Sunday, September 13, 2015

Cuba "diary" of a solo traveller

11 hours flight to Bogotoa + 5 hours stop in Bogota airport + 3 hours flight to Havana

Havana: Día1, 27 Augosto 2015, arrived after 3pm.
It took about half an hour to get the luggage at the airport. One dog sniffs some people's stuff for drugs. Some Cubans returning with big boxes. Apparently, they bring with them goods to sell.

Day 1: Very hot, shops around where I stayed and close to Cemeterio Colon are very small. One is half empty, one doesn't sell big bottles of water. Took photos around the Cemeterio untill Platza la Revolucion. Lacked sleep and very tired. Went to bed early.

Havana: Día 2, 28 agosto
Nice breakfast in la casa particular.
The land lady apparently likes the Pope and finds him radical and better than the previous one. Has the Cuban regime radicalised the Pope during the latter's visit to the country? The lady told me if I brought any visitor in with me they, especially if she is a woman, had to to bring their ID with them. If a person is not carrying an ID with them it means they have a problem with the police. 
A long walk from la casa in Vedado to La Havana Vieja. Then I realised that La Casa is very far from the centre and the main sights. I did not expect that.
Very hot weather, about 35 degrees C.
The encounters with "hookers" and touts. The first was friendly, but I was suspicious. She showed me the bar restaurant where there is a status of Hemingway. I realised she was a "hooker" when a plain-clothed young policeman asked for her ID. Lunch at a private house. A dish of rice with shredded meat and black beans and a piece of avocado. It is cheap, though. 
Then got across two young girls one of them said she was 19. A few people asked for money.  Got ripped off at a supermarket where I bought a big bottle of water for £1!!
The souvenirs market is at the port.
The level of fume emission by vehicules is high and the smell is quite strong.
Havana is full of small shops and "cafetarias" which are part of the houses where people live. So one cannot fail to notice a vendor of just two or three items, or selling ice-cream or tea, from the window of their house. There are many private small shops and or small "supermarkets". The type of foods and drinks are limited, though. Like in Egypt or China, there are street vendors: fruit sellers, for example.
There are a few pricey hotels and restaurants in La Havana Vieja.
Dinner: ordered fish, but the taste was a bit not right. Changed with brucetti de porco
Transport: the cheapest way is to take a collective taxi with the locals or a bus. Otherwise, you may find a private taxi (the smallest type of them, for example) for $2/2CUC for 4 kilometrrs trip. Otherwise, you could be charged $15 for 3 kilometers.

Havana: Día 3, 29 agosto
La Habana Vieja. Change money required queuing a bit in front of the bank. A security guy lets customer in one by one. Whenever you see a group of people waiting, ask: "el ultimo?", meaning "who's the last one in the queue?"
Passed a small square where there are activities for kids. The Saturday activities organised by an official organ of a cooperative or something of that nature. You could hear a man saying in a loud speaker words like cooperativo, companeros, etc.
El Museo Del Bellas Artes: disappointed because taking photos was not allowed. Some nice paintings and drawings.
Lunch in Europa restaurant. A nice place with live music, but too hot to sit in there. Despite having about 8 electric fans, none of them was on.
An interesting conversation with two Cubans, a couple. The man is a magician who works in the local bars and restaurants. We talked about the social life in Cuba including getting foreign goods, salaries, standard of living. A waiter, for example, does get about 10/12 CUC/$ month (about 240/280 pesos cubanos), which is the minimum wage. A nurse earns about £25/month, a doctor earns around $67/month if s/he got two specialities. The average wage is $24.90/month. 

Infant mortality rate in Cuba is 5 per thousand, better than the US, according to the UN estimates. That rate is in par with the one of Czech Republic and Croatia. Today, Cuba has one of the highest life-expectancy rates of the ex-Soviet bloc (the former Comecon countries) and among the highest in Latin America and above the one in Czech Republic and Poland.

Whatever the taxi driver asks for, 15 CUC or even 3 CUC, is robbery.
There is an Adidas shop on the High Street. It is probably the only one in Havana Vieja. I was offered a chica about 6/7 times. This of course is more frequent if you are a solo traveller.
A guy approached me saying: do you know Cuba? Do you know that Cuba is a ... Do you know that in Cuba there are political prisoners? Do you know how much poverty there is in Cuba? Do you know that there are people who still live on rations in C? Then we spoke about socialism, development, capitalism, Eastern Europe, etc. 

