Cuba: Unique, Friendly, Old, New and Proud. Striking Contrasts.

Posted: June 29, 2017 in Travel
Tags: , ,

I could use a lot of adjectives to describe Cuba.  This is a small report on my first trip to Cuba and hopefully the start of many more.   I had read somewhere that Cuba was timeworn but magnificent.   That is a complete accurate statement!!!

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I’ll start with our Casa.  Lovely place and owners.  Location cannot be beat, blocked to traffic but a stone’s throw from everything.  We had a 2nd floor apartment in this gorgeous historical home.

 

 

 

 

 

We were up at 3 a.m. to make our two flights.  We arrived about 11 a.m. and our driver was waiting with a smile.  Coming out of the airport, seeing your first glimpse of the old cars for me was just thrilling.   We were ushered into Havana by a car I nicknamed:  To Russia With Love.   The driver said, it’s not pretty but it is strong!

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It is strong because we are here !  Later we will meet up with our other three friends who had different flights.

 

We  had no big agenda this day.  After very little sleep we mainly just wandered on foot.  We were being picked up at 7:30 a.m. for a day trip to Vinales with Discover Vinales.  We opted for the tobacco farm visit, horseback riding, farm to table lunch etc.,  Truly Amazing day!  I believe it took us about 2 1/2 hours to reach this place.   I was very curious about things I saw on the way.  Somethings I’ve figured out, somethings I have not.

The Ride to Vinales

The highway to Vinales has it’s own interesting vibe.  What surprised me was the amount of people standing on the roads at times.  Sometimes it would be a group other times one person.  Some were holding up white paper cones.  Others what looked like to me to be possibly money?  Still not sure on that one.  I think that they are either waiting for a bus, trying to flag down a person to pick them up or selling something.   As some darted across the road, it made me a bit nervous.   It was very hot and I felt bad for them. Another companion on the drive was the horse & cart drivers.   I’m not going to lie, I was a nervous for them as well trotting along by speeding cars & trucks but I suppose they know what they are doing.  When we got near Vinales it became more country roads and you saw a lot more of these carts with families and young people.  I would imagine it is an easier cheaper way to get around town.

Roadside scenes to Vinales

( I had my camera on a live setting, I didn’t know it and it created this from Vinales.  It’s a blip of what was going on while taking a photos.  Kinda cool.  The mango picking was from on the way back.  Driver says, you want mangoes?  I though maybe there was a roadside stand coming up but it was mango trees.  Fun unexpected moment!  We had mangoes in the fridge rest of the trip.  Delicious !!!

 

 

Anyway….more about our activities in Vinales.

We arrived later than anticipated.  (Our driver had two destinations to pick up from)  when we arrived to Vinales first stop was the Loas Jazmines Hotel.  Beautiful location and views.  This was so lovely we did not just stop for the views we had coffee/beer and ogled that pool and the valley!  It was HOT and the valley STUNNING!!!

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We leave and meet Tito (Alberto) in town from Discover Vinales.  He would turn out to be a great guide and just a real nice guy.  Great English and very personable. Highly recommend them.

http://www.discover-vinales.com/

After picking up Tito we proceed to tobacco. It’s time to learn a bit about the process.   The tobacco growth, grading, sorting all the way to selling.  This is some very hard work and hats off to these farmers.  The ones we spoke to use NO modern equipment.  There is a lot involved and I’m not going to tell you everything because I don’t want to spoil and tell all the secrets.  🙂  Actually it is very interesting.   Hard work and God Bless them !

Scenes from tobacco education….

 

Next farm to table lunch….

 

Alas, we reach the farm.  It’s going to be horseback riding through the valley.  I did not go because I had a back issue recently.  The girls said it was great fun.  If you do have any fears of heights or what not, do let them know because sometimes they were going up rocky hills.   Time to giddy-up !

 

 

The family here and Tito were so attentive to me.  I got to hang out on the rocking chairs with the family , enjoy the views and watch the farm animals.  Also wandered through the farm a bit.  Once the girls are back it’s time for our very first time ever smoking the Cuban cigar.

 

What’s with that little bald chicken?

The advise we were given was buy from the farm in the triangle area which is the best anywhere or the government shops.  Do not buy any from people with a wrapper around them, you are getting a crappy cigar if so.   We watched the rolling of cigars.  This 72 year old man has been smoking them since he was a kid.  I think still like 8-10 per day.  He’s healthy as a horse.  My daughter bought cigars to take home and I regret that I did not, I did buy coffee beans.  She’s going to have to share!

They had great patience with us non-cigar smoking people !

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We were going to head to the mural next but looming black clouds were rolling in and we thought best to get on the road to head back to Havana.   I loved it here.  Stunning beauty, warm friendly people and great conversations learning about each other’s lives.   My advise bring a fan (at all times) bug spray and water.  Next….a bit of patience, a smile a sense of humor.

More pics of our mango picking on the way home.  Random spontaneous deliciousness !

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The next day I awaken to Paul McCartney singing It’s your Birthday to me !!!  Okay not really but a girl could wish he was right?  It is my birthday and Cuba is what I wanted.  Today is going to be beach day (and a WILD bus ride) and a show in the evening.

To be continued…..Some very interesting Trump and Obama discussions, exploring the revolution, wishes, a tarantula and more. I hope to complete all this weekend.any questions let me know in the comments section.

(ok I did not abandon this story just got very very busy.  It will be completed!  Promise.

