After our awesome classic car tour, we went back to our casa to freshen up and before hitting the road again to visit Old Havana! We got dropped of at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba to check out their rates for exchanging USD. The hotels can exchange money for you, as well as some of the banks, and sometimes they offer a better rate. You must bring a valid ID/passport in order to convert money, as they are very meticulous in writing down EVERYTHING. We also had to provide all of our passport information when we checked into our casa particular, as well. Typically you need your passport, but none of us had passports on us and to be honest, the rate was worse than our casa particular. However, they accepted my Global Entry card as a form of ID, surprisingly, and I was able to exchange money for my colleague.
We thought that Hotel Nacional would be a good starting point to get to Old Havana, however HAVANA IS HUGE. I said this before, I never realized how big it actually is! It was about 45 minutes to an hour to actually walk to Havana – oops newbie mistake! But that is okay, as we got to see a lot of Havana this way – and parts we probably wouldn’t have seen. It really is like stepping back in the past when walking the streets of Havana. You will pass by old classic cars, dilapidated buildings, soviet-era structures, and lots of colors. I was shocked at how colorful Cuba was, as I wasn’t expecting it – I pictured more Colombia and parts of South America, not so much Cuba.
We finally made it down to Old Havana after an actually pleasant walk and we were starving. My colleague Karee had done some research and heard of this good restaurant but it was closed when we arrived, as we were in-between lunch and dinner. We ran into two tourists from California who mentioned an a great restaurant around the corner. We turned and were greeted with a large Swedish flag – I’M HOME!
Casa Miglis is a Cuban Swedish restaurant in the heart of Old Havana. It is owned by a Swedish film director/maker who fell in love with Cuba when he arrived in 1996. The menu shares his story about his life in Cuba and some of his films he has made. Despite being a Swedish restaurant, it does have Cuban dishes or fusion dishes between the two along with a quirky, fun ambiance inside. Being in a Swedish-Cuban restaurant, I obviously ordered the chili (haha) with lamb and a yogurt sauce and it may have been my most favorite meal in Cuba! It also paired nicely with a pineapple daiquiri, oddly enough!
After our lunch-dinner/linner, we walked around a bit more and decided we were ready for some cocktails! We walked around looking for a place and a few people told us to go to this Russian bar El Pachanko. Boy was it a BLAST! They had a live band performing, you can write all over the walls, and the drinks are SO cheap… as in $2 or $2.5 pina coladas and mojitos. TWO DOLLARS! I was in my pineapple heaven! As a result, many, many drinks were ordered, there was salsa dancing with the locals, and a very (sorry Dad!) hungover Erin the next day.
Stay tuned for more on that….