The gurus of "Transition Economy" of the early 1990s, among them Janos Kornai, advocated the road to capitalism for countries like Cuba. Today, even when something goes wrong, those gurus attribute those problems to insufficient liberalization.

Havana: Día 4, 30 agosto
Breakfast in cafe Francesa in La Plaza Central.
El museo de la historia de la revolution: photograps, objects, clothes, biographies, the conquest of Havana by the revolutionary guerrillas. The socio-economic background is hardly mentioned. 

Lunch at Loretta y Deivys (Obrapia No. 465). It is probably the best lunch so far and for only 2CUC. The most important lesson: never get tempted by the "Muchasas" and always negotiate with the taxi driver before boarding.

Havana: Día 5, 31 agosto
Got Granma's weekly English edition on Cuba and Latin America. Front page: the achievements of Cuban athletes in Beijing 2015 World Championships, winning gold medals. An article on Ecuador and the "failure" of the opposition-led general strike.

El Museo del Ron Havana club guided tour: history and making of rum. In the south of Plaza san Francisco, the main cathedral was closed due to major refurbishments.
Met a Venezuelan living in Cuba. A very honest woman and spent a few hours together in touring  Havana Vieja, talking about social and economic life in both Cuba and Venezuela. I knew more about the people living on rations as she is one of them. Being on ration means you eat meat once a month.

Met the founder or one of the founders of Buena Vista Social Club in a restaurant.The Club was founded in 1985 and the man is now 88 years old. The restaurant charged me 11 CUC for two mojitos. I saw two foreigners complaining and asked why it was the highest price in the Old Town. The waitress said it was because there was live music!

Contact: yulrizan torres on facebook. Send her the photos.
Address in Havana Vieja: orrelli 455 entre aguacate y villegas  en centro Havana mi hermana concordia 465 entre gervacio y belascoain centro havana.

A lift to la casa by a Lebanese who said he had lived in Cuba for 50 years. He said he did not like Castro and the regime. He claimed that you could pick up a girl on Paseo 23/Malecon for as little as $10 dollars!

It looks that there are only one companies which control the bottling of water.
It seems that Germany is one of the main trading partners.

Guanabo: Día 6, 01 septiembre
Vedado, Havana: 30/40 minutes at a branch of Metropolitan Bank to get money changed. 
Arrived at la casa in Guanabo around 12:30, but the room was not ready.
Don't even expect a bus driver or conductor to tell you the altervative means of transport: the ones the locals use between Havana and Guanabo. They want you to use the tourist ones and pay tens of times the normal price. 

Again, a taxi driver tried to persuade to get "a chica barata". I have not seen such frequent offers in the countries I have visited so far or the degrading expressions used.

The area where I stayed there were hardly any foreigners. A few small shops and restaurants line the two sides of the main street. It was hard to find water. Even the "biggest" supermarcado did not have water, but no shortage of big bottles of sodas and similar drinks. A bottle of 1.5 litre of water costs $0.70, which is the same price for a similar bottle in a supermarket in London. It is something the locals do not/cannot buy and they drink tap water all their life. 
Prices for tourists are generally rip off. Is this a way to encourage tourism? Are they trying to accumulate capital for investment from the tourist sector? In fact Cuba has a big potential for tourism. 
There are two branches of the same bank.
Asked about the means of transport to and from Havana. The bus (guagua, pronounced with silent 'g') 400 runs untill 2am and resumes at around 5:00am. This is the bus the locals use and the bus driver and the taxi drivers did not want me to know. 
After lunch, a perfect swim. There were hardly any people on the beach. Looks a very safe area.
Learning some Spanish on the terrace, with an amazing view over the Ocean and the town. Dinner on the terrace de la casa particular: ensalada, lobster con papa y arroz.

