Where to start. To summarise Cuba is a fascinating, exciting, beautiful and extremely interesting place to visit. Having been back in London for a week and spent a lot of time explaining my trip to friends, I’m still unable to concisely summarise the trip. It really is worth a visit if you ever have the urge to experience a Winter getaway in what feels like a city in a 50’s time warp.
There were two parts to my holiday; the first comprised of 4 days on a stunning beach in Varadero which was followed by 3 days, including New Years Eve, in Havana. The two parts could not have been more different to each other but were both a wonderfully unique experience.
V A R A D E R O
Varadero is famous it’s 12km long white sandy beach, the tourists who flock to it and all the hotels offering package holidays situated along the beach. Soon after arriving it dawned on us that the Cubans are pretty laid back and used to a relaxed way of life compared to us hectic Londoners, so after venturing out to get some sort after cash we were all set for the beech. I always find it takes me a couple of days to unwind and this time was the no different however the lack of WIFI definitely sped up the process, giving you no option other than to lie back and soak up the sun.
The beach life in Varadero consisted of volleyball with other tourists, snorkelling off the reef with the fishes and chatting to the very friendly lifeguards who worked Hotel Turquesa’s 100m patch. It was through chatting to the lifeguards, ironically named Kevin and Perry, that we realised quite how sheltered from the outside world a Cuban upbringing can be. Having never left Cuba and with what seems like no desire to, they know very little about other countries. They seem to be satisfied that they have all they need in Cuba. We were of course, able to bond over English Premier League football, Beyoncé and Cigar smoking.
This first part of the holiday definitely ticked the boxes; beech, relaxation, sun, sea, sand but we did have to overlook the hotel food which left a lot to be desired! After realising the all-inclusive buffet wasn’t going to cut it we headed out to a few local, privately owned, restaurants for dinner on a couple of nights. The local restaurants were great, offering the local dish of Lobster tail flambéed in rum which really was delicious.
Experiencing a local restaurant is always one of my favourite things to do when travelling and it was lovely to meet the locals in the family run restaurants we enjoyed dinner in. Interestingly the new privately-owned restaurants are the ones making waves on the Cuban restaurant scene. With international wine lists, forward thinking menus and thoughtful presentation it is a definite sign that they are recognising the demand for well cooked food and exciting menus.
After some sun, lobster and beach cocktails it was time to head to Havana for New Years Eve 2017!
H A V A N A
Driving into Havana from Varadero, the stark reality of quite how run down Havana is was revealed and travelling through the city in broad daylight for the first time brought home to me just how poor Cuba is. There is something extremely charming and romantic about all the buildings which makes it an almost shockingly stunning town set to the backdrop of the blue ocean. This teamed with the brilliant people the city and the constant music coming from every crevice makes it a place you instantly relax into and start to love.