Cuba – a Caribbean Island that is blessed with palm trees, sultry temperatures, hip-swivelling rhythms, pristine beaches, and an excess of rum! Not forgetting the world’s finest hand rolled cigars…and socially apt sharks.
Starting with a 5 hour boat trip from Jucaro to Jardines de la Reina, a speck in the deep blue seas, which can officially be called the MIDDLE of NOWHERE – floats an oil rig platform, beautifully transformed in Italian design and style by its Italian owner from Como! Fish was exquisitely fresh straight from the sea and the lobsters from the mangroves, scattered all around us. Served twice daily by chef Eduardo, every dish came with the all important drizzle of Olive Oil – again a comfort the owner sends in as priority!
Diving the Caribbean with videos and cameras at hand, catching this exceptionally untouched sea-world on footage which back at home still makes viewers GASP! in horror, as images of huge 3 meter long silky-sharks pass across the screen!
Back in Havana, the lumbering American Chevrolet taxis dating back to the 1940’s and 1950’s, which are patched and propped up, and come in all the colours of the rainbow, work their way through crazy and unpredictable haphazard traffic; day and night they bustle past bikes and side cars, yellow Coco-taxis (a Piaggio Ape chassis with a yellow coconut shell on it which you sit in), yellow busses stuffed to the windows with local commuters, who at times hang off the wing mirrors as the doors close and the bus drives on! It all depicts the spirit of the nation.
This deep immersion into the Cuban lifestyle has left us all vibrantly energized and custodians of a lifetime experience, having lived a lifestyle the West has left behind, and that is close to the brink of change. Despite the scars of the revolution, headed up by Fidel and Che (which by the way means “Dude”), which struck both the buildings, the nation and their communities, Cuba’s people are happy, immensely proud of their country, radiant without resentment nor crime.
Go there soon, see the WHOLE of Cuba, drive along the crazy long roads which cross the island, and witness the life outside the city, the lush plantations, the colour of the earth, the oxen working the land, the high mountains. See Havana ALIVE before the changes of Unesco and long term investors change the face of a romantic and beautifully real city, which drifts from day to day in the wonderfully addictive Cuban son which musicians play at every street corner; rhythms unchanged since the 1930’s.
Four top places to eat in Havana:
LA TERRAZA T. 07 8623626
HOTEL SARATOGA – 8th / top floor – extensive night and day skyline views. T. (53-7) 868 1000
FLORIDITA Restaurante – Bar T.(53-7) 867 1299
EL GUAJIRITO – T. (53-7) 862 2760
Hotel Nacional de Cuba – real time warp colossal hotel, with pool in the heart of Cuba
And for Cuba back in London…
To hold onto Cuba in London I called into La Casa del Habanos bar. Warm oranges and yellows stand out from the dark wooden walls and Cuban jazz plays in the background. It is a comfort find the timeless Mojitos alongside a London-twist-mojito which has a dash of tobacco?! And about tobacco – the cigars! La Casa stock the finest Cuban cigars, and the selection is as intimidating as at Partagas in Havana. Excellent hand-rolled fresh cigars made there and then, are fun to try to get you into the mojo, right there on the premises, and it is one of the few places you can enjoy a puff indoors in the whole capital. But watch out for the new space opening in May, at TRAMP for your next Cohiba Esplendido!!