United Kingdom, Cuba · 19 Days · 41 Moments · January 2017

Helen & Mag do Cuba!

2 February 2017

First day in Cuba. Pretty chilled.

29 January 2017

First sleep back at home. Missing Helen and Cuba big time! Going to be hard to readjust back. All good things come to an end...where to next I wonder.

28 January 2017

This was the biggest love of the trip! Spent two days hanging out. Would love to bring her home, she's special. Helen met a girl at the airport who was bring a dog she fell for, home. Got to love those Canadians! Bye Bella!
The last day, sin Helen, due to dire taxi circumstances we managed to keep it cool saying goodbye. What an amazing trip! Enjoyed savouring the last few hours. Wasn't alone...

27 January 2017

Last full day together in La Habana. Visited Hotel National and enjoyed the view at lunch there. Funny how "foreigners" seem jarring after a short while.

26 January 2017

Back to Habana and stayed in Habana Vieja this time. Preferred Luca's place in Vedado but the location was cool. Had while apartment for a change.
Varadero, left at 2pm to get a half extra day of beach in. It's possible to fly directly there from the UK. Then had a nice drive with a lovely couple to Habana.

25 January 2017

Varadero is half hell hole tourist trap and half aok. If you get a casa particulares around 41, and go to eat at Bodigeto Del Medio, Nonna Tina, and stay west you'll be ok. The beach is great! And it's not too crowded at present. The east end of the peninsula is all inclusive so it's impossible to get a drink and for me the vibe is not what I like. Summary, lovely for the beach, expensive, above restaurants are lovely. 2 days and go. Swimming is amazing.

23 January 2017

Trinidad was my favourite city of the trip, followed by La Habana (Helen will continue calling it Havana when she gets back). It's dirty, authentic, cheaper, fun. Helen prefers Havana. Really just wandered around, took pictures, met Steven and Raquel, danced the night away like never before. Really the Cuban men of all ages can really lead - feels amazing! Though you get told 20 times a day "Bonita", "Where are you from?", inwardly hissed at, it's harmless. The most irritating thing is money. It's hard to withdraw it. None of my cards worked so Helen had to find the trip, thanks Banco Blondo. Bring cash with you, change it on arrival, carry it with you.

22 January 2017

Groceries and mechanic.
More street walking today. Leisurely. Can't believe a week has gone by already. Think we are a little bit more hassled in Trinidad than other places but it's not serious in any way. Learn to bargain with taxi drivers. We're staying in Trinidad at Casa Almara and Carol from Canada is a lovely, kind hostess.
We finally went to a museum and it was pleasant. People watching has more draw!
We're travelling well together, it's fun times. I've had a half day of travel fatigue, Helen a peak of low blow sugar, else aok! Can't imagine going back to normal life after this visual, sensory and cultural experience. The missing metronome like click of Cuban music, the lack of sun sculpted faces, time, calm, experienced dancers - it's going to be a stinging loss. Tips for travellers: Usually your room will have a fridge stocked with water and beer and soft drinks. You pay a bit more but it's convenient. Toilets are hit and miss and can sometimes have no running water, nor toilet paper. Bring sanitiser and toilet paper, from home unless you want to sand your bottom. Have loose change for the ladies on the door. Eggs are amazing. Taxis collectivos are more expensive but quicker to travel between cities - treble the price of the bus. Driver styles are a range somewhere between calm and suicidal. Lots of horn hooting (reminds me of someone I know in Dublin). The food is only ok.

21 January 2017

Pottering around is full of loveliness and exciting. A joy.
Street life in Trinidad.
Ruby loveliness on arrival in Trinidad. Trinidad has a pulse!

20 January 2017

Sunset over the bay at Cienfuegos. Cienfuegos es la ciudad que más me gusta a mí - someone famous said. I'll have to wait until the end to know mine. By the end I've decided I'd skip it. Go to Playa Larga instead!
I'm not sick of the cars yet!
Staying with Juana in Viñales was perfect. Lovely rooms regularly serenaded by the flocks of hens and roosters out the back, very enthusiastic at all hours of the day and night. Juana was our Mama Cubana, lovely, trustworthy and so accommodating in organising our trip to the beach and bikes and onward transport. Situated across from the hospital, the second 3 storey building - Juana y Michel, michel.garmac@nauta.cu, her balcony is top floor on the right. We will miss her sweet smiles and quick laughter.

19 January 2017

Beach day at Caya Jutiás. Breathtaking with perfect balmy weather. Swimming is paradise, as are palm trees and piña coladas. Met a lovely couple of teachers from Uruguay and had dinner with them. Fluency in languages does not stop the travelling family from hanging out.

