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Memories will be made of this.....

Rum and Cigar Anyone?

CUBA | Saturday, 3 January 2004 | Views [699]

Well Happy New Year to you all,
For all of you who i have not spoken to for far too long, all i can say is sorry - all i have been doing for the last year is working and saving for this trip.
Anyway, after a year of anticipation, D-Day was 30th December and took a flight from Heathrow to Havana (via Madrid).  A pretty uninspiring flight that had awful films and barely edible food was followed by a complete nightmare when we arrived in Havana.  We had booked a Casa in Old Havana (basically a room in a house that they are allowed to rent out).  However, when we arrived, the owners refused to acknowledge our knocking on the door and after 30 minutes or so, we were seriously worrying about which floor we would be sleeping on.  Suddenly, a couple of locals appeared out of nowhere and decided to take it upon themselves to 'help' us look for another place.  With about 40 kilos of rucksacks, this was not a pleasant experience and after about an hour and a half of going around the dark streets of Old Havana and being told that all the Casas were full, we weren't too optimistic about finding somewhere to stay.  We eventually decided to make our way back to the airport to sleep for the night, however this was easier said than done, as obviously our new found 'friends' wanting some payment for their troubles. This is when we decided to run - not recommended with the amount of weight on our backs and just about managed to get a taxi before being collared by said friends.  After arriving back at the airport, thankfully i found a desk that sorted us out with a hotel for 3 nights in Vedado (about 10 minutes from the centre of Havana), that was far too expensive for our budget and far too luxurious, but by this time anywhere would have been acceptable.
Awoke on Wednesday to dazzling sunshine and heat - it is a bit bizarre after so long of the the rain and darkness of England to be faced with high-20's and strolled around Vedado (which included the Plaza de la Revolucion) - the place where Castro makes all of his speeches and where his offices are located.  Found the funkiest taxis, called CoCo Taxis (like the Tuk-Tuks of Asia), but bright yellow and shaped like a coconut - great way to get around.  Spent New Years Eve absolutely knackered and only just about managed to stay awake to celebrate New Year in England let alone the one in Cuba - got woken just before midnight by a party in the swimming pool at our hotel.
A day was spent wandering the streets of Old and New Havana.  These were the same streets we had encountered when we arrived on Tuesday night, but they were unrecognisable and full of absolutely beautiful buildings, with lots of well restored places and i would highly recommend if you are in this neck of the woods for a sun holiday to come to Havana and have a look around.  The thing that is quite strange about Havana, is the way in which the begging happens - basically everywhere i have encountered in less developed countries in the past, the people are more blatant in asking for money.  In Havana, they pose and ask you to take a picture of them with a cigar the size of a small snooker cue hanging from their mouths, or sit down with you while you're having a drink and when you pay, ask if you can 'just buy them one drink, because we are in a socialist country'.  As far as the socialism goes, it seems to still be thriving and the general consensus is that they are very proud of it - i must admit that it was very nice not to stumble across a MacDonalds or Starbucks every few yards.
Managed to see everything we planned to in Havana and have now moved on to Mexico (not near the earthquake) and we are in Cancun - probably one of the biggest contrasts from Havana that you could find, where commercialism is key and to be honest i don't think it is a particularly nice place.  Only arrived last night and after nearly having a fight with a taxi driver (who refused to take us to where we asked him to, but still wanted the full fare), we are getting a bus to Mérida in about an hour.  Had our first taste of authentic Mexican food and it was delicious (also had a wonderful litre cocktail for 3 pounds) and so cheap so things are looking up and now it is time to kick back and relax for a while.
Anyway, dangerously close to missing my bus so must dash!!

Tags: I should have known better!

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