27 September 2011

"Habana Bound" - we've saved you a seat

Cuba, April 2008 (Varadero, Part IV)

"Beep-Beep-Beep-BEEP-BEEPPP" ... Yay, you're awake?  Great!!  Sorry about the alarm beeping, but you've got to get up ... we've got ourselves a bus to catch. :)

First things first, breakfast out on the lobby terrace which will include Melia's delicious cafe latte (MMM, so yummy).  Then dress, pack and let's meet in the lobby before 7:45 a.m. Don't worry, we saved you a seat!  And don't rush, the bus won't be on time anyway ("Late Bus?! ... No Problem" ha-ha).  Oh, how I love this carefree, relaxed lifestyle.

Our journey led us quickly out of Varadero and onto the highway through the province of Matanzas.  We passed a few smaller towns before arriving at our destination a seemingly short 2.5 hours later, the Nation’s Capital, Havana.  I remembered from talking to many of the staff, that most people who worked in Varadero actually live in Matanzas.  The transit system would take them back and forth, 7 days a week, along this same highway. The landscape for the duration was colourful, friendly, not overcrowded and not at all heartbreaking.

Our tour bus was luxurious, especially compared to the local transit.  Leg room, seats that reclined, air conditioning, large personal windows complete with curtains!  Myrna was our tour guide. Her voice was sharp; with a very distinct Spanish accent (it was wonderful).  And while I fought strong urges of sleep (vehicle rides tend to make me surrender to the sandman), her commentary on all the nouns (persons, places and things) as we drove by forced my eyes to stay open, I'd hate to miss anything. What a history lesson, what a beautiful Country.  Of all the things I thought I knew, I honestly knew nothing of Cuba.

Our itinerary was revealed long before arriving.  Myrna told us that Havana was divided into 'new and old', we'd be exploring both.  We'd be visiting the Capital Building (a government building, similar to Canada's Parliament building or the White House in the USA), having lunch on the 32nd floor of a hotel, a walk-about in Revolution Square, visiting the Cemetario de Colon (The Christopher Columbus Cemetary)a walking tour of old Havana and before heading back, she'd let us venture into the City on our own for an hour.  YAY!!  We instantly decided that we'd make our way to the enormous market, stopping where ever we wished along the way.  

I hope you're ready?!  In an effort to bring you on this trip, to really make you feel a part of it, I'm currently working on  creating a short clip composed of pictures, videos and music of the highlights from the things we saw and did.  When visiting Cuba, it's well worth your day to visit Havana.   The culture there, the Cuban friendliness, the sights and sounds, the history ... you can’t come close to seeing it all in one day, stay for two or three.

Welcome to Havana!!  This Capital city has a total of 20% of the Country's entire population living here (that's a total of 2.1 million people living in Havana). It was a perfect balance of old and new:  the architecture, statues and even the cars ... there were so many 'old' cars in Cuba, all of them in mint condition.  One important thing to tell you (just as the bus comes to a halt), "pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way in Cuba".  Thank you Myrna ... you weren't kidding.

this will eventually be your link -> Here, see Havana for yourself 
(Coming soon:  an adventure video, vicariously exploring Cuba's Capital with Holiday Heidi)

What an incredible day.  About 5 o'clock we loaded back on the bus to return to Varadero. The solitude experienced this time around wasn't because anyone was sleeping, but more because all eyes were still gazing out the windows at scenic Cuba and everyone was trying to absorb all the information and exchanges that had occurred throughout their day.  What a place.

The bus pulled up just before 7 p.m. to our front lobby.  With dinner reservations for 9, this was perfect timing. I did mention that there were a few local staffers that had paid a bit more attention to me than the rest?!  ... See, while Quinn was sick the first few days, I spent a great deal of time at the lobby bar talking to Duardo.   Nice guy.  I did mention to him a few days back that we'd be going to Havana for the day on Friday. Yes, yes I did.

...walking through the lobby I felt a little sluggish.  Hmmm ... a little ... weird.  This would be normal for me after travelling by bus and not sleeping ...  but it felt different ... kind of weak .. hmmm.

As we walked toward our room we passed by the lobby bar, Duardo immediately beckoned for us to come over to the patio.  Once there, he greeted us both with half hugs and cheek kisses and welcomed us back. He then looks at me and says "I didn't realize you'd be gone so long today" as he proceeded to take our beverage orders.  We chatted for a moment, told him how much we loved our trip Havana, what we saw and what did and explained that we now had to rush to make our dinner reservations.  He then offered to bring our drinks to our room as soon as he was free. Perfect. Mind you, this isn't a normal service provided ...whew, special treatment.

Still feeling slightly 'off', I answered the door about 20 minutes later. With no surprise, there was Duardo but not only was he carrying our drinks, he stretched out his arm and handed me a large bouquet of flowers. Well there, that's a surprise!  These weren't just any flowers either! Oh no, these beauties were handpicked from all the flower pots and arrangements he would have passed by while walking from the lobby to our room! Hahahah.  Crazy. :)

But wait that wasn't all.  Duardo now looks at me, takes my hands, opens them, puts a ball of paper in them, and whispers "while you were in Havana."  ... I'm speechless and unable to make eye contact  "what is this" I ask ... "I'm off at 11 p.m." he says, as clasps my hands shut.  ... I don't say a word.

Duardo and I are still standing in the door.  He smiles, lets go of my hands, turns away and starts to skip down the corridor "11 p.m., I'm off work at 11." ... what just happened?!  What?!  *smiling and shaking my head* What?! Completely stunned, I turn kicking the door shut with my foot behind me and stare blankly as I set everything on the sofa, including myself.

Honestly, I wouldn't have seen Duardo at 11 p.m. anyhow ... but the events of the rest of my evening would ensure that I wouldn't see him, or anyone else in Cuba for the remainder of my stay. :(

I love anticipation, don't you? ... It'll be worth the wait :)  I'll be back soon to share the rest of our Havana Day.  What a memorable day ... from start to finish.  The next post entitled "Of Love or Peanuts...Dear Cuba, I must go Home" I'll tell you of our dinner reservation and how our brief time with Heidy that night came to a sudden  halt.  How being captive in your room isn't pleasurable, not for one day, worse if it's two and horrible when you're convinced you're not going to make it out at all. :(   And you're probably curious as to what Duardo gifted me in that paper ball. ... I can't wait for you to join me on this adventure.  CANNOT WAIT :)
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The results from the Weekly Survey Question:  how would you rate your bartering skills?
42% Excellent (always feel as thought you've achieved the best price)
29% Not bad / Not good
23% Terrible (always feel like you've paid way too much)
06% of you have never bartered.

I wouldn't necessarily say that I faired so well with the bartering system this trip.  I did do a lot better once we were in the Market setting and not just randomly on the street.  This pretty girl here normally only charges one peso for a picture with her in her pretty dress, yet somehow my price (of which I paid) was 5 pesos. lol. 

Share your comments, your stories, your travel advice etc. in the section below (comments or reaction section) and give your answer to the weekly survey (top right of the blog page).  No sign up necessary, just a simple click :) A little shy?!  Why not EMAIL me?

~Holiday Heidi

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