We find a bus that will take us to the Santa Maria beach for a peso.  It is a huge crowd waiting and there are two groups, sit down on the bus or stand up.  Wanting to get there sooner we decide the stand-up section.  My God, after loading I thought they could not possible fit another person and yet we did…..we the people just squished up to each other closer and closer and closer.  The fun & sharing nature of the Cuban people started mixing the drinks from the rum bottle right there on the bus.  Not an easy feat !  The bus zooms along curves and we all  are shouting whoaaaa as we are leaning far left or far right on each other. You could not add a piece of paper between us the living can of sardines.  I held on for all I was worth.  The Cubans were so kind to tell us no not this one as we came to beach stops.  It must of been like ten people who all said to us this one !  Okay not in English but we got the message and than two guys who were in there 20’s I would guess decided they would escort us there and they did.  Very polite young men.  Got us to a bathroom, a good spot on the beach and beer stands later.   They stayed with us most of the day.  I got the first sip from the new bottle of rum since it was my birthday.  A bottle of rum is packed in almost everyone’s picnic basket.   The beach is gorgeous and the breeze perfect.  One thing universal around the world is happy playful fun people & laughter at the beach.  Pure bliss for all….happy smiling faces.  Except One:  At a tent selling beer (a fair was going on or this may be the usual for the beach) a man 45 ish?  Seemed to wait on everyone but me, he would never look at me so I put myself right smack in front of him , (not butting in front of anyone and  I order cristal beer (2) he brings them, gave him 5 cuc and he gives me back .50 cup, by this time my daughter came over and she had ordered already before and knew that is not the price.  She told him no, no coop $, wrong price, she pushed the beer back to him and asked for 5 cuc back, he ignored us a few and she was not budging.  He brings wrong $ again, no CUC she said, give me back the 5 we gave you.  This time he goes and gets it and that was truly the only jerk we came across the entire trip.  No biggie….it was handled and jerks are universal as well, plenty of them at home too.    I’m not sure what his reasons were but he had them.  One thing  that kind of shocked me which was the amount of trash people would throw down on the beach.  I did see trashcans so I really do not get that….?  Why? I guess I could ask the same for some people here as well.  I still do not get it.

We leave there and go see the craft tables and speak with the vendors.  It was pretty hot away from the shoreline and I wish I could have spent more time here .   We taxi back and prepare for our evening show at Hotel Nacional.    We almost were going to go to Tropicana but the evening was hot and it is an outdoor show.  Met a nice Cuban family , husband, wife and daughter and years back, he had worked at this hotel.  We talked before and after the show.  They were very interested if we liked the show which we did, very colorful, a tango, loved the guys who did acrobats, a bongo guy, lots of group song & dance, the magician is not that good (and he knows it) but please make a fuss over him, we all did and he was smiling big,  imagine the history here?  The songs & dances were showing the influences in Cuba from African, Latin America, etc.,  the tango was great !  Wonderful to see and a glimpse into Cuban culture, l always loved Desi Arnaz, Ricky Ricardo.  (I Love Lucy) — had a crush on him as a little girl, thought he was spitting fire handsome and loved his accent and this Cuba.  Seeing this show my thoughts jumped to him all these years later.  What and how is he thought of today in Cuba?   Is he well known?  I’m not sure of these answers.  I did not ask. I am curious.

 

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A birthday to remember !

Next the Cuban perspective of history.

(Museum of the Revolution)

I would definitely recommend a visit to this museum.  The building is pretty and I believe was a presidential palace.  There will be a lot to read so budget that time in for your visit.  Your bags will have to go in a storage locker.    There are exhibits regarding Che and other famous people.   The collections have a bit of everything.   Statues, guns, clothes, hats, photos to name a few.  You will see bullet holes by the staircase.   There is a wall called Corner of Cretins.  (Batista, Reagan and both Bush’s are displayed)  The outside exhibits are really interesting.  Granma the yacht that took the revolutionaries to Cuba is housed under glass.  Plus there plus missiles, parts of planes, vehicles and a tank if I remember well.   I thought I had wandered in an off-limits zone because a guard was yelling something to me.  I could not understand what but someone nearby did and told me he said “there is a mosquito on your arm” heavens to Betsy there was and I surely appreciated the alert!!!    Here are some photos:

 

 

Random Cuba next….

 

Thanks to the Cuban people.  I thank you for all the sharing, caring and just being you.

Thanks to my travel mates:  Heather, Kelly, Mary & Alice.

I would like to add these photos taken by Mary who has a great eye with the camera.  Enjoy 🙂

 

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Photos by Mary

Thank You Mary !

Comments
  1. julie Myler says:

    Fantastic pics Jeannette, looks an amazing trip, loved reading report xxx

  2. Anonymous says:

    Gorgeous photos! Great report! I’m wondering why they didn’t have Kennedy as one of the Los Cretinos in the Museum re the Missile Crisis…

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry, didn’t log in. It’s Pat (Sushi) LOL!

      • GiannettaJ says:

        The plagues next to each say: (batista) “Thank you cretin for helping us make the revolution” (Reagan) thanks for helping us strengthen and (George H. W. Bush) thank you for helping us consolidate the revolution. (George W Bush) thank you cretin for helping us make socialism irrevocable. No Kennedy and no Clinton. The spy plane shot down during the missile crisis is outside. They like Lincoln especially Castro.

  3. GiannettaJ says:

    Remember him laying a wreath at the Lincoln Memorial?

  4. Yuri says:

    Hi Jeannette, may I ask what the name was of the first Casa you stayed? It looks awesome on the picture!

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