A Travellerspoint blog

Sex on the beach

make mine a double

overcast 26 °C

Hotel Blau Varadero Cuba - lobby bar

Hotel Blau Varadero Cuba - lobby bar

The next day the weather had turned folowing the storm and it was overcast and there were some big waves coming up over the Malecon (a promenade walk around the coast in Havana). This turned out to be fortunate as this afternoon we were to transfer to Varadero for our 7 days at the beach. We strolled along the Malecon, dodging the waves and had some lunch in old Havana before boarding our coach for the two and a half hour drive to Varadero. The Blau Varadero Hotel resembles some sort of modern day concrete pyramid cum nuclear silo. It is not the most attractive of buildings but inside is a different story. An expansive entrance vestibule leads to a 15 story high atrium. Really impressive. We are allocated an ocean view room and from the balcony we look across the pool and garden areas, past the palm trees and across to the most turquoise sea you've ever seen. This'll do nicely. There are 3 restaurants and a beach restaurant, 2 bars and a pool bar and a beach bar and the best part is we don't need any money because, for the first time ever, we are all inclusive! We put that to the test straight away. The restaurant buffet is superb. Just about whatever you want to eat is there, a total contrast to the restaurants in Havana. We have our fill and head for the main bar. We each take a stool and discover there are no restrictions to what you can and can't drink and they're all the normal brands. We start with sex on the beach - then come back inside for a drink! Obviously that didn't happen, but we did start on the cocktails. Our plan is to go through the cocktail menu but not in one night. With a rosey glow to our cheeks we retire to our room happy and exhausted.

Posted by justchilling 09:08 Archived in Cuba Tagged varadero_cuba hotel_blau_varadero Comments (0)

Club Tropicana drinks are free - well not quite


sunny 29 °C

IMG_8010.jpgFor our second night in Havana, hoping that it might stop me singing the same song over and over again, Jo suggested and booked with Tamara to go to Club Tropicana - drinks are free, fun and sunshine, there's enough for everyone....... see what I mean? We got a taxi in Havana vieja (old Havana) a beat up old Lada. As advised, we checked the price first before getting in and I drove him down from 10 pesos, cos he said it was a long way, to 8 pesos. That's like £5.00 instead of £6.25 - give me the gold medal for negotiating right now! Anyway it really was miles away, it took ages to get there and we felt so sorry for him we gave him the 10 pesos anyway! OK here's the gold medal back. Club Tropicana looked great from the moment we got out of the taxi. All red neon, girls in evening dresses, blokes in black ties. We entered, I was already like the paparazzi on steroids, snapping everything and anything that stood still long enough to be photo'd. We were handed a complimentary Cuban cigar, heaven knows what we're going to do with that but hey, it was free. I had to pay 5 pesos for the privilage of using my camera. We were shown to our seats and Tamara had come up trumps. We were sat in front of the stage, Jo was actually resting her right arm on the stage we were that close, front and centre, amazing seats. It was like being in a Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin film, like being in a time warp. The dinner tables surrounded the stage on various levels adorned with glasses and ice buckets. 4 violinists, a cellist, a base guitarist and a pianist were on stage in full evening dress playing whilst the club filled. Drinks were brought to the tables, we started with The Club Tropicana Special cocktail. Club Tropicana is actually out doors so there are trees which are in and around the club and actually form part of the set. It probably hasn't changed at all since it first opened in 1939. The lights dimmed and and the show began. Spectacular. True to the song lyrics, our free drinks were served: a glass of champagne each, a quarter bottle of Havana Club rum 7 year old and 2 mixers of cola. More than enough to keep Jo and I happy for the evening. The main show finished at midnight and you can stay and party on to the wee small hours with music and dancing if you like. Jo and I called it a night and took a taxi back to our hotel. This turned out to be the best decision of the holiday so far as the heavens opened just as we got in and there was an almighty thunderstorm, that would have been fun at the open air Club Tropicana.

Posted by justchilling 09:03 Archived in Cuba Tagged havana club_tropicana Comments (0)

The sun'll come out Tamara

First day in Havana

sunny 30 °C

As we were in a city we decided unusually for us to attend the customary welcome meeting the next morning. Tamara (reminds me of that song from Annie) was very knowledgeable and informative about the city. Where to go, where not to go where to eat, where not to eat and she told us of the various scams. These included being approached by extremely friendly and informative people who will show you the best bar or the best restaurant which usually involves you paying for drinks and food you didn't order including those of your new best friend. Also taxis that aren't taxis. Also being advised that today was the festival of music, or the festival of cigars or some other fictitious festival that they would use to invite you to a certain bar or restaurant in order to extract pesos from you. Tamara taught us a Spanish phrase to use "no moleste por favor" - please don't bother us. We were approached many times but a polite but firm refusal always worked. We soon learned that there was no point in studying the restaurants extensive menus trying to decide from the myriad of choice what we fancied to eat because it was more a question of what they had available, usually chicken or beef always served with rice and black beans. That said, we enjoyed every meal we had.

