Nicola Norris, Travel Counsellor
I started my journey to Cuba in Cork, travelling via Amsterdam to Havana. On arrival at Havana Airport, the first thing I noticed was the humidity; it was so warm with a beautiful slight breeze and 30 degrees. It was very welcome after leaving 12 degrees back home in Ireland.
There is a currency exchange desk at the exit of the airport to exchange your euros to CUC's. Transfer from the airport to Havana city was very convenient. I had prebooked which was ideal as lots of the taxi's were hailing you towards their taxi.
On arrival to the Parque Central Hotl, the welcome was so friendly and check in was easy and fast. There were plenty of old American cars parked outside and it was hard not to be impressed by these huge stunning vehicles. That evening we had dinner at the hotel followed by a visit to La Floridita, one of Earnest Hemmingway's favourite bars. there were musicians playing, staff dressed in old fashioned uniforms and strawberry daquiry. Hemmingway's bar stool has a velvet rope to keep the crowds at bay. We then had a late stroll through the city, bustling with music.
Next day we had breakfast at the hotel. Lunch was at La Bodeguita del Medio, Hemmingway's other favourite bar. It was an amazing experience with musicians playing by each table and selling their CD's to any new fans they may meet. We then visited a cigar stroe for some real Cuban souvenirs and offwe went to Varadero beach. There is a 22km stretch of sandy beach, beautiful turquoise sea and a slight breeze to help.
There are some beautiful hotels in varadero and my favourite would be the Princesa hotels which are both 5 star properties and all inclusive. One of the hotels is for couples only. I also visited the Dupont Mansion which was the very first hotel built in Varadero but, of course, there are plenty of four star hotels to suit any budget.
An excursion which was the highlight for me was the evening pick up from our hotel by the old American cars which took us to the Buena Vista Social Club. It was an evening performance of the legendary Cuban music ensemble with two of the original band members playing. I counted 14 musicians on stage! A truly amazing experience and you really get a feel of the real Cuba.
All too soon, the visit was at an end. I have to say it is a good thing to leave a place feeling like you want to see more. Cuba - I will be back!
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