Lockdown in Costa Rica

After cycling Cuba we came to Costa Rica for some days of yoga, meditation, and volunteering. We ended up being here for 7 months due to the lockdown. Lockdown in Costa Rica wasn’t bad at all as you will find on the video.

We started doing yoga, meditation, silent retreats, for the first couple of months. Then we continued doing volunteering and work exchange right in the middle of the jungle. In comparison to our friends and family back home, being Lockdown in Costa Rica gave us freedom to move within many acres of nature. Pretty much more movement than we ever had during our regular life.

Our first stop was Pachamama, an amazing place for yoga, retreats, just visiting, or volunteering. You can also drop everything and move-in provided that you have the means. This place was built on a clean flat cattle land purchased 20 years ago. They started reforestation, and although is going to take 150 years to go back to what it was, today it’s incredible to see how much wildlife it holds. Food is mostly vegan and amazing!

Osho Hall in Pachamama, Costa Rica

Our second stop was Cascada Elysiana. An eco-lodge where we ended up for more months than the originally planned 30 days. You can camp, stay in a dorm, glamping tents, or in cabins. These last ones have their one private bathrooms. Most of it is bamboo construction which you will find in great abundance around the area. They have many trails and the hospitality is really good. There we did work exchange and volunteering work around.

After these two places we stayed in Manuel Antonio for a month to work on our projects. At this time, the pandemic is not over yet but we need to do important immigration stuff in the US for some days and then we will let you know where we are going next. Thanks for watching!

Cuba day 6. Viñales – San Diego de los Baños

We took a few hours to source cartons and pack Spaghetti into three home made boxes ready to take the Taxi Colectivo to Cienfuegos and continue our trip on the eastern side of La Habana. We originally had a “regular” taxi (not certified) booked but the day before, the government announced that all taxis effective immediately needed to be certified to avoid illegal cars working as taxis, this change created a bit of a chaos on the transportation system all over and Colectivos (certified taxis) were overbooked. Some say it was announced months in advance without a specific date to be effective, others that it was something they never heard about. Promptly at 8am our driver arrived, stared at our belongings, and broke into a laugh, “there is no way I can fit all your stuff here… see you guys.”

We looked at each other, and went to the bus office finding that the next place available to Cienfuegos would be in 3 days with no guarantees of taking our belongings with us. We went back to the casa particular, assembled Spaghetti and left towards San Diego de los Baños changing our route.

Or that’s what we thought. Half way through we stopped for some papaya rest at a house in a small town. It wasn’t actually a town, it was an intersection with a few houses together. They cut it and offered to sit in front of their house. We sat on their chairs enjoying the shade and their papaya, they recommended that we stayed at Los Palacios for the night because they thought it was a really nice place. The kids seemed to enjoy seeing and hearing foreigners and we really liked seeing them happy surrounded by pigs, horses, chickens, dogs, and cats.

We gave them some alegrias (Mexican amaranth candies, now trendy and considered Superfood) and as we went back into the almost empty highway intersection I heard “Pablo!!!”. Someone jumped out of a taxi towards us. It was Jose, our host in La Havana who was traveling with the family, we hugged, assured that the trip was going well and he jumped back into his taxi.

Even if Los Palacios was further away than San Diego de los Baños -our original destination- we thought the recommendation might be a good idea. We did not talk to 4 more people like we normally do and Lonely Planet insists, we did not ask the living encyclopedia Jose, and we did not search for Los Palacios on any of our books.

To make it faster we decided to take the highway, windy, and rather cold and became a bit boring. We both were tired but made it safely to Los Palacios right before sunset, great timing. Arriving to Cuba is traveling in time, but this place was yet another dimension. Everyone starred at us, the place did not come up in the Lonely Planet, our offline version of Google maps didn’t show any place where to stay and we could not find any. Everyone gave different directions on where to stay overnight. 

