Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Last Resort

Whew. Are we ever, ever glad to be home from Cuba. As my RRHB said, "Wanting to be home isn't the way to end a holiday."

In short, the good: the beach, which is stunningly beautiful, the island, which is hauntingly the same as its almost frozen in time with its steadily decaying buildings, its old cars, and its strangely ironic absence of American anything.

We visited some amazing things: the caves where we snorkeled underground, the city of Trinidad, Havana, an old ranch run by a man born in the very house where we had lunch, whose history was translated for us by a youngster from Montreal, and saw Che's memorial at Santa Clara. Oh, and the highlight for me? Seeing Hemingway's house in Havana, spectacular. We also spent a wonderful couple of days on the beach at Varadero. One afternoon, we walked for hours in the ocean, sort of half-floating along enjoying the sunshine and each other's inexplicable good moods.

The bad: anything and everything about the "resort," the food, abysmal, the room, smelled like mould and had terribly uncomfortable beds, the fact that Conquest, the "reputable" tour company forgot to mention that we had to pay for our meals in Havana, how everyone in the country is so starved for tips that they dance for the tourists while we gorge ourselves on buffets of food that very few could ever afford or have the means to buy. We felt awful. As my RRHB said, "I'm going to feel guilty about this for years."

The downright ugly: our hotel in Havana was awful. And we spent our last days in Cuba deathly ill, both of us aching more for home than for the glorious sunshine that seemed to cater to us the entire week we were there. The meals that made us sick, which was just about every day at the buffet. We spent our anniversary night sleeping in a room that smelled faintly of urine in two single beds. How romantic.

The strange: the two days that it rained, we were on a bus (doing the Three Cities tour, Santa Clara, Cienfuego and Trinidad), and then in a jeep driven by a maniacal Italian man who spoke no English, which didn't, in the least, stop him from trying to communicate with us, where we did a Nature Tour that involved driving through the backyards of some of the poorest people I had ever seen, with garbage strewn all over, picked through by packs of homeless dogs, as we used up more of the country's natural resources to carry us through a version of the 'true' Cuba. We also went to see the Tropicana show in Havana, which is a spectacle to end all spectacles.

On the whole, we were very disappointed in the "resort," and even more so by our hotel in Havana, which was so far away from the centre of the city, where all the action is, that we had to take a cab that cost 15 CUC, the equal of about $20.00 Cdn just to get back from the day we spent in the old section.

But the most heartbreaking part of it all? How much time is wasted on buses, from the airport the the resorts, from the resort to Havana, a two hour journey, stretched out to over four hours by the time everyone is dropped off and picked up, wasting almost an entire day of a seven day trip. What is that?

But I read 4 books, 3 were advance reading copies, so I can't talk about them until they're published and the last was a really bad chicklit novel by Jane Green called Mr. Maybe, which takes my reading to 69. Fingers crossed I get to 70 by tomorrow.

Happy New Year everyone! It's so good to be home! Hope you all have a good night to night and I look forward to hearing all about your New Year's Revolutions!


Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...

Welcome home! I wish you a happy bookish new year (with no mentions of Cuba).

Zesty said...

Brutal dude.

Beth said...

Wow - that was some trip. Glad there was a bit of "good" in it. We were away too and the contrast between the "resort" life and the poverty surrounding the resort was disturbing. I'm glad to be home.
Happy New Year to you!