101 Reasons to love Cuba

1. Coffee addict? No problem.

2. It’s amazing how a funny immigration official can improve even the dullest two-hour airport detention (Never be a British journalist with a Colombian visa)

3. Tell someone you’re British and he might just reply: “Ahhhh, the country of Ali G.”

4. Cubans find Victoria an easy name to remember. Can’t think why.

5. You can’t buy red trilby hats in Cuba, which made my colourful little Cartagena effort very popular indeed.

6. There’s an old man who reads love poems aloud at the book market.

7. Ahhhh, the salsa. Did I mention the salsa?

8. Cubans love the Union Flag. Think shoes, hats, glasses, man bags. Everywhere.

9. The mojitos are amazing. They’re generous with the sugar.

10. Some times people just like to talk.

11. Cuba is great for watch-phobics. You rarely need to know the time.

12. Who doesn’t fall in love with those fabulous old cars?

13. There’s a singer on every corner.

14. Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes the women lead.

15. Havana drivers observe zebra crossings.

16. The first mojito I drank, I could smell the rum with the glass still on the table.

17. One salsero told me: “Victoria, forget that stuff about dancing for yourself. Dance for the people who are watching.”

18. Someone will, at some point, serenade you. Don’t blush.

19. “Are you a model?” is a favoured chat up line of Cubans and, interestingly, it’s also favoured by young-ish women who were always a bit too tall and skinny at school.

20. The lack of internet is liberating. Who knew?

21. Havana alone is worth the trip.

22. Walk down Havana’s Obispo street in the midday sun and you’ll see all your midnight sins emerge into the sun around you.

23. I went to Havana with a list of museums, fortresses, art galleries and cigar factories to visit and, in eight days, managed little more than reading, writing, drinking and dancing.

24. Flan is a seriously under-rated dessert… right?

25. Even on-duty police officers wear sexy patterned tights.

26. Santiago de Cuba is so atmospheric you’ll swear you can hear the rat-tat-tat of guerrilla fighters running through the streets.

27. “A Cuban man would be lucky to marry you,” I was told. “Because you drink rum instead of beer and it’s cheaper.”

28. Stumbling up the Sierra Maestra peaks you feel exhausted until you remember a young asthmatic soldier doing the same, day after day.

29. Fidel’s wartime HQ might be well-hidden and sturdily built, but it’s also surrounded by brightly-coloured flowers and a little stream.

30. Cuban coca-cola is pure ‘adrenalina’.

31. The kids are gorgeous.

32. When Cubans speak fondly of Frank Pais it reminds you that there are exuberant poster boys and quiet masterminds in this world and they all have their place.

33. The Cuban national bird – the Tocororo – is red, white and blue.

34. Four hours in the back of a 1960s Ford is basically just four hours on a comfy leather sofa.

35. Pharmacies still use those huge old glass bottles.

36. The Christmas Parrandas in Remedios really do last all night – think 6am fireworks and hardcore revellers dancing through the dawn.

37. Cubans love a good hat.

38. A man made me a heart-shaped pancake for breakfast. Entirely innocent, of course.

39. It takes four months to hand paint the light bulbs on the Remedios Christmas floats.

40. They really should export some of the roadside propaganda: “If you love your child… educate them.” Who could argue with that?

41. I saw dozens of Cuban men with man bags.

42. Dusk is magic hour in the Cuban countryside. Think pink and blue dusks settling over the endless green fields.

43. You really can get six people in a Lada.

44. The casas aren’t a world away from your mum’s house.

45. And the overnight buses are comfy, if freezing cold.

46. Camilo Cienfuegos’ smile is without equal and beaming on the local 20-peso note.

47. They may not have had a three-peso note when Che was chair of the national bank but now they do. It’s red and carries his face.