We finally talked to someone who actually ran a place but it had the red anchor instead of the blue anchor sign. Red means locals only. This place was not only not meant for tourism but any local who hosted a tourist would have been in great trouble. We had over 70km of cycling on our backs starting at 1pm because we were going to take a taxi and instead we assembled Spaghetti, most of the road was against the wind, and now we were hungry, it was dark, and had no place where to stay.

We asked a few taxis to take us to the nearby town but they all shrugged their shoulders, shaking their heads, and exhaling a “not at this time, thank you”. We thought about leaving Spaghetti at someone’s house over night, take the bus to another town and come back the next day. But the bus was also not meant for tourists. We were trapped into our own mistake.

Being part of a fault in the system attracted some locals around, Spaghetti in itself was weird, but now we, and our situation was also weird. One of them came closer than the rest of the locals and talked to us. The kind you don’t want to talk to, a bit drunk, dirty, and really hard to understand. Freddy. He said he will help us and asked what we needed. We said a truck who can carry us and Spaghetti to San Diego de Los Baños. He signaled “hold my beer”. On any other country we would feel fear from other people in this situation, but being in one of the safest places on earth we had new emotions. Uncertainty, stupidity, fear of not having control?

Minutes later, happy to not having the drunk guy around and thinking what to do next, we kept brainstorming and talking to people who would like to hide spaghetti and us in their yard, but nothing sounded convincing. Then, Freddy came back. “Ok, its going to cost you 25CUC, its all sorted out” he said. He took us to a house where the driver was and the 50’s State truck was waiting for us. He helped us carrying all panniers and Spaghetti into the back of the truck and we sat at the cabin. He completely saved us. I gave him 2CUC, shook hands and thanked him.

We made it there and as we stopped into the first casa particular to ask for information a familiar drunken voice says, “they have no place here, let’s ask for the next one.” It was Freddy, he actually jumped into the back of the truck in Los Palacios and rode with us all the way there. He completely made sure we found somewhere to stay, we paid the driver once we found our place and couldn’t believe how much we underestimated Freddy’s hospitality skills.

We joined a Canadian family cycling Cuba with her 5 year old daughter having dinner with a German guy and never loved so much hearing English accents and broken Spanish.

This is the Strava ride, we just forgot to stop it when we arrived to Los Palacios so it kept recording the leg we did on a truck.

Cuba Cycling route: La Habana to Viñales

We cycled for a month in Cuba with a Tandem bike, and Valentina and I decided this was one of our favorite sections. After 5 days visiting La Habana staying at the super recommendable house of Jose y Lourdes we started our trip towards Viñales. We did stop in Cabañas and Palma Rubia with a day trip to Cayo Levisa. For sure there are other options to break it into more days but definitely we wouldn’t recommend less than that.

1. La Habana – Cabañas. 78km 522m elevation gain. Google map path. Our own ride is here on Strava. We recommend to exit La Habana from El Malecon (if you can, play some Buena Vista Social Club music on your bike speakers while you do that) and then continue through 5th ave, this will become the highway later. Just be careful of not taking the tunnel at the start of 5th ave. The highway starts flat and nicely paved as you exit the urban area. You will be flanked on your right side by the sea -Strait of Florida- and there are always choices to stop along the highway shoulder for a break. Shortly after leaving La Habana you will find yourself surrounded by nature, almost on your own with no traffic. Some American cars from the 50’s, trucks, bicycles, horses, will be with you at some point. Before Cabañas it becomes hilly and the road is full of holes but still manageable. Cabañas doesn’t offer much to see around, just a place to eat and sleep. At the time this post is written there is only one place to sleep in Cabañas called Villa Luis Montesino y Anabel. From the town center this place is a 10 minutes super hilly ride, so be ready for your last leg stretch. There may be people at the plaza trying to get you there for some coins but with the above link you will find your way there.

