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Trip Start Feb 11, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Villa Los Mangos

Flag of Cuba  ,
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

As we were getting out of the taxi at Varadero bus station, another taxi driver approached us and offered to drive us to Havana for the same price as the bus. We weren´t that pushed about it. He had another Kiwi/Aussie girl (Gail) lined up to go. The pros of taking the taxi were that we would leave immediately, and that he´d drop us to the door of our casa. So we agreed to join up with Gail and off we went. Tightly packed into a Peugeot 306.

We told the driver Ana and Pepe´s address, as we hadn´t been able to contact them to find out the address of the casa that they´d arranged for us. It was so funny. The driver just turned to us on hearing the address, and says "Oh Pepe´s house!". Hilarious, everyone seems to know him. When we pulled up outside we were greeted by Pepe as if we were long lost family. He commented on how we had changed colour since the last time that they´d seen us. Our house was just around the corner from them - Casa de Susana. Both Susana and the house were lovely.

We left our things and went for a walk into Vedado and Central Havana. We checked out the bar and restaurant in La Torre. The view is pretty spectacular, so we enjoyed a drink and made a reservation for dinner tomorrow evening. After that we tried our best to get online and book a hostel for Quito but it still wasn´t letting us proceed with our bookings. I guess we´ll be homeless in Quito.

Our last day in Cuba! The first port of call was the pan con lechon stand at the top of our road. Barry had his last pan con lechon and photographed it for old time´s sake. It was also a great way of spending our last few nacional pesos. From there we walked back to the Hotel Havana Libre to try once more to book a hostel for Quito. No joy.

I then bought a new memory card for my camera so that we´d be able to provide you with hundreds of more holiday snaps. We got a taxi to the Capitolio and again tried the internet. Still no luck. Our luck seemed to evaporate from then on. It was lashing rain when we emerged from the Capitolio, so we took the lazy option of getting a taxi to the Fabrica de Tobacos Partagas, which, was around the corner. I was devastated to be told that it was closed. They canceled the last tour and sent all the workers home because it was raining. The girl on the front desk explained that it was a really old building, and when it rained, it rained inside and they couldn´t work. I was gutted. I was really on the verge of tears. It was the one we thing that we had left to do in Havana and we couldn´t do it.

In an attempt to lift our (my) spirits, we perused the adjoining cigar shop. Through my bitter, tear-filled eyes (a little overly dramatic, perhaps. But I was very emotional that day.) I considered consoling myself with a box of cigars. We spotted a special selection of 5 cigars, Cohiba, Romeo y Julieta, Monte Cristo, Partagas and Monterrey for $35CUC. It would be perfect. There was no order in the shop and we didn´t know who was ahead of us in the queue. There was a group of Russians buying tonnes of boxes of cigars and they bought one of these special selections. Then some other guy appeared and snapped up the very last one. Why God? Why? When I asked if they had anymore, the guy practically laughed in our faces and said ´no´. It was like he was enjoying my misery.

It had stopped raining when we´d emerged. Typical! So we walked back into old town proper and went to the cigar shop that Pepe had brought us to on the first day. We threw common sense and the budget to the wind and bought a box of 10 Romeo y Julietas for me (Sarah) and a box of 10 Monte Cristos for Barry. All this, despite the fact that neither of us smoke, nor do any of our immediate family. I also bought 2 Cohibas for us, should we ever have cause to celebrate. The plan is to save the Cohibas until we get jobs in Melbourne and post the boxes home.

Retail therapy really does work. My mood had lifted significantly, despite the fact that the rain had returned when we left the shop. We still had one thing to tick off our to-do list: take a ride in a restored old car. As we were sheltering at Plaza de Armas, and old pink and white Chevrolet taxi pulled in and dropped off a load of tourists. We asked how much it would be to drive us back to Vedado. $8CuC, so we hopped on in. It was brilliant! It was nice to finally be in one with an interior that was intact. We took loads of photos like eejits. Inside and outside the car.

We called over to Pepe and Ana´s to say goodbye and thank them for all their help during our stay. Then we had to get ready for our fancy dinner in La Torre. Susana had booked a taxi for us but it was late due to the rain. We ended up walking up the road and finding a cab ourselves. Nothing was going our way today. The restaurant was over-booked. We were offered a private function room, but it would have been too quite with just the two of us in it. So we opted to eat in the bar. It was fantastic! So glad we stayed to eat now. The views weren´t great due to the rain and clouds. But the food - amazing, especially by Cuban standards. I had beef carpaccio to start and Barry had battered prawns, and we both had beef with pepper sauce for our main. I went for a dessert. It was the only thing that wasn´t great. A chocolate cake like substance, but tasted like brown coloured cake. We had such a fab day despite all the set backs. It was time to go home and pack up for our very early start tomorrow.

Cuba, it´s been difficult and frustrating at times, but we had a great experience overall.
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