5 episodes

Join us on our tour across Cuba and discover with us this beautiful island. We traveled from Havana all the way west and then made our way east east, crossing the Sierra Maestre and along the coast to Santiago de Cuba. Ruth loves Cuba, while Christof hates it pretty much all the way until the end. Well, eventually he did enjoy the trip very much. Come and be our travel companion!
All recordings are “live” - that is we did not cut or edited anything besides intro and end.

A girl a guy and an island podcast Unknown

    • Society & Culture

Join us on our tour across Cuba and discover with us this beautiful island. We traveled from Havana all the way west and then made our way east east, crossing the Sierra Maestre and along the coast to Santiago de Cuba. Ruth loves Cuba, while Christof hates it pretty much all the way until the end. Well, eventually he did enjoy the trip very much. Come and be our travel companion!
All recordings are “live” - that is we did not cut or edited anything besides intro and end.

    Dec 9 - Pinar del Rio

    Dec 9 - Pinar del Rio

    Ruth got up early to enjoy the beautiful landscape. After the breakfast in our hotel, we drove to Pinar del Rio. The cigar factory in the town was unfortunately closed. We walked a bit around, but to be honest there is not that much to look at. So we decided to drive to the tobacco plantation.
    On our way out of the city we got a flat tire. Local were rushing in to help and we changed the tire in no time. Because of the road conditions we did not dare to drive on without a spare tire, so we started looking for a repair shop. Finally we met Lester, a young man who guided us to a repair shop, where we got our tire repaired (they also found another tire that needed some attention). So two hours later we had both tires fixed. It was about 20 dollars, so that wasn't too bad.
    It turns out that Lester has an older brother, who then showed us the Tobacco factory. Ronny (Ronaldino) was actually the manager there. Ronny spoke perfect English. He is also a real business man and sold Ruth two packs of cigars. With all the help we received, the private tour we and and the warm welcome we received from Lester and Ronny's family, we did not feel bad about the 'deal' we got (plus, the cigars were really good).

    • 25 min
    Dec 8 - Drive to Vinales

    Dec 8 - Drive to Vinales

    An early start
Ruth got up at 6:30 to take some pictures of the sun raise. Very beautiful and romantic even when you are walking up Malecon by yourself. Havana is very peaceful in the morning before all the tourists come out :-)

Car Rental - check your confirmation...
Christof got up at 8:15 and around 9:00 we were ready for our breakfast. Ruth was eager to get to the car rental. We took a cab to the airport where we were supposed to pick up our 4x4 with soft top! At the rental office they did not have a reservation from us, the guy drove us over to the main terminal. Same story there - no reservation. After three hours of discussions and waiting (Christof considered calling his company's travel service to "get us out of there"). Ruth eventually got us a Peugeot 205. Half the car for twice the price.
    Studying the "confirmation" email revealed some small fine print at the bottom: "if you like to book this car, please send us an email to confirm your reservation". So we never booked a car. We learned that what may look like a confirmation and even shows a confirmation number can be just as easily a simple email.
On the road to Viñales
Road navigation turned out to b a challenge. With no street signs around, we missed the entrance to the highway - it looked like a side road. Luckily Christof had put a map of Cuba on his GPS. It was not always 100% accurate and did neither include all the small streets nor street names or turn-by-turn directions, but it allowed us to determine where we were and how much "off" we were compared with the tourist map that was our only other navigation tool. Eventually we found the highway leading to the north. You can find more information about the GPS map here. (Thanks to Richard Smith for the work he put into mapping the entire caribbean - you're our hero!)
    We stopped at a gas station. They had packaged ham and cheese sandwiches (Christof loves ham and cheese sandwiches). They put them into the microwave. They also had all kinds of cookies and chips along with a variety of soft drinks, ice cream, and we even spotted Beck´s beer. We left the highway right after the gas station and drove towards Soroa. Our cab driver in Havana had given us instructions. Without his advice we would never have found the road. The road was actually much better than the highway.

