Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cuba!

We've just come back from a week in Cuba. Wow, what a place. It's everything you ever expected and more. On the ride into Havana in our Lada taxi, we swerved around American cars from the 50's, oxen-drawn carts and kids running on the roads for their balls. Everywhere crumbling beautiful facades in rainbow colors. And that image of Che, his hair windswept and gazing out to the future. As Cy, 10 said: "It's ridonculous!"






All the contradictions were there. We got out of our taxi to a frighteningly scruffy Soviet building where we were staying with a family. There was a very distinct smell of urine. Walking up the stairs, we could see 10 people living in one room. Yet at the top was a pristine, comfortable three-bedroom apartment where we were staying with a family and rooftop views of the cathedral across the road. The women clean and sweep all day long - we even saw someone sweeping the highway as a job - yet at the corner of some streets are massive skips piled high with garbage.

We took Tallulah, 12, and Cy, 10. The two eldest had school and refused to go anyway - they are homebodies.

After looking around the Revolution Museum we suggested to Cy that he do his school project (Influential Historical Figures) on Fidel Castro.
Cy looked startled: "But I was going to do Adam Sandler, one of the top ten actors in the world."
Tallulah nodded, in agreement with Cy for once: "Oh easily. Probably top five."
Fair dues, Sandler did impressively inhabit his WaterBoy role, but still not fully convinced.

By the end of the week I was incensed by the ridonculosity of an American govt who keeps enforcing this trade and travel embargo on Cuba. It's pure bullying, we're only punishing people who are already very poor and keeping families apart. Look, if the Queen and politicians from Ireland can sit down to dinner, surely the least we can do is lift the embargo. Maybe we need to get Adam Sandler involved?


Cy got sunburnt, I blame the parents










Cy played cards and baseball with the neighborhood kids




Casa Natacha
Casa Natacha, we stayed with a lovely family 


Kevin was assigned to the ass on our horse trek in Vinales


Five tips if you go:
1. Get to airport three hours in advance. Our airline changed the flight times in Jan without telling anyone and left 20 people behind. And take loads of books - we had a 18-hour delay for a one hour flight, stuck in one room with no food and only the toilet cleaners to ask questions of. (Lost some weight anyway!)

2. Don't expect great food. The fruit and bean soup and whole fish are amazing, the pizza and pasta are often just plain odd. The meals cooked by your family will be better than anything in a restaurant. Drinks are cheap and good!

3. The people are lovely and welcoming of everyone including Americans. You will have to approach them first, they can be arrested for just walking beside you.

4. Looking for love? We saw loads of single women my age (52) who had found it - or at least  undivided attention - with buff young men. Good on them, I say, you only go around once!

5. You need loads of change, many people you photograph will expect $1 CUC.

No internet, no phone, no news while we were away - did I miss anything big?



60 comments:

  1. wow, never knew they could be arrested for walking beside you. That is some sunburn too, ouch. Adam Sandler top ten, after his latest bunch of movies, never lol

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    1. Pat - yes a friend (woman) who goes there often said if you don't link arms with the men who talk to you, the man can be arrested, it happened to someone who was walking with her and her friend

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  2. so completely jealous! I would LOVE to visit Cuba and experience an off-the-beaten track experience there - thanks for posting!

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    1. Can't wait to go back and travel further down the island and to more remote beaches

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  3. I love this! Thanks for taking us along!

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  4. Wow. Look at that beach! Which one is it? And how did you get the home stay connection?

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    1. Hi Fidele, see below for home stay details

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  5. I didn't know that immigration would let you back in to the USA direct from Cuba, or did you travel via Mexico?

    Have you checked that the person who has just commented (above) is not who I think it may be? (Check with the NSA?)

    Did you bring back any cigars?

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    1. Cigars left behind with our host, went through Mexico, yes.