2. Cabañas – Palma Rubia. 70km 236m elevation gain. Google map path. (sorry, we did not record Strava but the Google link is very close). Its a win-win situation to hear recommendations of places to stay at your next destination -Casas Particulares- if you like the place you are staying at. In this case we asked for recommendations for Palma Rubia and conveniently they recommended a place they also owned but it was even better than the Cabañas’ one so we can safely recommend it too, Villa Luis Montesino – La Curva. The road continuous not in the best shape -consider mountain bikes- and you will start with two hills right away. You’ll continue to be surrounded by amazing jungle like vegetation going through small villages. Super recommendable to stay two nights there so you can go on a day trip to Cayo Levisa. Cayo Levisa was our favorite beach in Cuba. Very easy to find an empty beach area, water is not polluted, and the sand is super clean. Check our post on Cayo Levisa.

3. Palma Rubia – Viñales. 50km 875m elevation gain. Google map path. Our Strava recording. You’ll pass again little villages and the road will be kind of hilly. A further away from Mina la Constancia -3km-, you will start climbing, around km 45 will have the highest slope (100m elevation in less than 1km), then you’ll be rewarded with a similar downhill. We did not have the great experience in Viñales with our Casa Particular so we can’t recommend it but there are a lot to choose from. Check our Viñales post for more info. On the way you’ll have kids asking for chewing gum or school materials. At least for us it was way more fulfilling having ready some notebooks and pencils or colors than candies.

If you have any questions about planning this or other parts please do not contact us!

The Ultimate Techie Cycling List

We’ve spent hours and months researching, trying, returning, and purchasing gear. What we recommend is what has really worked for us and enjoyed using. We have not come across a tailored list with products links and reason to buy them, so we decided to create one. Here it goes:

1. Universal Travel Adapter. Instead of traveling with all your chargers and converters, take this one only. Even if you are traveling minimalist you will carry some devices that are powered by USB. In our case: phones, watch, iPad, Kindle, power bank, speaker, head lamps, tent lamp, drone, and bike front and rear lamps. You can charge 4 USB devices at a time and still plug a power hungry item on top -like an iron or hair dryer-. We really like the fact that it doesn’t warm up, fast charges our devices, and is relatively compact. We didn’t like that is bulky -if you need to charge only one device- and cumbersome to connect on tight areas. Totally worth the purchase and the weight and volume usage on our panniers.

  • 2. Phone mount. We’ve tried multiple types of mounts over the years spending up to $100, however this universal mount is less than a fifth of that price and works perfect. In comparison to others, this you can keep using when you update your phone. It has silicon belt grips on the corners as an optional holder for super extreme rides. We only had to use them on a few occasions because the side holders worked well enough. On those extreme occasions the phone did not fall but slipped a bit off the center, having the side holders squeezing the upper volume and lock button for a while which triggers the SOS alarm for iPhones. Once the belts are in all is good.

3. Power bank. Your phone will likely be your lamp, camera, map, internet browser, activity recorder, music player… and maybe a phone. It is likely that you won’t finish the day with some juice on its battery if you use it for all that. This power bank charges a couple of phones simultaneously through USB and the qi wireless capability. A few things to note: it comes with a USB C – USB A (regular USB) cable needed to charge the device, its nicely advertised as solar but you won’t charge it 100% that way, so better assume that its only for emergencies; Qi is nice but if someone happened to shift the phone slightly from its place, you wont wake up with a fully charged phone; lastly its not the lightest on the market but is super sturdy.

  • 4. Bluetooth Speaker. Surely you already have a similar bluetooth speaker, we also have a few. But we choose to take this one because the good quality of sound vs size and weight. The strap in the back loops perfectly around the bike frame (down tube). We both were able to listen music perfectly on our tandem while cycling upwind. One charge lasted about two days of riding around 4-5 hours. We liked the clear treble and bass -considering the size-, the sturdiness, water resistance capability, and large battery capacity. It comes with a USB micro – USB A (regular USB) cable needed to charge the device. We did not like the mechanical responsiveness of the buttons, they are not that intuitive to operate if you are not looking at them. This was not really a big deal since we normally control the music through an iPhone and Apple Watch.

