Amsterdam based designer Alexandra Frida has traveled the world since she was young. Collecting inspiration for her fashion label FRIDA BY ALEXANDRA FRIDA. In 2012 she followed her former boyfriend to Havana, Cuba. Her journey.
"Upon arrival at Havana Jose Marti after an uneventful flight the adventure “Alexandra in Havana” begins…The heat and smell of the humid air is welcoming after days and days of cold temperatures and rain. We now have to search for our dogs but it doesn’t take long before we find Lola and Daddy between boxes, crates, bicycle wheels and many Cubans wanting to retrieve their goods. Funny enough the dogs are the most calm creatures there and after a ping pong game of endless paperwork the final stamp is given (without a single look at the passport or health certificate), we can go home."
"This week I joined Magda for a manicure and needless to say this didn’t go without a “Cuban surprise” like everything else here. As we got started the entire neighborhood experienced a black out and what was supposed to be a simple activity became a four-man operation. Creativity did not lack and we managed to finish both the manicure and pedicure with the help of a glowing lighter, a candle and a headlamp. It must have been quite a sight as it was an experience!"
"The same night I also got my first impression of Havana Fashion. The event 'Arte y Moda' included a number of fashion designers who each designed an outfit or two inspired on an artwork. It was way over the top like many things here but I cannot deny it left me thinking and excited to explore the fashion scene which is more open-minded than I had anticipated. It has potential and the Cubans are definitely hungry for more. Although I believe this was not about fashion but seemed more like a competition where each designer tried to out stage the other by a crazy performance. Slowly we are getting out of the holiday vibe and settling into everyday life in Havana."
"One of the best things that Cuba offers us is our get away weekends to the countryside. Every few weeks Rafael, the dogs and I need a break from hectic Havana so we pack our things and head down to a little town near Mariel. It gives us peace as we stroll along the coastline enjoying the sea and sun, taking the mean old tractor for a spin around the fields, feeding the guinea pigs or running away form the crazy geese we relax and forget all our worries and finish our days with movies and lobster for diner."
"As said before the farm was one of my favorite places, because I was completely away from everything and everyone, a place where I could totally relax. Going for a drink or dancing there are several good places but its really depending on which band there is playing. Another place where you could find me a lot is La Fontana, partly because this was owned by the parents of my boyfriend."
"The Malecon stays an amazing place to hang around, day time and night time as well as the old city, not the touristy part. There were times when I was standing on rooftops, enjoying the view of Havana, amazing!"
"I was really impressed by the Santeria religion, the rituals, the history. I once experienced one of these rituals where the play music, dance and bring offers. The made a prediction of that year and, I'm not totally not superstitious or spiritual, some of these predictions came true as I realized years later.. Also part of this ritual; when you open a bottle of alcohol (mainly rum) the first sip will be poured on the ground for the saints/orichas of the Santeria believe. If you are visiting Havana for the first time I am not sure you can experience such ritual as its held at home with a priest but because I was part of the family I honored to be part of it. What's really special is that this religion is brought from West Africa including Nigeria, a place where I also lived."
"Visiting Cuba I would try to avoid the popular places such as Varadero, instead go to Cayo Coco/Cayo Guillermo. Don't stay in hotels but search for places to stay with the locals and eat with them, so you can truly experience Cuba. Cuba seems really romantic but the day to day life is really hard. Take the local taxi's or the bus in Havana, and feel like you are in a movie!"
"When in Cuba, definitely check out the local artist, they go from reggae-ton to salsa or bolero, here you find a lot of Cubans dancing and having a good time, you will enjoy an unique experience. Downside is the fact that it mostly starts late, a concert most of the time does not start before 1 or 2 am and end in the early in the morning at the Malecon Boulevard or a local place where they meet each other, have breakfast before you go to bed."
For dinner go to Paladars and not to state owned restaurants, the food is horrible!
As I lived almost next to it La Fontana was one of my favorite places, a nice atmosphere, good food and a bar & lounge.
La Guarida, well known but it still an amazing spot
Rio Mar, at the water side but quality of the food varies
La Chucheria at the Malecon Boulevard, lovely pizza and the best milkshakes
Cafe Laurent, great view over Havana but a very scary small elevator to get there.
Le Chansonnier, a mix Cuban and French