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Caribbeans

Coco Cabs in Havana

7 Local Things to See and Do on the Streets of Havana

By | Caribbeans, Cuba, OUR TRAVELS | No Comments
Meandering down the streets near El Capitale.

1 | Look for the balconies. It’s easy to walk through Havana and be completely transfixed on what’s in front of you: intriguing alleyways and vintage cars cranking pass kids playing soccer. It’s there so much to take in. But look up and you’ll peeks of life above ground-level: women hang-drying laundry, old men sticking their heads out for huffs of cigars, and grandmothers cooking up what I imagine to be amazing pots of arroz con pollo.

Look up. Balconies with people above us.

Looking at me, looking at her.

Paintings line the streets of Habana Vieja.

2 | Find art, art and more art. From paintings on the streets of Habana Vieja, to political graffiti stenciled on old buildings, to modern galleries, Havana has an amazing art scene.

Anthony getting fan drawings.

“The Hulk,” Anthony was by far the local favorite among old ladies and enthusiatic girls. This was a fan portrait he got from an artist on our first day.

Cuban hero revolutionary leaders Julio Antonio Mella, Camilo Cienfuegos and Che Guevara painted on a wall in Havana, Cuba

A wall tagged with the faces of Cuban revolutionary leaders: Julio Antonio Mella, Camilo Cienfuegos and Che Guevara. Politics are a huge part of everyday Cuban life and conversation.

One of my favorite places to people-watch in Havana, the Paseo del Prado ( or just Prado) during sunset.

3 | Take a stroll though Paseo del Prado. Back in the day, the Prado was one of the wealthiest streets in Havana. The Capitolio and Parque Central are on one end of it, and during sunset, these buildings are picture-perfect.

Paseo del Prado leads to old-school luxury hotels and the Parque Central.

Pose provided by “Mama Sita” Maria.

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4| Try a meal at a very local restaurant. Places like these are government-owned, cheap, and meant for workers. The menu is a fantastic “eff-you” to foreigners (aka they do not cater to tourists, which I love.) There were only 2 things on the menu: chicken or pork. #keepingitreal

Architecture in Havana

5 | Check out the architecture. Since the days of Christopher Columbus, Cuba has been the center of invading cultures, and political and social movements. Havana’s facades are an assortment of all these influences. This building in particular is a one of my favorite examples of Moorish/ Arab influence. #artnerd.

"La Artista" Nina, catching birds on the corner of Cuba Street... in Cuba.

6 | Find “Cuba” in Cuba. Everytime I walk pass Cuba Street, the foreigner in me can’t help but take a picture of it.  Pictured: “La Artista” Nina.

Coco Cabs in Havana

7 | Pose with a coco cab. They’re meant for tourists, but seriously, can you resist? They’re probably one of the cutest forms of transportation I’ve ever seen.

 

Puerto Rico rainforest El Yunque hiking trail

Visiting El Yunque- the US’ only rainforest

By | Caribbeans, North America, OUR TRAVELS | No Comments

Whenever I escape the concrete jungle of NYC, I try to find patches of nature and breathe in as much as humanly possible.

On our second and final day in Puerto Rico, we drove 1.5 hours outside of cosmopolitan San Juan to El Yunque Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the US national park system.

Coca Falls, Puerto Rico rainforest El Yunque hiking trail waterfall

Coca Falls can be seen from the road on the drive up.

Puerto Rico rainforest El Yunque hiking trail

El Yunque has nicely paved trails and tame walkways for the most part. I was hoping to get my fitness on via some steep inclines, but these trails were great for a nice morning walk regardless.

Puerto Rico rainforest El Yunque hiking trail

I like trees.

Puerto Rico rainforest El Yunque hiking trail waterfall swimming

There are 6 different trails you can take up El Yunque. We picked La Mina so that we could follow the winding river up to La Mina waterfall for a quick (freezing) dip.

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Puerto Rico has about 270 miles of beach to frolick along. After leaving El Yunque, we took a 45 minute ride to Luquillo, a local beach.

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On a Sunday, Luquillo was brimming with families on jetskis and awkward teens on dates. (Don’t lie. You can relate.)

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Hanging off the piers and catching the breeze with our feet.

Puerto_Rico_food_Luquillo-Kiosks

We spent our last 2 hours at the Luquillo Kiosks, a stretch of 60-or-so outdoor food stalls next to the beach.