Guanabo: Día 7, 02 septiembre
A small lizard in the bathtub.
Breakfast at pan.com on the main street: eggs, ham and cheese and a toast. A coffee or tea included. 2:50 CUC.
The bus from Guanabo to havana takes about 40 minutes for about a 34-kilometer journey and costs 1 CUP (2.4 pence). A taxi should not cost more than 1 CUC, 24 times more. Anything else is complete rip off. I had paid for a bus and a taxi 8 CUC, i.e 194 times the local bus fare. An Italian couple paid 35 CUC for one way journey Havana-Guanabo. 
Taking the local bus with the locals means feeling life in Cuba. I gave my seat to a woman. She insisted on holding my bag for me. 
The bus drops you at the beginning of Havana Vieja. It also stops on El Prado.
The beautiful tree with orange colour flower is called flamboyant tree. 
Visited la Casa de los Arabes: some furniture and the life of the Arab bedouins. It is just a couple of rooms. A woman from the staff knowing I was an Arab and teach Arabic started counting from 1-10 in Arabic. Then wanted to remember some of her Arabic.
On the way back taking the bus, a man was standing at the front door of 400 bus to Guanabo asking for some change. Almost everybody gave something apart from the 1 peso fare. As I did not see a conductor on the way to Habana, I asked a man in the military uniform, who said that the "conductor" was helping the driver. Is it a way to extract money from the passengers to reconpensate for the very cheap bus fare? I don't really know. 
A paradisical view of the Atlantic through the window. One of the beaches you pass by is called Atlantico.
Lunch in Guanabo: arroz y carne.
Unlike the room in Vedado, the one in Casa Olguita was not cleaned. 30 CUC/night. Extra charge 1 dinner for 10 CUC + una cerveza.
Dinner in restaurant Le Mare, looking over the sea. Nice food, terrible music (English and American!). About 12 CUC (£9) for a camarones, fruit salad and one cuban beer. 

Guanabo: Día 8, 03 septiembre
Breakfast: four toasts of ham and cheese and a fruit salad.
A house 200 meters from the sea costs between 20,000 and 30,000 dollars.
A Cuban who has lived in Miami for 36 years and with double nationality speaks a terrible English.
A power outage on the main street. No coffee in my favourite cool cafe.
The biggest supermarket near la casa: full of basic things like water and alcohol, cleaning  stuff, etc but as in other places meat is of poor quality and limited selection. A better way is to buy from a butcher. The centro comercial is next to a swimming point. Being a "closed" country, the range of things are limited, but you find the necessities and some people manage to import a few things. It is said that the standard of living in Cuba is better than the one in Tunisia, for example. It does not look so. In the availability of commodities it is certainly not the case.

Two girls solicited me. One of them approached me, but when I made it clear that I don't pay for sex and it is prostituion. She said no word after that and went away. I felt like a prey. They are desperate for money.

A very basic lunch for 2 CUC + 1 CUC tip for a camarera with whom I had an interesting chat about social life in Cuba.
Had a walk on the beach then I was heading to a restaurant when a young girl waved at me asking me to come to their house. She offered me a seat and had a small chat. Her mum joined. 

Dinner at The Little Chicken. Entrance of 504, Guanabo. An aperitive on the house. Pollo en la carabeño, a mojito y creme a caramelo. I saw HP ketch up.! A very nice dinner for about £7, tips to the waitresses and the two musicians excluded. The last two dinners confirm the availability of almost anything for tourists in the parallel economy, the one operates on the CUC. Good quality of vegetables that the waitress in the afternoon said were expensive for the locals.

Guanabo to La Boca (Trinidad): Día 9, 04 septiembre
The lady of the casa in Guanabo gave me a present, an anchor. 
The journey to Trinidad: from Guanabo to Havana by bus. It was a packet bus as it was about 8:00am and people were going to work. A taxi from Havana city centre to Viazul coach stn: 2 CUC/$2 (50 times the fare of 34 km Guanabo-Havana city centre). That was cheap compared what other taxi drivers ask for. 

The ticket Havana-Trinidad costs 25 CUC ($18). You need to show your passport as well.
In la cafeteria of the stn, I had a small sandwich of poor quality,  and doesn't deserve 3.50 CUC.  Better food, quality and quantity, in Katowice, Poland, coach stn, for example, for the same money.
Three shops in the stn, but apart from crisps, nothing to buy for a 5-hour journey. One of the shops has a whole section of cleaning and washing liquids! In both the stn main hall and the cafeteria, there are huge air-conditioners decades old.
The screen on the bus played music then put an American action film with Spanish subtitles. Horrible!
About half-way the bus stopped at a restaurant for lunch. It was either a light buffet (beans soup, salad and fruit salad and coffee or a chicken dish...). The light buffet costs 5CUC.


