Just back from… Cuba With Jenny Powles
Head of Press and Marketing Jenny Powles tells us all about her recent trip to Cuba.
Which country did you visit?
Cuba with my colleague Caroline Maber.
How did you get there?
By plane! Air France via Paris. The plane wasn't full in either direction so I had a very comfortable journey with lots of space.
Where did you go?
Have you been before?
No, I've always wanted to visit Cuba but for one reason or another had never quite made it, so this trip was literally fulfilling a lifeltime's ambition.
Which was your favourite...
Place: It's a tough call between Trinidad and Havana. I loved them both as much as I imagined I would. Both have an electric atmosphere - beautiful architecture, music, people dancing, but mostly I loved just wandering about and exploring.
Hotel: We stayed in Casa particulares (homestays) throughout the trip. My favourite was Hostel Madero in Havana which was like a very nice boutique B&B.
Excursion: The Havana city tour in a vintage car was my favourite excursion - mainly because I've always wanted to do this and it was a great way to see the main sights of the city and get a feel for the different areas.
What was your most memorable moment?
Sitting outside on a warm evening in Trinidad with an ice cold mojito, listening to the local salsa band and watching the Cubans dancing. They were all so amazing! I wasn't brave enough to dance myself but even just soaking up the atmosphere was electric.
Were there any surprises along the way?
I was genuinely amazed at how nice the Cubans are. Having travelled around the world I think they are the most welcoming nation I've come across. People genuinely love their country and want us to enjoy it too. At one of the homestays we stayed in Viñales the owner invited us to play cards, drink rum and smoke cigars with the family - a truly memorable experience.
What tips do you have for travellers wanting to visit the same destination?
I would definitely say that Cuba isn't for everyone. You have to go with a relaxed attitude and be prepared for the unexpected. Things run at their own pace and that's what makes it such an experience. WiFi is available but very patchy - you need to buy a card to access it and there are only certain spots where it will work. Meaning that being online is very sociable - all the main squares are full of families with their laptops/tablets/phones skyping friends and family abroad. But it's also nice that if you choose to you can shut off from the outside world for a few days digital detox - it's very refreshing.
Is there anything indispensable to pack or prepare for?
You really need to take everything you need with you as there aren't really shops where you can stock up. And if you still have things at the end of your trip like toothpaste, shampoo, sun cream etc the Cubans are grateful recipients of it so you don't have to lug it home again.
Any local snacks, dishes or drinks that should be sampled?
Food is quite simple in Cuba. Rice, beans, pork or chicken and fruit. But I particularly liked the breakfast which was a feast of eggs, fresh fruit, fresh juice, breads, cakes, toast - anything goes really!
Any restaurant or bar recommendations?
Paladar Dona Eutemia. Good value, privately owned Paladar with simple tasty Cuban fare. Quite difficult to get a table so try and book in advance.
Sum up your trip in a sentence?
A whistle-stop but brilliant insight into some of Cuba's main highlights, the people, culture, landscapes and history.
Take a look at our holidays to Cuba.
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