I have to start of by saying that this vacation was very eye opening. Going to a place that has been sanctioned from one of the biggest countries in the world makes one really appreciate all that they have. But before I get to that leg of the journey, we started off in Mexico City. Sure I’ve been to those cushy resorts before in Mexico but Mexico City is so much different. Why? Well because it’s a real city with lots to see and do. We walked all over the place through little side streets and beautiful parks. One of the parks even led into a huge zoo that housed a Giant Panda! We were so excited to go say hello to the Pandas but they were all asleep! At least they were super cute and fluffy! After the zoo we climbed up to the gorgeous Chapultepec Castle on the hill. The castle overlooked the entire city and you could sit in the many gardens all around the castle just to get the perfect city shot. The entire time I was completely in awe! It was a total princess castle, perfect for me! Another beautiful home in Mexico City that wasn’t quite as big as the castle was Casa Azul, or Frieda Kahlo’s house! Casa Azul is a very fitting name since everywhere you turn the walls are bright blue. And although the blue walls are the signature of the house, the rest of it is just as beautiful. The offices and bedrooms contain every item that Frieda and Diego used to use in their daily lives. And not to mention, the little town that they lived in was incredible. The town surrounds a small square with a huge fountain in the middle. The laid back feel of the little town of Coyocan reminded me a little bit of Paris! Now Casa Azul was beautiful as is the rest of Mexico City but at night, things get a little crazy and the Lucha Libre fighting begins! It’s a whole night of crazy big men in the iconic masks fighting all night until someone is crowned the winner. Although it’s obviously fake, these guys have some pretty crazy moves!
After our first week in Mexico City, we headed off to Cuba. Cuba is a beautiful island but it has sadly been shut off completely by the US since the late 1950s. My family decided to get in before it was too commercialized by the flood of tourism. This was a very good and bad decision. Cuba for a very long time was run by the dictator Fidel Castro and although he said he was for the people, it didn’t seem that way when we visited. The conditions in Cuba are truly heartbreaking because people who work through the state earn state wages which only amount to $15-$18 a month. Imagining that kind of pay in the US is absolutely insane but that’s what the Cubans have had to endure under the communist Fidel dictatorship. So, our family tried as hard as possible to go eat in private homes and shop in private businesses so that those people would have a better chance of sustaining themselves. One great way that we helped was through a private day guide, Blexie, who took us around in one of the famous 50’s cars. We hit all of the beautiful squares and cathedrals and even a traditional Cuban restaurant. Cuba is truly a beautiful place and now that Obama has visited Cuba and the sanctions have finally been lifted, maybe life will begin to look up for the Cuban people! They’re already off to a great start with all of their businesses. There are art galleries dotting the entire city of Havana and one was extra beautiful not just because of the art or the courtyard but the Harp player. I could’ve stood in that gallery all day just listening to that Harp! Their restaurants are equally as beautiful, especially La Guarida. Not only was the food exceptional the view was amazing. We traveled up a series of spiral staircases and finally reached the roof to see lights dotting the city and kids running around enjoying the cool winds. But one of the best experiences was when we were in the middle of checking out in a little souvenir shop and I get a terrible coughing fit. A sweet Cuban grandma that owned the store ran to the back and returned with a spoonful of honey and water and made me lick the spoon clean and of course I stopped coughing immediately! I couldn’t stop laughing about for the rest of the day!
Sadly the trip had to come to end but the worst part about that was having to go from wearing sandals and t-shirts to snow boots and sweaters! It was bad enough that we left with snow on the ground but to come back to more snow! All I can say is oy vey!
Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to everyone!
XoXo – Penn