"You can't get there from here." The dream of going to Cuba is made annoyingly difficult by the U.S. government. And we weren't getting any younger.
When our youngest daughter was studying a semester abroad, we decided to visit her and while there, we would fly to Havana. Seemed simple enough...well, it is when you have help.
After months of researching, much of it on Trip Advisor, I finally contacted "my man in Havana", Jorge at email@example.com
With his help, we were able to purchase air tickets and rental car, and he made reservations for Casa Particulars in Havana and Trinidad. This required trust on both our parts. In particular, we sent a considerable amount money for the airline tickets for my husband and I and our two daughters. I needn't have worried.
He delivered on all counts. The traveling tips that he gave us were invaluable. While Jorge was unable to be our guide, he set us up with two young men that we were wonderful. Ariel, our first guide, even went night clubbing with our daughters. Alejandro, our second guide went out of his way to make our visit interesting. He didn't falter when we just happened to stumble upon a santeria ceremony complete with the sacrificial chickens.
We stayed in Old Havana at Emilio's casa particular. The facade on most of these old buildings are fading and Emilio's is no exception. But after climbing the darkened narrow steps up to the third floor, it is totally charming. Antiques, paintings (many by Emilio's brother, Jesus Nodarse), simple bedrooms (with AC), a huge airy kitchen and the place is very clean. We ate all our breakfasts there, and one dinner and the food was tasty. Emilio is charming and all the people that help him are wonderful.
Our drive to Trinidad--about 5 hours--was interesting. The autopisto has practically no cars on it. Signs are few and far between so stopping to ask directions is a necessity. We had specific instructions on how to get to our casa particular. Upon entering the town, we were stopped by a man who recognized the name and address and rode a bicyle to where we were to go. What luck! Oh, but our casa particular was full, but they knew another place that had two rooms. Never giving it a thought, we went to our new place.
Trinidad is a charming, colorful colonial town. Our girls rented bicycles, we went to the beaches, and there was always music somewhere day and night.
Our final night in Havana we stayed at the Hotel Seville. Way overpriced, but I was ready for an elevator.
After arriving back at our jumping off country, I received an email from Jorge wanting to know what happened to us as we never showed at our Casa Particular in Trinidad. Well, we had been scammed and we didn't even know it--though hindsight I can see where we might have questioned some things. Nothing dangerous, just people trying to make a living. I did feel bad for Jesus at whose house we were supposed to stay. Next time, Jesus, we will make sure we stay with you.