Like most in North America, you only get 2 weeks vacation, you’re tight on cash, and all you want to do is relax somewhere hot, sipping on some fruity alcoholic beverages.
For this reason I really recommend booking a one-week all-inclusive trip to Varadero, Cuba. It’s unbeatable value. But please, take my advice, save a little extra money, and do an overnight stay in Havana. The city is truly magical.
Most beach front resorts organize an overnight stay, where you book a day tour of the capital and book into a sister hotel in Havana. This means, however, that you will lose one night’s stay at the resort. It does allow the opportunity to leave your suitcases behind and just pack an overnight bag. The particular tour I took also included a buffet meal for lunch and breakfast, and a Tropicana show for dinner and entertainment. More on this at the end.
Ok, but really why should you go? You can’t just read about it… you have to see it! So I will include some photos my friend took to convince you.
If you like Hemingway…
Then there isn’t a tour guide in the city who won’t point out the author’s favorite spots. Throughout the tour our guide couldn’t help saying things like:
“This is where Hemingway did this” and,
“this is where Hemingway drank that”.
Sigh! The tour really ended up feeling like a tribute to the man.
If architecture is your thing:
The buildings are absolutely stunning! The vintage feel of the city heightens its charm.
The buildings are all accented with fresh paint in bright colours.
This is in stark contrast to the cemetery we visited, whose grave stones were all a brilliant white.
I spent a long time admiring Il Capitolio: sitting on its steps, staring up at its statues, watching it from across the river.
If you are a people person:
Then you are in the right place. The people are extremely friendly and have excellent English language ability. While walking around with our maps out, people approached us to give directions, and even to just stop and chat. At the end of the school day, we got to see all the children in their freshly pressed uniforms, socks and shoes. How these kids kept their uniforms in tact after a full day of learning and playing, amazes me. The colours representing the different schools also brighten the city.
Into being a real “dude”?
Then the 50′s style cars, gorgeous women, aged rum and fine cigars will appeal to you.
You can get all of this in one shot by attending a Tropicana show. At the entrance, the staff greets each woman with a rose, and each man with a cigar. Really, I would have liked a cigar, but didn’t want to be fussy. Each couple is given a bottle of Havana Club, Cuba’s most famous rum, and then the guests are seated at their tables. While enjoying your meal, the host will announce the beginning of the performance while the stage fills with beautiful women in bikini-like costumes, high heels and very elaborate head dresses. Where do these women get their bodies from???? <envy>.
Half-way through the Havana Club, I myself was just about ready to shake my stuff in a bikini and a feathered hat. The cigar smoke sat above the tables in a thick cloud; their rich aroma was intoxicating. In order to walk out of there independently (as opposed to having to be carried out) I decided to ditch the remainder of the Havana Club bottle and walk in a very crooked line back to the tour bus that brought me to the venue.
If the latter isn’t worth a trip to Havana in itself then I don’t know what does. Whatever your feelings are about their previous leader, please go see the city before it loses its magic and the country fully enters the free market.