Un­planned: Cuba with­out a pal

Lonely Planet (UK) - - News - JOE REVILL Lonely Planet’s In­ter­na­tional Li­cens­ing Man­ager @JoeRevill

IN HIND­SIGHT, BE­FORE BOOK­ING flights to Ha­vana, I should have checked with my mate Doddy that he was still up for join­ing. His ‘sounds good’ mum­bled through the sixth pint in a north Lon­don boozer after I’d pro­posed a Cuban trip was the only ghost of com­mit­ment I’d needed when reach­ing for my credit card the next morn­ing. As the weeks pro­gressed, how­ever, it be­came ap­par­ent that I’d be go­ing alone. I’ve notched up a fair few solo trips in my time, but com­pan­ion­less Cuba did seem a lit­tle daunt­ing. Thoughts of lim­ited in­ter­net ac­cess and my lack of Span­ish (lim­ited to ‘un mo­jito por fa­vor’) pro­voked restless nights. And yet Cuba proved to be one of my best trips. Unen­cum­bered by those com­pro­mises we make when trav­el­ling with oth­ers, I spent my time on the is­land ef­fec­tively pre­tend­ing I was Hem­ing­way. This mostly con­sisted of prop­ping up bars, scrawl­ing in note­books and nod­ding along to the beats of live mu­sic that erupts spon­ta­neously there like nowhere else on Earth. In fact, I was sym­pa­thet­i­cally lured up to the dance­floor in var­i­ous taber­nas from Santa Clara to Trinidad for an ini­ti­a­tion into the art of salsa. Sure, these dance part­ners were old enough to be mi madre but they whirled me around the floor with ef­fu­sive praise for my awk­ward moves. At least I think that’s what they were say­ing. I sus­pect my flat-footed dis­plays would have never been at­tempted un­der the mock­ing gaze of Doddy. Proof that solo travel can un­earth all kinds of sur­pris­ing es­capades.

OK, the less aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing Rus­sian Ladas prob­a­bly take up more road space in Cuba, but car en­thu­si­asts can still see plenty of vin­tage Chevro­lets roam­ing the streets. I’ d seen plenty of amaz­ing ar­chi­tec­tural shots prior to my trip but didn’ t ex­pect ev­ery build­ing to be so darn beau­ti­ful, whether crum­bling Art Deco or Euro­pean Neo­clas­si­cal.

Time-warped Trinidad is a fab con­quis­ta­dor town where snort­ing don­keys clat­ter along cob­bled streets and a bell­tower like the one in Ver­tigo looms over­head.

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