On our eight and last day in Cuba Luxy, Ciara, and I took one last look at Havana. We had spent two days in the capital exploring Old Havana by foot, and toured Miramar, The Revolution Plaza, and The Malecón seafront in a 1950s classic car. Our first proper day in Havana was a Sunday and it so happened that our last chapter in Cuba would too close on a Sunday. But what a beautiful day to bid farewell to Cuba too! There is nothing so colourful, chaotic, and cacophonous as Havana on a Sunday.
The sixth instalment of my (shamefully backlogged) Cuba blog posts. Cuba was over, like, two weeks ago.
On our seventh day in Cuba, Luxy, Ciara, and I bid goodbye to the paradise that is Cayo Largo Del Sur and flew back to Havana in the evening. Our plan of attack was to have a proper night out as our Cuban trip so far was less 'gals on tour' and more 'family friendly'. Even the old people staying in Sol Cayo Lago were partying harder than us, they were thumping away to the beats of...I don't know, disco bingo? while we lay in our beds at midnight wondering if we had put on enough organic anti-mosquito body cream.
We had some serious catching up to do, and what better an opportunity than a Saturday night in Havana? A gorgeous Cuban local we met, who we shall just call Alejandro (don't call mah name, don't call mah name, Ale-ale-ale-jandro! I'm notcha babe I'm notcha babe) valiantly volunteered himself as our guide to the real Havana and not the tourist traps (Buena Vista Social Club? Casa de la Musica? Ptuiii! *spits in your chips*).
Enter Fábrica de Arte Cubano, the only place to be seen in Havana on a Saturday night. Or Friday night. Or better still Thursday night. Saturday is when all the 'kids' (anyone under the age of 23. I'm old) show up to poster and peacock.
Interestingly, on the one night I intended to disengage from any real 'learning' ie. take a break from historical outings and instead get trollied on £1 mojitos was the night I learnt the most I ever did about 'the real Cuba'. That night we spoke to many Cubans mostly our age who were wealthier or from more well to do families, which was the only way one could afford to frequent Fábrica de Arte Cubano. From speaking to these locals we learnt the truth about the class system, the government, how (sadly) affluence go hand in hand with being well-informed and educated about 'the outside world', and the dissonance among those who believe that a socialist, communist paradise is nothing but a fallacy. It just doesn't work. The only other place where this is more apparent is China, ironically the consumer capital of the world.
But first, an introduction to Fábrica de Arte Cubano, or Cuban Art Factory in English.
By our fourth day in Cayo Largo Del Sur we had experienced a few beaches. Not including the one by our hotel, Sol Cayo Largo (the temperamental waves stirred up the sand and made for murky waters which held, according to the increasing paranoia of one getting on in age as I am, things imaginary and unseen so therefore were scary and dangerous) we had enjoyed ourselves at the secluded Playa Paraiso, frolicked on the sandbank of the natural swimming pool, and left footprints in the powdery limestone beach of Cayo Las Iguana. We were told of nearby (just fifteen minutes drive) Playa Sirena, the watersport centre of all the hotels in Cayo Largo and their complimentary water activities. Crowds, commercialism, and naff overpriced souvenir stalls be damned! I would never forgive myself if I left paradise without first displaying my shameful ineptitude at rowing plastic boats that look like children's toys.
Having had enough of staying in the same spot (day three was spent luxuriating by the hotel pool, day four we barely budged from our sandbank on paradise beach) we decided to shake things up just a little on our and third day in Cayo Largo Del Sur. We threw some Cuban money at the problem and paid 44 CUC a for half-day excursion by boat to three locations; Cayo Las Iguanas (iguana island), a natural swimming pool, and snorkelling near some coral reefs.
|When the sky meets the sea. Yet another sandbank by the 'natural swimming pool'. Photo by Luxy|
On our third day in Cuba, the girls and I woke up at the crack of dawn (four...! How obscene, that's my usual bedtime). We heaved our bags down the stairs of the casa, rolled down the dusty, ripped-up streets of Havana to our waiting taxi (no seat belts, and miles of pitch-black road en route to the airport, what could possibly go wrong?), and headed to the airport for our morning flight to Cayo Largo Del Sur.
