Archive for January, 2015

Old Grump’s guide to Cuba

Saturday, January 3rd, 2015

So sometime before we got married we decided upon a a destination for our honeymoon.
Somewhere warm, where it would be cold at home. Alright, I can get behind that.
Somewhere cultural. La-tih-fucking-da.
Somewhere with a different economic basis. Yeah, ploughing fields with cows. Whoopty-bleeding-do.
Somewhere 10 fucking hours away by plane. Great, I love sitting with my knees around my ears for 10 hours. Where do I sign up!

Not wanting to be an old grump, I agreed to this destination to celebrate our love and whatnot.

Well, if the holiday wasn’t just completely fucking perfect.


All the food in Cuba can be eaten in 2 days.
The food we ate.
Every day
Twice a day
Consisted of a plate of rice and beans, a plate of cucumber, tomatoes and lettuce, fried bananas and a thing.
The thing could be quite interesting; squid, fish, lobster, chicken, pork or shrimp.
But no matter what.
There would be rice, beans, cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce and fried bananas

Oh sure, you can get lobster for $5 but if I have any rice OR beans in the next year I’m going to throw up.


So, the music was described in the guidebook as:
“music seems to emanate out of every nook and cranny, much of it spontaneous and unrehearsed”
Which is code for: There’s a lot of it, and much of it is out of tune or out of synch.

The casa de la musica (house of music) in Trinidad has a nightly show of large salsa bands and in order of appearance I would have liked to forcibly remove:
– The trumpetist of the first band
– The 2nd pianist of the first band
– The trumpetist (again) of the second band
– The violinist of the third band
– The singer of the last band

I hope these guys were just jamming, because if these were practised performances Cuban music fucking sucks.

BUT. For all the disruption a trumpetist creates blowing a different time signature (and nothing quite stands out as much as a frigging trumpet) to the rest of the band at least they weren’t playing the Buena Vista god-damned Social club.
Walk anywhere in a major city in Cuba and there will be a band performing Guantana-bloody-mera. In the tourist quarters of Old Havana it can seem at times as if every Cuban with a guitar has come out to sing the songs that Buena Vista made famous [source].


Every one of our accommodations had a sign outside stating their capabilities.
Beds (No shit)
Aircon (Sometimes)
Laundry (Usually)
Television (With no volume control)
and a red and blue droplet of water side-by-side indicating . . .  I don’t know.
It sure as fuck didn’t mean what you’re thinking of. In the 9 places we’ve stayed at only the last 2 had consistent running hot water. And the last 2 were not the $55  or $75 resorts we have spent nights at.

But, at least if you are newly arrived at a new destination without a reservation there will be 30 Cubans outside of the bus’ door offering you their services.
Accept or not. It won’t matter, they won’t move to let you out of the damn thing regardless.


Or rondom-people-standing-around-on-the-street-for-no-good-god-damned-reason.

  • Would you like a hotel?
  • Are you looking for a hotel?
  • Cigar?
  • Are you looking for a room a room?
  • taxi?
  • Do you need a casa particular?
  • Come into my restaurant?
  • Allemagnia?
  • Amigo, cigar?
  • Come have a drink at my bar?
  • Allemagnia?
  • Do you need a taxi
    • To Viñales?
    • To the beach?
    • To Trinidad?
    • To Cienfuegos?
  • Do you want to get a cocktail?
  • Do you have a place to stay yet?
  • Cigar?
  • Amigo, do you need a taxi?
  • Hello my friend where are you from?
  • Best restaurant. Come in here and have the best food?
  • Stay at my casa particular. The most awesomest place?
  • Welcome to Cuba, is it your honeymoon?
  • Allemagnia?
  • Allemagnia?
  • Hollanda? RADIO VERONICA!
  • Do you need a taxi?
  • taxi?
  • taxi?
  • Allemagnia?
  • taxi?
  • Casa particular?
  • Hey amigo, where you from?
  • Cigar?
  • Excuse me, my friend. No I’m not trying to sell you something, but you are familiar with the music festival that will be going on at the Casa de musica tonight. It is the Buena Vista Social Club festival with special performances all night. Best place to go beforehand would be this little bar I know of, run by my brother. You can find it here. It serves the best little canchanchara cocktail, a local speciality. As a matter of fact let me show you. WAITER, 3 canchanchara please. Oh, you’re right 10 in the morning is too early for cocktails. WAITER, cancel those. The best restaurant to combine with that bar is only 2 blocks away from it, a special place I know of with a magnificent Ropa Vieja run by my cousin. No, no, no, I wouldn’t dream of asking money for this, but if you could help me out on a minor matter though, I could do with some milk for my kid, they only sell it at stores for foreigners though. Oh yes, you are very kind. No, I can’t tell you why they would put something so vital to young children behind a payment system like this. Yes, just this way. Full ration of milk please. That will be $30.