In Trinidad, Jose Martí street,  for a withdrawal of 200 CUC I was charged $6!
Taxi from the coach stn to Hostal and La Casa Elsa: 5CUC. A big room with two double beds, but no wardrobe! The woman showed me what was in the fridge and the prices: 1.40 CUC for a 1.5 L bottle of water and 1.60 CUC for a can of beer. It is a big house, the ventilators make less noise than the ones in the previous casas I stayed in. A nice viranda-like areas to relax.
I had a walk on the "corniche". It is a beach without sand. You can see only the rocks. There are some crabs and other similar crustaces. The street is lined with "cafeterias", small covered stalls selling drinks and sandwiches. Cubans playing dominos invited me for a game. I lost.
There is a leisure garden/centre with a swimming pool for the locals.
Lunch in a small open air restaurant, the only one on the street where la Casa is.  Chicken, rice and salad. The woman brought me the two dishes at the same time. Again you notice the prices/menu for the foreigners. The locals do not see the menu or pay the same thing.

Trinidad: Día 10, 05 septiembre
Changed casa for it would boring and tiring to stay in La Boca for 4 nights. It is a small place, practically no restaurants and I would have sticked to la casa particular for having dinner. The beach is not great either. Also, i would have to travel back and forth to the town centre. Using a bike is an option which I was not ready to take.

Horse riding first experience was thrilling: more than two hours excursion. The horse riding itself was about an hour return journer to the Valle de los Ingenios and back. I felt I was loosing my arse to the saddle! It was very hot and felt sorry for the poor female horse. The excursion included a dip in the water of the cascade, sugar cane juice making, and lunch. I was on my own and it was a guided excursion. The guide said there was a German's living in the mountains nearby. One can see dark clouds and lightening up the mountains while it is boiling down in the Valley.. 

According to the guide, a young male Spanish teacher in his mid twenties, the price is 10 CUC for the agency and 6.50 CUC for the entrance. I gave him 5 CUC tip ($5, about half of his salary). Lunch, fish, salad, soup, sugar cane juice, salad, was a bit expensive. I had a very short chat with the guide about socialism, salaries, etc. I told him about tourism that is a way for the regime to accumulate capital for investment. He confirmed what others had said: "we are not seeing the benefits of tourism." He claimed that his salary is not enough to live thus he is doing two jobs. He said that a house in the Ingenious (a countryside in Trinidad, 15 minutes from town centre) costs about $2,000. 
On the way back, the guide got me two avocados, one from his grandfather and a bigger one he bought from a shop. He accompanied me to the house to give him a t-shirt which is too big for me. He asked for 1 CUC. I declined.
Back in la casa I realised there was no toilet paper when I needed it. The shower was not working properly. Water does not run from the head shower. It was very hot in the room even the electrical fan could not protect me from sweating while lying in bed with no clothes at all. I could not leave the room before 19:30. Later someone came to fix the shower. 
The mechanism consists of emptying the water in the pipes. Houses have water containers on the roofs. Water is heated by the sun. It is like what I saw in Sofia, for example. Solar panels would work perfectly well in the country. I guess the embargo is preventing the country from introducing modern means. What about China? Is she too unable to help along the investment she is doing in Cuba?

Dinner at Hostal Académico La Merced, a restaurant just one street away from Parque Céspedes, behind Grand Hotel Trinidad. Another restaurant, San Jose, is just opposite, but a bit more expensive. Among the customers were 4 Irish men in their 50s and 60s.
Relaxed in the park nearby watching young Cubans walking by. Boys and girls have their best clothes on are out for the evening. For those under 18 there is not much to do apart from circling the park again and again, getting across other girls and boys they know. They exchange kisses,  but no talk, and they carry on. 
A chat with two young German girls, students.

Trinidad: Día 11, 06 septiembre
Breakfast, a big one, in La casa.
The builders have arrived.
A visit to El Museo de la Lucha contra los Banditos. Pictures and objectos. Little English description. Entrance fee: 2 CUC. If you have a good camera, you can take very good photos of the city.
A visit to the Galeria "Calleyro". A long conversation in Spanish with Raul Lugones: languages, the Internet, art, etc. 

