Havana, Day 1: Angel the “tour guide”, friend or foe?

We wake up bright and early and get ready for the day. Our homestay offered breakfast for 5 CUC so we took advantage of that. The breakfast is essentially the same everywhere. There’s an abundance of papaya, watermelon, pineapple, and what looks to be dragon fruit. Then there’s coffee (of course), eggs, ham, cheese, and toast. That’s it.

The tap water is not good to drink, but luckily there was bottled water everywhere for sale, ranging from 1 to 2 CUC. Oh yes…and the real Cuban peso there is CUP. However, they exchange CUC to tourists so they distinctly know who is local and who is touring. Extremely sneaky as certain fares (cab, bus rides) are charged at a higher rate for tourists. If you catch this, you can definitely haggle the price down. Capitalization at its finest. Sergio has currency he exchanges for us and we are on our way.

We are set to meet Angel at 9am, so naturally, we are 45 minutes late. We walk the few blocks and wonder if he will still be there waiting. A faithful tour guide he is, for he is in the same spot we left him. Either that or he works that corner.

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Let me point out Angel does not know English, has a very thick accent, and speaks extremely fast. We soon realize this is how the majority of the Cubans speak here. All of us speak Spanish, but mine is the most broken and “slang” of the bunch. I use a lot of terms that don’t really exist in the Spanish language. You would think Spanish is just Spanish, right? Wrong, Spanish is different depending on what part of North/ South/ Central America you are from. I was born in the U.S. but my mother was born in Mexico. My father was born in the U.S., and I recently discovered my paternal grandparents were born in Portugal. Carolina, who is half Japanese and half Peruvian, is fluent (she’s a bilingual teacher). Diana is half white and half Peruvian, and she is fluent as well. Caitlin is half white and half Colombian…and also fluent. Her Spanish is better than mine but because she looks Caucasian and has green eyes, everyone automatically speaks to her in English.

We begin our on foot tour and walk to the Museo de la Revolucion. Angel begins to point out and explain the history of certain buildings and statues.

We take a bus to the top of El Morro. The views are absolutely breathtaking and it is extremely peaceful and serene. We spend some time here, and then walk to El Christo.

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We then wait for a boat to take us to Old Havana. While we wait, I notice Angel is extremely smitten with Caitlin.

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Well okay then. Caitlin found herself a Cubae. Haha…see what I did there? Not funny? Okay, cool. We board the boat aka ferry and make our way to Plaza Vieja within Old Havana. We do a photo shoot at several spots, and then stop and grab a beer at a beer factory.

 

We decide we’re starving so Angel takes us to a local spot with good food, drinks, and a band. La Familia. The food portions are much more generous at this place. We relax, grab a mojito and a Cuba Libre (their specialty drink), and order our food. As much as Angel is into Caitlin, she ain’t havin it so what better way to prove that than to challenge him to an arm wrestling match?

We finish our food and continue our walk to Parque Central. There are SO many stray dogs within Cuba. They are all extremely friendly and will follow you for blocks, hoping for food. We assume this is their only way of survival. We run into a strip of the classic Havana cars. All taxi cab drivers wanting 40 CUC for a ride around in their colorful cars. We choose a bright red one and hop on in.

It begins to rain so our ride is cut short. Angel recommends a place for us to get dinner (a buffet) and says he can take us out dancing. It’s a Monday so we don’t expect anything crazy, but we had planned out the nights we were willing to go out and this happened to be one of them. We agree to rest, shower, dress, and meet in two hours. Diana and I are staying in a separate room from Carolina and Caitlin. Two hours later, we make our way to the buffet, eat and meet Angel in the usual corner. At this point, we have agreed we trust Angel enough to allow him to set up the transportation and escort us to Viñales and Varadero. We will pay him in three separate payments, with each ride guaranteed. We take a 5 CUC cab ride to a club, and it’s 3 CUC per person to get in. There is only one other person here. Seriously.

Everyone jokes how that is going to be me in 20 years, haha very funny. I’m going to sum up this part of the night. It got busier. A LOT busier. There was a lot of drinking. There was a lot of laughing. There was a lot of dancing. There was a lot of sweating. It was a blast. Everything we could have possibly asked for in a night and more.

 

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We leave around 1:30am. Caitlin challenges me to a race and I willingly accept. Here we we are sprinting in the middle of the road, well Caitlin is in the road, I am on the sidewalk….and I fail to see the 3 steps of stairs in front of me. My foot never touches the floor and I fly and land flat faced on the ground. Carolina, who was jogging behind us, rushes to see if I’m okay. Caitlin realizes I’m on the floor, backtracks, and says, “Bro, are you okay? You look like a pancake.” No. No, I am not okay. Even through my drunk euphoria, I feel the pain in my knees and elbow and know I am going to feel like a train wreck tomorrow. I have a huge knot on my arm and I am convinced it’s a bone sticking out. I cannot stop laughing. We decide to jog the remaining two miles home. Diana doesn’t want to join so we leave her with Angel. We make it to our street and wait for Diana and Angel.

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Diana walks up and is pissed we left her. So is Angel. Apparently there were random guys trying to talk to her on the walk home. Her and I get into it and argue, and then Angel tries to get involved. Hell hath no fury like a drunk Latina. Carolina, all 5 foot 2, 110 lbs of her, gets in his face and she’s on her tippy toes. Alllll hell, this is bad. Between the “I’m a single mother supporting my daughter,” to the “Fuck you and your transportation,” it was safe to say Angel was no longer our tour guide. We make our way to our rooms and the yelling match between Diana and I continues. Isabella, the owner, comes down and asks us to keep it down. We immediately oblige and go to bed. It’s very late, we’re drunk and not thinking clearly. The best thing to do is sleep on it and revisit the situation tomorrow morning. I think about Angel, and feel bad about the outcome but I need not fret…for that was not the last time we saw him.

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