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  • Day14

    It was late one last night so I ordered breakfast in our suite and started to pack. Eva was still asleep.

    Our personal assistant Marios knocked on the door with a gift for us...a bottle of Tequila.

    'Erm thanks but no thanks Marios you have it as a present'

    We set off to the airport some 90 minutes away. You know when you get that feeling that you have left something behind or forgot to turn the water off? Nope, Eva was here. What can it be?

    Then it dawned on me that I had left my trousers and shirts still in the wardrobe back at Hard Rock Hotel. I quickly called them to see if they could get another taxi with my clothes on board to follow. it would be too late so hopefully they are en route to meet me in New York. I shall have to use what I have.

    The flight is a short hop to Cuba and we touched down around 16:00. They do not greet you with a smile. In fact they are down right miserable. After clearing immigration and customs which took ages we then queued outside in the humid heat for the currency exchange. This took about half an hour to eventually queue and change my peso's to whatever it is in Cuba.

    We then grab a taxi into Havana. We are staying at the Hotel Saratoga. Not five star but sufficient for the next four days and with a roof top pool. We went up there for a cocktail and found on the map a small restaurant called Lamparilla Tapas & Cervezas. When I say on the map I mean google maps. The only thing is that for google maps to work out needs the internet...obviously really. But in Cuba there is no mobile network just hotspots. We would have to resort to old technology called paper to get around and a thing called a paper map.

    So not in possession of either digital or analogue technology I memorised where it was located. After 10 minutes of walking we seemed to be in 'Dodgy Havana' rather than 'Old Havana'. Although they are fairly similar what gave it away was a man feeding his cockerel on the doorstep to the almost derelict town house, piles of rubbish everywhere and the strange looks that we got as we wandered along. There was nothing for it but to return to the hotel where we could get wifi. So we asked one of the Bike Taxi chaps with gold teeth to take us back. No sooner had he started to pedal he got pulled over by the very aggressive looking police and had his papers checked and was asked to get off the bike. We decided to walk.

    When we got back to the hotel Eva asked, 'Dad are you sure you turned the right way when we set off before?'

    I double checked. No I didn't, we ended up going completely the opposite way. So off we strode again with a not to give up attitude. After 15 minutes we arrived, located down the street Lamparilla, which indecently still looked a bit dodgy to me. However the food was very good and we sat there for a couple of hours before heading in the right direction back to the hotel.
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  • Day15

    So what should we do in Havana? A nice American girl we met last night gave us a few tips on places to go and see, so we thought the first thing to do was to get a hop on, hop off bus, around Havana. We decided to hop on and not hop off during the tour around the city. I suppose one can sum up the city in a few down buildings, American classic cars, Salsa bands, cocktails and a a fair bit of poverty.

    We were on the bus for a good 90 minutes then returned to where we had started. It looked like we might have to tick off some of the few cocktails it was at the world famous Floridita. The establishment is famous for its daiquiris and for having been one of the favourite hangouts of Ernest Hemingway in Havana.

    Some history...In 1914, the Catalan immigrant Constantino Ribalaigua Vert started working in the bar as cantinero (bartender). Constantino, nicknamed Constante, became the owner in 1918. Constante is credited for inventing the frozen daiquiri in the early 1930s, a drink that became linked to the fame of the place, whose motto is now "la cuna del daiquiri" (the cradle of the daiquiri). The bar became a school of highly skilled cantineros (bartenders) specialised in cocktails prepared with fresh fruit juices and rum, whose traditions are still preserved by the disciples of Constante.

    It was packed but we found a seat and listened to the live music whilst sipping Daiquiri. The food looked a bit iffy so we left and went down Obispo Street which seemed fairly lively. Part of the way down was a kind of pop up restaurant in an old knocked down building enclave. I think it was called Ruin De Parques. Outside was a sign advertising lobster lunch for around £10 and a great band was playing. A few hours later after I dined on lobster and Eva on Chicken with quite a few Mohitos, we knew most of the people that were coming and going...the professional lady photographer from Argentina and her set of girl friends who asked if Eva was my girlfriend, the hippy American lady that had come to Havana for one week and hadn't left four weeks later and who now had a toy boy Cuban boyfriend who was the trombonist from the band, the German couple from Hamburg (he had proposed to her but she hadn't said yes), and of the course the band.

