La Granjita, Cuba

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Today we finally began our long anticipated Cuba trip. We left the hotel early and took a taxi to the Warsaw Chopin Airport. We had business class tickets but we still had to queue behind a family that seemed to take forever to check in. Once we got to the desk we were quickly through and given instructions on how to find the lounge. Just as well because it was at the complete other end of the airport, of course. But as we had over two hours before our flight it was not a hardship.

Eventually our flight was called and we boarded. It was an A330 and we were in row 2 behind two elderly women. They had taken most of the overhead lockers, draped coats over the back of their seats and put a bag under a seat in Anna’s leg space. I was unimpressed but Anna said there was so much space

Reception

she could not reach it.

The entertainment was rudimentary. There were two movies, both animated plus several hour long music collections but only one classical and one other that was to my taste and no documentaries so we spent a lot of the trip with the map on display. The map was amusing. It told us we would fly just south of Edinburgh but the pilot said

Bure

we would fly over Paris. As we progressed the map updated our track correctly but still kept trying to pull us north. By the time we got near Canada it gave up or maybe the predicted and actual paths aligned.

Our landing in Santa Clara was fine, albeit a bit bumpy but that was the runway, not the pilot. Disemplaning was easy enough but did involve a short walk to the terminal. We were amused to see the number of people who lit up immediately they were on the ground. No one seemed to worry.

Grounds

 

Inside we saw our first example of the communist system. Everyone has a job. There were men to take bags off the carousel. It was nice not to have to strain my back for once. Of course “priority” bag tags don’t have a meaning in a peoples’ paradise.

Immigration was fine. No glasses and no smiling while our photos were taken. Then we were given a tourist visa card. If we lost it we would be up for around 600 Euros so we treated it with great care.

We were through to customs. What customs? We just walked out the roller doors, looking around wondering. It turned out that they did some random bag checks. A number of people were unhappy that their smuggled cabanossi was confiscated.

Grounds

So now we were out in front of the terminal. Where were the Itaka tourist people? There were lots of taxis, a dog sleeping in the middle of the madding crowd and assorted other touts but no sign of Itaka. Anna went searching and eventually found out that we were thirty minutes early and had beaten them. Once they turned up things were quickly sorted and we were bussed to our overnight hotel. La Granjita.

Wow, this was an incredible place. It was well out of town and the grounds were huge.

 

Bar

We began in the reception hall with a fruit cocktail. This was lovely. Once we were allocated rooms we were told to identify our bags to the porters and go to our room. The bags would soon follow. Amazingly they did.

Walking away from reception the hotel came to life. It is set up as an indian village with two storey villas covered with palm fronds for roofs. The grounds were perfectly manicured, absolutely clean and beautifully landscaped. Our room was on the top of a bungalow. It had glass windows but also wooden louvres which were very effective in blocking light. As we learnt more about Cuba we saw that glass is a rarity. Most houses just have louvres made of wood or sometimes metal. This is good for the climate but we wondered how they would go in a cyclone?

Next stop was the pool and bar. The pool was, not surprisingly, sparkling. It was surrounded by deck chairs and bures like in Fiji. Beer and drinks were available. A can of the

Pool

local beer was 3 Euros. It is a pleasant drop. There was no music being played. We later learnt that as part of the week long mourning for Fidel, El Commandante, there was to no music or dancing and no alcohol sales in public.

Cuba runs two currencies. The local peso and the convertible peso (CUC). Tourists are only able to spend CUCs as the local peso requires vouchers. The CUC is pegged to the Euro, one to one. American dollars are not accepted. ATMs were common enough and we were able to withdraw CUCs as we needed or change euros that we carried. The downside was that no Australian cards would work in the ATMs and Australian SIM cards were also not recognised for roaming.

Dinner was buffet in a huge dining room. Plenty of fresh fruit and a wide range of choices but with only a small amount of beef on offer. Lots of lovely real fresh bread and butter. It was an enjoyable meal. Our breakfast was in the same room and the courses were vaguely similar. Again the fresh fruit was outstanding. We were assured by fellow travellers that this would be the best

Our bure

food we get for the trip. It was ok but not outstanding so this was a minor worry.

The next thing we knew, we were off for our first full day in Cuba.