There are two ways to visit Cuba.. One as a holiday maker and one as a tourist.. You may ask what the difference is and I will tell you.. First you can come to Cuba for your two week break and spend your time in an All Inclusive hotel or you can come and back pack around the Island and stay in some lower budget places.. Both choices are fine and when you visit Cuba for the first time you will be amazed at how friendly the Cubans are. When you take away the 5 star hotels you realise that Cuba is in fact a very poor country and the fact is that the people have very little but they would give you whatever they have and they give you a smile. It’s genuine. They may not have the material things that people believe make you happy, but they have this tremendous spirit..
I remember the first time that I went to Cuba. I remember flying in and landing and the weather was gorgeous, we sorted out our visas, collected our luggage and then boarded the coach for another hour in order to reach our hotel on the coast. The scenery was fantastic however this was when I first realised the extent of poverty that people live in here. It was really sad to see the kids with no shoes and barely any clothes but no matter what they were always smiling.
The hotel we stayed in was great, there was plenty of food to choose from and the hotel was minutes away from the beach. We were booked to stay in this particular hotel for a few days only so that we could enjoy lazing around and getting a tan.
After a good relaxation period and booking our hotels in advance we set of to Havana. For those who have never experienced Havana I will try to enlighten you in the best way that I can. Havana is like some lost city and I doubt there is any other place in the world quite like it. Many of the old colonial buildings are crumbling and look like they could collapse any second,there are many drunk people due to the rum.
Old Havana is one of the most amazing places I have visited. Old Havana is one of the oldest settlements in the America’s and it is full of charming buildings and narrow roadways. You don’t have to be an architecture buff to be instantly delighted by the atmosphere of the city. We also visited La Habana Vieja which contains more than 900 important building, which are now being restored to their former glory which is great it is also a recognised UNESCO site. The way of life here seems very out dated and many of the cars are the old vintage style American cars, what I did love though was watching the little old women smoke these huge massive cigars which were nearly as big as them.
When we went out for dinner in Havana we found many of the restaurants served local food a lot of rice and beans, fresh lobster which was relatively cheap and plenty of fresh fruit. We also managed to find an Italian restaurants and many Chinese restaurants and there is even a Chinatown in Cuba.
Whilst in Cuba you must visit Varadero which is said to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. A little bit about Varadero, it is not the real Cuba. It is located on a small peninsula that has been pretty much fenced off from the rest of the country and is purely for tourism. It is composed of many hotels and a businesses geared towards the tourism. However Varadero is beautiful and we spent nearly a week here soaking up the sun and just taking in the breath taking scenery of the area.
Varadero is very safe and I doubt that there is ever any crime here. From just sitting and chatting with the locals it appears that if you do get into any trouble, you are moved out of Varadero and into other areas of Cuba.
Whilst in Varadero we did venture out of our hotel and go and see what the nightlife was like. The nightlife consisted of a couple of night clubs which were full of tourists and some smaller local bars. Many of the restaurants appear to be closed however as soon as you go to try and enter you will be greeted at the door and then given a table where you will be provided with a real friendly service.
Whilst we were in Cuba we went to a small place called Vinales where we were lucky enough to go horse riding. It was great fun and we managed to see some of the lush green scenery of Cuba. This area is made up of orange and grapefruit trees, and is mainly for farmers which you can also see using their old fashioned wooden ploughs. Going to this area was extremely different than that of the more touristy parts and gave a feel of how life goes on away from the resorts.
I think I saw Cuba with two sets of eyes. One pair that fell in love with its amazing history that lives in it historical buildings and old culture that´s remained hardly unchanged for hundreds of years, the warm hearted people, the music, the rum and cigars. The other eyes see the poverty and the government communist policies. But hey at least they don´t have a Pizza Hut
Whenever you travel to Cuba you must go with an open mind. Cuba is still a Third World country and a lot of things don’t work properly. But travel with an open mind and you will discover a wonderful country.
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