Just the Bottle

One woman's adventure in beer, food, wine and spirits

Why Cuba?

Cuba has always been a destination I never thought I would reach. Being born and raised second generation Miami (one grandmother was also born and raised in Miami), I know of its importance. The island was a holiday for many until the revolution. The revolution changed everything. I had teachers who were Mariletios and knew of those who were considered balseros. The impact it had on our culture and political dynamics was immeasurable. But what of those that stayed and why. What did it mean to visit Cuba? Was I betraying any of those that fled persecution? Was I visiting somewhere one of my grandmothers visited and appreciating the island for what it had to offer?

There were unclear rules for many years that actually allowed Americans to visit Cuba (besides those that chose to go through Mexico or another avenue). After President Obama modified existing regulations, it made it more clear as to how travelers could travel to the island and why. I talked a big game and pondered for quite some time, before my current fella encouraged me to finally make my decision. We visited Havana in March 2017.

I feel like many have critiques over whether or not to visit Cuba have no correlation with human rights violations or anything that matters. It's like with wine or music something has become too main stream or played out. To those people I say -

As you can see from my photos and some of my text above, I was grateful to visit Cuba. It was an amazing opportunity that until travel restrictions that have been promised return us to days past go into place, it is a very affordable and life changing experience. My basic tips for Cuba would be simply the following:

  • Practice some Spanish to be able to more appropriately speak to people in their own language. My Spanish was not up to par, but was good enough. It was though tiring at times to be a translator.
  • Toilet paper is a premium. It's about 1 CUC per 2-3 squares at most public places, which includes bars and restaurants.
  • Don't flush toilet paper. There will be a tiny trash can next to the toilet for you to use.
  • Change currency possibly to Euro or something else before arriving as there is  penalty. You will not be able to use credit card.
  • Internet is a luxury. We went to an Internet shack to buy cards that also sold calling cards. Also, don't get angry when people skip the line as it is bound to happen. 
  • Most cocktails cost 2-3 CUC and food is quite affordable.
  • For some unknown reason some places put Agnostura bitters in your mojito at the end. This. is. awful. Perhaps ask for no bitters depending the venue.
  • When ordering a cocktail such as daiquri, you will prefer it natural (or not frozen). If you can, order it natural and not frappe (frozen). 
  • There is very little fear of crime as a visitor of the country. People will greet you and may want to discuss politics or sell you on restaurants or cigars. You can politely decline and move on. However, if you go to the restaurant they recommend they will probably get a cut and you will probably enjoy yourself. Something to think about.
  • Under current regulations (which may change after recent speeches), you can buy a visa at the border from your airline.
  • Times have changed, and many paladars are not what they once were. But we found some that were quite enjoyable.
  • As I have said in the past, sometimes you must avoid finding what is to be the best recommended place and simply stumble into one place and enjoy yourself. One of our favorite spots, was simply a local spot that had cheap beer and would pull up metal shutters and serve coffee in the morning. 
  • Many people have traveled to Cuba and there are so many recommendations out there. Do some research, but don't go too crazy and overwhelm yourself (again).
  • If you can, stay local such as Airbnb. We loved our Airbnb, which was quite affordable and she recommended us to a local taxi driver who was quite responsive.
  • Visit outside Havana. We stayed in Havana near Malecon and visited Habana Vieja regularly. I wish we had seen more of the country side.

I truly loved my experience there and glad I finally did it when I could. What are some other Cuban  recommendations?

Lessons Learned After an International Vacation

I recently traveled to Athens, Greece; Rome, Italy; and Paris, France.  The whole adventure began as I decided to join the #winelover community for their anniversary trip.  I'll be posting about the #winelover community and trip as well as other fun.  This post is about lessons learned a few days after my trip.

Stay Present
I frequently have trouble staying in the moment and this proves even more challenging when traveling.  I am not sure if it's a mantra or what that will help, but staying present is important.  It's important to enjoy that moment especially as one stands in the midst of ancient ruins.

Accepting That You are a Tourist
I hate admitting this to myself.  This means getting lost, looking silly, pulling out a map or more.  I have gotten better with this one, but still struggle.  Who wants to admit they have no idea what they are doing?  But that's where sometimes the most fun and unusual situations can happen.

Landmarks and Museums Need Tickets/Cost Money
I always forget that each country is different and many times European countries charge for their museums and landmarks.  I went to the Colosseum where the line was at least 100 deep.  If I had bought a ticket in advance online, it would have made things much easier.  It's not that everything has to be planned out, but think out some of the day's adventures that may require tickets.

Take More Photos
I think I hesitate to take photos because I will look like a tourist or I will have too many photos.  It's better to have photos to go through and delete than not enough.

Don't Bucket List Travel
My friend mentioned that perhaps Americans travel with a bucket list or check list.  I think that unfortunately that may be true.  Instead of just enjoying the journey we focus on checking off things to see or cities to visit.  It's ok to go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower.  It's ok to not go to Paris if one doesn't want to go.  

What are some of your lessons learned?  Leave your answers in the comments.