Monday 3 December 2012
Highlights: Havana Walking Tour, Soroa Orchid Garden Tour, Homestay, Salsa lesson and dancing at a Night Club (YouTube video)
Before we started our tour the entire group meet for the first time and introduced ourselves. The new members since last night were Heidi (Germany) and Shane (Ireland) who both got in last night.
We started today with a 2.5 tour of Havana Old Town. This started and finished in Weapon Square which had both the first and second Presidential Palaces. During the walk we visited the hotel that Hemingway lived at for 13 years before purchasing a house. The old town is magnificent and you can see why it is an UNESCO listed area. The Spanish influence is clear with the churches and an amazing Cathedral.
We left Havana from outside the main Fort protecting the old town. The water in front of this Fort was this dark blue, extremely cool to look at. The private bus is luxury style travel with air conditioning. Our driver will stay with us for the entire week. We stopped at a local farm in Soroa for lunch and later moved onto an Orchid Garden Tour. The Garden had an incredible number of different species of orchids and trees.
We then moved onto our base for the next two days Vinales. After a brief introduction to our respective families we did a short orientation walk of this town of around 10,000 residents (including surrounding areas). It was then time for our salsa lesson. Trying to follow the instructor wasn’t too difficult until we added in the hand movements then I basically sucked obviously too complicated for an uncoordinated person :). We all sweated up during this lesson. A few in the group were very good dancers I tried to stay out of their way in the small space of our instructors house.
We had dinner at our respective home stays with Shane joining me since we were both in separate houses while others were teamed up. I understood ‘pollo’ and ordered the chicken which was a huge serving and came with rice, bread, soup and dessert. I felt a little bad leaving so much but I later found out everyone had this problem.
At 9 pm the local night club opened and we enjoyed a visit. This place had some much energy. There was a mix of club dancers who were amazing pulling off movements you wouldn’t think we’re possible, club singers who throw themselves into the songs, a sole singer who sang from the floor and had an amazing voice (I bought her CD). The audience got entires at different points and almost all were excellent dancers. At one point Harley got me to dance with her and I think I just managed to be average, mission achieved 🙂
The performers would go throughout the room looking for tips or selling CDs. These performers would be extremely successful in most of the world but here play at a club in a small town and they pay to perform. Cubans really throw themselves in their music and having fun. I couldn’t but compare it to our Western society were most people are worrying about something. I left around 11.30 with Anna and Brend but most stayed until closing.