    They were brilliant!

    I got up and did my Gold medal Dad dance with Maracas or Maraques...not sure which...and they got a reluctant Eva up to join in with what looked like a stale baguette with ridges in the side that you slide a stick up and down. I even bought their CD...I hope it sounds as good as they did during that day.

    The weather was very hot and we were perspiring a lot so ice cold Mohitos seemed just the job.

    We arrived there at 14:00 and we left at around 22:00. It took us an hour to get back to the hotel and it should have taken 15 minutes! Goodness knows how we got lost.

    We decided that a quick night cap was in order after such a long walk and went to the hotel bar. The only people in it were 3 Australian couples...the banter soon began to flow and the event moved into the next day. After Trevor the Australian decided it was a good idea to get his manhood out on the bar, with much encouragement from Eva but less so from his wife, we decided it was time to go to bed.
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  • Day16

    It was naturally a bit of a late start to the day today and we headed off to the museum of the revolution. It was quite interesting from a history lesson point of view, but quite one sided. It would interesting to learn a bit more about it.

    We thought we would get some breakfast despite the fact that it was lunch time so we crossed the road to Sloppy Joe's for our customary Mohitos and a very tasty burger.

    The eclipse was to be at 16:00 in Havana so we walked back to the hotel and went on to the roof top pool area and just chilled for a few hours. It was a lovely sunny day but just before 16:00 an almighty thunderstorm arrived complete with lightening and the sun and the eclipse were gone.

    We rendezvoused again in the early evening and wandered back into old Havana for...yes you've guessed it...a Mohitos. The rain continued to pour and we had a booked a restaurant a few minutes walk away. So we hailed one of those bike taxis and he pedalled us direct to the door of the restaurant.

    The door was locked but they let us in. We thought it was very strange that they would lock the door but perhaps that is for security. Anyway we ordered the food and it was excellent.
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  • Day17

    Yet another late start. We decided it would be a good plan to hire one of the American Classic Cars for an hour and take a whizz around Havana. We got Senor George and his 1952 automobile that was his grandfathers, then his fathers and now his. So we drove around for a while and stopped off to get a Pina Colada for breakfast from a hut near the old fort.

    It was hot again and by the time we had finished my shirt was soaking wet thanks to the plastic seat covers. We were dropped off at the local market and we wandered around looking at the same old stuff that everybody seemed to be selling.

    By now we were getting a bit peckish and Eva chose probably the worst restaurant possible. No air conditioning and the food was as if my good wife Fiona had cooked it. We left most of it and walked on to the Cafe de Orientale. Now this was a proper restaurant and up to the standard of some of the best restaurants in London. We bathed in the luxury of the cool air conditioning and had garlic prawns and some pasta. The thing with pasta is it does make you want to go to sleep, so we went back to the hotel and had a siesta.

    Come the evening we decided that dinner back at the Cafe de Orintale would be an ideal end to our time in Havana. Well, that was the plan but how wrong we were.

    We stopped en route at Floridida and listened to the band playing then headed off to the restaurant. On the way there we saw Hubert the trombonist from the band we saw on Sunday and said hello. We had named him Pineapple because his hair was in dreadlocks and tied up on top of his head. He was from Haiti so my French started too come in handy.

    'Eva they must be playing again at the place we went to on a Sunday. Shall we call in there first?'

    ...and indeed we did.

    When we arrived we were greeted with enthusiasm and lots of hands shaking from the waiters and the other members of the band. We must have made quite an impression on Sunday!

    So we chilled out here listening to great music, drinking pints of cool Mohitos and when it came time to go to dinner, we didn't. We just ordered lobster and shrimps and continued to enjoy ourselves. The atmosphere was marvellous and when one of the locals left the place he took Eva's hand and kissed it.

    When they finished their set for the evening Pineapple and Jacob (Eva's boyfriend) a superb guitar player, joined us along with one of the bands daughters who we named Londres, just because it was easier to remember as she wore a T shirt with London emblazoned across it.

