So here we are in Havana. The sun is just rising and our room, whioh is on the seventh floor, overlooks most of the city. It's a beautiful way to wake up in our first day in Cuba.
We'd had a early start yesterday - our taxi collected us at 5:30am. "Ah, you're going to Cuba!" said our driver, once he'd established our destination. "Lot's of pretty girls!" "Actually we're going for the music, the sites... the heritage", I said. "Yes" he insisted, "but the GIRLS!" Hmmm.
Gatwick was pleasantly empty (tip: avoid half-term and school holidays for the less crowded, hassle-free airport experience). As we we'd booked through Virgin Holidays we had the honour of using the VROOM (their club lounge.) My, it was a different experience to the BA club lounge. It was clean, friendly, had hot and cold food, looked really cool and was a pleasure to be in. It certainly relaxed me before my flight.
The flight was to last a none too brief 9h 4 mins and turned out to be fully booked - mainly with retried couples and the odd youngster (like ourselves). Take-off was on time and the flight was actually quite smooth. This was perhaps in no small part to the two industrial strength sedatives I took shortly before started taxiing down the runway.
The in-flight entertainment system was as expected; Slumdog Millionaire, Quantum Of Solace, Little Britain USA... On the audio stream they were playing, amongst other things, Lily Allen's "It's Not Me, It's You". They edited out the track "The Fear" due to the swear words in it but strangely not the track "Fuck You". Ha!
Landing in Havana was a breeze too. The scare stories we'd heard about immigration and customs turned out to be untrue. We pretty much sailed through. The carriage carousel took some working out but then what do you expect when these guys work 20 hours a day and get the standard 30 CUCs (about 24 quid) - a month!
The transfer bus was waiting and we drove through the countryside towards Havana city passing horse-drawn carts, brightly coloured 1950s American cars and strangely brutal modern architecture. We passed a particularly run-down building in desperate need of a lick of paint. "That's our teacher training centre," said our guide. "We produce all our Cuban teachers there."
Approaching Havana old town, where our hotel is, we were struck by how run-down *everything* looked. The buildings all looked pretty grand but the plaster is falling off, the windows are dirty or broken and the frames rotten. The paint is peeling off the outside and things look neglected.
Our hotel however was magnificent. We have a lovely room (all mod-cons including Internet access, satellite TV, DVD player), a commanding view and room service.
After checking-in we headed for the terrace on the top of the hotel where the swimming pool is to have our first mojito and some supper. It was simply delightful.
We had a good night's sleep last night and are now preparing to face our first day exploring this wonderful city.