Cuba Sleeping

Mi Casa Es Su Casa: Home in Havana, Hostel el Alquimista

By on July 6, 2014


People are constantly telling me, ‘you are so far from home’. I guess geographically they kind of have a point. But even though my heart lies waiting over the foam, (in a sentimental QANTAS ad kind of way), I have managed to find many ‘homes’ through my travels. One specifically being a ‘Casa Particular’ in Old Havana, or Hostel “El Alquimista”, owned by Frank, the friendliest and most welcoming Cuban I know, and his amazing wife Marilis (who is an extremely hard-working brain surgeon by day and loving hostess by dinnertime).

Now, I must admit, this was not the Casa Particular that I stayed at during my time in Cuba’s fascinating capital. But once I met my friend Alex, who invited me to have breakfast at his Casa, I was back every day.

IMG_1007Frank is a chef who used to work in restaurants in the city, now his magnificent culinary skills are reserved for the lucky travellers that stay in his home. After recently moving to not-so-tropical Iceland I was craving tropical fruits and every day Frank would serve me enough pineapple, mango, papaya and anonymous other  fruits to feed a small army. (I fell in love with one specific anonymous fruit that Alex insisted calling the ‘sweet avocado’. I recently discovered is called ‘Pantin’. It’s orange and delicious and you should definitely try it.). Frank would even make a fresh fruit smoothie as a side to my fruit. He would also serve omelettes, fresh bread, and amazing hot cuban coffee to whoever was dining in the morning.

The first time I experienced one of Franks King-sized breakfasts was the day before mothers day. Frank seemed to have been up all night slow-roasting some magnificent beast that would soon be in the bellies of his guests. I was immediately invited. Alex was heading to Vinyales that day so I no longer had the excuse of popping by to visit him, but Frank insisted that I still come along for the feast, Marilis reassuring me that ‘mi casa es su casa’.

I arrived on time (which is early in Cuba) and bothered Frank in the kitchen, asking him questions about his country while he fed me tastings of the meal. I even dared to ask if he knew where Fidel was. He seriously pointed to his chest. “In the heart of all Cubans” he responded before breaking out in a cheeky grin.

Eventually I was surrounded by a big family of friendly Columbians. Even though I couldn’t follow the dominating Spanish conversations around the meal, everyone made an effort to continue serving me food and wine, filling me in on the debates in the foreign conversation. The food was incredible, and I left with a tummy full of fine Cuban cuisine, and a heart full of gratitude for the kindness of strangers.

I returned every day. I must admit, leaving the casa of Frank and Marilis felt like leaving home. I had found comfort in this Cuban casa that has stayed in my heart long after that last bite of sweet avocado.

Are you going to Havana? Stay with Frank. The food and atmosphere in this house alone is worth visiting Cuba for. (Even if you must do is illegally due to a certain embargo, that forbids a certain group of people, (that I am a member of), from visiting the country. But that’s another story…)

PS The pre-revolution elevator can be a bit of a scary journey up to level five…

Hostel El Alquimista
Conslato No. 9, apto. 5 (izq.)
e/ Prado y Genios, Colon,
H. Vieja, La Habana, Cuba

Cell: (+53) 5 315 1924
Tel: (+53 7) 861 8352

  1. Reply


    June 14, 2015

    Hey Kat,
    Frank + his particular sounds wonderful – I’m heading there in January so will see if he has any vacancies (fingers crossed!). Did you travel to Cuba solo? and do you have and tips or recommendations?
    Cheers 🙂

    • Reply

      Kat Knapp

      June 15, 2015

      Hi Ala,

      Definitely fins out if Frank can host you! He is lovely.

      I travelled solo but very spontaneously with no plans or information about Cuba and didn’t realise until I arrived that I would not be able to google anything. I would definitely recommend doing some research on what places outside of Havana you there are to visit and busing around the country once you arrive!

      In saying that, I spent most of my time in Havana and absolutely adored the city!

      Have an amazing time!


About Me

Kat Knapp

Hello! I am a 22-year old Australian currently training to be a pilot and studying journalism and sociology I have visited 69 countries across all 7 continents and love to explore. Here is where I share my adventures.