November 14, 2016

Cruisin' Cuba in a Convertible

If you were to ask any American to describe Cuba, I'm betting they'd rattle off one or more of these three things:
  1. rum
  2. cigars
  3. classic cars
And they'd be right, of course, with any or all of those choices. But what we think we know about Cuba, we have no idea.

If your idea of rum is Bacardi or Malibu or Captain Morgan, you haven't had Cuban rum—that dark, aged, slippery elixir of añejo that you could mistake for a sipping tequila or a smooth bourbon.

And if you think that the air of Cuba is filled with the smoke from Cohibas smoked by Castro, you haven't inhaled the diesel exhaust fumes of the streets of Havana.

There's also this myth that Cuba has been so frozen in time that everybody drives cars from the 1940s and 50s. Well... sure, you do see brightly-colored, shiny-chromed cars with tailfins parked in droves around tourist attractions and cruising the street of Havana.

But the people behind the wheels of those cars don't own them. They're taxi drivers.

Why take a regular yellow cab when you can arrive in style in a pink Cadillac?

On our last night in Havana, all 38 of us hopped into a conga line of classic convertible cruisers for a joyride that took us from our casas in Vedado...

...all the way down to the Malecón in Old Havana.

Even our local tour guide Manuel joined in.

It was hard to feel bad about the misconception I'd had about those classic cars when none of us could wipe the smiles off of our faces.

Crossing the Almendares River and sailing through the tree tunnels of the Bosque de la Habana, a.k.a. the Havana Forest (in the Gran Parque Metropolitano)...

...we saw more in that break-of-dusk ride than we'd seen from the windows of our tour bus in the three days prior.

To our delight, our drivers drag-raced each other around corners, through traffic circles and traffic lights, sounding their horns (ours to the tune of "La Cucaracha") through the Tunel de la Habana, across the Entrada Canal on our way to an 18th century fortress known simply as "La Cabaña."

Though the wind was whipping through my hair, it felt as though it were Havana whizzing by, rather than me whizzing through it.

I can hardly believe I was there at all.

Related Posts:
Life Through the Windshield
Photo Essay: Take a Ride With Me
Photo Essay: Automobile Driving Museum's Ridealong Sunday
Baby, You Can Drive My Car
Photo Essay: Cruisin' Glendale

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