The guide used good guide psychology warning us not to expect five star standards when it comes to our hotels and restaurants. He said there might be no hot water, poor lighting, menus limited, etc., etc. But so far the only disappointment we have had was the late departure of our American Airlines flight. We checked in at a special area devoted to flights to Cuba. Many more than I expected. It was late afternoon before we were wheels down in Cuba. The flight was full of the 22 of us and Cuban nationals bringing home all manner of consumer goods. Huge 4K TV's were a popular choice. The flight was so short the beverage cart never made it to the back of the plane where we were. We were on the only flight of the day from Miami to Camagüey. If the luggage didn't make it, it could be a long wait. As we flew over the rolling countryside, it reminded me of other Caribbean islands we've visited. It should - that's where we are. The airport held few surprises, a typical open air Caribbean airport, except for the nurses in white caps and fish net stockings who glanced over our health forms. The bus that we will use for the entire tour was made in China. It is spacious, the A/C and the microphone work great. On the way into town we stopped at a pottery studio which works in the same kind of red clay you would find in conventional flower pots. They use traditional methods to make artistic and conventional pots. It's a family business and we were free to wander around the grounds where grandma was doing an oil painting, mom was crocheting, uncle was glazing the fancier wares. A proud and artistic family. Their work was for sale for reasonable prices and sales were made.
Our hotel is old; built in Spanish colonial style and is clean and comfortable. I have a feeling I'll be bringing back all the shampoo and soap, I brought along. The room even has a hair dryer and iron. We changed money with the concierge. Quick and efficient and no paperwork. It makes no difference where you change money; rates are controlled by the government. Cuba is on a duel currency system. The locals use pesos 24/$1 dollar. Our tourist pesos exchange one to one. Local pesos are generally not accepted in the sorts of places we will patronize. The hotel has wi if for a fee and it works better than what we endured in Africa.
We ate dinner in a private restaurant, a relatively new thing. We walked there passing a mob of people who were gathered around a wi if hotspot. Cubans have only been able to surf the web in the last eighteen months. Private restaurants started fairly recently with locals cooking for tourists in their homes. The restaurant we ate at today was in an old building with small rooms, but they could feed fifty. The menu was varied and the food was good. if we hadn't known that this sort of place was a recent and innovative experience, it would have felt quite ordinary.
We wanted to come here before Cuba changed; perhaps we are too late.