At the end of 2017 I didn't do a typical end of year blog simply because I didn't have the time. My last day at work was the 14th December and then I headed back home to Birmingham for a week, then spent Christmas in Lincolnshire, then boxing day I flew to Cuba...
This holiday had only been planned a few months in advance and anyone who knows me, knows that I really don't like flying and this was my first ever long-haul flight. Before this, my longest flight was four hours and that was over ten years ago! This flight was nine and a half hours long... but I did it and thanks to my boyfriend and family I even got back fairly calmly through a bit of turbulence during storm Eleanor...sadly I'm yet to take any photographs from a plane window, as take off and landing is when I'm clinging on to my boyfriend, one day I'll get there!
We flew to Holguin and stayed at Hotel Playa Costa Verde and while we did spend a few days on relaxing on the beach and snorkelling (there are so many fish to see!) we got out as much as we could to explore the area and take photos.
If you're reading this and looking for a list of things to see in Cuba or the best restaurants in Cuba, then sadly I can't help you with that, but I will tell you about my time in Cuba and the cool things we did - one of the most fun was a tour of Holguin and some of the surrounding areas with Julio in his green chevrolet...
If you plan on visiting Holguin then climbing the 458 steps to the top of Loma de la Cruz is a must! You may enter encounter a few locals who will happily chat about Holguin, where you're from and premier league football, while accompanying you up the steps...and then later ask for clothes and money, but they won't go to the top though as it's patrolled, and as we were polite to them, they were polite to us. After the tiring climb (it may be fairly short, but on a hot day you'll need water and regularl stops, unless you're much fitter than me), you'll be rewarded with a stunning view over Holguin.
Between our hotel and Holguin is vast countryside and small houses, and when you see the size of the houses, both on those journeys and in Holguin, you'll really see how little the people have in comparison to us in the UK. The thing I loved most about us booking a bespoke tour with Julio was that we learnt so much about the real Cuba and the culture from someone who lives it everyday. On our way to Holguin Julio told us about the rationing in Cuba and by chance there was a ration shop on the way, which he pulled over to show us. The locals go to these stores to pay for and collect their monthly rations, which they must collect before the end of the month, otherwise they lose out.
While we only saw and experienced a small part of Cuba we did get to some cool excursions. From what we did these are some suggested things to do near Holguin:
- Book a bespoke tour with your own chevrolet driver to visit Holguin and take in the surrounding areas as you drive. (If you're staying at Hotel Playa Costa Verde speak to Luis the Thomas Cook tour operator and ask for Julio to be your driver).
- Take a trip to Cayo Saetia Island - Do be aware that this trip is almost a two hour coach trip (including picking up people from other hotels,) then almost two hours on a catamaran until you reach the island. The best thing for me on this trip was the safari, which lasts around an hour.
- Drive a speed boat - Only about a 20 minute drive from our hotel, you can drive speed boats or jet skis. You spend around an hour following a leader as you drive and then swap with your partner half way through, (I wasn't too keen on driving, so after less than five minutes decided to let my boyfriend take over).
And of course get out and see as much as you can and talk to the locals. Opposite our hotel was a small centre with a shop, bar and bowling alley, and also a market. We visited the market and brought some artwork from one of the stands and spent ages chatting to the guy working on the stand, who told us that's the only time he gets to practice his English. I also got to use a bit of my Spanish, which took a lot of people by surprise.
If you're heading to Cuba enjoy! And feel free to get in touch if you have any questions I can help with.
All images © Jemma Dodd Photography
Do not use without permission.