A very basic lunch, probably the poorest in a restaurant, on Jose Marti street.

Siesta.
Plato principale at Hotel Grande Trinidad costs 10 CUC or more. You would need about 30 CUC for a dinner.
Pablo Milanes.
The singers sang for me as the only customer: cha cha cha, bolero, son.
La Casa de Musica: a 98% percent foreign crowd watching and dancing while a live band playing. This is the type of a separate economy they have created, one exclusive to tourists and foreingers. I gave 35 pence tip to a waiter and he was over the moon talking about it to his colleagues.

Trinidad: Día 12, 07 septiembre
Nayadis is the beautiful, sweet girl who prepared me breakfast. The same girl told me that buying a wifi card allows you to get acees to the Internet. She said I could visit any website. And I could. Example: bbc, the guardian, amnesty, marxist.com, google, facebook. I was surprised. That is not the case at all in China. Then I heard that the total access to the Internet had happened only two monther ago.

A mistake: El Museo Romantico is closed on Monday.
No chica approached me for sex, so far. Neither did a pimp. A couple of people asked for money.
20 minutes to buy a wifi card from the Telecom branch in La Parque Centrale. It costs $2 for 1 hour. While trying to connect to the Internet, you may get the message "unable to join the network." Just keep trying and it will eventually give you the login page.

In the Centro Comerciale on Jose Martí, which consists of a smal supermarket and 4 shops, there is a shop which sells sports shoes/trainers.  An average trainer costs $58, i.e. about 4/5 times the monthly minimum wage. A simple pair of woman shoes costs $13, which is the equivalent of a monthly minimum wage. I asked a couple of people in the shop and they too expressed the sad reality. The supermarket itself sells some spirits, ron, water and juice. It also has some imported German bottled products like Gurkins, for example. No fruits and vegetables.
See photo for list of prices of a coffee, a bocadillo, etc in Pesos Cubanos in a shop in Trinidad, about 15 minutes walk from Parque Centrale. It gives an idea of what the prices for the locals are, the quality is different, if not very different. Example: 1CUP (3 cents) for a coffee. In a touristic restaurant shouldn't be more than $0.80.

Dinner at a small restaurant 1 minute from Parque Central. A big plate of mixed brochette and rice.
A conversation and flirt with a young single mother of a 4-year girl. According to her, small businesses, doctors, casa particulares and similars businesses are doing well, but the rest of people live in hardship. She said she was part-time worker in a restaurant. Then I realised she was after sex for money.  I made it clear to her that I would not pay for sex and I wouldn't encourage prostitution. First case in Trinidad after more than 3 days. She was avoiding people and light as well as the police. We sat in a dark side of the park. At the end she asked for $2 and exchanged a farewell.

Cientfuegos: Día 13, 08 septiembre
Last stage of the trip. 90 minutes journey for $6by a Viazul coach. Coach to Cientfuegos left 5 minutes before time: 8:10am.
Changed casa. I did not find anyone in the house. A lady from the opposite side of the street came to me saying that the man was not replying to her call and offered me a stay. I waited for about half an hour then I went to her casa. Nice room in a big house. Casa El Colonial, Sra. Julia Milanes Fernandez, Cientfuegos, Calle 37 (Prado). The lady, in her 60s, is single and inherited the house from her granparents. They have owned such houses since before the Revolution of 1959 apparently. Now she's renting rooms out.
Jose Martí Parque: The excursion by ferry is not going on because the ferry has been broken for a week, according to a woman giving tourist information. The high street offers modern goods and services from adidas shop to western union, to clothes, a luxury hotel in green and white.

Cientfuegos is bigger and modern cars, bikes and motobikes are noticeable.
Towards Punta Gorda, a promenade area, bigger supermarkets with slightly bigger range of goods including Beck's beer for example, nice house and villas, but they too still use the old system of heating water (a cistern on the roof), a few restaurants including a fancy one which automatically added $2 service to the bill (20%), first time in 13 days I got such a thing, cafes and bars, a big open air one which could be called a Cuban Mac Donald's, a boy with padmington racket ... Many casa particulares and hostals. Most of them are empty at this time of the year (It is obvious that people here have more money. It is probably a residencial area of the most affluents of the city.
It was a long walk, but nice and refreshing with a nice view of the sea. 
On my way back from Punta Gorda, a young man with his nephew asked me to take photos of them. Then he invited me to go and eat something nearby. We took a taxi for a short distance. Then the guy asked me to pay $1.  I did not like the fast food place and said I wanted to go back to the centre to have dinner. He asked for another $1. I refused and said thank you and adios.

