Welcome to the third flight of this new series covering my late winter getaway to Cuba with stopovers in Munich, Germany and Toronto, Canada. The whole trip consisted of the following 6 flights operated by Lufthansa, Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge:
28.02.2020 - LH1613 - WAW-MUC
29.02.2020 - AC847 - MUC-YYZ
29.02.2020 - AC1876 - YYZ-HAV - you are here!
14.03.2020 - AC1877 - HAV-YYZ
14.03.2020 - LH471 - YYZ-FRA
15.03.2020 - LH1348 - FRA-WAW
but as the last flight has eventually been cancelled due to covid-19 pandemia and closing of Polish borders on the 15th of March, we've been offered a flight to Berlin instead:
15.03.2020 - LH178 - FRA-TXL
There's not much to do in YYZ during a 5 hour stopover. It's still not enough for a resonable trip to the city and far too much to stay at the airport. After multiple visits to the shops full of maple syrup we already knew what to buy on the way back and spent most of the time reading. I managed to make some outside pictures before it got dark but there were not many good spotting places.
Time ran slow an I was more and more sleepy considering the fact that it was +6 hours in Europe and I was already quite tired after 8 hours flight. When our boarding was announced it was already completely dark outside.
While getting on board of this AC Rouge A319 I suddenly remembered the words of my friend that just 2 years ago went to Cuba via YYZ: "I think they send the oldest aircraft they have in their fleet to Havana on purpose, so you can already get used to what you gonna see there". Oh yes, this A319 seemed ancient, its interior had this special yellow colour that says: worn out. I checked later that this particular A319 with registration C-FYJG was delivered to Air Canada in 1997, so it was "only" 23 years old.
To make things worse it was dirty as if nobody had cleaned it after the previous flight. This window shade was a perfect example of how it felt inside:
Legroom was terrible for a flight supposed to last 3 hours and I really didn't know if I was more tired or angry to fly in these conditions.
Our neighbour outside was this A330 heading to Copenhagen
There was only one but very important factor that saved this flight from being one of the worst in my life from the very beginning: cabin crew. One girl and two young boys, so nice and friendly that they couldn't be friendlier. All the announcements made in English, French and Spanish were so funny and all the interactions with this crew made me forget that this aircraft was such a nightmare. After a long wait we finally took off with a night view of Toronto suburbs along the lake.
The seat pocket had usual stuff in it
The safety card should say: A319 OAD - old and dirty
It's hard to do anything interesting on an evening flight when in your country it's almost morning and your bed is still far away. I tried to sleep but I couldn't, I tried to read but I couldn't. It was funny to be overflying USA from the very north to the very south - I have never been there and now I was 10 km above and it looked like any other land. Flying along the west coast of Flordia - we are getting close!
After a very rough descent (for a split second I really thought something was wrong as we were going down so rapidly that it looked like an emergency) I was able to spot the lights of Havana and it made me feel better. After a while we were already there, parked next to Aeromexico 737 and Iberia A332 departing to MAD.
After a long wait for the luggage and a rather quick passport check we entered a completely new dimension of reality named Cuba. View of the terminal 3 from the arrivals level (it's hard to believe that there are 5 terminals in HAV, but, as the official webiste of the airport says: "Havana Airport Terminal 3 shares its international status with Terminal 2 and it is, in fact, the only accomplishing international standards".) Hard to imagine how the other terminals look like!
Our prebooked taxi that was sent to pick us up by our hotel. Yes, we are in a completely different world!
After a crazy ride with a vehicle beeing in my opinion more than 50 years old, we arrived to our hotel located in the Centro district and fell asleep immidiately. It was next day in the morning when I discovered how the city that I always wanted to see really looks like.
There was a huge Cuban flag hanged in the patio of our small hotel:
But the real Cuba was outside, on the streets of central Havana
While Centro is the most natural part of the Cuban capital, renovated Habana Vieja looks like a completely different city, especially the Capitolio district.
It's the most touristic part of Havana, with colorful cabiolets and places, like the cathedral square, with a very European look.
There are many places described in most guidebooks as iconic but they don't have much to do with real Cuba. One of them is Hemingway's Floridita when you can have his favourite daiquiri.
We made a trip with a double decker to see the city a little bit, the Malecon, Plaza de la Revolucion with faces of Che and Camillo Cienfuegos, huge empty roads with old cars that are still in use.
By the way: have you ever seen this one? In Cuba it's called "Polaquito" as this Fiat 126p comes from my country where it was produced from the 1970-ties till the end of the 20th century. This car that always looked like a toy used to be a family car during communism in Poland and while it is very rare now in my country it is still very popular in Cuba!
Another picturesque street of Havana
The next day we took an organized trip to the beautiful Valley of Vinales known mostly for its tobacco plantations.
Tobacco is not a plant for me as I've never smoked and I hate the smell of cigarettes but it was nice to see how it is grown and processed.
I tried a real Cuban cigar but I didn't change my mind: smoking is not for me!
Even if you don't smoke, Vinales is worth visiting for its stunning landscapes.
Many thanks for reading! To be continued soon!
AC Rouge has one of the oldest and most neglected fleets in the western world. This A319 was old and dirty as hell. But it also has amazing cabin crew that can help you survive even the worst flight. It was nice to be offered free drinks on a LCC, a small snack on a 3 hour flight would also be an asset. In my opinion offering flights operated by Rouge included in one ticket with AC is not the best solution.