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Shifting sands

March 12, 2012

After the visit the night before last to the Cuban version of Strictly Come Dancing in the shape of the Cuban Ballet, which exuded less culture than a week old yoghurt, a less cerebral day was planned for yesterday, although it still involved eating and drinking; a day at the beach. Perhaps we have been spoilt by the beaches and beach restaurants of the south of France. Juan Les Pins and Cannes offer the most wonderful beach experiences so I know what I expected from what was billed as “the most swanky beach club experience in Havana”, the Mirimar Beach Club. Whilst the beach itself was very attractive a very ugly jetty stacked with building materials and old rusting containers on one side of the beach robbed it of much of its scenic beauty and a very ugly “Dive Centre” on the other side seemed to sum it up.

As a Currencies Direct customer myself I clearly enjoy a high level of discernment but my conclusion that this particular beach offering was somewhere between Centre Parks and Butlins was perhaps a bit harsh. One tip for eating in Cuba? Don’t order chicken. I fancied some creole flavouring and the only option was chicken. Some of our party have reason before on this lovely island to be disappointed by this choice, so from my perspective the chicken population can rest a little easier in their coops.

I am not certain whether or not it was the chicken or the realisation that at least one of our party came to the conclusion that he had booked his connecting flight back to Nice from London for the day before we arrive back from Cuba, but some people got a little irritated over lunch to the point at one stage of threatening to throw a bread roll, however good humour was restored when I pointed out that this was about to turn into our very own Cuban missile crisis.

With smart phones rendered ineffective out here as email cannot be received on them even when under the baleful influence of the hotel wifi, pictures have to be taken with either a camera, which I do not posses, or the iPad which I do, and this was taken outside the hotel yesterday and typifies the style of transport for many locals.

Emissions may be an issue....

The day before we were down near the harbour having a daiquiri. The stirrer looked like it was made of hickory and it occurred to me that this was a clear case of hickory daiquiri dock. I do like it when I make myself laugh.

Today we supposed to be getting up early to visit the Partagas Cigar Factory. I can see it from my hotel window but it seems their production takes places somewhere else and the tour starts at the ridiculously early hour of 9am. If the subject were anything else but cigars then I suspect my alarm clock may not go off. If that were to happen could it be described as “close, but no cigar”?

Driving about the city of Havana and talking to its people you get a very clear perspective of the place The buildings are magnificent examples or colonial architecture but many indeed the majority have seen no work on them in over 50 years, and whilst the health system is reputedly very good and life expectancy amongst the best in the word, probably down to a daily diet of cigars and rum, the isolation and subsequent lack of investment in the infrastructure of its buildings is a shame. For what reason are the Americans (some of whom do come here via a loophole as no visa is required if arriving from Mexico and there are daily flights to and from nearby Cancun) maintaining sanctions against this island? They cannot pose a threat now that their alignment with the cold war countries is effectively over, maybe it is the doubtful human rights situation?

Chris France

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