Posted by justchilling 08:59 Archived in Cuba Tagged havana havana_vieja Comments (0)

Havana Airport

It was huge I tell you, huge

sunny 28 °C

As always the heat is the first thing you notice as you disembark secondly, and causing some consternation amongst all the British passengers, was the colour of the sky. We couldn't make it out at first. What was different? I know....... it's blue! and not a cloud in sight. Can't wait to get out of the airport and get to the hotel. Oh yes you can....... We'd been warned that customs can take a while, all sorts of questions you have to answer. On the customs form we were asked to complete on the plane, there was a declaration in Spanish with an English translation. Apparently, according to the English version, if we had nothing to declare on entering Cuba, we had to sing (not sign) our declaration. That caused a few funny looks as I approached the uniformed, stern faced, customs officer in his glass box singing "I have nothing to declare" to the tune of 'there is nothing like a dame' from South Pacific. Anyway to cut a long story short, 2 hours later we finally leave the airport. Well it wasn't 2 hours but it was a long time and it wasn't because I was detained by customs, it was for two reasons: Firstly, they put everybodies hand luggage through an x-ray machine after you've shown them your passport and had your picture taken. We got in the slow queue as usual. The person in front of us held up everybody because of the sheer bloody size of the thing in their hand baggage. Jo had never seen one like it and she's used to a pretty big one living with me. I immediately felt totally inadequate. Wow it was big. The young customs officer couldn't believe his eyes, so much so he called his mate over. He was so in awe he called the boss man customs officer and even he, in all his years of experience hadn't seen one that large. My inadequacy turned into jealousy. I wished mine was that enormous. Imagine what I could do with one that size. The female customs officers had come across to take a look, all for training purposes one would assume but they were now in a huddle, giggling. Children were pointing at it and asking mummy what it was. This passenger came in for some serious questioning. Was it used in their employment. How did they intend to use it in Cuba. How much did it cost. Anyway they finally accepted the ladies response that she was a professional photographer and her telephoto lense, the like of which has never been seen before at Havana airport, was indeed necessary in her line of business. When my 18mm - 270mm zoom lense went through the x-ray machine nobody batted an eye lid save for one customs lady who looked me up and down and waved me through without a second glance at my equipment. The second delay was the luggage carousel. One carousel for all the flights but the only thing going around ours was a luggage tag and the cases from the Air France flight. We waited and waited and waited some more. People were becoming irritable and impatient. Still nothing happened. Somebody tried to start a Mexican wave but that petered out at the group of air crew also assembled by the carousel. Slowly, ever so slowly, all the people around us successfully collected their cases and were on their way. We still waited for ours to put in an appearence. Eventually they arrived and we left the airport building and headed for the coach that would take us to our hotel in Havana. We were two steps outside the airport doors when the thing we had been warned about occurred. It all happened in a blink of an eye as we were caught off guard. A chap had already grabbed Jo's case and as he took the case from my hand he welcomed us to Cuba and asked us for our coach number which was only another 4 or 5 steps away. He passed the cases to the driver to load on, he wished us a happy holiday and held his hand out expectantly. "Sorry mate. No dinero until I can get some changed in Havana" He wasn't happy but hey, not my fault you can't buy Cuban Peso's outside Cuba and he certainly wasn't getting a £10 note for his endeavours which was the only change I had. Everybody had been waiting for us and as we took our seats the coach set off. As we checked into our hotel with some other couples we were all handed a welcome to Cuba Mojito. Our room was enormous with not enough furniture to come close to filling it. We checked our sea view and crashed totally exhausted.

Posted by justchilling 08:53 Archived in Cuba Tagged cuba havana airport. Comments (0)

Any loose fillings?

28 °C

Usual airplane plastic ready meal in a plastic box that you struggle to eat with plastic cutlery. Red wine in hand I commence watching back to back movies for the next 10 hours. Captain Phillips first, which is excellent but now I feel like something lighter. Despicable Me 2 - a couple of embarras yourself on a plane laugh out loud moments but obviously most the of the laughs were meeting the characters for the first time in the first movie. Then its Philomena with Judy Dench and Steve Coogan. Jo and I nearly suffer ruptured or burst or whatever it is you do to your ear drums thats really really bad because the various flight announcements come through your headphones at a decibel reading three times the level at which the local council would shut you down and confiscate your microphone. With bleeding ears i decide on another one to laugh at and choose Worlds End. There are some funny bits but if you've seen Shaun of the Dead, then you've seen this also. We hit the Cuban tarmac with one heck of a thump. The captain had informed (warned) us he was letting his apprentice fly this one and it was obvious to me he needs more practice at landings. Never mind things in the overhead lockers may have come loose, check your fillings!

Posted by justchilling 17:58 Archived in Cuba Tagged cuba havana Comments (0)

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