Everything in Cuba is owned and operated by the government. However there is one area where there has been some softening on this hardline stance: Sleeping and eating. Over the past few years the government has started to allow private citizens to rent out rooms in their homes to tourists these are called a “casa particular.” Likewise there are a smattering of private restaurants called “paladars.” I imagine that both of these types of establishments are priced way beyond what the typical Cuban could afford, but we found them reasonable and certainly several notches above the bleak, Soviet style alternatives.
Our first stop was in Havana where we stayed with a woman named Marie. She spoke very little English and certainly is trusting since she gave us keys to her home to come an go as we pleased. Of the four places we stayed, this one felt most like being a guest in someone’s home.
The next stop was in Cienfuegos where we stayed with Jorge and Alicia. Their casa particular was set up nearly like a motel, very different from Marie’s house in Havana. While it afforded more privacy, we didn’t find it “particularly” appealing. It was here that we learned of Fidel Castro’s death.
Perhaps our favorite place to stay was in Trinidad with an energetic woman named Eloida. Like at Marie’s we were actually staying in the house proper. It was here that we learned how convenient it is to have meals other than breakfast at the casa.
And finally we stay with a comedienne named Lachina in Varadero.
We ate at several of the private restaurants called paladars. Perhaps the most memorable was La Guarida in Havana where we celebrated Amanda’s birthday. The entrance was most striking. It was through a dilapidated, buy elegant, old building that was in the process of being refurbished.
This will be my last post from Cuba. So, where to next? My life is a trip!