Havana - There's something kind of quaint about being awakened in a city of 3 million people by a crowing rooster.
On the other hand, when the rooster is crowing at 4 in the morning and you were out listening to Latin jazz and salsa till the wee hours, less quaint and more quiet would be good.
But this is Cuba, a country where, along with all its beauty and history, contradictions and frustrations are the order of the day.
I've arrived in Havana after a five-day visit to the seaside town of Guanabo, where I stayed in a "casa particular" (bed and breakfast) and cycled around the area with a group, enjoying the natural beauty of the countryside and historic sites.
Casas particulares have recently been licensed in Cuba, and they are a great way to make your visit more real and avoid the big all-inclusive resorts that are rampant in the beach areas of the country.
Staying with a family in their impeccably clean house, sharing delicious, simple meals with them and attempting to breach the language barrier are all experiences not to be missed for a traveller looking to lift the tourist veil.
With that reality come the aforementioned frustrations, illustrated one evening while returning from dinner at a local restaurant. To our delight, we found that the restaurant we chose was both open and stocked with food, things that aren't taken for granted here.
We thought we were in for a glitch-free evening.
Then, as we were walking home, the area was suddenly plunged in darkness. The ubiquitous salsa music fell silent.
Making your way home in Toronto when there's a blackout is no big deal, but sidewalks here are broken and uneven, and the streets are pocked with holes and strewn with dogs and their by-products.
At a snail's pace and with only the illumination of occasional passing car headlights, we made our way back to our casas, which we were grateful to find had full power.
The locals shrug off such events; blackouts and water shortages are everyday occurrences.
Contradictions abound: a man driving a horse-drawn buggy, which he's using for transportation, not because it's a tourist draw, past a man standing on the sidewalk talking on a cell phone; the guard at an elementary school telling us during an impromptu tour that the children don't have enough pens or paper to do their schoolwork, even as he proudly shows us the computer lab.
Cuba is a beautiful quandary, with much to see besides beaches and all-inclusive resorts. Just bring your flashlight.