    We bought them all drinks and the conversation went across all subjects in various languages of English, Spanish and French. When we were talking about the revolution they were looking around to see if anybody was listening as I don't believe free speech is yet a part of their remit. When Eva was explaining something to Jacob he couldn't understand as his English was limited so she had me ask Hubert (who didn't speak English) in French, who then translated it in Spanish to Jacob, who then responded to Eva in English...but it worked and the conversation flowed.

    'Eva stick close by to me as I think it is going start to go to another level and we are going to move on somewhere else'

    We left the relatively safe confines of Old Havana and headed into 'Dodgy Havana' where we had been walking on our first night. They took us to a small jazz club in some run down building. We sat down and enjoyed more music and excellent company. The guys then just got their guitar and trombone out and joined the band playing with them for 15 minutes. It was a night not to be forgotten and and 03:00 we left and they walked us back to safer confines near our hotel.
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  • Day18

    My 08:30 call to Eva was not appreciated.

    Despite the fact that the flight was delayed because the airport had to close for a couple of hours...not sure why...I felt it best that we leave at 10:00 to get to the airport. If the reception was anything to go buy then the departure may be worse. However, that wasn't the case. We arrived in the departure lounge very quickly after our hour long taxi journey. It meant that we had 3 hours to wait for the plane to depart.

    In Heathrow at the Virgin Upper Class lounge it would have been ideal, but this wasn't Heathrow by any stretch of your imagination. So we waited.

    The flight to New York was just over three hours and when touching down there was a loud cheer. Not because we had arrived safely but because people could now receive WiFi internet!

    The customary hour queue at immigration even using the new electronic system meant that we were now running low on reserves. Quite frankly Eva was getting very internet as no phone, five hours sleep, long queues and nothing to eat as she couldn't stomach breakfast. Sometimes you just can't win.

    As soon as we arrived back at the Standard, High Line we dropped off our bags at reception and headed straight out for some food.

    A steak was called for to try to get some conversation out of Eva. We dined at Old Homestead Steakhouse.

    It says on their web site....'Combining tradition and elegance, The Old Homestead Steakhouse has been serving the finest cuts of beef in New York City for over a century.'....and it looks as if it is the original carpet.

    The steak was wonderful but the portions are so big that we went with sharing one.

    So with a 9 ounce steak lying heavy in our stomachs we went off to bed after a very long day.

    On arrival at my room I guessed that it had been raining in France.
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  • Day9

    Neben Sozialismus und Fidel Castro denkt man bei Kuba auch direkt an Zigarren und Rum. Der Besuch des Rum-Museums hat sich kaum gelohnt, daher widmen wir diesem keinen eigenen Beitrag, wohingegen der Besuch der Tabakfabrik uns die Besonderheit kubanischer Zigarren offenbart hat.
    Jede echte kubanische Zigarre ist handgefertigt und allein daher schon etwas sehr besonderes. Die Angestellten hier werden 10 Monate lang eingearbeitet bevor sie die Zigarren fertigen dürfen. Die Fertigung erfolgt in mehreren Schritte, für jede Zigarre werden drei verschiedene Tabakblätter in verschiedenen Mischverhältnissen verwendet. Grundsätzlich gibt es nur sechs verschiedene Zigarrenmarken, die sich durch die verschiedenen Mischverhältnisse unterscheiden. Das Angebot erscheint viel umfangreicher, was mit den verschiedenen Formen der Zigarren zusammenhängt.
    Wie dem auch immer sei, nachdem ich eine Zigarre der Marke Romeo und Julia geraucht habe, weiß ich nun, warum kubanische Zigarren so besonders und teuer sind.
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  • Day4

