“Dancing, music and rum.”
This is what Solo Travellers Kate imagined whenever Cuba was mentioned. It’s not long since our latest trip returned so we caught up with Kate to see how they got on in this new hot spot destination.
What was your first impression of the country?
Our first stop was the country’s capital, Havana, which is a blast of colour with lots of run-down, but beautiful looking, buildings. In its heyday, this is the kind of place that would have been something quite spectacular. For me, the way it is now is even better. I love photography and I knew immediately this place was going to be an absolute dream.
Did reality meet expectations?
I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew there would be dancing, music and rum, so even after the first day was up, I guess my ‘expectations’ had already been met. The atmosphere was just so incredible, we all got up and danced to some classic Cuban music in front of 200 people at the famous Café Taberna… And yes, we’d all drunk a good amount of rum.
What was your most and least favourite thing about the country?
My favourite thing about Cuba was that each town we visited was completely different from the last. In Havana, you have the beautiful colonial buildings, the classic cars, endless live music and lots of local people. In Trinidad, the buildings are much smaller, more colourful with cobbled streets everywhere and good restaurants. And Viñales, oh my word. The beautiful landscapes, the friendly locals and the organic farm (where I celebrated my 26th birthday) were reason alone for this to be my favourite place.
My least favourite thing about Cuba? Leaving.
Was there one thing that really stood out for you?
Viñales. I loved it. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.
How do you feel about Cuba since you’ve returned?
I would love to go back and explore more of the island. I also feel grateful that I have seen the country as it is now, before too much changes.
What were the people like?
Amazing. We stayed in home-stays (or casas) throughout the trip and each family welcomed me into their home as if I were the queen. The hospitality of these people really was outstanding. If you needed anything from them, you knew that you could just ask. I also found spending time with them good motivation to learn more than the basics in Spanish… they don’t speak much English!
What was the food like?
I have a lot of friends that have been put off even going to Cuba because they’ve heard that the food is no good. I love my food and if you do a little bit of restaurant research before you go, you can actually end up having some great meals. My favourite meal of the trip was the Cuban classic, Ropa Vieja (actually translates as old clothes but I promise you it’s delicious) from San Jose Restaurant in Trinidad. If you go there, order that, you won’t be disappointed!
What is it like visiting a country which is almost untouched from the outside world?
I think it’s amazing to see a place for what it is. You get to understand so much more about the people and the culture of a place if they have not been heavily influenced by the outside world, and that, to me, is what travelling is all about.
Cuba is a place that you need to visit with a completely open-mind, especially if you haven’t done a lot of travelling before. Cuba is an absolute treat for the senses; especially the eyes and the ears… beautiful buildings, incredible landscapes, lovely people and fabulous feel-good music everywhere you go. But it is still a very poor country with terrible economic problems and they do the best with what they have. I think this needs to be remembered.
If you want to experience cultural Cuba for yourself then join us in November as we fly out again to this magical Caribbean island. But hurry, there are only a few places left!