5. Bike headlamp. We know, 1,100 lumens is crazy to point at someone’s eyes! But using this headlamp responsibly -it has 3 power levels- will change your late afternoon or night ride completely. Even if you don’t plan to ride in the dark probably at some point you will find yourself on that saddle after sunset. At its highest power this lamp gives you about the brightness of your car high beams but covering a much larger area. Like similar lamps, its heavy and it will get hot, the metal ribs work as heat dissipators so try not to hold it from there after long usage. We also have an older 350 lumens model -same shape and size, double the money at the purchase time- and we’ve been using for 8 years with no issues. We recommend placing the lamp on its mount only when using it, otherwise the mount channels will wear off. It comes with a USB micro – USB A (regular USB) cable needed to charge the device.

  • 6. Smart Bike Tail Light. A most have in your gadgets list. This tail light turns On on its own when you start moving, will go brighter when its darker, and brightest when you are breaking. It has a super wide field of view, the battery lasts about 20 hours. Every 5 days or so we saw the light at a lower intensity and it was time to charge it. It comes with a USB micro – USB A (regular USB) cable needed to charge the device. We honestly can’t find anything inconvenient on this thing, we strongly recommend it.

7. Headlamp. Having a lamp fixed to the bike is indispensable, but sometimes while riding you need to look to the sides or back. That’s what this lamp is for. Is super light and easy to carry everywhere. We loved the motion sensor where you quickly raise your hand and will switch off / on as needed. We purchased and returned 4 similar headlamps, and this one was the winner.

  • 8. Tent lamp. If you are doing camping this lamp is super helpful. Is rechargeable, water resistant, has a magnet, and 3 intensity levels. -It also has a SOS function, but haven’t come across anyone who has used that on this or any other device.- Our favorite function is the power bank with a USB-A output. Needless to say its bulky so don’t buy this unless you are camping.

9. 19-tool multitool. Needless to say why you need this and for sure you already have one. We like that this multitool is lightweight, rather compact, very complete, and good quality. We do not like that on many occasions the chain / spoke tool is often obstructing and adds another degree of movement so we simply unscrewed it and stored it with the spare chainlink. The tool often looses its tightness on its holding mechanism but can easily be screwed again.

  • 10. 8-tool multitool. Yes, a second set. My wife kept this one on her back pocket and I kept the 19-tool above. She quickly loved it and became her own tool for adjusting her saddle, tightening racks, and -of course- assembling and disassembling the bike. Its slimness and stainless steel shine makes it look fancy but is very affordable for what it does. This tool is super light, compact, and tough. In comparison to the 19-tool above this one has a system that wont allow to get its holding mechanism loose.

11. Pump with gauge. This is not your home floor pump but its the closest thing. This pump is comfortable to use cause it has a T-handle to push down with your hand, a fold down footpath to keep it on the floor, and a flexible hose with a gauge. It has both Presta/Schrader heads. Great volume and weight. There are lighter ones but not as comfortable to use and without gauge. You’ll need some muscles or patience, but if you tour-cycle you have both. After 7 years of usage an inner seal broke, other than that we have no complains.

This is all for now, keep checking our page for other products list and traveling stories. Feel free to contact us for any advice by leaving a reply below.

Cuba day 5. Viñales.

We haven’t been to Trinidad yet, but if we were to choose a single Cuban city to visit we would have picked Viñales. People is super friendly, plenty of choices to eat, drink, live music on the street, and everything is walking distance-sh. 

Weather was colder, we both got a virus somewhere and had some cold for a couple of days. We were strongly recommended doing a tour around the area which is normally done riding horses. We said let’s walk for a change and not ride bikes or horses, so we did the tour walking. We are still convincing ourselves that it was worth it, it was a demonstration of cigar making, coffee growing-rusting-grinding, honey, and rum. Definitely was fun and entertaining but mostly we felt that supported the local community.