Dinner at Big Bang Cafeteria, on El Prado. A small place with reasonable prices. You may not like the screen and the music, but it is convenient for an on-budget traveller. You know, it is those places you get across and then you say the previous restaurants have been ripping me off. Cerdo grille for 2.50, salad for 0.50, batidos for 1, ensalada frutas for 1, and flan on the house.

Batidos, camarones, cerdo grillé, longosto, cerveza (bucanero or cristal), helado, flan, ensalada de frutas, piña, jamón y queso, mortadella, papaya, mango, platano, guayaba/guava
El Prado, Cienfuegos, a long street with benches along in the middle. It is one that could be made like a French boulevard. Some shops and restaurants, but most of it consists of casas.

Luis Posada Carriles, Cuban anti-Castro activist believed to be responsible for the Cubana Flight 455 bombing, was born in Cientfuegos.

Cientfuegos: Día 14, 09 septiembre
Took the camion used by the locals to go to El Jardín Botánico. A good experience to feel the state of transport as opposite to the luxury the tourists have when using Viazul coaches. At the Terminale, ask how to got to Pepito Tey. You will be asked to take a taxi instead. I asked a couple about how to get to Pepito Tey the man was trying to help me, but the woman did not like it. A similar thing happened later inside the station. A young man did not want to show me the way while his friend was more than happy to help. This rarely happens and I assume that some locals want the foreigners to use the means of transport the foreigners usual use. In this case a taxi.  Just look for the ticket office and gate 4. Most locals and staff will guide you to the right way. You don't really need the ticket office. Just head downstairs and queue. Pay 10 pesos cubanos before boarding el camione. The area is old as opposed to the modern, well-air conditioned one upstairs with Carrier airconditioner and shining chairs.

El camion is hot and not a comfortable means of transport. So wear light clothes and carry the minimum with you. Along the buses, el camion is one of the main means of transport between towns and between towns and the countryside. We had a short stop because the police stopped the camione. I think the driver broke the law, but I did not have an idea of what happened. I got off at an intersection of roads about 1 km from El Jardin Botanico. From a far you can see a huge cement factory. I did not get the chance to take a photo of it. Someone who was working on the side of the road gave me the wrong direction to El Jardin. Then I decided to take a coche de caballo (a horse carriage). It was very hot, but el coche is covered, which made the ride a pleasant journey.

El Jardin: a big park, but the varieties of plants are less than what I expected. Entrance fee: $2.50.
Exciting ride back to the city centre: first with a free ride by a military camione (the army at the service of the people!) then a shared coche de caballo. You cannot imagine how easy people who do not know each other start a conversation for the whole journey. 

Cientfuegos has a wide options of means of transport: coches de caballo, bikes, old and modern buses and coaches, camiones, old and modern carros (cars) as taxis.
A woman, probably 37/38 years old, in a Panadería (a bakery) called me in. Asked where I was from, etc and then told me she would finish work at 17:00 if I wanted to go out. I did not go back to her.

A basic ice-cream is very popular here. It consists of milk, sugar and vanille. two scoops cost about 5 cents.

Like elsewhere, since Raul Castro has resumed the policy of giving more freedom to open small businesses, one could see all types of businesses from tiny restaurants and "cafeterias" to selling clothes and fruits. Passing by, one could see through the window a display of 4 or 5 items for sale. This could be just water and soda. And all that is along the street vendors. A woman, for example, was displaying 4 cakes.
In some touristic private restaurants in El Prado, a waiter/ess could make more money out of tips than the salary of that waitress in Guanabo state restaurant for locals, if not more of her/his salary: $0.50 x 10 customers = $5 in tips. $10/12 is the monthly salary of many waiters. Private restaurants have to pay the bank a certain amount of money plus an annual tax. Casa particulares too have to pay taxes.
Telecom ran out of wifi cards!
Casa Cultural Benjamin Duarde in Jose Martí: about 10 paintings.
Relaxing in Josí Martí Parque. A long chat with a Cubana, Yordanka, a mother of two kids, a girl of 18 and a boy of 3: personal life, social life, travel... She is from Colón. She is looking forward to be accepted in missiones in Venezuela.  She said you could get an invitation to stay with a family in Cuba and it costs only $40. 