    Der Stadtteil Vedado, in dem auch wir untergebracht sind, schließt sich westlich an die Altstadt und Habana Central an und liegt ebenfalls am Meer. Der Malecón, die sonst so lebendige Promenade, verbindet diese Stadtteile miteinander.
    Im Vedado findet das ganz normale Leben statt. Allerdings zählt das Viertel schon zu den gehobeneren Stadtteilen, weshalb man sich hier auch ziemlich sicher fühlen kann.
    Trotz einiger großer Hotels, zum Beispiel dem berühmten Habana Libre, wo sich Che und Fidel häufiger getroffen und ihre Pläne geschmiedet haben, treffen wir hier nur vereinzelt auf Touristen und können so die Gepflogenheiten der hier lebenden Menschen intensiver erfahren. Hier ein paar Eindrücke:
    Hauptverkehrsmittel sind die Taxis Collectivos, das sind die schön anzuschauenden amerikanischen Wagen aus den 50er Jahren, deren ungefilterte Dieselmotoren die Luft entsetzlich verpesten. Am Mittag ist die Mischung aus Abgasen und Hitze besonders unerträglich.
    Mittags suchen die Habaneros eine der zahlreichen Essensmöglichkeiten auf. Typisch ist das Hühnchen mit Reis auf die Hand oder ein Sandwich. Aber besonders gefragt ist der Perro Caliente (übersetzt Hot Dog) um die Ecke.
    Apropos Ecke: An einigen Stellen tummeln sich Menschen, die voll auf ihre Handys konzentriert sind. Ins Internet kommt man nämlich nur über ein paar WiFi-Spots, deren Nutzung allerdings sehr teuer ist. Abgesehen davon ist das Netz auch sehr unzuverlässig.
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  • Day11

    Trinidad habe ich um 9 Uhr wieder verlassen und bin dann um 11:30 Uhr mit dem Sammeltaxi in Santa Clara angekommen.. Ich wohne hier bei Nicola, einem italienischen Auswanderer, in seinem Haus. Die Lage ist wirklich perfekt, mitten im Zentrum und das Zimmer ist auch klein aber fein! Nach einem Mittagsschlaf bin ich auch direkt losgegangen in die Stadt, da ich hier nur eine Nacht bleibe. Als erstes bin ich zum Mausoleum von Che Guevara gegangen, dass ist eigentlich hier auch der Grund warum die meisten in Santa Clara halt machen.. Hier in Santa Clara haben Che und seine Mitstreiter die letzte Schlacht gegen das Regime gewonnen. Das Mausoleum ist ein riesiger Platz, wo ab und an mal politische Kundgebungen stattfinden, am Kopf des Platzes ist eine große Che Guevara Statue auf einem hohen Betonsockel, links daneben ein Marmorrelief von den Kämpfen der Revolution und rechts ein großer Betonblock auf dem Che Guevaras Abschiedsbrief an Fidel Castro geschrieben steht. Um ins Museum und in die Gedenkstätte zu kommen, muss man all seine Sachen abgeben, da strengstens darauf geachtet wird, dass man keine Fotos oder Notizen macht. Überall sind Aufpasser die einem sofort Bescheid sagen falls man gerade irgendwo steht, wo man nicht stehen sollte oder man sonst irgendetwas falsches macht. Ich wurde zum Beispiel angesprochen, weil ich eine Cap auf hatte. In der Gedenkstätte sind Marmorreliefs von den circa 20 Kämpfern von Che und natürlich von Che Guevara selbst, dass ist wirklich schön gemacht worden. Im Anschluss befindet sich das Museum mit vielen Dingen aus Che Guevaras Leben, wie zum Beispiel, Kleidung, Armband, Stuhl, Waffen mit denen er gekämpft hat und und und .. Eigentlich ganz interessant, nur leider war das meiste nicht ins Englische übersetzt. Danach bin ich zur Tabakfabrik gegangen, angeblich die beste in Cuba. Leider war heute für Besucher kein Einlass aber von außen konnte man auch einiges erkennen. Ein Mann, angeblich normalerweise "Guide" von der Fabrik hat mir einiges erklärt, wie die Herstellung funktioniert, wobei wir dann halt immer nur von außen durch die Fenster gucken konnten. Danach hat er mich gefragt ob ich Zigarren kaufen will und hat mich ein paar Meter entfernt in ein Zimmer geführt, wo er sein Lager an Zigarren hatte. Da ich eh noch welche kaufen wollte habe ich bei ihm 25 Zigarren in einer Holzbox für 40 CUC gekauft.. angeblich soll so eine Box im Laden 380 CUC kosten, was ich allerdings bezweifle.. trotzdem ist 40 glaube ich ein ganz guter Preis. Das ist hier ziemlich normal und das habe ich schon von jedem anderen gehört, der auch mal in einer Zigarrenfabrik war, dass die Guides immer unter der Hand, nach den Führungen, Zigarren verkaufen um sich etwas dazu zu verdienen. Ich hoffe nur das ich die beim Zoll durchkriege.. da gibt es widersprüchliche Meinungen, wie sich der Zoll bei Zigarren verhält. Wird schon.Read more

