Friday, December 30, 2016

Our man in Havana - Part One

Cuba. A country my wife and I have always wished to visit and now we have had that "pleasure".

Not being fans of the packet holiday we decided to try to do things as much as possible on our own terms. So, now coach trips and changing accomodation every three days, being pushed from pillar to post. Due to the very nature of booking hotels in Cuba, we were resigned to the fact that we must buy a package of hotel, flight, train journey from here to the designated airport of departure and hotel transfer from Varadero to Havana, our base for two weeks.

So it was on the afternoon of Wednesday 14th December we found ourselves on a train from Hannover to Köln/Bonn airport for a Eurowings flight.

Upon taking out seats, we noticed (one could hardly fail not to notice) the toilet was directly in front of us. This meant that leg room was nearly non-existant. Boy was I looking foward to 10 hours in this position. Hello Deep Vein Thrombosis, how are you diddling?

Paranoid (as Ozzy Osbourne may once have said)? Not really, but things were about to get worse.

I guess about 4 hours into the flight a group of flight attendants rushed past us with a steely look on their faces. We obviously thought no more of it until another 30 minutes had passed. The Captain made an announcement to inform everyone that smoking was not allowed on the flight (Thank you Mr Stating-the-bleeding-obvious) and we had had a fire in a rubbish bin due to someone doing just that.  

So that's a bad thing right? Of course it is. But what happened next defies belief. Once again the Captain made an announcement that AFTER the fire, the cabin crew had found cigarette butts (notice the plural) in another toilet. So person or persons unknown, not content with nearly blowing us out of the sky, couldn't resist their nicotine fix. Unsurprisingly, the pilot was a tad aggrieved and said if the person did not own up he was going to divert to Canada until the problem could be resolved. 

Luckily things seemed to calm down and we landed on time at Varadero (Juan Gualberto Gómez Airport) which isn't actually in Varadero. A shame as it is twinned with Driffield, where I spent a few months in the early 90's.
To get through passport control was an experience. There were a number of wooden booths (someone feel free to make a joke about me) and every once in a while a little hand would appear and gesture you foward. You then had to stand on a pair of feet silhouettes on the floor and have your photo taken. Then passports were checked, stamped and the travel visa taken. In theory. 

In reality, someone was called foward, the system would crash, so the official in the booth (someone feel free to make a joke about me) would go to an empty booth (someone blah blah blah) but fail to notify the people in their particular queue what was going on. 

Repeat this process 3 or 4 times to get some idea of what it was like. Finally, we were in, and the luggage was waiting for us. Outside the airport, found out contact, and with another couple we were whisked off to our hotel in Havana. In theory.

We were told to trip would take about 3 hours and we were to have a little break halfway into the journey. We did just that, and pulled up to some roadside complex, where we could buy "the best Penis Coladas in Cuba". Only we couldn't as you can only change your money from Euros to CUC in Cuba, and we hadn't had the chance. 

Onwards to Havana and not much was seen of the journey as by 18:00 it was pitch black. 

We arrived at our hotel, tired and hungry at 21:00, immediately drunk the two cans of local beer in the mini-bar and ordered a sandwich from room service. 

After trying to figure our how to work the air conditioning system (no intstructions are ever provided for these gosh awful things...why?) we fell into a heavy slumber. 

To be continued...


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