Hotel Los Jazmines
Sure enough we missed the hotel, there was no sign when coming from Viñales but after turning around a wonderful new green sign showed the way. An amazing hotel, kept in pink. All rooms have a view to the mountains - looks a bit like Tanzania - breathtaking and very relaxing. The hotel has a nice swimming pool. Even tough the hotel is very nice, the food is not, just like the guide book promised. The menu was very European - Spaghetti etc. Ruth had fruits for a starter and fish as the main course. The plate arrived with rice and French fries I thought I am in England :-) Christof ordered Spaghettis and with a beer and a water we paid 13 Pesos.
Unfortunately Ruth had 2 Mojitos, so fighting and going to bed at 20:15 was unavoidable. Ruth made a note to herself to stop drinking.

Things we noticed:
    • Hotels don't provide toilet brushes
    • Forget about road signs. Heck, there are not that many roads to begin with...
    • Bring a GPS (forget stories about GPS' being illegal. The alternative is getting lost. Check out http://rwsmaps.griffel.se
    • When you miss an exit on the autopista - just "bang a u'ie" and turn around

    • 9 min
    Dec 8 - Cab Ride to Havana Airport

    Dec 8 - Cab Ride to Havana Airport

    We had a very nice cab driver who took us to the airport and talked with us a lot about Cuba: How to drive safely, how to handle police, how car ownership works and about the political and economic situation in cuba.
    It’s a 20 minute show, but we didn’t want to cut out anything. It provides a great inside scoop.

    • 24 min
    Dec 7 - Third day in Havana

    Dec 7 - Third day in Havana

    Ruth writes:
    Yes - I am still in Havana - what more could I want...okay there is
something but never mind. At 7:00 am I woke up full of energy, put on my running gear and hit the road. What a perfect morning! I just ran down Obispo and along the water on Malecon to the Havana Libre - what an ugly building. But since I was advised by Ralf to go there for the view and check out the roof top bar, we will definitely do so.
    I met a very nice fellow on my run and he followed me the entire course which was almost for an hour. He was very considering (hard to find with other guys sometimes), so when I made a quick stop he simply waited for me without any complaining ... a dream, but it was just unfortunately just dog :-) The people at the reception of the hotel had to stop him otherwise he would have come with me to my room... Typically I am afraid of dogs I really liked this one.
    A few other guys talked to me during my walking breaks. Everybody is very friendly just wants to say hi and do some small talk - I like that instead of the ignorance you often find in Europe. 

After my run we went for breakfast.

Our walking tour today brought us to the convent of Santa Clara which was unfortunately closed. I did not mind it since the way their was through the wonderful back streets of Havana; I can not get enough of these impressive streets. It is unbelievable how poor these people are but they try to keep everything very clean and neat. On our stroll through old Havana we made a stop at the Cafe Escorial (Plaza Vajia)- very good coffee. Besides the regular coffees, they have a lot of alcohol versions which I stayed away
from....only after 1 hour later when we had lunch at a very touristy place on Obispo. I think Mojito and I are now best friends! I love the mint and sugar rum mixture! Since I only had a salad I felt like I have room to try one of the pizzas which you can buy on the streets. Hmmm, street pizza is disappointing but you have to try - right?

Due to high alcohol consumption and exhaustion Christof needed a nap. I took this opportunity to start writing Christmas and post cards. To weird - I am sitting here in my little summer flower dress and write Christmas cards. But such is life the strangest things are happing sometimes.

