Category: Cuba, 2014

Parked at the Parque Central

January 29

Meet in hotel lobby at 7:30 for the five-minute bus ride to the airport to catch our 11 AM American Airlines-run ABC charter flight. The Workshop does not believe in cutting things too close. Rather slow lines, but nothing extraordinary on the U.S. side. Starting to talk to and get to know others from both our group and the dancing group, as we hang out together in the hotel and airport.

Standing In line at the Miami airport, I receive an email from somebody named Rodrigo from Bahia in Brazil to whom I’d written a couple of days ago at the suggestion of our Nigerian doctor friends, the Olopades. He’s kindly offered to show us around and invited us to dinner with him and his wife, when we go to Bahia in April. I love the ability to make connections in this way and the personal and unique experiences we’re able to have because of these connections. Carol and I have chosen to go to Bahia because of the strong African cultural influence there, particularly the Yoruban culture to which we were introduced in Nigeria last August by the Olopades (who are themselves Yoruban).

The short, 52-minute flight to Havana is followed by an hour plus of standing in various lines at the airport. This is all part of the small price one pays for travel here. The saying, our guide tells us, is, “it’s Cuba, it’s complicated.”

We are met at the airport by the Workshop team, headed by Kip Brundage, who has been to Cuba many times and heads up operations for the Workshop here. Dustin, who was with us last April, and Jennifer are also there. We’re led out to the parking lot, where we are loaded onto two air conditioned buses by group. Our group, being the smaller of the two, has the smaller bus, which just barely accommodates all of us. It’s adequate for our needs today, but would not work for a longer trip.

We ride about 20 minutes to the fashionable Miramar section, where we have a good, traditional Cuban meal of chicken, rice, black beans and plantains, along, importantly, with a cold Bucanero beer. We’re at three tables and Kip, at ours, expounds on how badly the US has bungled relations over the past 55 years. He sees no easy solution. It requires some visionary leadership to get all sides to see beyond their past to their present interests. A quartet entertained us with some Cuban music over lunch.

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20140129-221013.jpg< After lunch, we re-board the bus for a 15-minute ride to the Parque Central, clearly the place to be. The group had not gotten reservations here on my last trip, but I'd see the hotel and knew that we'd like it. We were given our room keys, changed our money, bought cards to access the internet, on sale for only 4.5 CUCs ($4.50) per hour, about half their regular price, so I splurged and bought four, not wanting to short change any of you in my blogging. The money change was more complicated than it should have been. We'd been told that we should bring Canadian, rather than US dollars, because there was a better exchange rate. Assigned the task of getting the Canadian dollars, Carol went to the bank in Chucago and got British Pounds, instead. Not the most brilliant move, but not a disaster, as I was able to exchange the Pounds for CUCs and remain willfully and blissfully ignorant of how we did on the exchange rate. Carol and I went up to our junior suite, overlooking the national plaza to relax and unpack. I had a good time shooting down towards the plaza and the street scenes from our balcony, which affords some interesting angles. br />
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Afterwards, we met in the lobby and walked over to the National Museum of Art, where first we had cocktails and then a slide show of photos by Cuban photographers, the quality of which differed significantly. Two were quite good, and two only fair. We also saw photos by Tony, our instructor, and by Elizabeth, the instructor for the dance group. Both were good, but I particularly liked Elizabeth’s rather abstract work. After the show, which lasted a bit too long, people went separate ways. Carol and I wound up having a very nice dinner and conversation on the roof of our hotel with two people from the dance group, Jo Ann from Oklahoma City, and Kimber, from Santa Fe. It’s now 10 PM and, as soon as I finish this blog, we’ll retire, as I’m planning on going on the “Dawn Patrol” at 6:15 AM, when the trip begins, in earnest.

Parked at the Parque Central

  • Barbara Sandler

    Good morning,

    Glad you made it to Cuba and are pleased
    with your hotel. How nice to start one trip
    and find good news about a subsequent
    adventure to Bahai. You certainly are
    seasoned world travelers!

    Still frigid here, though it soared up
    to 20-degrees yesterday. I believe Mother
    Nature is offended by people’s constant focus on their
    smart phones. Instead of all the wonders and
    beauty of Nature. I’d say she’s gotten her point accross.

    Love from,
    Your Little Sister

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