“We’re going to Havana.”
It was a somewhat spontaneous trip, but that doesn’t matter. It’s not really spontaneous if you’ve always wanted to go.
It was also a somewhat short trip, but that doesn’t matter either. If your eyes and heart are wide open, even a short trip can inspire you plenty, and give you that precious feeling of longing to return.
Although some squares like the Plaza de la Catedral and the Plaza Vieja have a slight European feel, and some narrow lanes and charming balconies cause your mind to wander to thoughts of other cities you’ve been to, much of Havana is in a league of its own, with an undeniably distinct character.
I can’t think of that many other cities where I have felt the urge to comb the streets – each street – unwilling to miss anything. Venice, of course. Amsterdam, for sure. And now, Havana pulled me up and down its grid of streets, defiantly pushing my limits of time, temperature and tiredness. I followed, in awe of the architecture, the vintage cars, the colors and the contrasts between efforts of restoration and piles of decay.
Many locals seemed to have grown accustomed to seeing their city through tourists’ eyes. Right from early morning, the stage was set and they were in position, keen to earn something from your mere presence. They yearned to engage in conversation, offered cab rides and tips, eager to know where you were from, where you were headed, if you liked salsa music, if you cared anything about Hemingway and where he hung out. How the conversation proceeded depended on your answers to their prompts. But they were always kind, never invaded our space, and let us go our way when we were ready to move on.
All that makes up the special mood that is Habana.
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From my heart to yours.