Thurs. July 4, 2019:
Toronto flight to Havana, Cuba:
We were invited down to Havana for my nephew’s baptism. As both godmother and auxiliary family photographer I was 100% on board- despite my apprehension about travelling to Cuba (which I got made fun of for).
And so, we found ourselves at Pearson on a Thursday night. Our gate was in a little tiny area below the main terminal, there was only one other gate and nothing else. There weren’t even any bathrooms, I had to go up the stairs to the main terminal every time. At least I got my steps in. We had gotten there really early to partake in the usual tradition: Wendy’s. It’s the best food option in the airport. We didn’t have to clear customs and security in the terminal was way more efficient than last time we had flown out. We had a lot of time to lounge about while we waited.
There wasn’t much to do. I had packed a book that I was 2/3 done and I was saving it for the plane. I hadn’t packed the iPad so all I had were podcasts, which I alternated with playing Super Mario Odyssey on the Switch and wandering around the upstairs main area. While getting snacks for Brent I was tempted to get him a Sprite lemonade but I wasn’t sure if it would be good. Plus, it wouldn’t pair well with the Mike & Ike’s Mega Sour Mix (why was grape a flavour?) that made me keep pulling funny faces- much to his amusement. Closer to boarding time I had the traditional Starbucks hot chocolate (to help make me sleepy, it was a 9pm flight) and a really terrible rice krispy square (how do you screw that one up?!). As they started calling zones it dawned on us: we are always in one of the last zones. Like every single time. In this case it did not matter at all. We were all crammed onto a shuttle bus and driven to the airplane. I was close to the door and quick to get off the bus. There were barely any people on the plane and I got the coveted primo overhead space for my backpack (an ongoing travel anxiety). The only problem was that I had a middle seat and window-person was not there yet. I had to sit there watching for them so I could get up. I ended up sitting between two larger gentlemen. The Dutch guy on my right ended up being really helpful when the confusion set in: paperwork?! All my internet research said nothing about filling out paperwork to get into Cuba. It also said nothing about the airplane being sprayed with a (safe) pesticide before landing. I had finished my book during the first half of the flight so I took to my large backlog of podcasts.
My internet research also said nothing about your bags being x-rayed upon departure from the airport. I thought that only applied to checked luggage. No sooner had we come out the door to the main area, a guy approached us offering us his taxi services. I found it unnerving to say the least. We still had to get our money exchanged, this guy was one step ahead of us. He told us the exchange was upstairs. As we arrived, he appeared. Again, offering us his taxi services and telling us that the exchange place was closed. It felt off to me. The exchange place was supposed to be open. Eventually another guy offered us taxi services and said we could pay once we arrived at the Hotel Nacional and exchanged our money. I was still kind of nervous. Especially when the car stalled and shut off on a dark road near a gravel driveway. The car kept doing that and eventually I settled in. I couldn’t believe how muggy it was at two in the morning. The car fumes were not helping, I was feeling rundown and stressed. I needed sleep. Thankfully the exchange place in the hotel was still open (another of my worries) and was easy enough. After all that I still had trouble falling asleep in our not-famous room.