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  6. It looks so beautiful in a faded way. I love those facades and the colours. The US embargo is a disgrace.
    Would love to visit Cuba one day... Have a friend who ended up moving there after visiting for a week's holiday. She's been there over 25 years now!

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    1. Gosh that's incredible - I wonder where in the city she lives? I can't wait to go back there for three weeks, though I think I might need a couple of days in the resort to rest from the constant action and dust

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  7. Even saying 'I'm going to Cuba' sounds magical...the reality would be amazing.

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    1. Hi Libby - I 've been missing you. Yes even the name is just so magical isn't it?

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  8. loved this post!!! You are lucky to have been. Happy Anzac Day x

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  9. Such a great place, I went at a really difficult time when there was hardly any food, prostitution was rife and it was hard to watch so many Cuban women having sex with tourists for food for their family or a radio it was a real eye opener. It was the time they call The Special Period, I think, very bleak.

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    1. Wow, you really have travelled Tabitha! sadly that still exists except now some young women will sleep with anyone for the price of admission into a club and a few drinks.

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  10. You're the third or fourth post I've read about going to Cuba, haha. But, I love it as I've always wanted to go there. I think the embargo should have been lifted a long time ago. I remember learning about it in school growing up in America & I thought it was crap (I also told my teacher this, don't think she was pleased) Must go one day. Loved the photos :) xx

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    1. Glad you told your teacher - well done you!

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  11. Great photos, and an amazing trip. I think the embargo has gone on long enough too, but it'll be a shame the day Cuba loses its individuality although I should think the Cubans are just desperate for a better life.

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    1. I would think so too - they continue to be very admiring of Fidel actually and it seemed genuine but any opposition earns you jail time so I would think when there are visitors around they are positive of him.

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  12. Not sure why we continue to bully Cuba but not say...China. Having lived in Miami they animosity towards Castro was strong. Not sure if it's lightened up and they must have a strong lobby. Glad they let you back in the country :)

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    1. Yes you're right - the Cubans in Miami continue to be very anti him.

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  13. Canadians go to Cuba all the time and was going to ask if you went through Mexico as well. Lovely pics

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    1. Yes through Cancun, you have to stay the night there, its a bit of a hole on a strip of sand so note to anyone else avoid if you can (cun)

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  14. I agree that we should lift the embargo since we're only hurting the poor people. It's sad. What an amazing trip this must have been!

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    1. it was great and exhausting and we didn't do half the stuff in havana. because we had the kids we could not get to nightclubs and see the live music

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  15. Erm, next time your elder children decide not to go away with you can you take me instead?
    Sx

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    1. Yes! and you would be better behaved too and would not insist on pinching Cy everytime he says something annoying

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  16. So jealous! I've been dying to go. The colors in your pictures are luscious and just what my mind thought of Cuba. Love #4 on your list as I am that age as well.

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  17. Wow what a place indeed! So colourful with the pastel façades and Barbie pink cars. A real experience and so much more than just a holiday.

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    1. yes the cars look straight out of a fashion shoot!

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  18. WOW,love the cars and the facades of the buildings!What an experience for the kids especially............there is a coffee table book out on CUBA which is gorgeous.It is so EUROPEAN old world looking.Lovely to know the people are friendly..........I say YES get CY to write to his mentor ADAM S. and get him involved!!!!Welcome Home........did you bring this rain??THANK YOU!

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    1. Where is the rain now? we need more. Lets get together for a rain dance

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  19. Looks absolutely gorgeous - definitely on my list of places to go before I croak!

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  20. WOW! What a fantastic experience! I have so much curiosity when it comes to Cuba.... thank you for the peek into your magical getaway!

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  21. Beautiful pictures! Did you take those with your iphone?
    What an adventurer you are. I didn't know we were allowed to go to Cuba. Im surprised to hear that the food wasn't great-I don't know why. For some reason I thought it would be delicious.
    The buff young men situation is intriguing however.....

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    1. Hi Bebe, some with I-phone and some with kevin's samsung which takes incredible photos - much better than the i-phone

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  22. Viva Sandler over Castro anyday.

