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I'm just happy to be here

My name is Brian Monetti, and I enjoy having fun. If you want to join on the next adventure, shoot me an email at brianmonetti@gmail.com 

Cuba

Cuba

Old cars, mojitos, great weather. Cuba sounded like the perfect place for a vacation! There was one slight problem; at the time Cuba was on the US list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, which meant that it would have been illegal for US citizens to travel there. So, if we were to have gone, it would have looked something like this.

First stop, Canadia! Cuba can be accessed from nearly every country in the world except ours. One of the most challenging parts of the entire trip was purchasing flights and booking hotels, which is not possible with US credit cards, so some round about methods were required. But we made it all work, and spent several days in America's Hat before we headed south.

 The border with Canadia, America's largest national park!

The border with Canadia, America's largest national park!

Cube is a popular tourist location for Canadians, and flights on Air Canada leave several times a day from Toronto. The customs process took place in what looked like an interrogation room out of a Soviet era James Bond movie. It would have made for cool pictures, but it was pretty clear that we were being shadowed by some plain clothes, one of whom even asked to see our cameras and passports, so we held off on sneaking any shots. We took a taxi into Havana to start our adventure!

 Havana from out hotel room. Unlike most cities, there is no distinction between residential, industrial, and commercial areas. Everything was basically built on top of itself, with good craftsmanship but poor quality materials due to the embargo.

Havana from out hotel room. Unlike most cities, there is no distinction between residential, industrial, and commercial areas. Everything was basically built on top of itself, with good craftsmanship but poor quality materials due to the embargo.

 The center of Old Havana, with the Capitol in the background, and a statue of Jose Marti up front. He was a badass who fought for Cuban independence before it was cool. He died in his first battle. Poor bastard.

The center of Old Havana, with the Capitol in the background, and a statue of Jose Marti up front. He was a badass who fought for Cuban independence before it was cool. He died in his first battle. Poor bastard.

 The center of Havana was full of old American cars. It turned out that they were basically the decorated skeletons of the original automobiles. Most were converted to diesel, and they need new sheet metal and interiors every few years due to the damage from the weather and salt water.

The center of Havana was full of old American cars. It turned out that they were basically the decorated skeletons of the original automobiles. Most were converted to diesel, and they need new sheet metal and interiors every few years due to the damage from the weather and salt water.

Cuba has two separate economies, one which utilizes a tourist currency that is pegged to the USD, and another which utilizes the actual currency, and that all Cuban citizens use. There is a very clear distinction between the stores and restaurants, and even though they might exist next door to each other, they are actually drastically different.

 Butcher shops in Havana would struggle to achieve the A sanitation rating if they were located in NYC.

Butcher shops in Havana would struggle to achieve the A sanitation rating if they were located in NYC.

 You could find pictures of Fidel and Che in almost every single shop. Here, Fidel is making sure that the ham is cut to the proper thickness.

You could find pictures of Fidel and Che in almost every single shop. Here, Fidel is making sure that the ham is cut to the proper thickness.

 A department store in downtown Havana. Its no 34th street Macys!

A department store in downtown Havana. Its no 34th street Macys!

 Tourist restaurants were full of high quality foods and drinks, including many imported ones. A Havana Club mojito would cost around $3, and local beers cost $1. This particular restaurant hat Jack Daniels somehow!

Tourist restaurants were full of high quality foods and drinks, including many imported ones. A Havana Club mojito would cost around $3, and local beers cost $1. This particular restaurant hat Jack Daniels somehow!

 You would never know she was a tourist!

You would never know she was a tourist!

Havana is home to the Museum of the Revolution, an amazing place of history and propaganda. Some of the highlights were caricatures of US presidents, remains of several American war planes shot down by Cuba over the years, the tank that Fidel himself drove in the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the vehicles driven by the students who attacked the presidential palace to kill the president and were all killed in the process.

 They love their neighbors to the north!

They love their neighbors to the north!

 Some badasses drove this truck to the presidential palace to kill the president during the revolution. All dead.

Some badasses drove this truck to the presidential palace to kill the president during the revolution. All dead.

 Not all Americans are hated here! 

Not all Americans are hated here! 

 The tail of an American bomber that was shot down over Cuba. Somehow this event was missed in everyone's 8th grade history books!

The tail of an American bomber that was shot down over Cuba. Somehow this event was missed in everyone's 8th grade history books!

We spent several days touring around the city, seeing what life was like away from the hotels and museums. Cuba has a very low crime rate, and walking around at any hour of the day was safe, aside from people trying to scam you into buying fake cigars.

 Typical street, although most were not paved.

Typical street, although most were not paved.

 Havana itself does not have sandy beaches, but the limestone cliffs still make for great swimming.

Havana itself does not have sandy beaches, but the limestone cliffs still make for great swimming.

A trip to Cuba would not be complete without visiting a beach! We decided to hire a cab to take us on a half hour drive to Guanabo, one of the lesser visited beaches near Havana due to the lack of resorts. In true Cuban fashion, our car broke down on the way, but we still arrived and had an awesome time. The day included drinking rum our of a cardboard "juice box" type container on the beach, collecting sea glass, and me learning that my food ordering skills in Spanish are not what I thought they were. 

 This type of breakdown must have been a common occurrence, since the glove box of the car contained the two tools that were needed to fix the car. Our driver was a champ and got us back up and running in no time!

This type of breakdown must have been a common occurrence, since the glove box of the car contained the two tools that were needed to fix the car. Our driver was a champ and got us back up and running in no time!

 There were several remains of resorts on the beach, including this one which was from before the revolution.

There were several remains of resorts on the beach, including this one which was from before the revolution.

 Pearly whites!

Pearly whites!

 Its just a warmer version of the Jersey Shore.

Its just a warmer version of the Jersey Shore.

We rounded out our Cuban adventures with visits to local art shops, tasting food at some of the best restaurants in town ($25 meals for two! wahoo!) and enjoying the sights. Can't wait to return! 

 Art gallery kitty

Art gallery kitty

 Happy as always!

Happy as always!

 Cuba, summed up in one picture.

Cuba, summed up in one picture.

The Grand Traverse

The Grand Traverse

Yosemite

Yosemite