I have always loved my trips to Cuba so when I was thinking what to do for my big birthday – the number never to be mentioned- it seemed obvious I should go back to Cuba, where I also celebrated my slightly less big birthday 10 years before.
This time I had friends that had had enough of hearing me rave about how wonderful Cuba is, & wanted to come along. So 5 of us headed off on the Virgin flight, meeting 3 other friends later on in the trip for my actual birthday.
We started off in Havana for 2 nights & had such a laugh. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing- as we really should have stayed 3 nights in Havana.. I had said that VIP on arrival would be a good idea- if it worked & they were there to meet us off the plane. So whilst chaos ensued in the baggage hall we sat in the lounge having our 1st Cuban cocktails. This was an excellent start to our trip.
I could not believe the change in only 1 year since I was last in Havana. My friends had asked how much spending money to bring & I had said not much as there isn’t much to buy.. Well with the free enterprise scheme now legal in Cuba Old Havana is full of shops.. When I very first visited Havana many years ago, you were lucky to find even postcards. Now you can buy t-shirts, handbags, paintings, souvenirs etc etc. It was incredible to see how things can change so quickly. 2 of my friends ignored my warnings about buying cigars from places other than licensed shops.. they met a chap in the street & was invited into his house- well someone’s house, probably not his.. He tried to sell them boxes of cigars for something silly like £60. They haggled & got them for £10 & thought they got a bargain.. When their son in law lit one of these wonderful Cuban cigars, it disappeared in 1 puff. They had been warned what might happen, so it was funny & only £10 lost..
We stayed at my favourite Havana Hotel – the Parque Central, it is in the old town so very central & having the 2 roof top swimming pools is ideal to relax around as the mid day sun comes out. In the morning we had the obligatory city tour, even though I have taken it several times with different people, it is still fascinating. Now in the old town they have temporary sculptures that they display for limited amount of time before replacing them with others. One especially caught our eye- a giant chicken with a naked woman sitting on its back but even more bizarre she was carrying a massive fork. My friend Melissa insisted on having her photo taken with it.. That night we hit the town- but only got as far as round the corner from the hotel & to Sloppy Joes Bar. This wonderful bar has been renovated & recently re-opened, after being closed since 1959. The food looked good – we had already eaten, & we can definitely tell you the cocktails were amazing. My friends did not have enough time in Havana & when they return they will have at least 3 nights if not 4 there..
We then headed to Varadero- where I wanted to be for my actual birthday. My favourite hotel is the Iberostar Varadero – it feels like going home when I arrive there, as I know so many of the staff. I have some very good friends that live & work in Varadero so they also came to join us for my birthday celebrations. The beach, food, activities, service etc at the hotel are excellent. On my actual birthday we headed off in a vintage car to go & swim with the dolphins. I did this exactly 10 years before & it was just as emotional as it was the 1st time. These are incredible creatures- so intuitive. We all had the most amazing time – the photos & video are a great reminder.
So after a fabulous 11 nights in Cuba we had to head home. That is always the hard bit. Nevertheless, we all had the best time & I had an incredible birthday. The others all want to go back & no doubt, I will go back again- my Cuban friends say I am half Cuban as I have been so many times. . The while island of Cuba is fascinating & there is so much more than just Havana & the beach & I have been lucky enough to have visited most areas of Cuba. It is a very special country & I urge anyone thinking about going to get the trip booked ASAP, there are only 2 direct flights a week with Virgin & they get booked up quickly.
If you would like to discuss visiting Cuba before it changes & the Americans arrive, then please give me a call on 01202 232335 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.orgThere is more to Cuba than just Havana & the beaches..