  • Day10

    Am letzten Tag in Trinidad habe ich erstmal lange geschlafen und dann so gegen 12 das Haus verlassen. Mein Plan war es mit dem Bus zum Strand "Playa Ancon" zu fahren, da ich schon einiges davon gehört hatte. Leider musste ich eine Stunde auf den Bus warten und war dann im Endeffekt erst um 15:30 am Strand.. die Wartezeit habe ich einfach in der Stadt verbracht. Der Strand an sich war wirklich sehr schön, man konnte sich eine Liege mieten und es gab eine Bar mit Getränken. Natürlich war das dort schon wieder relativ touristisch, aber man konnte dort trotzdem sehr gut entspannen.. um 18 Uhr ist der Bus dann zurückgefahren, dann bin ich noch ein bisschen in der Stadt gebummelt und früh schlafen gegangen..Read more

  • Day13

    Der Schwede aus meinem Zimmer hatte am Tag zuvor auch durch Kontakte aus dem Hostel einen Kubaner kennengelernt mit dem wir dann zusammen den Tag in der Stadt verbracht haben.. Pablo hat uns mehrere Stunden durch die Stadt geführt, hat uns sehr viel erklärt und gezeigt was ich noch nicht kannte. Ich war ja zwar schon mehrere Tage in Havanna, aber an dem Tag habe ich echt viel Neues gesehen von der Stadt, worüber ich sehr froh bin! Außerdem war es sehr interessant mal etwas über Kuba zu erfahren aus der Sicht eines Kubaners.. und er war auch interessiert daran wie es bei uns in Europa so ist, insbesondere mit der Politik und den verschiedenen Parteien. In Kuba ist nämlich nächstes Jahr wieder Wahl, aber es steht nur eine Partei zur Auswahl.. als er gehört hat das bei uns jeder eine Partei gründen kann und dass es auch sehr viele gibt war Pablo sehr erstaunt wie das so läuft in Deutschland 😄 Abends haben wir uns wieder alle getroffen aus dem Hostel um an der Malecon zu sitzen und Rum zu trinken.. vorher haben wir allerdings unserer "Hostel-Mutti" noch eine Torte gekauft, da sie Geburtstag hatte. An der Malecon war mal wieder richtig gute Stimmung, es waren bestimmt ein paar tausend Leute wieder unterwegs, überall hat man Musik gehört und alle möglichen Nationen waren vertreten.
    Leider war das ja schon mein letzter Abend an dem ich ausgehen konnte, da Montag früh mein Flug geht, aber dafür war er umso schöner 🙂
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Cuba, Kuba, Cuba, ኩባ, كوبا, Куба, কিউবা, ཁྱུའུ་བ།, ཀིའུ་སྦ, Kuba nutome, Κούβα, Kubo, Kuuba, کوبا, Kubaa, Cúba, ક્યુબા, Yn Choobey, Kyuba, קובה, क्यूबा, Kiba, Կուբա, Kúba, キューバ共和国, კუბა, Kiumba, គុយបា, ಕ್ಯೂಬಾ, 쿠바, کووبا, ຄິວບາ, Kiobà, ക്യൂബ, ကျူးဘား, Kiuba, क्युबा, କ୍ୱିବା, کیوبا, Cubba, Kubäa, කියුබාව, Kubë, கியூபா, క్యూబా, คิวบา, Kiupa, Küba, Cu-ba, Kubeän, Orílẹ́ède Kúbà, 古巴, i-Cuba

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