An exciting change of pace - We'll Follow the Sun - CycleBlaze

January 15, 2019

An exciting change of pace

And place

Of course, after such a fun afternoon and evening, we had a difficult time getting to sleep, knowing that today we would be in Cuba – a place we had never been.  We both had the usual turning and tossing and eventually fell asleep only to be jolted awake at 4:30 by the alarm.  Boy, that is early!!!  With the bags all packed it didn’t take us long to haul all of our bags and bikes down the hall to find our taxi already waiting for us out front – excellent!  It’s one of those things that keeps you up at night, wondering if the taxi will show up, wondering if you will oversleep the alarm, wondering if you’ve forgotten something important.  When I taught, I used to have nightmares before field trips for the first few years, that the bus that I ordered wouldn’t be there and all my students would miss out of their much anticipated field trip.  After a few years I stopped having those, so hopefully at some point we will just take all of these kinds of things in stride and not lose sleep – but not last night!

The drive to the airport was very short and since our driver had arrived before our appointed time of 5:00, we ended up at the Interjet check in counter at 5:03!  There were a few people in line so we maneuvered our bulky boxes and bags into the line and sat out to wait for the Interjet counter to open at 5:30.  Jim very kindly walked over to get us both coffee and we just had time to enjoy it before the people showed up and it was time to get the bikes through.  Now, you will remember how much of a hassle it was the last time we flew with the bikes on Interjet.  This time we didn’t want any trouble which is why we had boxed them.  We left the tops open as they usually want to examine what’s inside.  So, of course, this time they said no, the security people would X-ray the boxes so no need to look at them – great!  The guy did make us take more air out and then asked if we used CO2 canisters to fill them.  Yes, we answered, we do.  They were a little concerned about that and made us dig through the bags to find one and show it to an official who in turn said no problem – whew!  Thinking this was all going a little too smoothly we taped up the boxes and they were tagged and taken away. 

Jim looks extra happy because he got to see the score for his hockey team, the Montreal Canadiens' game while waiting for our coffee - obviously they won!
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Happily boxed up and ready to go
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Next came the one piece of checked baggage, but again, it was tagged and taken away. I might add that we were not charged for this bag, whereas in SanAntonio we were charged $35.00 for each bag – hey, Interjet, what’s the deal?  Of course I didn’t say anything because then I might get charged for this one.  We grabbed our carryon bags and went off to purchase our Cuban Visas.  It was at this point that we ran into a tiny snag.  Jim reached into his wallet to pay for the visas with his credit card which did not seem to be there – uh oh!  We thought perhaps it was in his pants that were not checked, so decided to let it go for the moment and just use my card.  Visas purchased we walked through the security check where there were hardly any people in line and were through to our gate by 6:30 – amazing!  We have never had a flight check in go so smoothly!  It was actually unnerving to be honest with you.  We had another coffee and a cinnamon roll before walking over to wait near our gate.  The flight was called on time and before we knew it we were in the air and on our way!

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The flight was all of 1 hour and 5 minutes, so we barely had time to process our good fortune when the plane descended and we landed in Havana.  Ok, we thought, here we go.  Having been through customs in Mexico City, we were expecting a big crowd and lots of hassles.  But nope, once again we were surprised by the ease with which we were whisked through the border check, our passports were stamped and we were looking for a cart to carry the luggage.  Cart found we settled down to wait for the bikes to appear from the oversized luggage gate.  It took a bit of time but sure enough, out they came and no worse for the wear.  

The last thing we needed to do before leaving the airport was exchange some Canadian money I had brought and try to get more Cuban money (called CUCs) from an ATM.  The books and online articles I had read suggested I go upstairs to arrivals to accomplish this as the lines would be shorter, but they have installed an automated machine right near where we came out that exchanges money (all except American).  I managed (with the help of the very kind gentleman watching over the kiosks) to get my money exchanged and then tried to withdraw money with my bank card.  Once again, as happened in Tulum, my card wouldn’t work – darn!  There went my perfect day (except for Jim’s credit card, of course)!  I managed to withdraw money with my credit card though and we were good to go.  We walked outside and were directed to a cab that could hold our bike boxes.  I had written the address of the place we are staying on a piece of paper and he found it no problem, which was a good thing as I am pretty sure I would have gotten totally lost if we had tried to ride here!

