Gillybeans Overseas Year Out Break Travel Holiday Thing travel blog

Matanzas Bridge....highest in Cuba apparently

The Beach at Varadero

The Beach

The Beach

The Beach





Don't get that in a hostel!

How Cubans spend a hot and stormy Saturday

Shortly before embarrasing myself trying to get back on the pedaloe




Friday 10th August

First stop on our first day in Cuba was clearly going to be to an ATM...and it was all we should have expected...long queues. We were lucky in the sense that the machine was actually working but within ten minutes of opening the bank had developed an 8 person queue and each transaction seemed to take 5 seemed that people just like playing with buttons because by the time we got there Zoe and I were both finished in a minute having paid our 20% US dollar conversion fee, despite the fact I was withdrawing the tourist convertible pesos from pounds - very annoying! Quick dash back to the hotel and we were on our transfer to the beach at Varadero for our all inclusive experience at Villa Tortuga. Now I was feeling pretty guilty about this but it had been included with flights at a very reasonable rate and well I guess we both thought we deserved it.

So we checked in, got wristbanded and set about tucking into the buffet lunch in that all inclusive fashion...not a good way to start three days of lying on the beach in a bikini...all you can eat! Now All Inclusives don't have the best reputation, especially in Cuba but we were happy to find the experience a relaxing introduction to the hustle and bustle of Cuban life. Despite the misconception that locals are not allowed on hotel beaches we were happy to see that we were in the minority on the beautiful white sands...the beach definitly had a lot of that jaw dropping factor. The locals all seemed to be just standing around in the bath temperature water having conversations under their umbrellas sheltering from the sun. That was apart from the those cramming 12 at a time on overcrowded pedalloes....which kind of made you think they're making a run for Miami! The nightly entertainment was unfortunately cancelled due to pretty heavy tropical rains which I seemed to think was funny referring to as Hurricane Dean - Zoe didn't!

Saturday 11th August

Failed in an attempt to avoid the tour company guide on the way to breakfast but didn't get too much hassle about buying a trip seeing as he realised we only have one day left. So it was back to the beach where we suffered an onslaught of very bad 1980's romance booming from the beach bar and then Zoe got a marriage proposal from the rather scary wine waiter at lunch! Spent the afternoon at the pool discussing the attention western women seem to get in Cuba whilst sampling the local Daquiri and then saw the nightly show which was just an hour of romantic music and dance...started to wonder if it was some kind of Cuban alternative to Valentines day! Shortly after the power went that was that.

Sunday 12th August

Stomach problems back with a vengeance (what a shocker) so went in search of the hotel doctor who was nowhere in site and wouldn't be in for a while, not sure when...guess it's not worth waiting then!?! We took a trip out on the pedaloes at the beach and discovered the downside of being a public beach. Apparently as the day visitors don't have access to the hotel facilities they just, lets' say relieve themselves in the water as and when they need to. After having a bit of a shock swimming by the pedalo and wondering why on earth there appeared to be sewage coming from somewhere, we realised the problem and decided to stick to pedalling....not a pretty site in the crystal blue waters...but then at least you can see it coming from a distance I guess! Another localised activity seemed to be couples kind of entertaining themselves in the water...a result of big families all living in small confines it seems. They didn't seem to think anything of stripping off items of clothing within six feet of the shore...really not sure why they couldn't go out further...oh but then maybe they were also avoiding the poo! So swimming became a bit of an assault course, poos, couples and men swimming after you talking away in spanish. One bonus to being able to can actually go out of your depth and get some space....on the weekend there were so many people it was a bit like being in a crowd at a football match....but still this was one of the most amazing beaches I have even seen...that must be saying something!

Had to venture out of our all inclusive hotel in the afternoon in search of bus tickets on to Trinidad tomorrow. Interesting experience! Before we barely told the guy where we wanted to go we were pointed in the direction of a different room...presumably the most expensive bus. We were contemplating persisting about the local bus when we suddenly experienced a crowd of people all rushing up from their seats to the ticket window and shouting at one another. Lack of tickets seemed to be a big problem. Only a couple of people got served and the rest sat down again as the window was closed. So off we went to the Viazul office where a man was sat in his orange plastic 1960's bucket chair in front of ancient (but working!) manually cash register. We got our names down for tomorrows bus but were told we couldn't buy a ticket until we turn up for it...very strange.

Back at the hotel we (or rather Zoe) had another scary run in with the waiter who was started to remind me of Hermann Munster. He worringly ventured out from behind his bar to come and provide us table service...whilst staring alot! We made a move to the beach to check out the sunset and saw some of the most amazing skies I have every seen. You could almost see the curve on the horizon from West to East as the sky went from pink to purple.

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