I knew we were in for some interesting times when Jules ordered her first Cuban rum mid-air, on-route to Havana, at 10.30 in the morning. She insisted that drinking in the morning was acceptable if it was a cultural experience. This pretty much set the scene for our 10-day sojourn, lots of eating, drinking of rum and `soaking up the atmosphere`.
Cuba has such a fascinating history, from colonial times through the revolution and during the last 50+ years of communism. In our time there we visited the great colonial cities of Havana, Trinidad and Cienfuegos; had some beach time along the palm-fringed southern coast and had a massive dose of Che at the historically important Santa Clara. We thoroughly enjoyed all the places we visited but really fell in love with ``La Habana``. Havana is everything that you imagined and more. It is filled with colonial grandeur, both restored impressive old buildings and the atmospheric bedraggled buildings that have so much history in all their sags. There is music all around, life lived out on the streets and of course all the classic old cars that were a tourist sight in themselves.
On our first day in Cuba we meet a Cuban named Ray and his beat-up vehicle, which quickly became our personal taxi. He offered to taxi us around the island for the same price as it would cost us on the bus. We were very happy to be driven around, though at times putting up with his blasting Cuban Reggaeton music, while trying to interpret his yelled Spanish was almost too much to bear. The car also required a push-start to get it going - but anything that we didn't have to peddle seemed like luxury to us!
Even while Cuba still retains the majority of its communist systems there are a number of ways (such as Ray and his `taxi`) that you can see homemade capitalism at work. The government has also created the `Casa Particular`network of houses where people can rent out 1 or 2 rooms to tourists. We stayed in these almost the entire way and were warmly welcomed into our hosts` homes.