48. You take your own bottles to be filled by the milkman.

49. Cuba is baseball country and, in their hands, it’s cooler.

50. The sunrises are orange.

51. Best New Year’s Eve ever and they didn’t even bother with a countdown.

52. Cuban agriculture is an environmentalist’s wet dream.

53. No singer needs a microphone.

54. Cubans do that last-look-and-wave thing which is so rare in Colombia.

55. Still, it was nice to find shedloads of Colombians in Cuba.

56. The casa telephone network leaves no-one out in the cold.

57. Havana’s cathedral plaza. It’s stunning.

58. Santa Clara is as cool as you expect. Particularly the bars.

59. The weather on Hemingway’s favourite beach was suitably contrary.

60. Ask a Cuban a favour and they say: “Si, como no?” which is basically “How could I not?”

61. Who else could gamble so furiously over a game of dominoes?

62. The irregular jutting rocks and bright colours make tobacco country far more charming than the product.

63. Even I had to stand on tip toes to cuddle Che in Santa Clara.

64. The de-railed train is also pretty cool.

65. It’s cheaper to hire an old car than a modern one.

66. Cuban red wine gets a surprising thumbs up.

67. Jose Marti’s face and words are everywhere. Why are we not as proud of old Bill Shakes?

68. Cuba makes you read Hemingway. And it’s not a chore.

69. Slow table service = more time to talk.

70. The beaches are hawker-free.

71. Revolution poster boys should be ridiculously handsome and he was.

72. Even I managed to smoke a cigar. Or three.

73. I bought a battered yet highly loveable version of one of Che’s diaries for £3.

74. Definitely the continent’s best guava juice.

75. Cuba does change. Santa Clara’s LGBT scene is thriving.

76. It’s okay to negotiate.

77. Rocking chairs are legion.

78. Cubans collect the weirdest things.

79. It’s always cocktail o’clock.

80. Cubans like and use the word ‘guapa’.

81. Check out that colonial architecture.

82. A stroll along Havana’s malecon is glorious.

83. In fact, Cuba is generally highly walk-able.

84. Sugary street snacks are not hard to find.

85. Colombianisms – such as ‘me regalas’ – go down surprisingly well in Cuba.

86. The Revolution museum may be retro. But it’s beautiful in its bleakness.

87. Cha cha cha.. que rico… cha cha cha.

88. Papaya in Cuba is ‘bomb fruit’. And it’s generally on the large side.

89. Menta cafe helada (coffee, ice-cream, rum, fresh mint) is the only drink to write with.

90. I’m generally fond of a good ropa vieja.

91. It’s rare to request payment for a photograph.

92. The kids play baseball in the street for hours.

93. The old Havana apartments are beautiful.

94. You can find casas in the remotest places.

95. Playa Jutia is often deserted, which is surprising for a ‘poster beach’.

96. There’s nothing quite like a rooftop terrace at sunset.

97. They do the best fresh strawberry daquiris at Floridita, right under Hemingway’s nose.

98. Coming from Colombia, Cuban cheese is epic.

99. Everything is a photograph.

100. They told me I would fall in love with a Cuban. I didn’t expect it to be Roberto Fernandez Retamar but I’m happy with that.

101. After three-and-a-half weeks, unusually, I still wasn’t ready to leave.

Like this? You’ll love Colombia a comedy of errors.

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14 Comments

  1. tammyonthemove

    Great post! I love Cuba and Havanna will always have a special place in my heart as this is where my now hubby proposed to me. As I had a few of those strong mojitos you mentioned I said yes. 🙂

  2. Stuart Oswald (@StuartOswald)

    I would love to visit Cuba but only for the things that do not involve it’s current murderous regime. Beautiful country, majority beautiful people, beautiful architecture and culture. Here’s an interesting documentary that you can freely download from my dropbox here: http://db.tt/YAsAQZuQ. Once the new revolution is complete and the people are free again will I visit.

  3. steeltoedboots

    Eh, you know that people risk their lives every day to escape that “paradise”, don’t you? You’re seeing it from the eyes of a rich girl tourist from a comfortable first world country. You can also leave when you like. Very few Cubans can. This whole list is superfluous fluff from a limousine leftist who apparently can’t make a mojito on her own..

    1. bananaskinflipflops

      Yeah, this list is not serious and it is aimed at tourists. It´s not for me to start a political discourse on Cuba, having only visited for three weeks. I´m not quite a limousine leftie although you are right about the mojitos. However, I would say that visiting Cuba and spending your dollars on mojitos there is way more helpful to the citizens of Cuba than just staying at home mixing your own drinks. But let´s not start a political debate, BSFF isn´t really about that. Facebook me if you wish to discuss further.

  4. Lisa

    After reading all of this amazing reasons why you should love Cuba, I think I wanna go there!! Cheery on top, Please take me with you on your next adventure!

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