True to my expectations before I arrived, Cuba is a huge country with mostly lots of old buildings that haven't seen change since the days of Fidel Castro;
I was genuinely surprised by Cuba's epoch and vintage beat.
I was drawn to the country's plethora of buildings and vintage cars, mostly old and vintage.
I enjoyed its night life
The turquoise waters of Varaderro beach
The pina coladas
The stunning views of Valle de Vinales; and not forgetting the 40-year old rums and traditional cigar tastings
HavanaHavana was beautiful all through. My accommodation was in a Casa with the most amazing view of the waterfront. I spent most nights walking by the beach at the Malenco; with a cool drink and the sound of waves crushing on the walls of the Malenco for a backdrop...does it get any better!
|The view from my room|
Old Havana was my destination by day...
|Hands down the best chocolate in the world!|
Valle de Vinales TourTo get to Valle de Vinales, I booked a group bus tour from Havanna. The bus departed from Melia Cohiba hotel that was just two blocks from my hotel. So that was an easy one.
This long-day tour was certainly a worthwhile way of seeing the Cuban countryside. In my opinion, the trip itself was better than the final destination of Vinales. Valle de Vinales itself didn't meet my naive expectations of the place. Coming from Kenya, I wasn't expecting anything short of the Rift Valley escarpment.
The tour took us through Tobacco Plantations, a Cigar Factory,a Rum factory, Mural de la Historia (Prehistory Wall), and finally to Valle de Vinales. The best part of the tour was the rum and cigar tastings. From back in my days in history class when I first heard of Cuba and Fidel; and later on when in Haiti and had the privilege to listen to a live band playing the song el Cari, I knew that some day I had to go to Cuba.
Cuban RumThere's thousands (okay, not literary) of brands of Cuban Rum. So I learnt. And the only way to know which is which, is to have a taste - either as a neat or as a cocktail. There was free samples at the factory we went to and I took advantage and tasted both. The sweet Havana Club (the national brand) stood the test of time, hands down. One word - sumptuous. And no, I am not a drinker. This is one of those experiences that has been long standing on my bucket list from the very day I . The entire range of the Havana Club was available for tasting. There was also the option of buying a few bottles to take away as souvenirs.
To have our lunch (included in the tour), we had to go through an underground cavern using a boat. Yea, its the only way to get to the other side and have your meal. But it was fun all the same.
Once we arrived at the lunch place, there was a team of local dancers that entertained us with Cuban music and dance as we ate. Awesome.
I must also admit that the tour guide was amazing. She was so funny, had deep knowledge of Cuban history and no she left no question unanswered. She also had the most beautiful Spanish accent. Unfortunately I am writing this review more than a year after the trip so I remember neither the tour guide's name nor the tour company - my bad!
Museo de la Revulucion