It is currently winter in Cuba but still around 30 every day, and humidity is high, guaranteed afternoon rain every day.
Cuba is one of the strangest places I have visited. Havana is completely different to the rest of Cuba. It is so run down, with buildings crumbling all around (except the embassies) it feels like most of the houses were bombed a few weeks ago (click for random street scenes) yet there is a real earthiness to it, and those that live outside Havana (even though the areas and homes are nicer) aspire to live in Havana. ( old car snaps are further down).
I now officially do not get communism, I thought one of the key principles was equal standard of living for all, yet the divide between the wealthy and poor is extreme. I have managed to find out that the obvious money comes from those outside Cuba, providing for families / friend.
The local folk are nervous about the changes coming up, but everyone I spoke to wants Cuba to change, they mainly want embargos lifted and the right to travel freely. The locals prefer Raul to Fidel, apparently Fidel was a lot of talk little action whereas Raul seems to be progressing quite a few things.
I stayed initially in old Havana, (without doubt the best place to stay and close to everything) and then a trip to Varadeo (the beach area of Cuba) it was another world, 5 star resorts immaculate beaches, white sands, the clearest blue water, (click for Varadero beach pics).
Cocktails always at the ready, loads of folk open up the bottom room of their house and sell home made pizza and cocktails out of their lounge room window, or converted front rooms. The Cubans drink mojitos like water, mojitos in Cuba are not like Mojitos elsewhere, every cocktail I had in Cuba was flat and quite watery.
Hired a convertible mustang for a day and toured Havana and the outskirts for the day, (the old cars are everywhere) the one I hired was held together by gaffa tape and had a plastic drum sitting next to me in the back seat which was the fuel tank. Broke down twice (which was hilarious …nothing that an extra piece of gaffa tape can’t fix).. it sorta feels that is the cars that make Cuba (old cars of cuba pics)
Discovered an amazing rooftop restaurant that only seats about 15 people (full of Cubans must be good). Grill only, views over Havana, hot and dirty and perfect ! La Terrazza if you go it comes highly recommended, some of the best food I have eaten at about £15 for three courses … Havana is very cheap ! (roof top restaurant)
Visit to Plaza de La Revolucion which is Cuba's political, administrative and cultural center developed in 1952. The place had been known as Plaza Civica, and was renamed Plaza de la Revolucion after the Castro Victory in1959. It was a venue for the first mass rallies following the triumph of the revolution and the campaign against illiteracy in 1961. Here you can see Interior Ministry which stands just opposite to statue of Marti which is almost completely covered by the huge sculpture of Che Guevara which was completed in1995 , this followed a trip to the Cuban museum of contemporary art, it was extraordinary, the art was amazing, yet most is not allowed to be displayed outside of Cuba which is a huge shame.
I think the most touching thing I encountered while in Cuba, was coming across a school. It was in the busiest of streets (really narrow too) that sold loads of magnets, tourist stuff, cheap clothes and goods and bars and cafes, I could hear what I thought was counting behind some bars and went to take a closer look, it was a primary school full of children learning body parts in English, they must have been about 7. Cuba trades a tonne of doctors for oil, and when I was having brekky I noticed that most of the folk dining alongside where doctors from Australia / Britain / Canada all coming to learn from Cubans … and no wonder if they start that early eh ! ( school pics ) …
Pics of National Hotel referred to in last blog ( hotel national)This is getting longer than planned, so I'll leave it there, but as a final note it was great to catch up with friends passing through, and share a few mojitos, I love solo travelling, but nothing beats a giggle with folk you know :-)
Next stop .... Mexico !!
CBT - x