When we got to our resort, the 4* all-inclusive Sol Cayo Largo (there are no 5* hotels on the island. This was as good as it gets) we decided to spend our first day in Cayo Largo lying by the pool, sampling the cocktails (free, strong, and unlimited, that's a potent cocktail for trouble haha), getting a 'base tan', and fantasising about all the different ways we were going to lie around doing sweet nothing.
On day four, Ciara, Luxy, and I went down to Playa Paraiso to see for ourselves if it lived up to its name.
'Paradise beach' didn't disappoint.
Exhausted by the pavement pounding from our first night in Cuba and also the excitement of Sunday, on Day 2 (Monday) Luxy, Ciara, and I gave our sandal-clad (espadrilles for me) feet a break.
This is going to be a long blog post (I counted over a hundred photos) so you might want to pour yourself a drink. Make it a mojito. Havana Club rum, naturally. And fire up a Cohiba while you're at it.
A couple of Saturdays ago our long awaited trip to Cuba kicked off. Luxy, Ciara, and I spent two nights in Havana of sightseeing, then flying down to Cayo Largo Del Sur for six days and finally retuning to Havana for another night. This trip has been a long time in the making and would not have been possible without Luxy's amazing micromanaging skills (she even made a Powerpoint presentation), so muchos gracias Catarina (her new Spanish name for when we were in Cuba. Mine was Jazmín)!
All I knew about Cuba before this trip was that it is a 'socialist paradise' and practically inaccessible to most Americans. What I didn't know was that this was thanks to the embargo which also meant that internet is more or less non-existent. And here I was asking innocently 'Do they have Uber in Cuba?' Are you Havana laugh? But in all seriousness, can Cuba make 3G more widely available? Then they can start a taxi app called Cuber. *waits for applause. Gets none. Awkward*
So I flew to Paris with the girls before enduring a ten hour flight (Air France, economy class. An ordeal) to Havana to see for myself the charming communist country steeped in a history of revolution, and home to the best cigars and rum in the world. And also the catalyst for all the Che Guevara tees that years ago were so popular with clueless bros who have no idea who he is. I like it when the Cubans wear Che tees because he is their hero, but I wouldn't, because...well wouldn't it be a bit odd for my London friends to wear tees with Tunku Abdul Rahman's face on them? Who's Tunku Abdul Rahman you ask? Exactly my point.
We checked into our charming B&B, Casa Cristo Colonial (more on that in the next post), a short walking distance from Old Havana on Saturday night, and devoted our Sunday to exploring the city.
I posted this photo on Instagram, mistaking this dude for Carlos Manuel de Céspedes aka the Abraham Lincoln of Cuba who with his grito de Yara (war cry from Yara) freed his slaves, called for the abolition of slavery, and called upon his fellow Cubans to rebel against Spanish rule. I was wrong, apparently this is Jose Martin. Oops. Anyway, good man.
Greetings from Havana, this is past Jasiminne (or should it be present?) leaving a message for the future. I'm currently trapped in a 1950's time warp where communism is de rigeur, the internet is non-existent, the mojitos are warm (drink ice at your own peril), everything is vintage (thank you embargo) and charmingly so.
I'm here for ten days with Luxy and Ciara (thank God for that or I'll be drinking poisonous tap water if left to my own devices) and we're here to start a revolution. Against those vile Che Guevara motif tees. Or maybe we're just here to drink £1 cocktails, soak up some culture (ha), ride in vintage cars, and luxuriate on the beaches of Largo Del Sur.
Anyway. I'll try to see if I can get some internet to at least update my Instagram if only to assure my friends and family that I'm still alive and haven't drowned inside a mojito.
I've scheduled two blog posts for tomorrow and Wednesday, so even if I don't get my paws on some wifi this blog will at least have something going on.
Now if you will excuse me, Cuba awaits.