Following my trip to Camaguey in Cuba in 2015, I promised myself that if I returned, I would choose to spend my entire stay in a casa particular. Casas particulares are private accommodations or private homestays, very similar to a bed and breakfast. My experience at the all-inclusive hotel with my sister Simone was packed with adventures. We played couple therapists for an “on and off” young couple from Hamilton, Canada, went on a coffee farm tour where we bonded with our lovely Afro-Cuban guide who was happy to see two African travellers and made us feel really special, and went to outdoor parties at night in the city with hotel employees we befriended. We also got to enjoy delicious homemade food and interact with two lovely Cuban families that hosted us. This was long before Cooking Experiences offered by Airbnb as an activity.
In December 2019, I returned to Cuba for the third time. This time, I went to Havana with my other sister Raïssa, for her first visit to this lovely country that I had gotten to appreciate with time. However, my lack of organization or rather indecisiveness regarding the trip forced me to book a last minute state-owned hotel in the capital, instead of a casa particular, that I had originally wished for.
Throughout our stay, Raïssa and I ate at various paladares (Cuba’s privately-owned restaurants) located on Calle Obispo, one of Old Havana’s most famous tourist street. Our favorite places to eat during our stay were Los Mercaderes and La Calesa Real. As this was my first trip alone with Raïssa, we definitely bonded over our love of food, cafe con leche and even an underground party one evening.
Being the foodies we are, Raïssa and I wanted to continue our food experience and booked a Cooking experience through Airbnb with Adriana and Dariel. Adriana and Dariel are a young charming Cuban couple, passionate about music, cooking and photography. Raïssa, being an amazing singer, serenaded our hosts with her lovely voice and spent the afternoon singing with Dariel and Adriana while Dariel played his guitar. With my limited singing abilities, I only clapped and cheered everyone.
Our Cooking experience started with a tour of the market to buy groceries. We also got to do a little photoshoot with Dariel, who enjoys taking photographs in his free time. Back at our hosts’ home, Adriana and Dariel served us Pru, a drink similar to Liha from my home country Togo (also called chakpalo in Benin, Asaana drink in Ghana, Apissé or Dolo in Côte d’Ivoire). Our hosts seemed a bit disappointed when we told them we were familiar with Pru as they were really hoping to have introduced us to something new.
Another surprise for them was when they found out that we fry our plantains the same way they do, and also cook rice and beans (Ayimolou in Togo) almost the same way they do. Our Cooking experience ended up being an exchange of knowledge and discussion of the similarities we share when it comes to our respective cuisines.
The rest of the day with our hosts consisted of in-depth conversations on life, our dreams, our challenges and our respective countries.
After more than 5.5 hours together instead of the planned 3.5 hours, it was time to say good-bye. It was a pleasant surprise when Adriana and Dariel invited us over again for dinner that same evening. Being from a continent that values hospitality, we felt very loved and honoured by the invitation. Our experience with Adriana and Dariel was a heartwarming one because we connected as if we were old friends who were reuniting after a long time apart. Needless to say, we have kept in touch with them and regularly check on each other to this day.
With the current Covid-19 situation, Cuba’s private hospitality sector remains closed to international business. However, if you ever go to Havana, please reach out to Adriana and Dariel for an amazing cooking experience.
Awovi is the founder and editor-in-chief of Consciously, Awovi. She is also the cheerleader-in-chief in her loved ones’ life. She loves travelling, writing, art, thrifting and cooking. During the day, she helps companies and businesses become more socially and environmentally responsible in how they conduct business operations.