Cuba - the architecture, the music, the cars, the cigars. The island is legendary. Living so close, we feel the presence of the island's influence constantly. We even start most days with a con leche.
I'd been wanting to travel to Cuba since before moving to Key West seventeen years ago. The history and stories captivated me. But with two small children at home, these days I'm not yet able to take long trips. So I was delighted when I discovered that Our Key West is offering day trips to Cuba. Fly out in the morning, be home in time for dinner.
My husband and I boarded a 7-seater airplane on a clear, calm morning and marveled as Key West disappeared on the horizon and we made our way west––watching as the water turned to a deep, marine blue that signaled we were crossing the Gulf Stream. Immediately on landing, it was clear that even though we'd only traveled 90 miles, we were in another country with a very different culture and history.
The first stop on our trip was Hemingway's home. Archeo is located blocks from the writer's Key West residence, so it felt especially relevant to see how he lived in Cuba: the familiar taxidermy from his hunting expeditions, the bookshelves full of books, the scale in the bathroom with his weight recorded obsessively in tiny handwriting on the wall. Seeing Hemingway's home in Cuba gave me deeper insight into his world. From there, we visited one of Hemingway's favorite watering holes, the Floridita - where we were serenaded by the best musicians and dancers I've ever seen (enhanced of course by the strawberry daiquiris!)
My favorite part of the day was strolling the historic streets of Havana. The climate and flora felt familiar, but the Spanish architecture was completely different from anything we see in Key West. The cobblestone streets are lined with majestic mansions, built from stones brought as ballast weight on ships. Our guide told us that the grand mansions, originally built as single-family homes, now house many families. Perhaps because of this, when you're walking through the city center, you get a sense of the vitality there.
We came home with our horizons expanded, and eager to return. If you're coming to Key West for an extended stay, I highly recommend this day trip!