After months of planning and preparation for our trip to Cuba, the time had finally come! We spent the first evening in Miami at the Sofitel Hotel, as our flight the next day was an 8:30am departure and we were told to arrive at the airport 3 hours in advance. The Sofitel Hotel is a few minutes from MIA, offers a free airport shuttle pick-up every 30 minutes, has nice rooms and a couple of nice dining options. It was just perfect for our overnight stay.
The next morning, we met in the lobby at 4:45am for our 5am shuttle. We arrived at the airport, met with the Cuba Travel Services represenatative, picked up our Visas, roundtrip plane tickets and boarding passes, checked our bags (yes, I had to check a bag for the first time in ages!) because the weight exception is very light and very strict, paid our $25 entry/departure fee, and waited patiently to board our non-stop 45 minute flight to Havana. The process of submitting our itinerary and obtaining our special travel visas was a much smoother process than we imagined.
We boarded our Sun Country charter flight, and departed on time. No sooner than we took off, we landed. It was a sunny, hot day in Havana. The airport was bustling with tourists, divers, people-to-people groups, clergy, families, officials and other workers. It was exciting, festive. After quickly clearing customs and retrieving our luggage, we headed outside the airport and were greeted by our waiting minivan driver, then off on our 20 minute ride to our first stop, Hotel Palacio O’Farril in Habana Vieja. We were hours early for the 4pm check-in, and the hotel, like almost every hotel in the city, was full, as Pope Francis was on the island for another couple of days. We checked in, left our bags, and went in search of an early lunch. The hotel doorman, Clemente, not only suggested a place for us to go for lunch, he walked us two blocks to El Zaguan restaurant.
We were the only customers in the restaurant. It was only 11:45ish. I went in thinking I’d start off my visit with a Cuban sandwich. After seeing the menu, I opted for “Lobster Tropical”. Great choice! It was paired with pumpkin soup, rice, black beans, plantains and Cristal beer. Dessert was flan and Habana Club rum. All for about $20.(we had to pay for everything in Cuban Pesos, of course.)
Now, off to walk around Habana Vieja before settling into our Habana home for the next 2 nights. We are so looking forward to the week ahead.