Tuesday 4 September 2012

Cuba - Day 1: Airports,Havana and Cigars

 Right Folks, I'm Back!!! I have put this post off long enough. I have so much information about my trip to Cuba I didn't know where to start. What I have decided to do is break it down into several post which will be intertwined with the usual drivel of work, football and the occasional cigar. I hope you will enjoy it. So here we go.

We will start off with Day 1: The journey to Cuba!!

The Mrs and I arrived in Dublin Airport on a wet Friday morning. She was well rested and ready to go. Myself, on the other hand, due to excitement, nerves or the fact my body clock has not been right for the last thirteen years, hadn't got a wink of sleep.

Skipping through all the mundane checks that are associated with Airports these days, we were sitting on the plane as it was taxied towards the runway. A short two hour flight and we would be in Paris for our change over. We were on the way and I was feeling good, that was until the plane stopped, was turned around and the Pilot informed us that we couldn't take off due to an indicator problem. As I sat on the plane for another half hour while they fixed the problem I wondered what the big deal was. How many planes do they expect to overtake?

Eventually we arrived in Charles deGaulle. The weather was glorious. The Mrs and I had spent Christmas in Paris with the Brynes and we loved it. We both remarked that we would have to revisit some time during summer when the weather was this good.

More mundane Airport stuff and we arrived at our gate to find out that the connecting flight was delayed. Probably due to the lack of a left falange!! We didn't have to wait too long though and before we knew it we were marched onto the plane.

I am off the opinion that Airlines tease people intentionally. They board the premium passengers first, than they force all the commoners to walk onto the plane, past these VIP's while they lounge in their first class cabins, with loads of leg room and without a 30stone, sweaty passenger pouring onto their seats.

I am not going to say much more about our flight or I might get upset. The plane was lovely, I got to watch three movies on the flight and we were sufficiently fed and watered. What killed me was over nine hours on a plane with not enough leg room, factor that in with the fact I had not slept in over 30hrs at that stage. I wasn't a happy bunny.

When we eventually arrived in Havana it was raining. As we walked through the airport there were people mopping up puddles as water leaked from the roof. At this point I didn't care about anything. I was finally off the plane and I was in CUBA!!

We met our representative, I changed some money and before we knew it we were on a bus to Havana. As I looked out the window it was hard to miss the poverty and squalor that people had to live with. Saying that, everything seemed to have its own little charm and all the people had a smile on their face. It seemed to be a theme with the locals and during the trip one man remarked to me "I may be poor, but at least I am poor in Cuba"

There was nothing poor about the Hotel when we arrived. We checked into the Hotel Parque Central. It was fantastic, modern and clean. What more could you want? A roof top pool you say? A cigar store? Three restaurants? A gym? A spa? It had all these and more.

A quick shower and change of clothes and we were at the lobby bar sipping on Cuba Libras. The cigar shop was closed however the bar had its own humidor and it didn't take me long to order a couple of sticks.

There was an English guy sitting at the bar who recommended I not purchase cigars in the hotel. "They rip you off" he said, "you can get the same cigar for half the price in a shop across the road" I thanked him for the information and was about to go in search of this shop when the bartender handed me the cigar menu. I looked at the aforementioned English guy with slight confusion. Cigars were available CHEAPER than this??

I decided a walk across the street was too much of an effort so I requested a Partagas 8-9-8 and a H.Upman Magnum 50 all for the "overpriced" sum off 15.40CUC. That's around €12, a saving of around €30 in my book when compared to Dublin prices.

I smoked the Magnum 50 while sipping on the best Mojito I have ever tasted. The cigar was fantastic but I didn't take notes. I was sitting in a Hotel in Havana, Cuba, smoking a Cuban Cigar and drinking Cuban rum. Who would want to take notes??

The Mrs was getting hungry at this stage so we headed up to the roof top restaurant. A fantastic setting, sitting at our table, swimming pool one side of us, looking out over Old Havana the other. We ordered Bravas and Lobster/Shrimp cocktail to start. The sauce on the Bravas were nice and spicy and the Seafood cocktail was to die for. It was the first time I had tried lobster and I had a feeling that I would be tasting a lot more.

The Mrs ordered Pizza as a main, it had a nice crispy thin base with plenty of toppings. I ordered a steak. I went through three options on the menu which they had run out off. After listing off most of the steak cuts I knew, the waiter told me none were available. I just asked him to bring me what he DID have. I'm not sure what cut I got in the end but I can tell you it was cooked to perfection and I enjoyed it very much.

The Mrs faded half way through our mains and headed back to the room. I finished up on my own and decided to skip dessert and to light up the 8-9-8 instead. It was bliss. The cigar, the setting, the alcohol. I sat there on my own, puffing away, looking out over Havana and sipping on my mojito. I had been awake for over 40 hours at this stage. I didn't finish the cigar. I put it down at the height of my enjoyment and went to bed.

A great way to start the Holiday!!

Havana Airport

Hotel Lobby

H. Upman Magnum 50 & Partagas 8-9-8

View from Roof Top

Roof Top Pool

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