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Taxi, Cuban style

March 10, 2012

The luscious Lisa Thornton Allan who is with us on this trip to Cuba, and is a Currencies Direct customer, thus giving some credence to my forthcoming claim to my accountants that my visit to Havana was work related, client care and all that, has the added advantage of being blond with all the advantages and occasionally disadvantages with which that particular colouring can be associated. From a male perspective I have always loved blondes (and brunettes and red heads and, well, all pretty women) but the insight that a blond can bring to a conversation is fascinating. She is a very well-educated woman but her claim that she thought our aeroplane operated by the very disappointing Virgin Atlantic had travelled at an average of 2000 miles per hour to get us to Havana revealed some discrepancies the completeness of that education. I pointed out that if that were the case, and Gatwick to Havana being a little under 5000 miles, by her calculations we should have made the trip in about 2 & 1/2 hours. Perhaps a blond was driving and got lost for 7 hours?

Anyway, we are here and Havana is like nothing I have never before experienced. In the past I have visited the Caribbean regularly, Barbados would have been my favourite, followed by St Lucia and Antigua, but Havana tops all of these by some distance whilst at the same time offering something very different. The ancient cars, the Cuban salsa you hear everywhere, the astonishing colonial architecture, widespread throughout the city but often in a dilapidated state exudes an essence that is uniquely Cuban but most of all the sense of history and the undercurrent of a population happy, but denied complete freedom, but thriving is a fascinating mix. The closest comparison architecturally would be Casablanca, but that is not a nice city and had a dangerous undercurrent that is simply absent in Cuba. One feels completely safe here day or night so it that respect it could not be different. Talking of fascinating mixes, the Cubans also invented the mojito.

We had been recommended to go to lunch at a fisherman’s cottage restaurant called Santy, but when we got there it was under reconstruction so we refused their kind offer to have lunch in a windowless room and our driver took us to the good but overpriced Vistamar which as its name suggests has a view of the sea. Discussing the revolution with our driver, as soon as any question about how the local populace feel about Fidel or Raul Castro, the guys running the country, one senses a shutters-down blank reaction. Suddenly his English is patchy and he does not understand the question, and you begin to realise that freedom of speech here, taken for granted where we live, is not the norm. He does drive the most wonderful car though, so what better way to go to the seaside than in this open-topped beauty.

The 1956 Chevy Bel Air convertible, our taxi to the beach

The Saratoga Hotel is fantastic, although their habit of turning off the internet at night is slightly irritating especially when one knows the world is waiting for the next episode in this daily tome, so apologies for its late appearance some days.

Last night then to a place close to La Floridita, where they invented the daiquiri, I could not pronounce its name but it was buzzing with a choice of three restaurants on and bars on 4 floors in the same building offering differing noise volumes and styles of music and food. We decided on the top floor rooftop barbecue and were serenaded by some brilliant young Cuban guitarist who managed to play Pink Floyd’s “wish you were here” on a flamenco guitar indeed in partly flamenco style giving it a unique Cuban feel to this rock gem. We are going back on Monday.

Chris France

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Pinman permalink
    March 10, 2012 3:57 pm

    “The Cubans also on vented the mohito.- suddenly his English is patchy”

    Your new literary style………….Cuban Chris, Taxi Driiver……….!!

    Like

    • March 11, 2012 2:42 pm

      driiver? yes, it out of it when posted, will deal with it now

      Like

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