So far my trip has been fantastic. The morning of Day 3 was no different. I woke up and my stomach was feeling better. I showered and headed back to Casa Densil to check in and grab some breakfast.
Mind you I had NO plans for the day. To walk and maybe snap some pictures. That’s it. But check out what happened next: as I finished breakfast Exio introduced me to another guest, Florita. She’s originally from Spain, has lived all over the world (including many years in San Francisco) and planned a solo trip to Cuba for 40 days. She was older but whatever. She had a Sofia Loren española vibe to her. It wasn’t until a few hours in when I realized she was batshit crazy but I’ll get to that later. The story gets good, trust me.
In any case the two of them were walking to the bank and invited me along and I said SURE I’ve never seen a Cuban bank let’s do it. But first we stopped by Exio’s bffs house Reysa. She is another Casa Particular owner. We took a quick tour of her place (also very cute) and told her we were going a pasiar por Habana Vieja. She was super excited to join. Oh and before I forget she had some major Egyptian iconography going on … Again, good omen.
The four of us continued to the bank where Exio left us ladies to explore.
Now that’s when shit started to get super funny, but first I’ll talk a bit about Havana Vieja. It’s incredibly beautiful and very well maintained. It reminds me of a cross between Santo Domingo and Ponce Centro/Viejo San Juan but with a few key differences. The streets are narrow and closed off to cars, there are very few shops in comparison to other places, there are many squares/plazas/parks where they sell revolution and Afro Catholic/Santeria books and random antiques. There are a bunch of hotels, museums, and small restaurants and galleries in the area. Many places have live music in fact just about every place has a band playing guantanamera, candela, or another Cuban classic. After this trip I don’t ever need to hear either song again. There’s also a good mix of international tourists and local Cubans. Overall it’s a very nice area to walk around.
We stopped in Hemingway’s old spot then went to a rooftop patio for drinks. The view was pretty but it was definitely cold outside. Reysa was talking about her German ex boyfriend who turned out to be an alcoholic, her two sons, her ex husbands and what it is to be with Cuban men. She’s definitely an interesting woman because she’s smart and a hustler. Not swindler hustler but is a motivated go getter and doesn’t tolerate otherwise. She’s actually a lawyer but stopped practicing to open her own Casa because as a lawyer (and as any professional in Cuba) you earn approx 15-25 CUC/month ($15-25 USD/mo) and it’s impossible to live off that income. She also talked about how she was very inspired by us because we’re both single women traveling solo and one day she wants to have the courage to do that. I was listening with ears wide open because there are many similarities between Cuban and Puerto Rican cultures. Florita on the other hand was tuned the fuck out. When she checked back in all she had were complaints of the drink, the cold, her hunger and jet lag.
To appease her we went to get some food. The restaurant was a place that’s always booked days in advance but we were able to get a table after an hour wait. The food was alright but for the ambiance it was reasonably priced- which I’m now noticing is a thing. Cuban food isn’t anything to write home about. This coming from a vegetarian who lives in the food Mecca of the United States…
After lunch we continued walking a bit but because Florita was cold and complaining about being tired, and uncomfortable by the people and pollution (it wasn’t even bad tho) we took a taxi back to Casa Densil. That’s when I learned the real story of Florita.
It turns out when I had stopped to take pictures of the various sites Florita had asked Reysa if Exio is gay. For the record Exio is obviously gay- I knew from the moment I came across his Airbnb page.
Florita had booked over a month trip 4 months in advance because she had a romanticized view of not only Cuba but thought she could find an amante in the owner of the Casa. I’ll reiterate this again for clarity. This older single lonely woman who lives in Mallorca, Spain invented a story in her mind that she was going to come to Cuba and get swept off her feet by the owner of the house in which she was staying. He would leave his job to explore the island with her and who knows what else. But once she found out he was gay and her fantasies for romance were shot, she realized she would be alone in Cuba for days on end. (She didn’t say this outright but it was pretty obvious in observing her interactions) I think both Reysa and I completely killed her dreams when we started talking about how Cuban and Latin men really ain’t shit. All of a sudden the streets were dirty, her arm was bothering her, her jeans and leather jacket weren’t warm enough, Havana was too crowded and the pollution was too much … her lists of complaints went on. This woman changed her 40+ day trip to a 5 day trip; she was ready to get the fuck on. Oh and I assumed the woman was very well off, and she acted like a princess which made me think she had never worked a day in her life. She’s been married 3 times before and has lived throughout Europe and the Americas. Her clothes and jewelry were fancy and she lived 20 years in Pacific Heights and Marin. Yea, she’s got dough.
In any case I found it funny. Reysa and I had a good laugh for sure. Exio was more sympathetic to her but he also thought she was a little and eventually a lot nutty.
The remainder of the afternoon was fairly chill; we all sat down to have afternoon tea. I met another wonderful woman named Doña Olga. She is Exio’s adopted/Cuban mother (he’s not a Cuban but rather Italian). I don’t know what it was about her but she was amazing. She didn’t say much she just sat back and observed. She reminded me of a wise sage that is someone of few words but when they speak you listen because they know what’s up. Another person with great energy.
After tea and conversation we all ended up going our separate ways. Reysa promised to pick me up at 9:30 so we could head to Hotel Florida to check out some salsa.
Now that right there was LIVE.
To be continued…