Before and After: Coche Clasico in Havana

I am doing something different with the blog to focus more on practicing my photography and photo editing. I want to do a photo feature and include before/after editing almost weekly. So here it goes! This is a view of American classic car taxis in front of the Gran Teatro (Grand Theater) in Havana, Cuba (check out my last post for more about Cuba!).

Edits: Used Adobe Photoshop Elements to brighten sky and shadows and removed some people in background

Camera: Fuji Film XT-2

I’m going to add watermarks to these as well. Hoping to start selling prints so I want to protect my copyright. Thanks for understanding.

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10 Things to do in Havana, Cuba (and a day in Viñales)

I recently returned from a trip to Havana, Cuba with a good girlfriend of mine and would highly recommend it to anyone thinking about visiting the country. The architecture and beaches were colorful, the people were friendly and the food was delicious. I found Havana to be fairly walk-able and we were even able to squeeze in a day trip to Vinales.

Wondering what a trip to Havana would look like? Here’s a high-level look of what my friend and I did…

Meet some locals and stay in an Airbnb: we rented this one. It was super affordable and directly across the street from the Capitol which made for a gorgeous patio view. The hosts were extremely kind and the place itself was just what we needed – two beds, private bathroom and a/c. They even provided drinks in the mini fridge for 1-2 cucs and breakfast in the morning for a fair price. If you haven’t signed up – click here! That’s my referral link so we both get a credit to our accounts.

Walk around Habana Vieja: We had so much fun just strolling through the city and looking at all the buildings and plazas!

Try lots of different foods (it’s all affordable and delicious): I’ll admit, some places I travel to just for the food. Cuba wasn’t one of these, so I was very pleasantly surprised and some of the great meals we had at beautiful restaurants. La Lamparilla and Los Nardos (right next to our place and great atmosphere – we went twice!) stood out to me. We would also stop by a little stand on the corner next to Parque Central that sold hot and melty ham and cheese sandwiches for 50 cents. Another stand was selling fried “donuts” with guava jelly – also super cheap and delicious! On one of our walks we walked into a cafe that didn’t even have a sign – but it was one of my favorite meals – salty grilled pork with the perfect fried plantains. So have some fun exploring the different traditional foods of Cuba!

See a live music show: We went to the Havana Libre Hotel where they have a nightly live music show, El Turquino.

Visit the Hotel Nacional: We originally went to book a tour to Vinales with the concierge (see next topic!) but spent a few hours in the garden enjoying the shade, view and a few drinks.

Take a day trip to Vinales (tobacco farm): Through the Hotel Nacional, we booked a day tour to Vinales. It cost 100 cuc each which was fairly expensive compared to how affordable everything else had been. We scheduled the driver to pick us up the next day. It wasn’t what we were expecting, but ended up being a highlight of the trip. We thought we’d be getting an official “tour,” but a taxi driver shows up and asks us what we want to do! Luckily, this driver was a great guy – very friendly and knew where to take us. After a 2-3 hour drive, we went to a tobacco house where we learned the process of picking, drying and rolling tobacco. We could even purchase premium cigars for half the price than they are sold by the factory. Then we went to Cueva del Indio (with sugar cane juice and rum in hand) where we got to cool down in nature’s a/c and take a boat ride through the beautiful caves. Next stop was the Vinales Valley which was SUCH a beautiful view – it almost looks like Jurassic Park. Then we stopped by our driver’s friend’s house who was a sweet older woman who offered us coffee in her adorable pink house. It was such a fun day!

Find a roof top view: Because, why not? We ducked into Hotel Ambos Mundos to check out their roof top bar (pink hotel near the cathedral!) Unluckily for us… it started to rain as soon as we got up there!

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Ride in an American classic car: OK,  I have to say… this was one of the coolest things about Cuba visually. The gorgeous, well-kept classic cars are everywhere. Most of them are taxis, so take a ride – just make sure you agree on a price before hopping in the car.

Explore the local museums: There are quite a few museum choices in Havana! We went to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Fine Arts Museum) which had all genres of arts and only by Cuban artists. I wanted to go to the Revolution Museum but we did not have a chance.

Bus to the beach: we spent a morning at Santa Maria beach. From our Airbnb, it was a 5 minute walk to Parque Central where we caught the T-3 bus that took us there. It was 5 cuc round trip. The beach itself was beautiful and relaxing. You can rent beach chairs and buy drinks. It was not crowded at all and the water was gorgeous – I got in waist deep and could still see my toes.

So, have I convinced you? I’ve also posted some general travel tips for Cuba here.

4 Must See Hikes in Durango and Silverton, Colorado

  1. Ice Lake Basin (Silverton, CO): see two gorgeous lakes
    This was easily my favorite hike we did. You walk through a gorgeous valley of streams and waterfalls, then up to the basin of Ice Lake. From there, you can trek over to Island Lake and the back down to the trail on your way out. Be prepared to get your hiking shoes wet! Right of the bat, you tread through a waterfall stream. We went late June and there was still snow on the trail, but it was melting fast which meant beautiful waterfalls. The two lakes were also frozen, but still a spectacular sight. I plan to go back later in the summer next year to see the wildflowers and thawed lakes.

    According to All Trails, Ice Lake Basin Trail is rated hard and is 8.1 miles with 2,998 ft elevation gain.

  2. Engineer Mountain (Durango, CO): get on top of a mountain
    This was the only summit we did on the most recent trip to Colorado. It was challenging but tons of fun. You start off hiking through a meadow, and then begin the summit of Engineer. This included some rock scrambling and a few steep areas of rock climbing. We lost the trail a few times due to snow, so I’ve heard we took the long way up. Oh, well!

    According to All Trails, Engineer Mountain Trail is rated moderate and is 12.8 miles with 3,221 feet elevation gain.

  3. Old 100 Mine Boarding House (Silverton, CO): get off the beaten path and admire some Colorado mining history
    To get to the trail, you’ll have to do some Jeeping up the mountain. Then once on the trail, the final destination of this hike is an old abandoned boarding house. This hike had the best mountain views and we didn’t see another person or vehicle. At a certain point, there isn’t much of a trail and it’s a lot of rock scrambling to get down to the tram house and boarding house. It was even more difficult getting back up that! You can click here to learn more about the history of the boarding house and tram house. Or check out this forum with some more details about the hike and how to get there.  We took our dog on this trail thinking it was easier than it really was. He did fine, but I would not take him again or recommend taking your pup! There are lots of loose, sharp rocks for his paws.

  4. Castle Rock (Durango, CO): a well-paved hike with gorgeous views
    Now, this hike was the easiest compared to the rest and the most dog friendly! And thus, we saw more people on this trail. The trail is dirt and well worn which was a great change of pace to the snow covered, loose rock trails we’ve been on. It has some steep inclines that wore me out, but the view of The Needle mountains from the top is well worth it!

    According to All Trails, Castle Rock is moderate and 4.5 miles with 1,686 feet elevation gain.