Coffee grinding

Other attractions we decided to do on our own. Prehistoric mural, I was particularly excited because they were inspired by Diego Rivera’s murals, but as our German cyclists warned us, it is enough to see them from the highway. Mirador view was really nice mostly because it was a super hilly ride, got super loaded Piña Coladas while watching the sunset, and cycled down with almost pitch dark. We decided we could safely skip the Cueva de los Indios after seeing what it looked like through someone else’s pictures.

Some more of Viñales.

This is Our Casa Particular
The Casa Particular owner’s dog looks just like her.

Rear tire was flat again. Self note, when the specialist at the bikeshop says that such a tire is the one the manufacture uses for that specific bike, it might be wise to stick to that combination. Instead we insisted that the tire looked to thin -road like- and wouldn’t be good enough for bumpy Cuba. Before coming over we changed the original tires to something more gravel like called “gravelking”. Our theory is that these tires are too soft and that’s why they easily pinch into the rim. Luckily we had one of original thin tires with us and put it back into the rear wheel. It has worked like magic, no flat tires!

Viñales was definitely worth stoping because of the people, live music in the streets, options for buying needs, and nature around. You can also do day trips from here to other areas. But as in must cases, the journey was much better than the destination. Cycling from La Habana to Viñales was an amazing experience. Specially for us where we got to learn about Spaghetti’s repair needs on tough roads. Three nights were enough and we are ready to continue riding.

Cuba day 4. Palma Rubia (Cayo Levisa) – Viñales

Palma Rubia is not only a handy stop to break the road towards Viñales but it is the closest place to sleep around Cayo Levisa. Never mind the 35CUC needed to take you there that includes the boat trip, two drinks, and the rather regular meal. The beach is absolutely amazing, picture Cancun a few decades ago. It’s your choice if you want to see people or be on your own at this paradise.

We were told Cubans are not permitted there, we thought it was something similar to the no lobster or shrimps to locals rule leaving the high price tag items for tourists to bring money into the economy. We later understood they are actually allowed to go there, they just need to open their coffers and give away a month and a half worth of their salary to visit Cayo Levisa, enough reason for not seeing any local enjoying their own beaches sadly.

You have a few choices to take the boat in the morning and a few more to come back right before sunset. Don’t expect super nice meals there and be ready to find the typical all inclusive tourist attitude around you. The place is understaffed and is easy to see that they need to be patient with the lack of resources they have and super demanding tourists. The buffet offers the regular rice, beans, fried fish, chicken, pork, pasta, fruit, etc.

Next day we had an amazing breakfast again at the Casa Particular. We left candies to the worker for her daughter who was super excited and had not seen a lollypop before. Our German cyclist colleagues gave a much wiser gift, notebooks and pencils… how come we didn’t think of that instead of the unneeded sugar!

As we were preparing Spaghetti and were about to leave earlier than the Germans -for first time- we noticed another broken connector. This time the change was much quicker but we left the place last. At this point we only have one spare connector that can break, otherwise we will need to improvise on how to make our gears work. Pretty much like Cubans do everyday with anything.

The road had beautiful views, hilly and full of holes. We met over the road another couple on a Tandem. Their bike doubled Spaghetti’s weight but they had almost no gear in comparison to us with our 4 panniers, handlebar bag (for money, passports, habanero sauce, alcohol gel, mosquito repellent, multitool), and our rear “sausage” center bag (carrying shoes and food).

They had a few decades of experience traveling the world under their belt. “Have you cycled Thailand?” we asked. “Yes, we’ve crossed it five times”. And so was their answer for many other countries. Their attire including shoes had nothing to do with our carefully sourced -purchased, tried, returned, repeat- high tech gear, I guess they were at their home couch comfortably watching TV and suddenly jumped into their tandem to travel the world.

