Regular readers will remember me saying here that by the end of the school year, I was absolutely wiped out, so we decided to book a very last minute and ridiculously cheap all inclusive package deal to Cuba with Thomas Cook.
We stayed at Playa Pesquero, in the Holguin province and had an absolutely fabulous time. Sun, Sea, Great food; despite terrible complaining Brits EVERYWHERE within the hotel – we thought the food was wonderful and didn’t get ill at all and plenty of Rum.
For the purpose of continuity on our blog, I thought I’d do a mini blog for our Cuba trip – amongst anything else, we enjoy reading back what we got up to each year.
On the way to Manchester Airport, which by the way, is a bit of a drag journey wise from Norfolk, but a cheap deal is a cheap deal (!) we stopped at National Trust’s Little Moreton Hall, which was amazing, and worth the journey alone. An immaculately preserved Tudor Manor house, which is over 500 years old – it reminded us out of something off the set of a Tim Burton film. With its wonky beams and frontage and quirky windows and unlevel flooring, its a rare example of original Tudor architecture and a great place to explore.
On arrival at Manchester Airport we checked into Clayton Manor Hotel and airport parking. We paid £125 for overnight stay and 8 days parking which we felt was quite reasonable. What we didn’t realise was that the parking was off site – so your vehicle is moved elsewhere during the night – we weren’t hugely happy about this, but had no choice at this point. Our VWT5 LWB Camper was no issue for the parking despite us being a little bit longer than the “terms and conditions” allowed. We didn’t mention it and neither did they.
Monday morning came round quickly and we set alarms for 6am. The hotel is literally across the road from terminal T1 and before we knew it we were on board plane. Thomas Cook keep their costs down by not providing drinks complimentary during even long haul flight, but we did get a meal and a snack along with a coffee and one soft drink.
We arrived at the small in comparison Holguin airport at 2pm Cuban time. By 4pm we’d arrived at the hotel, booked information our allocated 4 ala carte restaurants and by 4.30pm we were enjoying our first (of many) Pino Colada’s in the pool from the Pool Bar.
We even managed a trip to the beach and a dip in the sea. The first view of the Caribbean beach and crystal clear water was overwhelming for me – I’ve always dreamed of visiting and it really was just beautiful.
The next week passed in a pattern of getting up at 7.30am -aren’t body clocks annoying – never can wake up that time when I need to for work, but on holiday – bam – I’m awake! Then we’d grab breakfast from the HUGE breakfast buffet. In all our worldwide travels we’ve never seen such a phenomenonal breakfast offering. Then we’d mooch to the beach. At 10am Alexa, the wandering beach bar man would arrive to take our first orders, we’d break for lunch around 1pm where we’d grab a seafood lunch on the beach or a pizza, or both! A few more hours on the beach snoozing or reading followed and then we’d grab a shower and head off for our evening mea and a cocktail or two. Always in bed by 10pm at the latest.
We took two day trips – one called Island Paradise – which was a trip on a Catamaran to Paradise Island, otherwise known as Cayo Saetia. We stopped for snorkelling on the reef and had a delicious lunch, followed by beach time on the most glorious of beaches, before heading back to mainland.
The other was like a Great Rail Journeys tour – we went to Santiago de Cuba for the day on the coach. As it was a journey of 3 hours each way, we departed at 7am, stopping for breakfast at a local farmers house, and we got to see how they lived – they also offered us loads of homegrown food including their own mangos, coconuts, and even cheese and coffee. Right up our street.
We then carried on to Santiago de Cuba, Cuba’s 2nd largest city and one full of history. Fidel Castro proclaimed the victory of the Cuban Revolution here, and as such his grave lies here, which we visited and got to see the changing of the guards – the Cuban equivalent to Buckingham Palace ceremony. We also visited a UNESCO fort; Castillo de San Pedro de la Roca, a real life Pirates of the Caribbean Fort! Situated high on a hilltop over looking the sea, it was really atmospheric and we really enjoyed our visit.
We finished the trip with mojitos on the rooftop of the Case Grande hotel and a mooch around the city, before snoozing all the way back to our hotel. A great day!
Both our trips gave us chance to see the real Cuba – life beyond the resorts. Fascinating as it really is a poor country which relies on tourism and agriculture. Some of the roads were merely dirt tracks.
On our final evening in Cuba, we took a trip to the yearly local carnival – it was so much fun, but sadly I drank WAY TOO MUCH rum, and actually can’t remember a great deal. The pictures looked bright and colourful though!
Before we knew it it was time to fly home – and straight into a rehearsal for our next show.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Cuba, and would highly recommend a stay at Playa Pesquero. Despite all the negativity on tripadvisor (and a story even made the Mail yesterday so I hear!) we would definitely return. The food was excellent (if you enjoy eating local cuisine that is) – there was a lack of English food such as chips and burgers (hurrah) and lots of fresh fish, lovely tender slow cooked beef and rice and beans. As with travel to any of these exotic countries – it’s important to exercise a bit of caution. If you see food lying around, give it a miss – there was so much choice and absolutely loads of fresh food to cook stations. Give your bellies time to adjust, so don’t get absolutely HAMMERED on the plane or as soon as you arrive. Keep hydrated, there was oodles of bottled water available. We drank 1.5l of water each on the flight over. The Cuba staff couldn’t do enough to help us, they were absolutely lovely. I really felt for the Thomas Cook reps out there as they were having to deal with so many people complaining – at the end of our stay we went to personally thank them and the relief and shock on their faces said it all.
Cuba – you were just what the doctor ordered!
Here’s a pic of our fave member of staff- the real life “Ask Alexa”