Cuba: strolling through the streets of Trinidad

Cuba

I hired a taxi through BestCubaGuide.com. They emailed me to make the arrangements. The price for a Modern Taxi from Havana to Trinidad was 160cuc(160 USD) back in May of 2017.  We paid the driver directly in CUC. When the driver arrived, he had his wife/partner with him. He didn’t speak much English so we communicated in Spanish. Afterwards, I made arrangements with him directly to come back the next day to pick us up.

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Havana to Trinidad by car: 4-5 hours. In between, we stopped for a bathroom/snack break. Bought a hot dog for $1 and it tasted very strange… We saw a lot of local people getting it but it didn’t jive well with us.

Once we arrived at our casa (also through Airbnb, and I highly recommend this one!), our host Yacquelin presented us with ice cold fresh mango juice which was amazing. She didn’t speak English at all so we communicated through Spanish. For some reason, I understood her more than I understood the driver — maybe she was used to tourists so she spoke slower and used more simple vocabulary? Yacquelin was the perfect host.

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The casa was a house connected to their family-owned ceramics factory, where people took tours! You can also buy souvenirs here.

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After our mini tour, Yacquelin helped us order a taxi to go hiking.

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We hiked to this waterfall and spent some time in the water.

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Our casa was about 15 minutes walking distance away from the city center (Plaza Mayor), so we walked through the neighborhood, which was interesting.

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My favorite part of the Cuba experience was live street music.

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What I noticed while walking through the neighborhood was that you can see through most homes and stores – there were no glass, no curtains. We saw family pictures, furniture, beds, people sitting on their couches watching television — everything could be seen from the outside. It was bizarre, like looking into someone else’s life. Passing through the neighborhood, we saw a lot of locals sitting in front of their houses just chatting and spending time with each other. It was nice to see that they weren’t on their phones typing away in silence, like we often see in the U.S. When we went back to our casa that night, we hung out on the balcony, sitting outside feeling the breezes, just like the local people. Even though it was hot, the breeze felt nicer than the AC.

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We encountered a couple of local Cuban people who asked us for our “things” — my friend’s plastic wrist band, my pusheen keychain hanging off my bag, in exchange for some goods that they were selling. It broke my heart when a father of a little boy begged and said “please, we can never get it here…” A little girl asked my friend defiantly for his wrist band, and her mother said it was her birthday (the father of the little boy also pulled the birthday card). We got the feeling that it was a common thing to do — foreigners would give away “things”, just little things that we usually don’t even notice, but they would treasure them because it was nearly impossible for them to get them. They never asked for money, just things.

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Our host recommended this restaurant, Esquerra – right next to Casa de la Musica, and they had a live band too!

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Complimentary drinks.

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Ropa Vieja

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Flan

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Casa de la musica at night.

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Casa de la musica during the day time.

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Staying at a casa meant home-cooked breakfast for $5! Our breakfast here was the best meal we had in retrospect. Yacquelin prepared all this for four of us. I LOVED THE FRESH MANGOES.

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Trinidad was my favorite part of Cuba. Definitely worth the trek.

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Travelogue: New Orleans Day 3

We started off the morning with breakfast at the Ruby Slipper Cafe — one of the highest recommended breakfast/brunch places in NOLA. We didn’t go to the original location for fear of long lines (we had many things to do for the day!) but went to the newer location just a few blocks away.

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Eggs Cochon – basically pulled pork eggs benedict… it was kind of bland and such a disappointment.

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“Southern breakfast” is where it’s at. Eggs your way, bacon, biscuit, grits! Still, for the price you pay, you’re only paying for friendly service and wide booths to sit in.

We walk back to Chartres St and pass by a magical cup floating in the air… works of voodoo, they say. Everyone looks up and takes pictures.

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Of course, the cup is “suspended” in midair held by a thin string across buildings.

We arrive at our next destination, the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum.

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$5 entrance fee and if you go on Friday at noon, you get a guided tour. Why not?

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The tour was wildly entertaining and informative. He went over the history of the museum and told anecdotes about the physician who owned it and lived upstairs, and the alleged crazy experiments he performed on his patients.

