Our amazing Cuban wedding photographers, AV Smile, had several add-ons to the packages they offered, one of them was a photo session in Havana for an extra $200. We figured why not. We’re here, and we’re already spending all this money (although our photographers were very reasonable and so beyond amazing for the price we paid), and we’re never going to have the chance again to traipse around Havana obnoxiously in our wedding attire. It is an amazing city. We did a private tour last year that I never ended up blogging about, because we saw SO MUCH in one day that I was just overwhelmed. I wanted to do it justice and I didn’t know where to start.
Anyway, we decided to do it. I woke up at 6am on Tuesday after the catamaran day, had my bestie curl my hair and help me get into my wedding dress (THANK YOU AGAIN LISA!!!), and then we waited for Alex (the main photographer) in the lobby. All our Toronto friends and our moms were leaving that morning so it was cute that I got to hang out with them for a bit in my wedding dress before they left.
Alex brought a driver and an assistant lighting guy with him. They picked us up in a classic car, and we were off!
Havana is about a two hour drive from Varadero, but the entire way is beautiful and interesting — there is so much to see! The time flew by. I should probably tell you to get ready for a ton of pictures, though considering my posts over the last couple of weeks you should be prepared by now. We had over 200 pictures from Havana and I’ve cut it down to only about 50 for this, which was so hard. Our pictures are all so amazing, it’s hard to pick favourites! Again, they’re all by Alex at AV Smile.
We started in Old Havana in the Plaza 13 de Marzo, and our first photos were in front of the Museum of the Revolution, which is a former presidential palace. We canoodled around in that area for a bit.
And it was INSANELY. BEAUTIFUL.
What a scene to stumble upon. Our photographer Alex is so ridiculously talented. I still can’t believe it’s us in these pictures.
So many people clapped and cheered or waved at us, or yelled congratulations, we felt like celebrities! I remember a man yelling to us “I am so happy to see you today!” The people of Cuba are so nice!
It was really nice to just chat and, well, kiss and whatever, even though we had an audience. We were in such a beautiful place and it felt really romantic. We also didn’t get to spend a lot of time alone in Cuba, since there were people around us all the time, so this was something we got to do just the two of us. I’m so glad we did it.
We walked over to the edge of the Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta (a fortress in the Bay of Havana), right beside Playa Malecon (a local beach), and resumed the photo fest there.
We were taking pictures right across from the Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro or just Morro Castle, which is a popular symbol Havana (we actually toured it last year). It first saw action in 1762 in the Battle of Havana, and the lighthouse that was added in 1846 totally photobombed our picture.
We did not know what was happening and Alex and his assistant were looking at the picture after and just dying laughing. Alex showed me and said “Show this to your girls, they’ll like it.” Yes, yes they would. He only spent a day with them but he knows them well. But I feel like everyone can appreciate it.
The lighthouse got Photoshopped out of the next one.
So we have one we can send to family 😉
Skyline of new Havana!
After that we walked over to Paseo del Prado, a street designed in 1772 and the dividing line between old and new Havana.
I do not know what building this is, but it’s a beauty.
The street itself is quite an attraction, and is considered to be the most beautiful street in Havana.
I’m gonna have to agree with that.
The building in the below photos is a schoolhouse! Alex asked the teachers if we could walk through to go up onto the balcony, and that was quite the interesting experience. It was currently recess so the kids were all playing in a courtyard and no one was in the classroom we walked through to get onto the balcony, but there was some pretty difficult-looking math on the chalkboard. I did not envy those kids.
I love, love, love that Alex got the school kids playing in the doorway below us. That is one of my favourites.
After Paseo del Pravo we got back in the car to go to the National Ballet of Cuba (or Ballet Nacional de Cuba), which looks like this from the outside and is just incredible. The inside, too.
I felt like Cinderella in there!
Ugh, so beautiful.
We almost blend right into the background in this one.
This one was taken outside of the old Bacardi Building.
And this one inside.
It is also magnificent, as seriously every single building in Havana seems to be.
You can see El Capitolio, the National Capital Building of Havana (currently under renovations and they’re moving the government offices back into it), behind us in the below picture.
And the Great Theatre of Havana (or Gran Teatro de la Habana).
Alex actually went inside the theatre and up onto a balcony for these next shots.
I love them!
The pictures below were taken where this old building had its side ripped off and the inside was now exposed. Alex was like “This is a beautiful spot but there are piles of caca in there and it’s a bit stinky, do you feel comfortable?” The bottom of my dress was already destroyed by that point so why not. Alex told me to lift my dress up, and in we went (I dropped my dress back down in a clean-ish spot for the pictures).
There were literally a few piles of crap behind us and Evan asked me “do you think this is human or animal?” We got our answer a few seconds later when some random dude dropped his pants, squatted behind a pillar beside us and took a big caca. I did not know what was happening until after the pictures were taken or I think I would have looked a bit more horrified.
I should probably burn my dress now, but the pictures are so beautiful I’m gonna say it was worth it.
Back to the Capitol building.
After that the driver picked us all back up and took us into more of the interesting alleyways of Old Havana, the area surrounding Plaza Vieja (or the Old Square).
The lighting guy carried my Wifey purse all through the city all morning, which greatly pleased me, mainly so we could get this shot:
I appreciated it.
Just dancing in the street.
I almost didn’t wear my wedding dress for this because I was thinking “how many photos of myself do I really need in a wedding dress?” But I am so, so glad I did. The pictures would not have been the same without it!
Old Havana has four squares, Plaza de la Catedral (Cathedral), Plaza de San Francisco, Plaza de Armas (Arms) and Plaza Vieja (Old Square). This is Plaza Vieja — it’s been around since 1559 and has been the site of executions, processions, bullfights and fiestas (source). And now our wedding photos.
The little girl beside Evan in the below photo was smiling and waving at us, it was cute.
After that we were pretty done with pictures. It was HOT and we both felt exhausted. We stopped for the best ice cream of our lives (this could have also been because we were hot and thirsty) at a little cart in the square. It was served in half a coconut and it only had coconut milk, coconut water, and shredded coconut in it. We bought some for Alex and his assistant as well and the four of us sat around eating and chatting for a while. Alex and his wife come to Toronto fairly often so we told them next time we’re having them over for dinner!
Alex has a really great eye for photos and was telling us that he doesn’t like to take the same picture twice, he likes to go to new areas and find cool shots that jump out to him. Right before we got in the car to go home, a spot jumped out to him, and he took this:
I was so done with photos by that point but I’m so glad he got it. He was also so good with posing us and telling us what to do. If it weren’t for him you know I’d just be skinny-arm posing my way around the city.
What a day. And I just want to mention if you’re ever in Cuba and looking for a Havana tour, I HIGHLY recommend Blexie’s Havana Tours. Blexie took us last year (I talk a little bit about him in this post from last year), and he also took Emily and Corey this year, and his colleagues Bill and Roly took Dawn and Mark and Eric, Kenya and Dixon. You get an entire day in Havana with a private tour guide and a driver in an old car (we had a cherry red ’57 Chevy when we went) and it’s almost the same price as the bus tour and SO. MUCH. BETTER. Go there!!