Unplanned: Cuba without a pal
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.