~ There is only one journey: going inside yourself. ~
- Rainer Maria Rilke


The Cuban Journals: No Dead Dogs ~ Thursday, February 14, 2008

We leave for Cuba this afternoon. I really have no idea what to expect.

The Background:

TCN (aka Tom) has the week off, starting today, because it's Reading Week at Humber. So, he fashioned the notion of a week-long getaway to a place that has a lively music scene. The choices he honed in on were New Orleans and Cuba. We were slightly more in favour of Cuba (despite our ambivalences about the Castro regime and effectively helping to support it by going there, etc.) because we were really interested in seeing--even if it was a limited glimpse, through a glass darkly (as it were)--what life might actually be like there, after almost 50 years of Communisim.

A quick look around revealed that it would be cheaper to book a package tour at an all-inclusive (~$700pp for food, accomodation etc. at the resort) than it would be to flight straight to Havana and back on the dates we required ($1500pp). So, we figured on a few beach days, before setting out for the city.

Tom exhaustively researched the mid- to low- end all-inclusives, and we settled on a 3-star called Hotetur Sun Beach. After reading reviews of many of the other mid-rage places in Varadero, this seemed to be a winner. Other 3-star hotels in Varadero featured such ringing endorsements as (loosely paraphrased from Trip Advisor):

"there was a dead dog on the beach in front of our hotel that no-one bothered to remove for over five days"


"a furry critter that ran across our covers one night. We had a laugh about that, but weren't laughing when, the next night, the creature bit my fiance's hand"

Sun Beach, by contrast, featured largely neutral or slightly positive reviews. It was clean, at least. No dead dogs. The food, most people concluded, was mediocre and not especially tasty, but no-one reported getting sick. People also agreed that the place was somewhat run down and could use a freshening up of paint, etc. Other comments suggested we ought to make sure we brought our own shampoo, soap and toilet paper (for when we left the hotel, rather than at the hotel itself). Gifts (e.g. dollar store items, like pencils etc.) for the maids would be rewarded with extra attention to our rooms.

So, with cautious optimism and the price climbing ever higher as we started to make the booking--it went up by $50 dollars between our deciding to do it and our going on line to actually reserve it--we took the plunge. Inevitably, the next day, the price dropped by almost half. *sigh*

But now, armed with soap, shampoo, tp and light, summery clothes, we're off! I was joking with Kelly that, after the reviews, I half expect the meals to consist of a dollop of beans and pork rinds, served at some bleak, Communist-style canteen by an ageing, dour-faced Che lookalike. She assured me that on their trip to Cuba, the buffets were very nice and the food was tasty--with nary a bean in sight. Of course, they stayed at a 5-star place on their visit...


::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 10:15 AM::::


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