23 January 2018
The next few years are likely to bring big change to Cuba and I felt a real urgency to go before it all changes a bit too much, as part of the charm (for visitors anyway) is the time warp, the decay of buildings in old Havana. If you’re not a huge fan of Christmas (I’m not on Grinch level, but just don’t like the excess and three month build up to what is effectively a large Sunday roast!) then Cuba could be the place for you as Fidel Castro effectively banned Christmas in the 1960’s as he considered it too disruptive to the sugar cane harvest.
Havana is a city full of music – live bands play latin beats everywhere and it is a rare moment when you can walk down a street and be surrounded by silence. With an infectious rhythm and performed by some very accomplished musicians, you’ll soon be tapping your feet as you sip your mojito. I ignored all the Hemingway stuff and preferred to beat my own path by wandering the streets with my camera and on Christmas Day I roused my feverish self from my bed and took a bus to Vinales, the cigar producing valley for a change of scene. The streets in the little town of Vinales are lined with pretty cottages painted in bright colours and the view over the valley of Vinales is amazing and well worth a visit.
Cuba probably has the most careful drivers anywhere, but the incentive or rather necessity of not pranging their car is that the parts are extremely difficult, if not impossible to source, particularly for the vintage American cars. Most Cubans would find the cost prohibitive anyway, so the cars are driven respectfully, slowly and carefully and in front of the large hotels where the American cars congregate en masse there is always someone to help guide the giant automobiles into a parking space.