Other cyclist also congregated to our conversation at the side of the highway. The German couple that stayed at the same place in Cabanas and Palma Rubia, and a Canadian couple that travelled with one shirt each, they were going to sell their cheap mountain bikes at the end of their ride. Arriving to Viñales we stopped for lunch and before leaving we had again a flat rear tire. So we were not only the less experienced, but also the most gear loaded cyclist and with the most mechanic problems. Not that anyone cared but at least we were the fastest on the road. Overtaking other cyclist is a breeze on Spaghetti -when everything works that is-.

Getting into touring? …panniers are needed.

If you are touring for more than a day you may want to free your back from your backpack and invest in some good equipment. We know some people like to have a trailer but before adding a 3rd wheel we recommend -and have used on our trips- bike panniers.

Panniers are about the size of a bag or larger, and they hook into the side of a front or rear bike rack. It is kind of standard to have 2 smaller panniers in the front and 2 in the rear. We also have a handlebar bag for wallet, passports, alcohol gel, multitool, and any other quick stuff needed.

When traveling on a plane we check-in everything except one or two panniers which we leave as carry on. They may have a shoulder and hand strap to carry them. Just don’t expect them to be as comfortable to carry as a traveling bag or backpack, but you can use it a such for a short time. Buying flag patches and shields from each place is cool, but glue them into your panniers instead of sewing them with a needle… that waterproof function you do want to keep in good shape.

Another great advantage is protection falling. They will protect your shifter controllers when you fall -not in case you fall, but when-. When falling mostly the shifter controller -which happens to be an expensive part- is what is damaged first. With panniers, your clothing, food, books, toiletries, etc inside the pannier will take one-for-the-team and absorb the fall.

Like most things today, you are spoiled by choices. When you shop around make sure they are waterproof, lightweight, durable, and easy to hook in and out of the rack. Even the pricey ones will suffer, so make sure that the pieces that assemble them (eg. the bag attachment to the hooks) have standard screws that you can find on a regular hardware shop.

I’m giving it a try” Entry level doesn’t mean bad quality, either of the three options below perform perfectly for your first rides.

“Give me the best value” When you are out there you’ll be happy you picked the best quality your money can buy.

This last one in the list is the one we’ve been using for 7 years, a few falls, rain, snow, sun, dirt and still works perfectly. If you can buy it from your local shop, please go ahead and do that. After you tried to support your community, if they don’t have exactly what you need, please go ahead and order it online. Please take your time to adjust it to fit your rack.

8 Tips when cycling through Cuba

  1. Immigration randomly requests travel insurance. Luckily we had that ready and printed because we thought that was needed for the visa. Not sure what would have happened if we didn’t bring it, maybe just a warning.
  2. Be patient when landing. The process was long from landing to exiting the airport. If you ever went through secondary inspection in the US, consider that. We had to do a lot of back and forth, searching for our luggage on the wrong belt, went through 3 lines for customs (because our tandem bike cases look weird, etc.) That said, everyone calls you “mi amor”, “mi vida” -sweetie or darling for Spanish- and were really nice.
  3. Smoking. If you can’t stand people smoking nearby reconsider your destination. People love smoking in Cuba and they do it indoors, outdoors, everywhere.
  4. Change money at the airport. We decided to exchange 5-7 days budget worth of expenses. The exchange is the same everywhere and if you bring USD expect a 10% on top of the exchange rate. Try to get some Moneda Nacional around the city for emergencies, you will see later that not every business take CUCs. We learnt having all three USD, CUCs and Moneda Nacional was the best option. Often -maybe not allowed- Casas Particulares opted for receiving USDs a win-win for both.
  5. Bike assembling. Definitely do that at the place you are staying. Take a taxi which at this time cost around 30CUC. Cycling from the airport is not really worth doing and you wont have a really good time assembling your bike there either. Our tandem is not new or shiny but unavoidably it initiated many conversations. We normally deviate the talk when it comes to how much it cost because most wages are around 12usd, and some doctors earn 80usd per month. (We didn’t want to draw extra attention to ourselves and wanted to be sensitive to the wage gap.)
  6. Walking tours and concerts. We recommend doing research on concerts beforehand or being toured by a local. But you can also experience live music easily in old Habana, there’s live music everywhere all the time!
  7. Internet. We got an automatic message from our carrier as soon as we landed with the super high rate per minute talk, per message and per MB. Followed by “It adds up quickly so be careful”. Plan ahead to disconnect with everyone during your stay. You can buy internet cards sold by the hour for 1CUC and connect to Wifi provided by plazas and hotels. Pictures take long to load. You wont be able to connect to US banks online because of the embargo between the US and Cuba -not sure if other countries have this issue-. Share bank credentials with a loved one not in Cuba and give instructions through regular communication while traveling.
  8. Casas Particulares vs Airbnb vs Warmshowers. At this time there was only one Warmshower and ended up charging as a regular Casa Particular which defeated the purpose. We started with Airbnb to establish first contact with someone and kept going with Casas Particulares. Wherever we stayed we secured the next destination Casa Particular through the owner’s friend or relative. This way we secured a lower rate than just arriving without recommendation.