After 21:00 the park is full of people using laptops and iphones. Kids playing football with a can of soda.

Cientfuegos: Día 15, 10 septiembre
After 15 minutes queuing for a wifi card, I was told I needed an ID. I asked a Cubano to get one for me using her ID. She did it. The Telecom in Trinidad did not ask for an ID. The warm and spontaneous relationship among the staff is expressed, for example, when a woman cuddle her male colleague. I saw that more than once. 
On the street you could not fail to notice that a few young and middle aged people, especially men, are just sitting and doing nothing most of the day.

El Museo Provincial is closed today for cleaning. It is the one which really worth a visit as it holds a collection of pre-Columbian and Cuban aristocratic objects.

Two girls look like "predators". They have followed me for a couple of minutes. I noticed it, but ignored them.

20 minutes to get Internet connection in Parque Jose Martí.

Pupils wear the same uniforms, but with different colours according to the level they are studying. The girls are in mini-skirts. At the door of a school on Parque Jose Martí pupils formed a queue and were getting in one by one. A woman (perhaps the director or a supervisor) was at the door. A female pupil greeted the member of staff and wanted to reach for her cheek for a cuddle. The woman hold the pupils hand down. It was something amusing to see.

A visit to Terry's theatre in Jose Martí Parque: a small theatre with some nice paintings on the ceiling and walls. Nothing else.

Lunch at Bucanero Taberna in Parque Billuenda. In front of the Taberna there is a park and next to the park there is a parada of coches de caballo. 

A woman waved and asked me to join her gathering in front of her house. She was sitting with "a female friend", so she claimed. This "friend" is a beautiful young girl. Also, there was a man and another girl. She said: go do what you need to do and come for a chat. I asked: a chat about what? Finally she replied after my insistence: sex. My reply: I know a few people here are poor and need money, but sex for money is prostitution. I don't like that. She said: no, that is not the type of conversation I am suggesting. She asked me to come back at 20:00. I said yes, but I did not return.

Yadira, a waiteress I met at the last night at the small restaurant Sandiman in Cientfuegos. She works 2 days and 2 is off two days. She gets $4 for the 2 days. She asked whether I had been in a disco in Cuba. She said she was celebrating her 30 bithrday in September, but had no money to go out or buy a dress. 

When you say you are staying in casa particular for $20/night, a particular reaction is discernible on the person's face. It is a huge amount of money for them. Since we, as visitors from Western Europe, can afford it, along the flight, then we must be rich.
On El Prado, families, couples and individuals chilling out on the benches, escaping the heat of the houses. Young boys and girls kuddling each others freely.

Cientfuegos to Havana: Día 16, 11 septiembre
10:00am: the route back to Havana, a 4-hour journey.
First time I had to pay a lugguage fare of $0.50. Viazul coach left the terminal 7 minutes before the scheduled time. Viazul air-condioned coaches are Chinese production and fairly comfortable. The service is reliable and punctual. You have to check in before boarding and you get a receipt for the hold lugguage.

A stop half way. I did not feel well. I barely could eat a sandwitch. A chat with a French woman. She is retired and she had already spent two weeks in Cuba. She was going to Cancun, Pery and Argentina. She is going to spend a month in the latter. She had already spent double of the money I spent in Cuba.

Havana: Back to Casa Angelita.
La Rampa: shops, cafes, bars, hotels, an art centre, a cinema, a park, and heaving with people, a significant number of them using wifi on the street. I queued for 25 minutes then I was told that only tarjetas (wifi cards) of $10 were left. I had not picked up that while queuing. Here you think that some Cubans have money. Chilled out in with a beer and intrrupted by a man asking for money or trousers. Yes, clothes are not cheap in Cuba.
In a shop, opposite Melia Cohiba, a family of three spent $10 on three pots of Nestle ice-cream and two packets of cigarettes. Compare that with the monthly minimum wage. A young girl told me she had been in London two week earlier. To afford the money and get the permission to travel outside Cuba makes her among the privileged.
A long walk from La Rampa untill Melia Cohiba hotel: There are many villas on the way.
At hotel Cohiba half an hour Internet costs $5!

