A trip to Playas del Este

IMG_6695Culture, culture, culture, museums and buildings. If you want to go to the Caribbean though you will want at least a few days at the beach! Perhaps Havana isn’t the right place for us to go? Perhaps an all inclusive resort would be better to get the sun and enjoy the sea!? Don’t be fooled, Havana really does have the best of both worlds!

IMG_6726Havana’s sea is rocky and there is no way you will be able to swim off the Malecon. Instead, take an air-conditioned public coach from Plaza Central to Playas del Este. The  coach comes every half an hour and the journey last approximately 15 minutes. There are different stops at numerous different beaches. Some are more lively with musicians and bars, others very secluded. IMG_6739

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We opted for the more picturesque beach called Playa Santa Maria del Mar. Don’t forget to keep your ticket that cost 3 CUC because it is also a valid return. Once you have had enough tanning, just go to the other side of the road and the coach will come passed and take you back to the centre of Havana. See! I told you, no need for a resort! IMG_6802  IMG_6753

Playa Santa Maria del Mar was beautiful. The fine granules of sand were white and made up of tiny little shells. Coconuts lay washed ashore. A little hut served fresh fish and food in front of the sea. We were allowed to take the tables and chairs and place them wherever we wanted to eat, closer to the water or further away. The meal cost next to nothing and was delicious. I had a mojito which I had to chuck into the sand because it was throat burningly strong and it was here that I had my first fresh water coconut.

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It started to cloud over, so around 4pm we walked 5 minutes back to the road where the coach had dropped us off and waited with the others. Soon enough the coach arrived and there we were back in the heart of old Havana. We walked down to the Malecon and watched a magical sunset. Paradise beach, a stones throw from a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

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The hands of time turned back and there I was standing in Havana

Touch down, the Earth is red, the palm trees Jurassic. The police women wear tiny skirts and lacy fishnet floral tights. The terminal smells of stale cigar smoke. The money exchange queue is long and moves slowly, Cuban pesos can not be bought outside the country. Cuba is an island, on its own time, in its own parallel era. The cars outside are incredible, white with tail wings, ruby red, electric blue. Trucks are full with workers returning back home to Havana.

Cuba is alive, Cuba is free, Cuba is restricted, Cuba is controversial, Cuba is  poor, Cuba is rich, Cuba is colored, Cuba is history.

The mist sprays up and catches the lovers, musicians, children, tourists and elders who walk slowly along the Malecon. Pelicans land and flutter away. The lighthouse across the sea is majestic, the new town and big hotels blocks of shapes in the distance. Colored clothing hangs across windows. The buildings of El Prado are elegant, majestic, grand. They are also faded, chipped, crumbling and decaying. Rich and brightly colored cars flash past. This is Vintage Chic.

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We go to the market by the sea and the railway. We buy many things and then we walk back, back towards the heart. Back streets and side streets, main boulevards and squares. A grid. Houses are open, Che is there and sometimes Jesus. Flowers are for sale, only a few, tomatoes are for sale but also only a few. The people smile, and speak and greet. Where are we from? Happy New Year! Do we like Cuba? They are interested in our answers and then they move on peacefully. No hassle, we are their guests and we are welcome. They are our hosts and we are grateful for their generosity.

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People work, many are old. The dogs stagger and must be avoided. The houses loom above our heads, a man offers to show us inside his home, it is dark and very dusty. Closer to the Cathedral we go, the squares get wider, the Cuban flag gets prouder. Leather books are piled high on market stalls, badges and Revolutionary memorabilia change hands. Illiteracy is almost eradicated in Cuba. Flowers bloom and hang over metal gates. It is December. The sun is hot, the court yard where we eat paella and are serenaded by a man with an angel’s voice, is cool.

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The Cathedral plaza is lively. Creole women and men with fat cigars walk around. Fortunes are told and with a flash of black and white, drinks and lunch are served. Round the corner, the street is dancing, the red, blue and white flag is swaying, people salsa, a hand grabs my hand and I salsa. La Bodeguita del Medio, mojitos, cohibas, musicians. So many people, such a small space. Mint leaves are torn, limes are squeezed. It all spills out, spills out outside. Squiggles and signatures, faces press against the wooden bars. Now slowly back to Hotel Seville, where the horses pull and strain but the carts seldom move.

          Time has stood still.  This can’t be, but it was, it was all just an afternoon in Havana.

5* Paradisus Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

An oasis of tropical escapism embraces the fine white sands and crystalline waters of legendary Playa Bavaro.

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Our suite was on the beach front, and was very large and spacious. Each room has a living area, individually controlled air conditioning and ceiling fan, coffee maker, safe deposit box, luxurious bathrooms, private terrace or balcony with jacuzzi, 24 hour room service and daily stocked minibar. Room service includes Champagne, breakfast and full three course meals.

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Paradisus Punta Cana Resort, coexists in harmony with nature which results in an exquisite balance of natural and man-made wonders. Open-air architecture featuring indigenous materials gracefully rises from artfully designed tropical gardens, native mangrove forests, soaring palms and magnificent views of the stunningly clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea.

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At every turn there is a new species of exotic vegetation, native birds and delicate garden scents. The Caribbean playground offers tennis, championship golf, an array of gorgeous pools, every non-motorized water sport imaginable, a casino, an exquisite full-service spa and health club and a thrilling collection of unique island activities.

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The staff are incredibly professional and attentive to hotel guests. As we walked round the grounds, a man cut up a coconut that had fallen off the trees and gave it to use. Its taste was incredible.

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All the hotel buildings are exotic, clean and very spacious.

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The resort offers 9 international restaurants, 8 bars with premium drinks and 24 hours room service

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The food was range was incredible, with each restaurant designed differently. Our favorite was the Argentinian Grill. Make sure you book well in advance because they fill up quickly! After dinner, if you can stay awake, after the early rise, day at the beach, excellent food and wine, don’t forget to go to the beach bar, disco or even to the circus.

The only bad comment I feel that should be highlighted were the vouchers amounting to $1,500 that we were given to spend at the resort. We didn’t spend any, as most had conditions of high minimum spends attached to them.

The hotel was beautiful, the beach idyllic and the service top rate. Choose Paradisus as your Punta Cana destination, you won’t be disappointed!

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