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  23. Looks so fun! And those candy colored Cadillacs! I love this entire post!
    xo Mary Jo

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  24. You missed nothing. Wow - amazing photos. Loved that one of the grey buildings in the background with the technicolour cars and horses in the foreground. I don't understand why they still put the embargo on Cuba. Can't help but feel it has something to do with the fact that they need nothing from Cuba. Whereas China, Russia etc... all have something they want/ need.
    It's sad there is such incredible poverty, all due to the US continuing to flex their muscles over an ageing dictator and something that occurred in the 60's. That Adam Sandler report sounds like it's going to be fascinating....! xx

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  25. Wonderful photos. I have yet to go to Cuba but want to get there before Havana modernizes.

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    1. Yes, thinking there will be loads of changes if Obama opens it up. There is a wall of shame in the Revolutionary Museum - where all the American presidents are painted. I am hoping Obama does not make it on there!

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  26. Oh!

    I spent three months in Havana living with a family and working in the local hospital, for my elective in my final year of med school. It is the most extraordinary, inspiring, heartbreaking place. I still miss my Cuban family immensely, three years later. You have put it so well in this post. Glad you had fun!

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    1. Wow what a brave and thrilling experience for you!

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  27. PS we say 'ridonculous' in this house, and no-one who lives here is ten. Overheard in a museum (Small boy: 'Dad, dad!' Father: 'Yes?' Small boy: 'You're RIDONCULOUS' [Small boy giggles and runs off to play with his brother]), never forgotten. Who knows what linguistic tricks you've passed on to los havanos?

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    1. Hopefully they did not pick up any of my sweary words

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  28. Such a great post. This is definitely a country I would love to visit some day. Such a colourful country. I so agree in relation to the american policies they are just hurting the ordinary people on the street. As an Irish person I can say the relationship between Ireland and the Uk has to be applauded. It is time for a change of policy it is a bit ironic that so many politicians were involved in the irish peace process.

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  29. Lucky you, Cuba has been on my wishlist for years.

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  30. Great photos....
    I have heard that the food sucks....
    Guess the scenery makes up for that....
    Cheers!
    Linda:o)

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    1. Yes they don't have access to good flour etc

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  31. Gorgeous photos, such an interesting place. It's top of my list of places to go back to, I found the political history so interesting and the people so friendly, sadly our trip was curtailed by hurricane Sandy but yours sounds wonderful.

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    1. I remember your post on that jay! you had some beach scenes no?

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  32. I'm just gathering some travel posts for next Monday's BritMums round-up. Have never had Cuba mentioned before so you're going in, Jody.

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  33. Jody, First have to say your photos are fabulous. The colors, and you have a great eye. You should Instagram a few on Thursday #igtravel. People would love them! What an adventure! Cannot imagine getting to do this. Love travel to spots like this. How did you stay with a family? Sounds like the right way to do it. The jungle area looks beautiful as well. Thanks for sharing this. I am with you. Totally agree about opening up trade. Ridiculous that so many of these folk have to struggle so much when we are so close. It's just wrong. Hoping Obama does something about this. x kim

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  34. Hi Kim, to stay with a family we just contacted BedInCuba.
    http://www.bedincuba.com/casa_particular_cuba_havana_natacha.htm.
    The families act like travel agents when you get to their house and organise everything for you, taxis, the next home stay, where to change money and they can cook all meals. its great. Natscha organsied for a taxi driver to the beach and then three hours to the countryside to Vinales and to stay with her friends, Pepito and Millaisy who then organised the horse and cigar tour for us.

    Originally we were staying with a family in the old town but they had to cancel because of some family 'event" I think in the end you have to be quite flexible and go with the flow. The area where we stayed was Havana Centrale, not as pretty as Old Town but really only a short walk away.

    PS what is Thursday #igtravel? I am hopeless with social media

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