Havana: Día 17: 12 septiembre: departure day
The lady of Casa Angelita told me that after 38 years of service in the public sector, now she is getting a pension of $10/month. For one night and breakfast I paid her more than a double of her monthly pension. The woman speaks only Spanish, but we were able to have a conversation about rent, cost of living, Morocco, orientalist depiction of the East, the veil and the headscarf. By the way, unlike, Eastern Europe, for example, in the whole two weeks in Cuba I never saw a woman wearing a headscarf or a veil.
A two-bedroom house in Vedado may cost $600/month.
The famous 5-star Melia Cohiba hotel is part of a Spanish hotels chaine. The one in Vedado has 400 rooms. A room for a single person is $200+ per night in the high season. The hotel is next to the Malecon, but the sea side is not a swimming area. Just a promenade side.

Cemeterio Colón is huge. $5 entrance fee. Most graves are in marble and some of them are somptuous.

The transfer to the airport was good and on time. The agency sent a taxi for me. I paid only $9.50 for the return (via hoppa site). A taxi would charge you $15 one way.
The departure area of the airport is very different from the poor, dim arrival area. No free wifi, though.
Havana to Bogota flight 2 hrs 50 minutes.

Note: You may have to pay a 25-dollar tax at the airport before leaving the country. As a British I did not pay it. 

Bogota-London: 8770 km/5400 m + about 3,000 km between Havana and Bogota. 
For some read the flight back to London, a 10-hour long journey, was tiring. I did not feel the same during London-Bogotà flight.

Las casas particulares
*Casa Angelita, calle 23/6, Havana: 5 nights and 3 breakfasts: 140 CUC/£93.5. Clean. Good breakfast but a bit expensive (5CUC).
*Casa Olguita: close to the sea, friendly atmosphere, a very nice terrace, four t-shirts washed for free. I, though, still find it a bit expensive. They did not lift a finger when I told them that there was a small leak from the fridge. Cost: 102 CUC/£68 inluding one dinner and one beer.
Trinidad: 1. *Casa Elsa, La Boca: big room with double beds (because of the low season, I guess). 2. Casa Elvira, etc is all for me. Upstairs is a room with beds, one of them double. 97 CUC/£65 for Trinidad accommodation including 3 breakfasts. Trinidad casa: shower mixer needs to be fixed.
*Casa El Colonial, Sra. Julia Milanes Fernandez, Cientfuegos, Calle 37 (El Prado) 72 CUC/£48 including breakfast. No Cuban guests allowed. A big breakfast: fruits, jam, butter and bread, coffee, fried egg, tea. Uncomfortable matteress; it curves in. Address: Señora. Fernandez is fond of collecting antiques. She showed me some of the things she inherited from her grandfathers among them an Italian painting called sueño de gondina.

Summary:
Cuba is worth visiting. Another proof that a poor country cannot build socialism. You would like to go back again, especially to see other regions.
The tourist sector is rip off if you do stick to the casa particulares, the tourist restaurants, the organized tours, etc. If you manage to get enough of the local currency from the first two days and be patient in looking for some decent mid-range restaurants and bars, you will be able to spend the minimum. A backpacker would save money. Remember that a flight from Europe is expensive: from $1,000 on.
For now (September 2015) the visitors are mainly Western Europeans: Italians, Spanish, Germans, British, Scandinavians... A couple of Chinese and Japanese. I got across, 4 Irishmen, two Indian women, a Dutch, an Italian and Honduran living in Denmark, a French woman, a Portuguese couple.
Surprisingly, there is a complete access to the Internet. Most houses, however, do not have Internet connection. 1 hour wifi connection in wifi spots costs $2, which is very expensive for an average Cuban.
Havana is heavy and the fumes with the heat makes it stifling and unhealthy. My guess is other parts of Cuba are much better than the capital.
Safety is not a worry. For two weeks I did not experience any problem or felt unsafe.

Total expenses including the return flight ~ £1,400

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