Classic cars, cocktails and che guevara

May 26, 2017 at 4:39 pm Leave a comment

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What an adventure Cuba turned out to be! Fantastic flights with Virgin Atlantic, excellent Cubanacan local guides,
Iberostar hotels (Spanish), amazing cocktails (the shrine of the daiquiri, mojito, cuba libre and pina colada), American classic cars left when the US pulled out in 1959, live and lively music in every bar and dancing in the street – what’s not to love!
Virgin Holidays’ Cuban Experience is a full on 9 day guided tour taking in Havana (complete with dancing lesson) and history lessons. I had no idea that rationing is still in place in this communist country where the locals love the English – possibly because we only occupied the island once in the 17th century for 11 months between the Spanish and American occupation.
Che Guevara is the local hero – not actually a local but Argentinian by birth. The Castro family are still dominating Cuban politics. The people are happy and the dual currency puzzling. If you are planning to visit, take all the toiletries from your hotel room and distribute them to the people outside. Begging is illegal but gifting shampoo etc is not.
After a fascinating tour with stays in Havana, Cayo Ensenachos and Trinidad we bolted on a 4 night stay in fully inclusive paradise resort Royalton Hicacos, Varadero. Essential chill time in a 5 star hotel with all you can eat and drink (although a bizarre speciality restaurant booking system). Idyllic hours spent on a white sandy beach with turquoise sea; optional yoga under a palm tree in the morning, hobby cat ride, evening entertainment – this is Butlins in paradise for grown ups.
One small disappointment of the holiday was that we didn’t get our promised ride on a steam train at the sugar cane factory museum because the government hadn’t delivered the required oil ration. Ho hum, it is Cuba. Interesting to note that after baseball and boxing, the third most popular sport is hitch hiking. In fact it is encouraged. There are enforcement officers in beige uniforms who flag down any vehicle (tourist buses exempt) for locals to hitch a ride. It is obligatory to stop. Crime rate is zero. There is no charge for education or health care and most homes are owned by the grandparents (who hold the ration books) and several generations live together, the young looking after the elderly and vice versa.
My guide book suggested visiting Cuba with an open mind and with a ‘manyana mentality’. I was pleasantly delighted and highly recommend a visit before the dreaded Golden Arches arrive!
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Debi Evans

Debi Evans

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