Cuba January 2019

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January 23rd 2019
Published: January 23rd 2019
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Cuba. Day 1. Monday 21 January 2019
Another adventure awaits. A drive down to Gatwick yesterday to stay overnight at the Airport Inn with inclusive parking. A bargain at £200 with B&B for four of us. Nice to meet up with so many familiar faces but sadly Anita has had to cancel at the last minute do to family circumstances. Another drink of coffee and an early afternoon flight to Havana arriving in the evening after a 10 hr flight with plenty of food on Virgin Airlines. Since they are 5 hours behind us we arrived in Havana in the early evening so a quick shower and a beer before going to bed at 12pm, which is 4am UK time but feeling ok. We are not at the Miramar Hote, but next door at the Four Points Sheraton which is quite nice with good rooms and a great breakfast to suit any hungry cyclist. A nice western style hotel which may be the best accommodation for several days - who knows? Perhaps next time we come we bring some teaspoons and mugs to save sharing.

Cuba. Day 2 Tuesday.
Up at 6.30 to watch the wonderful sun rise up from beyond my veranda and for a very comprehensive breakfast at 7.30am, which had everything you could want. We collected our bikes at 8.30 and fitting our own saddles and pedals before the 19 of us set off to explore Havana (17 us, a guide and a mechanic).Our guide Liskar seems a good guy, as does our coach driver Hose with his new Yutong Chinese coach. The mechanic Ali is very efficient at getting the bikes ready and repaired a glass puncture this afternoon in double quick time. He found the glass after it punctured a second time and since we were about a mile from the hotel he ran back with the bike. Already Liskar is telling us of changes to the hotels and itinerary, but this was expected after talking to previous CTC tour managers. As we were about to set off about 8 old American cars turned up to whiz some Chinese tourists off on a guided tour, which got the cameras whizzing. We saw hundreds of these classic models during the day and I expect that the number in Havana must be 1000 or so as they are everywhere. There were more modern cars than I expected
besides the old Ladas and the odd Trabant. Amongst other old cars besides the American Fords, Oldsmobiles and Chevvis etc we saw a couple of Ford Prefects, a Ford Zephyr Zodiac and a couple of very old Peugeots. There were quite a few more modern Toyotas,Kias, Renaults, Mercedes, Peugeots and the odd Beetle. Havana has some really good buildings which have possibly been recently renovated. And alongside these are buildings in serious decay with falling plaster and brickwork. The roads are bit like Lancashire with potholes here and there and rough surfaces. Luckily we are on hybrid bikes with 35mm tyres and suspension forks which cope admirably. Our guide Liskar gave us a very comprehensive running commentary on the history of Cuba and showed us some of the important buildings and squares. Judging by the many buildings which are 2 and 300 yrs old and more and which are in excellent condition, built of granite and hard limestone, there must have been a lot of money coming into the country at that time. We are told it was brought by the Spanish who were plundering it from the countries of South America. The old Castle of Havana has a weather vane with a statue of an indigenous lady ruler, by that name, who was here when the Spanish invaded in the early 1500’s and is where the city’s name came from. As you can expect we have seen several images of Che Guevara and signs saying Viva Castro and The Revolution. Lunch was a salad starter, followed by pasta and ham, a small sweet and coffee in Old Havana at a nice tourist restaurant with local musicians playing Cuban music, looking for tips of course. We have seen people’s queuing up during the day outside doorways and not yet established what they are queuing for since the buildings were not marked. Since we have seen no shops whatever, and certainly no supermarkets, we can only think they are queuing for food or goods which are apparently in short supply. We headed back to the hotel along the promenade with a magnificent tail wind at approaching 300 miles per hour - bliss. The only problem was the wind whipping up the sea over the wall and throwing seaweed into air, and almost the hair. Coffee is on ration in my room as the kettle will not work and the shower head has fallen into small pieces. The bed is ok though. We were back for a shower at 4pm and a smear of antihistamine cream to lesson the bite on my leg from some secret monster whilst in town and to remove my compulsory cyclist tattoo on my right leg. Thank goodness we have water, and better still warm water.
Great buffet meal at the Memories Miramar tonight. It is not cheap but a vast selection and good.

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