09.08.2007 - 13.08.2007 32 °C
I have a confession to make. I have always wanted to stay in an all inclusive beach resort. You know the sort. The ones where you get a fluro wristband when you check in, so you can enjoy the all you can eat and all you can drink, and the sunbeds and paddle boats on the beach not to mention a full board of activities like aqua aerobics and dance classes. The ones where middle age divorcee women go to pick up toy boys (and boys go to pick up middle age women in hope of being toy boys!) Personally, I blame it on seeing Dirty Dancing one too many times! So when I found out that I could have a few days on Veradero beach in Cuba for not much more than the flights would cost alone, I jumped at it! Gill and I booked our flights and 4 nights accommodation (3 in Veradero and 1 in a super fancy four star hotel in Havana) in San Jose, Costa Rica, and were off the next day. Gill felt a little guilty - she was supposed to be backpacking, not livin it up in four star hotels and all inclusive resorts! I had no such qualms, after 7 months of slummng it, I thought we more than deserved it!
We flew with Cubana airways which was an experience in itself. We got our first taste of the Cuban men as the hosts tried to chat us up whilst selling us duty free rum and promptly pouring us a drink!
We arrived in Havana in the late afternoon and were picked up and taken to the fanciest hotel I´ve ever stayed in. The Riviera was built in the 50´s as a casino by the mafia and enjoys a waterfront position on the Maceo (the boardwalk) in Vedado, Havana. It felt like we were going back in time when we walked throught the foyer, it´s managed to retain the feeling of the era and the furniture doesn´t seem to have been replaced either! Unfortunately we arrived too late to fully enjoy the hotel, we lamented not being able to go for a swim in the amazing pool or enjoy a bath in the big tub. But we wanted to enjoy our first Mojitos in the piano bar at sunset so there was no time. After dinner and a few more drinks we headed to bed for an early one in anticipation of our transfer to the beach in the morning.
We arose early and trotted off downstairs for our buffet breakfasts. I love buffet breakfasts - all you can eat pancakes, fruit, bacon, sausages and not to mention the omelette bar! We had to make a trip to an atm to get some money and having been warned about the frustrations of getting money in Cuba, were not suprised by the long queue - luckily Gill is British so I was in good company! We had to make a quick dash back to get the transfer. We were glad when we were finally on our way to the beach.
We arrived at the resort a couple of hours later and were checked in and given fluro green wristbands - very exciting! Our resort was one of the cheaper ones on the beach, but still pretty flash for a couple of backpackers! It boasted nice rooms with balconies, a big pool, a 24 hour bar, a pool bar, a bar on the beach, two restaurants, a poolside snackbar, thatched sunshades on the beach with sunloungers, kayaks, paddle boats and dodgy nightly entertainment!
After our first buffet lunch, we headed straight to the beach...WOW! The beach had the bluest water I have ever seen. The water was truly amazing, with crystal clear water, warm and as still as a swimming pool in the morning and with gentle lapping waves in the afternoons. I think I will be putting it in as No.2 best beach I have had the privelage of being on, after the San Blas. Sure, it wasn´t as idyllic San Blas, in fact, it was downwright crowded on the weekend, but still that in itself has it´s own charms. I like to see people enjoying themselves and nothing screams happy holidayer more than a paddle boat meant for four overflowing with 20 or so people!
So, we enjoyed our 3 days there, mostly sitting on the beach, lots of swimming, eating buffet food (we were storing up our fat cells for when we hit the rest of Cuba and wouldn´t be able to afford to eat!), avoiding seemingly besotted waiters and the occasional dip in the pool, cocktail in hand.
Some people claim that Veradero is not the "real" Cuba, but we met lots of locals there despite the misconception that they are not allowed there and it was nice easy introduction to Cuba. Besides, you only have to go the bus station to witness the jostling queues to see that communism in well and truly alive in Veradero too!
Enjoying the paddle boat
One of my MANY car shots in Cuba!