After the 9 hour Virgin flight (very nice!) from Gatwick, and the twenty-minute taxi drive (very scary*), here we are, having just checked into the rather splendid 427 roomed Iberostar Parque Central Hotel in Havana. First impressions are good – a free glass of bubbly, air-conditioning and all the staff seem to speak English! The room is palatial – it seems to be about the size of the Isle of Wight. First job though is to fire up the air-con and get the temperature down from the unfriendly 30 degrees, to something closer to 20.
* scary because whilst Ralph and Karen got the nice modern Hyundai Taxi, we were offered a Cuban-staple – a Pontiac from the 1950s. And I’m not being unkind when I say the vehicle just about made it to the hotel. Back in Blighty, I’d begin to worry if a dashboard light came on – in this particular car, it was easy to spot the lights, as they were ALL on! Ignition, oil pressure, oil temperature and most interesting of all – the brake-pad light.
Using mostly inertia, gravity and a spirited use of the clutch to propel the car on our 25km journey, our driver skilfully weaved himself between the traffic, whilst never being frightened of oil tankers, buses, and chuffing great lorries signalling their intention to pull-out in front of him with minimal notice – all in a day’s work for our driver, but a perfect aid to any constipated passengers!!!
After unpacking, the next priority is to get connected to the outside world (food can come later!) and as far as Wi-fi is concerned, we knew it would be a challenge – there’s nothing in the room that we can see, and the free hotspot downstairs in the lounge is non-existent.
So, no luck tonight with getting a reliable connection. instead, we abandoned the technology and headed for the roof-top Bar on the 8th floor, for a quick snack and a beer.
..and what a wise choice it was! A cool breeze, a cool beer and a couple of pizzas made it a great start to the holiday. There was even a local band playing too, and that helped us to chill-out nicely.
Tomorrow, it’s an organised tour round Havana, and then in the afternoon, a trip in a vintage car. I think by vintage they mean normal for here! – and with that in mind, I think I’ll be watching the dashboard!