Here you have a very realistic and sincere story of Cuba from my lovely friend Raluca. It’s good to know that exotic places have also their dark sides and to know what to expect along cha cha, blue sky and mohito. Enjoy!
There are a lot of people who say that there is no other place like Cuba. Personally for me Cuba has not been an amazing experience. I liked and not loved every moment of it. Nevertheless, there were moments when I would not have left a special town, or I would have stayed at a table and drink a mojito for endless hours. And the beaches, yes, especially the wild ones were amazing. I could make a hut there somewhere and come back to my hometown from time to time. Too bad there is no wireless internet or I could have been tented to extend my holidays.
But let’s start with the beginning. I left from mountains of snow, only with my sneakers and a fluffy jacket as thick clothes. After a long 12-13 hours flight we arrived in Varadero. It was night and it was hot and humid. While I sat directly on the side of the road waiting for my hubby to go and get the rented car I got my first big surprise or scare – a ginormous bug made me scream. A man sitting next to me looked lazily and me and said ‘no worries signorita’. I made this my holiday motto – no worries.
Then we got the car and we kick-started our Cuban adventure. Driving at night, with no GPS, no road signs proved to be difficult but in the end we made it to our first accommodation. I have to mention that we wanted to stay in houses rented directly from the owner – called Casa Particular – not in a resort or all inclusive place as I am a fan of experiencing life as the locals live it. The hosts are wonderfully hospitable and will give you a lovely breakfast to start your day. Definitely book your casa in advance. http://www.casaparticular.info/
Cuba is suffering as a result of the US embargo. They have a distinct dual-currency system on the island. Visitors in the country use Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), a local currency with no international value, whereas Cubans use Cuban Peso (CUP). Essential living items such as soap, shampoo and kitchen amenities are sold scarce in the state run ‘dollar stores’. Cubans must exchange their currency in order to shop here; therefore not all Cubans can afford these higher priced goods.
Most Cuban families rely on the ration system for their food, such as rice, milk, beans and eggs, using a ration booklet. It establishes how much each person can buy. These are purchased at local bodega convenience stores. Meat and fish are bought at carnicería meat markets. Allowances depend on the age and health of the person.
So, VARADERO by day is amazing, great white beaches with super clear blue waters. By night we tried the old cars, they look and fell amazing. We also tried one day to go to a local market and buy some mangos and after driving and asking 200 directions about how to get there; still no traffic signs; we finally found the market and found out that it was not time for mangos yet.
After VARDERO, we traveled to HAVANA where we stayed in a most amazing house – Casa Diana. The hosts were amazing. We did a lot of sightseeing; we tried not to pick the most touristic routes. Here is where I have fallen in love with the old part of Havana, it looked amazing and it really transported me to another era. I stayed on a bench for 2 hours fantasizing about how it was like some 50-70 years ago. We spent most of our days just walking and exploring, soaking in the architecture and cute city squares. We also visited the chocolate house, the cigar museum, and various places where Hemingway has been and wrote about. The whole city is full of history, but apart from the beauty of it you can also see the poverty of the people, yet they are the most energetic, full of life and happy people I have seen in my trips. They do not smile at you as often as the Thai people do, but they sure are happy and this is showing in how they walk, talk and especially how they dance. I was impressed also by the patriotic messages written all over the places.
Next on our list there was TRINIDAD. Here we stayed at a hotel on the beach. But, the town itself is a World UNESCO heritage site since 1988, famous for its Neo Classical and Baroque architecture. My experience of Trinidad was one quite unexpected: walking through old cobbled streets, weaving through 18th and 19th century pastel-colored, colonial buildings with their distinctive red-tiled roofs I had a feeling that we had had been transported back in time by a time machine that no one else on earth has yet discovered.
From Trinidad we went to REMEDIOS – which was declared a City by Isabel the Second, Queen of Spain, when the Island was still a colony. Remedios is the Cradle of the Parrandas, possibly the Caribbean’s largest and oldest traditional festivity. This Christmas festival, “Las Parrandas de Remedios”, one of the most popular events of the region that takes place between the 16th to the 26th of December every year and it is considered the oldest festivities in Cuba. During the “parrandas”, a “fierce” competition takes place between the neighborhoods of San Salvador and El Carmen, and each time pops hundreds of fireworks. Besides the fireworks, we went to the surrounding beaches which were absolutely magnificent. White sands and see through water, just great.
Leaving Remedios, we went to Santa Clara where we saw the Che Guevara museum. The whole town breathes in the memory of Che. The Cubans are very proud of him.
Pros: the weather in fantastic, hot weather for Christmas was amazing; the sightseeing wow, the feeling of traveling through time was amazing- quite a good experience
Cons: huge prices for tourists, in the end it was quite an expensive trip; due to the poverty there are a lot of scammers, the food was definitely not good, I know it’s a matter of taste, but I didn’t enjoy the food too much, it did not have a lot of flavor, and I wanted to be blown away by the spiciness of it and it was not the case. Also, the people can have milk only if they have children up to 7 years, so I tried with not so much success drinking coffee with powder milk. 🙂
I would recommend visiting Cuba as it is maybe one of the few places left where you could actually turn in time and dream with your eyes open 🙂
Represent, Represent, Cuba,
hey, mi musica!