Today's missive comes with two life lessons. The first: Never change your plans while staying in Cuba. And second: Never give up.
We had planned to stay a second night in Viñales on Thursday. But after one night, we decided one was enough and to go back to Havana where we thought we'd be able to easily find a place to stay once we got there.
After the two-hour trip to Havana, we asked the driver to take us to the Havana Libré hote, which was the Hilton before the revolution. I guess the "Libré" is a reference to the fact that they didn't have to pay for it. (Kenny calls it the Nacho Libré, and now he's got us saying it.)
Anyway, we love the Nacho Libré because it's a big, open casual space with Internet connectivity, a 24-hour cafeteria and plenty of chairs and tables and couches to sit on.
Amira got to work frantically looking for a place to stay for the night working her connections, AirBnB and other resources. Most of the time she did this standing up by the floor-to-ceiling glass window in the front of the lobby, where the WiFi reception was almost OK.
AirBnB stopped working (see my other post), so Amira had Kevin, as well as Mardi and Maria were dragooned into the project for hours. (Maria literally requested more than a dozen bookings on our behalf.)
Every place was booked solid.
The district where the Nacho Libré is located also has a gazillion hotels, casa paticulares, AirBnBs and rooms to rent. So after a few fruitless hours online, Amira hit the pavement, going place-to-place, and learned the same thing: all booked up. (A few hotels rooms were available, starting at $508 per night and going up from there.)
One sympathetic casa particular owner, who had no vacancy, suggested that his grandmother might help. He called her several times, but her line was busy. So he gave Amira her address.
The grandmother was named Angela, and she said she'd help us find a place. Amira went back to the Nacho Libré, and resumed her search while Angela called every place she could find.
So with Angela calling around and trying to find a place, Maria using the Internet to find us accommodations and Amira trying to book something, we slogged on frantically at the Nacho Libré. (Personally, I had resigned myself to pulling an all-nighter in the Nacho Libré lobby.) This continued until around 9pm, when Amira and I went to the diner for our first meal of the day (espagettes and insalada).
While eating, Amira got an email from Angela, who said she found a place and that it was confirmed. She gave the address.
So we bundled up our stuff, got the only cab willing to take us so short a distance, and then went on a circuitous route all over Havana trying to figure out where the address was.
When we arrived, we were greeted by a wonderful, gregarious woman, also named Angela. We climbed a set of stairs, then another and we were inside the woman's home. In the living room were another set of steep wooden stairs, and up we went.
It turned out that our room was two rooms, plus the entire roof, which has a commanding view (of the Nacho Libré, among other things), a tiled floor and lots white-painted metal patio furniture. In short, it's like the perfect Casa Particular. ($30 a night.) There was a doorway in one of the bedrooms, which gave access to steps up to a second rooftop patio, and also a long circular staircase directly into the kitchen.
It's the best place we stayed so far in Cuba, and much better than the Nacho Libré lobby.