Following an introductory visit in 2016, I eagerly returned to Cuba in January 2017 for a three week Adam & Steve grand tour. Giacomo's planning of the itinerary and its actuality were flawless as usual. We were met at Havana Airport and little more than two hours after landing were installed in our accommodation on the edge of the old city, Havana Vieja. The first mojito was consumed in record time: everything went smoothly from there. After a few restful days in Havana, we flew down to Santiago de Cuba in the south east, collected our hire car and the odyssey began.
We saw the country from end-to-end. It is about 750 miles from Baracoa and its surroundings in the extreme SE, by degrees to Viñales right up in the NW. We made two- or three-night stopovers in selected places on the way taking mainly scenic routes, off the main spinal highway which runs the length of the island. With generally good local roads driving was easy for Giacomo and we had time to stop for photos, refreshments, swimming at quiet beaches, even to have an open air haircut outside a village barber's shop. Staging points of two or three nights included Baracoa, Bayamo, Camagüey, Santa Clara, a beach and fishing port at Playa Larga, then in the north west Viñales with its magnificent limestone scenery and not far away on the north coast a cay, lighthouse and splendid beach at Caya Julia within easy reach. After that, a few more nights in Havana before flying back overnight by Virgin to Gatwick.
We met the people along the way. We were fortunate to have our local helper and guide, Yeremis, with us throughout the trip. He joined us from Havana and includes a high standard of traditional Cuban cooking amongst his skills. Giacomo's fluency in everyday Cuban Spanish and Yeremis' local knowledge together meant that I met and talked to real Cuba going about everyday life. Cubans are immensely hospitable and friendly people. From two hitch-hiking policemen to the lady evangelist to took us to see her home and house-church, and not least by Yeremis' farming family at their finca out in the country we were met with uniformly great warmth and kindness. We were made welcome everywhere we went. We also felt safe and secure all of the time in towns and in the country.
With the scenery and its people it is impossible not to fall in love with Cuba and its kindly ways. You could see it through the shaded glass of tour-bus windows, but darkly; we saw it face to face, for Giacomo's formula for this trip made that so easy to do. Cuba has beautiful and varied countryside and interesting historic provincial towns as well as the rich heritage and liveliness of Havana. It has wonderful people as well. In the words of the Michelin guide-books, definitely "Vaut le voyage" and I will go again if Adam and Steve will have me on another trip!