We were let in the gate around the house by the mother of our host, Carlos.  She spoke very little English, but we managed to get enough through to each other to understand that Carlos would be back in a little bit and that we should put our bags away in a font room.  We were going to head out for a short walk when he arrived and what a very friendly guy he is!  He speaks English as well, which helps us a lot.  It turned out that they were waiting for another guest to depart and wanted us to just store our things until the room was ready.  No problem!  We got a suggestion for a lunch spot from Carlos and headed out to explore the neighbourhood, which is north of downtown Havana.  It is interesting here.  A little like Mexico and then again not.  I can’t really describe it other than to say that there is the same run down parts but they are treated differently.  It feels like people are looking after the worn down parts I guess.  We saw many of the old cars that Havana is known for and it was fun to spot the different kinds along our way. 

At one point we were crossing through a small grassy bit between a couple of busy roads (yes, there are a lot of cars in Havana).  We saw where we could cross some railroad tracks to get to the other side.  On our way over, we ran into a man herding his goats and cows along the tracks.  Yep, right there in the middle of this busy looking city, here comes some goats and cows!  

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On the right side of the tracks?
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We also saw a couple of horse and buggys as we walked!  Eventually we stopped at one of Carlos’ recommended places and had a little snack.  The waiter spoke no English at all (can’t really blame him – why would he?) and we were a little lost looking at the menu.  The plan was to eat back at our Casa Particular, so we didn’t want much.  We ended up ordering a couple of appies and they were quite tasty.  I can’t even tell you what they were because we didn’t write it down – darn!  We have to do that!  We keep eating something new and wonderful and then can’t tell anyone what it was!  Oh well, it was a good snack.  Finished, we headed back to tackle putting the bikes together.

You would think that since everything had gone so smoothly up to now that something would go wrong with the reconstruction but this time you would be wrong!  Everything was there, everything went back where it belonged and before long were were celebrating our success with a beer which was provided in the fridge in our room – how very civilized!  

We spoke with Carlos when we returned and he mentioned that he was heading to Cancun tomorrow.  We asked if it was for a holiday or work and he said both.  He said that most Cubans go on trips, but while they are at places that have goods that people want in Cuba, they purchase things to bring home and sell.  This helps to pay for their travels.  Ah!  The young men in front of us this morning at the airport had an enormous amount of luggage all wrapped in plastic wrap as well as several large boxes that contained things like fans and air conditioners.  We had assumed they were bringing things home for their own use but now realized that this is what they were doing.  How clever!  Too bad we couldn’t bring some air conditioners along to sell, but I’m pretty sure that would have been frowned upon by the customs folks.

Dinner wasn’t until 7, so we had time to crash for a bit.  When we woke up and went outside to eat, it had turned pretty chilly.  Oh great!  We had just dumped as much gear as possible at Kurt’s, which included all of the warm clothing we hadn’t been using the entire time we were in Mexico.  We were wondering if this was normal but Carlos assured us that this is a very unusual thing and we should be back to warm and sunny in a couple of days – good!

When we did sit down to eat, we were impressed with the dinner we were presented with.  So many people have said that the food in Cuba is bland, but we really enjoyed the beans and rice, chicken, salad, yucca and plantains that were served very beautifully.  If this is what we can expect, bring it on!!!

Our lovely seating area with the bikes safely stored in the background
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Steve Miller/Grampies"Casa particular" translates as literally "private house". Is that more like what we would call "B&B", Guest House, or Airbnb? Maybe it's hard to tell the difference, but some key things are whether or what food is offered, and if there is staff or family always on site. Your photo has a lighted sign that says "Bar", which seems pretty official.

How will you be finding the places you will be staying at?

If they are on booking.com, then that is a sure bet they have wifi, anyway!
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3 months ago
Sue PriceTo Steve Miller/GrampiesBooking doesn't like me here in Cuba for some reason, lol! We just showed up at the one Casa and got a room and at the hotel we are currently at. We are winging it but it seems to be fine so far.
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3 months ago
This plant/planter is hanging over the eating area. We were interested in the pot which appears to be the plant?
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Steve Miller/GrampiesLooks like some sort of bromeliad maybe?
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3 months ago
Sue PriceYour guess is as god as mine or probably better. We won't be able to do a lot of looking up and other stuff unless we are at a hotel. It's not bad once you figure out the wifi thing. $1 for 1 hour
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3 months ago
Andrea BrownI think they may be orchids, growing in some kind of coconut husk-like thing.
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3 months ago
Sue PriceTo Andrea BrownAh! That's an interesting thought!
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3 months ago
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