be $30 a night, with breakfast – a bit more than I was willing to pay, regardless of my surroundings. I talked Eugenio and his partner Fabio down to $25, without breakfast.
View from the balcony:
After checking out the rooftop terrace, I decided to wander a bit to take in the city. Havaanna is very lively and charming – but intimidating at the same time. (But I’ll get to that later.) First impressions of Havaanna – everyone is dressed to impress. The first thing you read in a guidebook or hear about Cuba is how the people have nothing. I was surprised to see the majority of people, especially the youth, dressed in the lastest fashions. Clothing is bright and colorful – and tight! Think of getting dressed to go to a disco in a big city in Europe, but during the middle of the day. There are old American cars everywhere, mostly from the 40’s and 50’s and most are in pristine condition. I could probably make an entire coffee table book just of photos of cars that I’m going to take while I’m hear. They are bea-u-ti-ful!
I did get some insight on how desperate the people here are to make a quick buck off of tourists. Women stopped me on the street asking if I had any extra clothing and many men, called Jinteros here, tried to schmooze me in hopes that they could become my paid….companion.