I went to Cuba a few years ago. I think it must have been at least ten years now.
First 3 days were spent in Havana where we explored the city, and visited jazz clubs in the evening. A city filled with culture and music loving people.
The rest of the week was spent in a resort. A resort where the locals were not allowed to enter unless you were working there. I had forgotten to take any reading material and assumed that I could buy a book from the resort store or local book shops to while my time as there was not much else on offer in this part of the country. I was sadly let down. The only books on offer was about Fidel Castro or Che Guevara or books written by one about the other. As I had no option I bought a book. A few pages in, I gave up. What could have been condensed in one sentence was stretched to a few hundred pages. I heard that Fidel Castro could speak for hours and demanded the total attention of his followers, while he did so.
Coming to the other good points about Cuba. Cuba does have one of the best healthcare systems in the world and I believe it is all free.
We hired a jeep to take us from Havana to Varadero for the second leg of our stay in Cuba and was surprised when our driver lady stopped to give a guy a lift. Apparently if there is a spare space in your vehicle, you have to give anyone who needs a lift, a ride. Nowhere else in the world can you do this without wondering whether it’s safe and whether you would still be alive at the end of the trip if you give a stranger a lift. This applies to the guy asking for the lift as well.
Also where else in the world could you see all these classic cars in one place. It was truly like stepping back in time. It must have all changed now that the US and Cuba have rekindled their friendship.
In the evenings, most people were out enjoying the music and dance and it seemed to play an important role in their lives rather than staying cooped up in their houses.
All this was a long time ago and so I cannot remember everything in detail. I remember walking around Hemingway’s house and seeing his boat. We visited the bars he used to frequent and they have a statue of him sitting in his favourite spot and we had a lovely lunch in the restaurant. We visited the little sleepy village and seaside which was the inspiration for his ‘Old man and the sea’ book.
We also had the best mojitos, daiquiris and pina coladas made with the freshest ingredients while we were there. I could totally understand how Hemingway got through all the cocktails that he did.
What I do remember clearly is, on the way from Havana to Varadero, we stopped off at this ranch, which was where our lunch stop was meant to be. A lovely house with a lot of history. There was a massive amount of delicious looking food all spread out on the tables waiting for us and the rest of the people who were making similar journeys. Only problem was that the food was covered with huge flies, the likes of which I had never seen before or since. The people there didn’t seem to have any issues with this. There was no way in hell that we were going to touch the food. We went into the kitchen to see if there was any covered food still in the pots that we could eat. Asha and her daughter, Anu, was with us for the trip and she asked them for a mango, which we peeled and ate, before any flies could get to it.
What my problem with these places is the fear that I see in people’s faces when you ask them an awkward question. I am glad that I have lived and now live in a country where freedom of speech is a fundamental right.