Flight status update: delayed, delayed, and delayed some more. We ended up spending the entire day at the airport. Finally, around 7PM we decided to cancel our flight to the Pirate Island, as we did not want to spend the night in the miserable airport and waste any more of our precious time. We were in a predicament though since we had checked our luggage earlier; we now had to somehow find away to get it off the plane. Even though Kristin and I speak Spanish, our desires were not being communicated very well. Thankfully, two kind gentlemen whom were in the same situation as us overheard our difficulties and came to our rescue. We got our stuff back, but not before aging a couple of years from the stress. Apparently, flight delays are more than a common occurrence. ¡Es Cuba! My advice is to take buses or boats when traveling in the country.
We were delighted to be out of the airport and in a taxi, however now we were homeless. Not expecting to still be in La Habana; we had no casa reserved for the evening. Since we had lost a whole day to the airport disaster and the next day was my Birthday, we decided to splurge a little and stay in a hotel. The only problem was that we had not budgeted for one. So, we turned to our holy Lonely Planet for advice and could not help but fall in love with the description of Hotel Nacional. It really does not get more glamorous than the Nacional and that is where we were determined to stay (we just needed to figure out how to pay for it first).
Kristin thought I was crazy for thinking I could negotiate a room there for two nights. To be honest, I am not sure where I found the courage to walk into such an establishment and ask for a discount myself? The woman behind the desk was astonished when I told her that we could only afford to pay almost half of what a room normally costs. I put on a good show though, not forgetting to mention that in a couple of hours it would be my Birthday. She eventually took pity on us and gave us the room at the requested price. Score!
The history of this luxurious landmark is deeply rich and captivating. The Nacional’s tiled lobby, over sized chairs, and aristocratic air capture the atmosphere of a bygone era and it is the perfect place to cool down with a mojito or cuba libre at the end of a hot day. It is perched on a cliff above el Malecon and is surrounded by lush gardens and pools. All in all, the perfect place to celebrate a special Birthday.
Kristin and I found a nearby restaurant and decompressed from the day. Around midnight we laid our heads down on our soft pillows and just as I was drifting off to sleep Kristin said, “Feliz Cumpleaños mi amiga,” and with that all of the frustrations that I experienced throughout the day were gone. Little did I know that it would end up being one of the most memorable Birthdays of my life!