18 January 2017

We came upon a lovely house with a wonderful feeling, close to the mural in Viñales. The boys were playing in the yard and goats, pigs, chickens, hens and a dog called Chocolate, muddled around together. Greeted warmly we got to see the grandfather, who consequently proposed to me, grilling a pig over a fire pit. It happened to be the birthday of his grandson and the whole family was gathering. Some things are the same no matter where you go, the solidarity of women in a family, the cheekiness and wildness of little boys, the observational gentleness of girls, the need for men to socialise quietly together after the work day is done. A lovely experience. Regret not being fluent in Spanish. It will come!

17 January 2017

The road to Viñales was tough due to enjoying La Habana Vieja for a little too long into the night. Fun times at the friendly and relaxed Sía Kára on Barcelona west of Capitolio Nacional. Slept most of the way until the pain in my butt cheek became too much due to tiny car seats. We were sad to leave the lovely Fefy and Tomás and Luca and Juan, a wonderful place to stay. Find them on Air BnB as El Almendron Rosa, Vedado, Calle 19/E/F. This was my favourite place to stay of the trip.

16 January 2017

Wandered around La Habana Vieja. Ate lunch whilst enjoying a lovely band of Plaza Vieja. Watched sunset over the rooftops from the SE corner balcony. Lovely Dutch and Russian couples for company and frozen Daiquiris. We lost the Lonely Planet and then found it again.
Buick beauty.
Pretty in pink. And Helen, in embarrassed peach.
It's said that 2 houses crumbles to the ground each day in Habana. Here's one that was right next door on Calle 19 / Calle E/F in Vedado. There was also a strange 3 storey hole around the back which is bordered by houses on all sides. The council seem to be evaluating houses regularly and move people at a certain danger point. There's a derelict beauty to it all.

15 January 2017

Sunset at the Malecón.
Malecón car show.
The Malecón approaching sunset overlooking Castillo de los Tres Santos Reyes Magnos del Morro. People happily gathered to enjoy Sunday sunset together. A group of musicians were a delight in serenading us with big smiles. The Malecón itself is prone to the odd wave shower over the head but we escaped. Fly fishing off it's wall is a guaranteed way to cool down.
Beautiful black.
Sunday celebrations in La Habana Vieja.
La Habana Vieja.
Helen regrets the amount of SD cards she brought and is overstimulated as a photographer. But happy I'd say!
Beauty around every corner.
We were offered a ride on the passengers lap.
We laughed at this as it looks like I've my hand placed awkwardly on Helen's head. Pleasant wandering around Vieja Habana, the old town. Julio treated us most generously to lunch at El Chanchuillero with his esteemed work colleagues who are here from the UK to work with the political, council and creative community to bring about transport infrastructure improvements. What a find to pick a seat next to him on the flight - a wonderfully kind, enthusiastic, warm, intelligent and social man. At the best table in the house we easily whiled away the time in the sun & I learned from Nick why the Dreamliner is so awesome. It's a tougher shell than a 747 so it allows the pressurisation to occur at a much lower altitude, and similarly to sea level versus high up, it's easier living the lower you are - more oxygen and humidity. A very learned and lovely group. The food was excellent!
Necrópolis Christóbal Colón is peaceful & beautiful.
At Necrópolis Cristióbal Colón the firemen who dedicated their lives are honoured.
Rohellio & Julio were wonderful company on a drive around in this beauty. Here's us at Necrópolis Cristióbal Colón which is a huge graveyard in Vedado. The church was full with a respectful & humble looking congregation. The photographer who gave us the iconic Che image, which is said to be the most popular in the world, rests peacefully here, we hope. Helen's chin as ever is great company!
Arrived and awaiting Helen, who's delayed. On the plane, met a lovely professor, Julio, from UCL who's working here for a week, and a gang from a 30 strong crew out here to film for an episode of Top Gear. The cars are magnificent here! Was collected in a lime green Chrysler, straight out of Grease, by Rohellio, all smiles. We limped through minimal Spanish and a bit of English, lovely first Cuba local experience. Hopefully now driving Helen (who should be here!). Tonight we are staying at La Casa Del Nonno Tómas, Calle 19 #455 el E y F in Vedado, La Habana. Nonno means grandfather in Italian. Brightly painted in yellow, en suite, fridge in room. Clean, friendly, lovely restaurant on Calle 21 behind house, with about 4 tables only. En route there's a massive, sinkhole looking 3 storey hole. I wouldn't give out mortgages due to subsidence if I was a Cubank (see what I did there?!).

14 January 2017

And so the Cuba trip begins!