we find our casa particular and
drop off our rental car. We
stay two nights in
catching our flight. We booked
this accommodation ahead and it turns out to be the nicest place we stay
the whole time. La Casa Blanca is a two-story private house in a leafy, residential
part of the city called Vedado. Jorge
owns the house and his mother, Mercedes, helps him to look after it.
Jorge bought the house from a family member and worked for three
years to restore it to its former beauty.
It has very high ceilings, a marble staircase and beautiful little
terraces. Obviously, the family
was quite well off in pre-Revolutionary times.
Mercedes was born in
in 1921, but her family was Spanish and quite aristocratic.
She is a beautiful and gracious lady and makes us feel very
welcome. We are delighted
to discover that she loves to tell stories about her life and the old
Both she and Jorge speak excellent English, but sometimes in the middle
of a story, she switches from English to Spanish without realizing it.
When we go back to
we will definitely stay at La Casa
We spend our last day in
walking around the neighbourhood, looking at the beautiful architecture.
Even the many buildings that are shabby and dilapidated are stunningly
beautiful. Any city in
North America would treasure just a few blocks.
The occasional building has been totally restored, usually to house
some kind of government offices.
These examples show what they could all look like with proper care
huge mansion catches our eye because it is in excellent repair.
There is a guard at the gate so we ask him what the building is.
He tells us it is the residence of the British ambassador.
We are taking a picture through the fence when he suddenly leaps
to attention and runs to open the gate. There
is an SUV waiting to get in. As
we step quickly back out of the way, the driver rolls her window down
and speaks to us. It is the
wife of the ambassador and her children.
We say: We have just been admiring your house.
Our house in
is rather like this one! She
laughs. She chats graciously
with us for a few minutes, asks where we are staying and seems interested
that we are staying in a private home. She says they like living in
During our rambles, we come across a large Catholic Church
that has obviously been recently restored.
Since the popes visit in 1998, Castro has relaxed his restrictions
on religion. We are poking
our heads in an open doorway to see if we can get a glimpse of the interior
when an energetic little man bustles in and greets us.
He is the parish priest and gives us a personal tour.
He is ever so proud of his church and all the restoration work
that had been done.
On our last evening in
we go to a nearby paladar, recommended
by Jorge. One last Cuban
meal with a bottle of white Soroa wine, a cold flan
for dessert and wonderful Cuban coffee.
In the morning, Maria, the Czech, appears in her Lada to drive
us to the airport. We catch
our Air Cubana flight to
our adventure is over.
Cuba is a magical place. The beautiful scenery and the warm climate can be
found everywhere in the
Caribbean, but we dont know where else there are such lovely people.
Without exception, those we met were warm, friendly and polite.
They are even polite to each other.
We never saw Cubans arguing or yelling at each other or being aggressive
in any way. A real bonus
is the level of safety. We
never once felt afraid or insecure.
Even when we ventured into out-of-the-way parts of the city, we
felt no sense of danger. Apparently
there is a certain amount of minor theft and pick-pocketing here and there,
but serious crime seems to be unheard of.
One long-time Canadian tourist to
told us you can fall asleep on any beach and wake up in the morning without
worrying about your wallet or your personal safety.
We plan to go back soon!