Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Last-Year Travels: Cuba

Look at that sea.

I have been clinging to this image of the Caribbean since getting back from Cuba (to snow! Thanks for that British weather.).

It was the kind of trip that makes it hard to answer "how was your holiday?". Any and all of the following: Amazing, fascinating, frustrating, hilarious, tipsy, hot. I loved it.

What do you think of when you think about Cuba? Well, probably at lease some of your Cuba pictures will feature classic cars. That's true. I can't even drive and half my photos are of classic cars. Leap into a taxi and you've as much chance of getting in a 1927 Ford as a Lada (they're hanging on in there too).

Or maybe it's the music. There seems to be music everywhere you go in Cuba of all genres, from jazz to reggaeton and so much of it played live. Here's the Sunday afternoon session at Casa de la Trova in Santiago, a brilliant two room venue with a simple bar, a few rows of fold up seats and images of musicians plastering the wall. There's lots of dancing too. Even salsa seems like a good idea in Cuba.

And, of course, there's the politics. With no consumer advertising, there's images enough of Che Guevara to rival even Camden Market, and also of Fidel and their fellow revolutionaries. Their words and letters to each other are repeated over and over again, like Che's famous ¡Hasta la Victoria Siempre!. It's pretty hard to leave Cuba without a sixth-form worthy crush on Che.

The American fingerprint that's been placed on Cuba is also still evident. We visited Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs) but, on a lighter note, faithfully sampled some of Ernest Hemingway's favourite bars from his time in Havana in the 1930s and 40s. La Bodeguita del Medio claims to be the inventor of the mojito but that's pretty disputable, especially after some Havana Club rum. Every spare inch of this restaurant bar is covered with graffiti from its many famous, and not so famous, visitors. They also have branches in Ukraine, Czech Republic, Macedonia, Slovakia amongst other places. The former USSR has left its fingerprints all over the country too: not least in the form of huge concrete tower blocks that intimidate the smaller, colourful colonial houses.

The Americans had their input on Cuban architecture too. My favourite mojito was served at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba. The hotel, overlooking the Malecon which is the seawall and road which sweeps around an edge of Havana, was opened back in 1930 to serve American tourists. Its clientele was seriously glitzy - above shows only a fraction of its hall of fame, though it also had serious mafia ties - think The Godfather Part II. It was closed by Fidel in 1960s, eventually being restored and reopened in the 1990s. Its clientele is still pretty glitzy: there was a Saudi Prince hanging out in the foyer while we were trying to enjoy our mojitos.

So, yes, there was a lot of drink. Mojitos naturally but also Cuba libres (of course!), pina coladas, trinidad coloniales, coco locos. The rum flowed freely. If the rum wasn't flowing freely, there was always Cristal. How I like a can of beer with a palm tree on it. Almost as much as I like a van full of beer.

We spent two weeks travelling around so, as well as imbibing, we got to cover a lot of ground.

Time-warp Trinidad, stormy Santiago or charming Camaguey, shown above, each place was surprisingly different, shaped by so many different histories.

It's hard to sum up everything we saw, learnt and enjoyed on our trip, hence me resorting to finishing with this gorgeous scene instead. More Cuban sea and sky to try and sustain me through the rest of winter.


  1. Wow! That looks like an amazing trip. I would LOVE to go to Cuba - I've been reading lots about it recently. One day...

    1. It was amazing. I definitely recommend a visit. There was a definite feeling that the country was beginning to shift, so go soon if you possibly can.

  2. Wow awesome pictures of Cuba trip. Thanks for sharing with us.
    Holidays to Cuba

  3. Good post. We've posted a similar Cuba profile here:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...