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There is a second floor with exhibits.

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Too bad we had an important reservation to tend to. We left before the tour ended to go to Restaurant August for their special Friday lunch prix fixe, recommended by a friend who raved about it endlessly. The $20 special is only available on Fridays. Keep in mind this is another one of John Besh restaurant, a fancy one that normally would cost way more. And wow was it worth it!

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Their extensive beer and cocktail list was unique and fun.

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We start off with an amuse bouche.

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We also ordered a gnocchi dish (outside of the prix fixe menu) and it was the best gnocchi we’ve ever had.

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Crawfish bisque was creamy and had 2 little crawfishies swimming in it.

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Pate de campagne came with lots of pickled sides and mustard and marmalades.

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Beef.

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I loved my shrimp.

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Dark chocolate chiboust with peppermint and feuilletine – amazing!!! The peppermint element was on point.

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Progress buttermilk panna cotta with strawberry consomme and pistachio – one of the best panna cotta I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot…

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Even though the prix fixe was only $20 each, our total came out to be a LOT more due to alcohol and the gnocchi dish. No regrets though, as this restaurant became one of my favorites.

Next, we walk over to the St Charles cable car stop…

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We took the St Charles line uptown.

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To Audubon Park we go!

 

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Many joggers and nature lovers walk along the paths. A great way to spend a lazy afternoon.

 

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Then we walk through the Garden District.

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Creole Creamery. I love unique ice cream flavors like Lavender honey and Sarsaparilla!

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We continued our walk. Beads were everywhere!

We wanted crawfish boil but were tired from our day of walking, so we went across the street to Daisy Dukes.

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More gumbo.

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Lemon pepper wings.

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Crawfish at $10/lb. It was okay but later on we found a better place… (More to come in the next post)

We took a stroll through Bourbon Street at night.

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Travelogue: San Francisco (Day 4 of 4)

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berry crepe

Our last breakfast in San Francisco: Cable Car Cafe — an unassuming, cute little diner that was situated on a hill next to the cable car track. If you go there, order a crepe and sit next to the windows. You’ll enjoy a quiet meal while people watching — or in this case, cable-car-watching.

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lemon sugar crepe

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It was the perfect ending to my first (hopefully of many) trip to San Francisco.

Travelogue: San Francisco (Day 3 of 4)

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One of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had — Taylor Street Coffee Shop! Highly recommended. I can’t rave enough about their Sailor’s Hash: Hash browns topped with an omelette with shrimp, crab, bacon, jalapeno peppers, and a heaping portion of smoked salmon on top. My mom had the french toast and she liked it, which is rare (she’s more critical than I am)!

We took 2 buses to get to the Japanese Tea Garden. Mom is very much into tea, Japanese anything, and flowers. This was perfect. It was free admission because we got there before 10am (every Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays 9-10am!)

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You can reserve a tea ceremony for $25 on Wednesdays and Fridays. I tried to do that but nobody picked up when I called… so instead, I sat near them and sort of experienced it…

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We got our own mochi and tea. They offer other food items as well. Check out the gift shop before you leave!

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Right next door was the SF Botanical Garden. How convenient.

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Next up on our itinerary was Japan Town — we took 2 buses again to get there.

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Japan town had 4 main buildings that house a whole bunch of restaurants, stores, supermarkets. The streets adjacent to them were lined with residential apartments that had a Japanese flair.

It was time to go. We walked to the cable car station and took the least popular one — California-Van Ness line.

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It was a short ride, we didn’t really have to take it but hey, why not?

After we rested up at the hotel, I asked mom what she wanted for our last dinner in SF. She said “seafood”, so I Yelped a restaurant nearby with great reviews — Kim Thanh (Vietnamese), it was AMAZING.

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Sugar cane shrimp — first, you place the shrimp in the middle of the rice paper, then vermicelli noodles and veggies, and then you roll it up yourself. Shrimp was perfectly fried and full of flavor!

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What they were known for was their salt baked crab, which lived up to the hype! Seasoned with salt and pepper, fresh and meaty!

This was a day of good food.