Nearly a year after it was booked we were finally going to Cuba. Well, first we were going to London, then going to Cuba! Thankfully the first flight was in the afternoon so we didn’t have to get up at a stupid hour.
One problem as after nearly a year of checking the weather (nice every day) the past week was giving rain. Lots of rain. Plus a bit more of the same the week we were there. But, sure, why worry? We’d make the most of it.
So we said “goodbye” to the Cat (we had a catsitter) and got a taxi to town. Then got a bus to the airport. Leona bought me a Lion bar for the bus journey. That was the best part about the bus.
We got to the airport with nothing eventful happening. We dropped our bags with nothing eventful happening and started to go through security with nothing much eventful happening.
My stuff was going through the x-ray and one of the staff informed me they were going to do a random test on my keys. Fair enough. He got the swab, gave my keys a rub and put it in a wee machine. He came back a minute later, “Nothing to worry about, I just need to get my supervisor to do the check again. Also, could you go over there for a body search?”
Ooooo-kay. I went over, got searched. Went back. Waited on supervisor. The guy said it wasn’t a big problem, just my keys “tested positive.” In my curiosity I asked for what. “Explosives” the man said calmly. Oh right, fair enou-WAIT, WHAT?!?! So I just stood there and said “ughhhh….” confused. The supervisor arrived and cleaned the machine and tested my keys again. He came back and told me all was okay and sent me on my way. I didn’t want to enquire further so went on through to departures. That was a scary few minutes!
Leona bought some sunglasses and we went to Starbucks for breakfast and a coffee – then for a few beers to calm down after all the excitement. We then went to the gate and boarded the plane. We waited until the end as we had allocated seating. Though that doesn’t stop the cretins queuing. I don’t like flying at the best of times and was really dreading these flights so I had a few beers on the plane too, just to calm me down. The flight was a bit bumpy but it wasn’t the bumpiest flight of the week!
We got to Gatwick, collected our bags, got the shuttle to the next terminal so we could find our hotel. To my delight (it meant not going outside) the hotel was part of the airport. Got checked in and went to our tiny room – but sure it did the job. It was quite modern – my only complaint was that not all the window as frosted meaning you could look into the WC.
We watched Tipping Point and I had a nap during The Chase. We then had some dinner in a restaurant called Giraffe. I had a “Giraffe” burger (made with beef) with some onion rings and a few Red Stripe beers. It hit the spot. While we were eating we had to sit beside some cock American having a “meeting”, talking “business” and “deals” like he was Gordon fucking Gekko. Idiot.
We went back to the hotel for an early night as we’d to be up early for the morning’s flight.
The next morning we were up early to get checked in. There was a bit of a queue but not too bad. When we got to the desk we handed the clerk our passports. There was a bit of kerfuffle with the computer. Once it was sorted out the clerk apologised and told us the system was trying to send Leona to Oslo. Oooooo-kay.
We went through security and then went for a McDonalds breakfast. After that we walked around the shops a few times. Didn’t buy anything. We then headed to the gate and the cretins started to queue, despite seating being allocated and despite they were calling for certain rows. When we got on the plane we were handed our Visa papers. I filled that out early on (in my neatest handwriting) and kept it safe with my passport, as you don’t get a second one.
We took off and the flight was mostly okay, though we did hit a few patches of turbulence. Thomas Cook have some movies but they also have a premium selection, usually at an extra cost, though for some reason (problem with system) the premium movies were free to everyone. Yay! (for the record I watched Guardians of the Galaxy, 22 Jump Street and X-Men: Days of Future Past – all with some dodgy edits)
The meals were dead on. I had sausage and mash (was okay) , then you got a cheese dish (!), some moose and a wee bit of chocolate. Followed by tea or coffee.
Later on in the flight we were given our Customs papers. Once again they were filled out in my neatest handwriting and kept with passport. Though there was some dodgy translation on it but after reading it a few times I figured out that you only had to declare when over a certain limit – which I wasn’t.
The last hour of the ten hour flight was the worst. It was a bit stormy over Cuba so it was very bumpy on the way down – not fun, especially if a bad flyer. But soon enough we landed in Cuba. I could see through the windows of the plane that it was overcast and when the doors opened I could feel the fresh air coming in.
Because it was a tad overcast I expected it to be cool when walking out the door but I was hit by the heat and humidity – it wasn’t uncomfortable though but I was wearing jeans which would need changed to shorts soon. As we walked into the terminal there was a light shower but we missed it as we went inside.
Once inside the (small) terminal I was adamant I could smell cigars! There were about 5 long queues for immigration already but luckily we were directed to a shorter line. I was told that the immigration process took ages and I would be brought to a room and interrogated – but none of that happened. I went to the window, was asked if I’d been to West Africa, got my photo taken then my passport was stamped and returned with half of my tourist visa.
Once through immigration we collected our bags. Read online that it would take ages but again it was quick enough. Once the bags were collected there was nothing else to do but leave the airport. Once leaving the airport we handed in our customs papers and once outside a man pointed us to our bus transfer. No sign of any bureau de change (turns out it was in departure terminal) but was happy enough to change it at hotel.
So we then waited on the bus for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half, for the rest of the passengers – who weren’t as lucky as us to get through immigration and baggage claim quickly. A rep called Anabelle welcomed us to Cuba and informed us we had an induction in the morning. As soon as we left the airport it started to rain heavily. Being tired after a ten hour flight and long wait on the bus this was the last thing I wanted to see. Anabelle tried to point out local attractions (e.g. the Military School) en route to the hotel and gave us some factoids about the area. By this stage it was starting to get dark and the rain was getting heavier so wasn’t that bothered.
We got to the hotel and the rain was still very heavy! I nearly fell on my ass getting off the bus due to the water on (what I’m guessing) was marble stairs. Despite the rain – first impression of the hotel was very fancy. We were given a mimosa while we checked in and I went to exchange my currency. For £600GBP I got 900CUC which wasn’t bad.
We got to the room, which was a bit underwhelming mainly because it was cold (I later figured out this was because the air con was on). Had a wee lie down and then ventured to get food. We found the buffet restaurant with the Cuban equivalent of a mariachi band playing. It was around this point, after the free food and beers, I had an epiphany that if it rains the whole time then at least we can drink the value! The food was alright if you like rice and beans (I do!) but it was busy and all a bit manic.
A hotel cat – getting out of the rain
Afterwards we went to find a bar. In the lobby bar some fella was playing “Achy Breaky Heart” on a violin so we risked going outside to the 24hr pool bar. Had a few more beers and Leona had a piña slushie. We went to bed at about 8.30pm (1.30am GMT) as we were wrecked. I was woken up at about 10pm by someone singing “Bed of Roses” from the pool stage… Turned out I missed karaoke… Ragin’!