We had great experience with Jose and his family as you can see on the pictures. He lives and also hosts at Aguila 168B but also hosts at Aguacate 512 #105:

Cuba day 1, Arrival.

La Habana, Cuba. December 2019

You are warned, Cuba is a place where stones float and logs sink. Expect to see a different world to what you are used to, and even then keep yourself alert to different ways of doing things. This is a place where there is no extreme poverty, no one starves to death, everyone has a roof to sleep under, all citizens receive food from government, healthcare system is free, education is free and obligatory up to 9th grade, there is a paid job for everyone who wants to work, people lives deeply in communities, and likely, it is the safest place you’ve ever been to. All that is 100% true, but before you idealize the perfect place, keep in mind that some resources are extremely scarce and the majority are non existent.

We stayed at the old Habana for 3 nights to do some sightseeing and cycling preparation before tour cycling around the island. We probably should have hired a tour guide but instead we just guided ourselves with local info, the Lonely Planet, and our own research. It’s easy to be guided by the live music in La Habana vieja and stop every now and then to drink, eat, and just watch people.

More of La Habana and around.

We assembled Spaghetti for first time in Cuba, our tandem bike, and went around La Habana all the way to Fusterlandia. A flat ride from La Habana vieja through all the Malecón and then the 5th avenue. José Fuster is using all kind of mosaics, tiles, plumbing and electrical parts, glass, and any other kind of waste to convert it into public-art.

Our AirBnb landlord, Jose, -Aguacate 512 #105, La Habana jcordero1960@yahoo.es – with whom we immediately became good friends, helped us to find places where locals go to. We were invited for coffee and New Year’s Eve dinner at his place and were immediately adopted as part of his family.

We had pork (Valentina and I haven’t had pork in years), rice with beans, yuca and other veggies. Everything was amazing! He had an extensive culinary background and proved that right away. Born and raised in Mexico and Italy we both are used to long table conversations after dinner is over. Not here. A few of us were still eating dessert when the table cloth was pulled and the improvised table disassembled.

We were ready to leave since the meal was finished -or our food driven culture suggested that-. How wrong we were… Tables and chairs were removed leaving a large, empty room right at the street entrance to create a make-shift dance floor. Everyone in the family started dancing salsa. We eagerly participated, and everyone noticed our skills -or lack thereof-. Our joints needed some grease, that’s all.

It’s apparently good luck to throw water on the street of La Habana on New Year’s Eve. (or any liquid you may have with you) That also includes garbage and eggs. Their tradition to celebrate the New Year lasts around 30 minutes and starts at 12:00am sharp. It is wise to wait until 1am to walk home through the center of the streets. It was an unexpected and fun way to celebrate the new year, and was a night we will always remember!

Capitolio