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The kiosks serve everything from traditional monfongos (mashed plantains) and morcilla (blood sausages), to ceviche and fried everything, like this tasty but salty little friend. After we got our fill of local snacks and rum-y drinks, we made our way back to the airport. Good-bye for now, Caribbean Sun. See you again in May :D

 

How We Made it to Havana, Cuba

By | Caribbeans, Cuba, North America, OUR TRAVELS, Trip | No Comments

With the recent political talks with Cuba, it seemed appropriate to kick 2016 off with a Map&Move trip that tested a few boundaries.

Current headlines like “CheapAir.com Now Selling Direct Flights to Cuba”, make it sound like Americans can just jet off to the island and daintily sip Cuba Libres on the beach. While it’s nice to imagine that you can just erase 50 years of political weirdness in a few months, ya can’t. In reality the official rules posted by OFAC haven’t changed much. You still need 1 of 12 reasons to visit (legally from the US anyway) and the most common one (obviously) points to a pricy tour.

Old Montreal Tour

So naturally, a Map&Move trip had to test out a few things. First would be the prep work. After mind-numbing hours of calls with the embassy, airlines and complicated websites, everything (mostly) worked out in the last hour. 

Amy found a toy in the window. Excited. Enroute to Havana, Cuba, we had a 4 hour layover in Montreal.

As with any worthwhile trip, a good crew is a must, and the group that signed up for this trip promised to be a fun and eclectic one. Being the only US citizens, Amy and I left from NYC, Jorge and Michel from Mexico City, and Karmin and Philo later from Montreal.

Enroute to Havana, Cuba, we had a 4 hour layover in Montreal.

Amy and I headed out from NYC at midnight. After a 10 hour bus ride, we arrived at Montreal at 5am. We had 4 hours to explore the city before our flight to Havana. Unluckily for us, we arrived right at the start of a blizzard. Our toes frozen into little baby carrot stumps by the time we boarded our flight.

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Four hours later… touchdown. We landed at Jose Marti International Airport and found ourselves in a parallel universe.

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After dropping our bags off at our accommodations for the night, we took off to explore Vedado, the business and urban district of Havana and found ourselves at the entrance of an old warehouse-turned art space.

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Any misconceptions of Havana being one giant homogenous city “stuck in the 50’s” were abruptly and deliciously squished (just as I hoped) by the contemporary art scene. Giant projections framed the entrance of an outdoor patio.

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One of the bars in the warehouse.

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One of my favorite pieces from the contemporary art, modern jewelry and furniture smattered around the space.

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Wood etching.

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Alcoves and room connected outdoor spaces for dranks and la música under the stars. Ahh, we made it.

 

Palm Beach, where we had finally had a moment to recover from food coma before running off to catch our next flight.

5 Hours in Aruba

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Calvin and I where were bound for South America. But first a layover in Aruba…

Keshi Yena, a traditional dish in Aruba

We landed in Oranjestad, Aruba at 3PM and our 5-hour island layover was about to begin. Priorities first: we quickly hailed a taxi and asked him to drive us to his favorite food joint. Given that everything was closed on Sundays, he delivered. Here’s the Keshi Yena, a traditional dish of spicy chicken, peppers, capers, olives and tomatoes baked in the hollowed-out rind of a Gouda cheese. Genius.

Traditional curried Chicken in Aruba

Much to the disgust of every trend dieter out there, #Ilovecarbs. I’m an equal opportunity carb consumer and I love them in the form of bread, crackers, noodles, cookies and to my delight, this curried chicken with a side of black bean rice.

Palm Beach, where we had finally had a moment to recover from food coma before running off to catch our next flight.

At last we arrived at the “High Rise” neighborhood of Oranjestad, an area lined with American hotel chains, McDonald’s, and Starbucks (aka gentrification at its finest).

Palm Beach, where we had finally had a moment to recover from food coma before running off to catch our next flight.

A much-appreciated moment to recover from food coma.

Palm Beach in Aruba

And off to Venezuela we go!

 

 

 

Welcoming 2014 from Bermuda

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Like any big city, New Year’s in New York is synonymous for overpriced parties with underwhelming open bars. So for the past two years, I’ve made an effort to stay clear of the pressure to look decent in -20°F NYC weather. This year was no exception: I decided to start 2014 off right by relocating myself in the warmest place I could find for the cheapest flight I could get, and BAM! I was in Bermuda.

But alas, plans never go as smoothly as planned and my friend couldn’t make the trip with me last minute. So I did what I always do: packed my bags, improvised, found a Couchsurfing host (Adam), and had my best new year’s yet.

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