Thursday, 30 December 2010

Part 3 Cuba

Leaving Matanzas presented no real problems. I hate taking taxis so I carried a bag and rucksack to the Hershey train station. This is an electric train that started life in Barcelona but began service in Cuba for the sugar exporting chocolate company 70 odd years ago. It is actually a wreck and broke down a couple of times on the 90 km trip to Havana. That said it was an enjoyable quirky experience enhanced by chats with Seth and Michelle two fellow travellers respectively from USA and Australia.

On arrival in East Havana we took a launch across a short stretch of water and a nice man gave us the change we needed for our passage. At my Casa Maria Ellen the dentist landlady kindly settled me in and I went to dinner with my new acquaintances from the train. Fist impressions of Havana were good. The central old part is being lovingly restored and many of it's buildings exhibit a fine if somewhat eclectic mix of styles. Dinner was ok and accompanied by good Latin music. We also enjoyed a beer from a local microbrewery and cocktails at the appropriately (for me) named Hotel Inglaterra.

The next day I fulfilled my errand to deliver a Christmas package comprising an odd assortment of things to a friend's adopted Cuban family. Most precious among these was a pack of disposable nappies which are hard to obtain  in Cuba's still limited economy.

Afterwards I took coffee at Hotel Internacional de Cuba, a fine and luxurious place overlooking the gulf of Mexico. Then walked the Malecón into Town where I took a tour of the Havana Rum museum which was in fact very poor return for the £5 ticket.

In the evening I went to the theatre and saw La Boheme, shamefully my first ever opera. The quality of the production was outstanding and although as a tourist I was charged double the local rate I still had change from £15. Strangely I met a couple from Purley so we chatted smugly about the warmer weather away from snowy Surrey.

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