We walked all the way along the Malecon to the Habana Libre - not as nice as I had anticipated from my morning runs. We arrived at the Habana Libre at 19:00 but unfortunately the restaurant opens only at 19:30 - being very hungry and not wanting to wait in the very ugly hotel lobby (think 1970 Eastern Germany) , we took a
cap to the Hotel Sevilla since this was also recommended roof top hotel. 4 Pesos for the ride and we are standing in a posh and not so inviting roof top restaurant with open “windows” to look out - not exactly what we wanted.
Another 2 Pesos further we ended up in the Amundos Hotel from the first night - we love it - low key - flip flops and casual travel wear are no problem :-) We had another wonderful Iberian ham starter and dinner with lobster scrimp and sword fish. I had 2 Mojitos - 2 too many: I promised Christof to be a bit nicer to him from now on and not to laugh about him that much - I have no idea how I will keep this promise (especially since I am not laughing about him but simply doubt that he is right all the time -
big difference)! 
Things we noticed:
    • Creme Cake - they have biscuit cake with butter creme - very tasty not like the sugar version you can get in the US.
    • The Italians have left Cuba too quickly - the pizza is more like very bad American Pizza.
    • Talk to people not all of them want to see you something. Some of them are just curious.
    • La Mercato is only romantic at night if you have earplugs and a gas mask. There is so much traffic...

    • 7 min
    Dec 6 - Running in Havana

    Dec 6 - Running in Havana

    I did the best thing one can do after arguing with your husband in one of
the most romantic cities there are. I woke up at 7:15 (after 9 hours of
sleep) and went for a run. Since I had left my high tech equipment at home
it was just me and the road - it felt like the movie what women want. And
what more could I want! I run north to the boardwalk and followed the water
for a while - so relaxing and beautiful. Sure enough on my way back to the
hotel I got lost since all the streets look pretty much the same but I felt
very safe just like in Vienna. So I keep running through the back roads and
really enjoyed the Havana lifestyle. At that time of day you do not see to
many tourist :-)

Ah and I got a SMS from “the cold”, that today is St.Nikolaus day. Very cute
but totally unrealistic - Santa would melt here and for some reason nobody
filled my stockings...

After a shower it was time to wake up Christof and even tough it was already
8:15...the guy was still tired. Around 9:00 we went for breakfast. Havana
will not win any price for breakfast from me. Anyway there was coffee,
bread, eggs, lots of sweet baked goods....fruits. These fruits actually
tasted very nice - might Regina be wrong after all? There was one fruit
which I have to find out what it was. Pink meat, sweet, seeds, you can not
eat the shell.... They had Mango juice, which I loved!

We then started our first walk to the city - it is busy. We walked in the
direction of Parque Central. After 2 hours of walking Christof wanted to
return his bag to the hotel where a sudden tiredness hit us and we slept for
2 hours.

After a good nap we walked to the museum de la revolution. Since I am not a
big museums I found the museum okay. From there we went to the hotel Sevilla
and had a little snack since I am very difficult when hungry. To get in the
Cuban spirit I had a tuna sandwich, fruit salad and a Mojito - wow - that
stuff was good and I was in a very good mood afterwards :-). We then went
passed the boardwalk and to the plaza de Cathedra, where I topped up my
alcohol level with a Havana Special at the la patio. Very nice bar with
outside seating.

After another quick nap we were ready for dinner. The plan was to go to Cafe
Taberna but on arrival it seemed a bit empty and not as promising. So we
ended up at a cafe right next to it were you could sit nicely outside- I
forgot already the name since I did not like the food too much. The fish was
great but the rest a disappointment. When leaving the Plaza Vieja we passed
by the Cafe Taberna and they had a life music/dancing show - not bad I must
say - would have been the better choice.

We took a night cap at our hotel and I am assuming that the bar keeper
wanted to kill me. They did not have peppermint so Christof ordered a Havana
Special and there was simply to much alcohol in it. It took me 30 sec after
hitting the bed to fall asleep - I almost missed to say good night to the
stars :-)

Things we noticed:

    • they sell pizza on the streets just like in Italy
    • the sandwich buns are yellow colored and the put fatty meat and vegetable
in there.
    • Obispo is very well renovated and does not reflect the style of the rest
of the city
    • In department stores you stand in line until the desk with the stuff you
want is free - not like in Europe where everybody just goes in and buys what
he needs
    • bring money when going to the bathroom - they will “sell” you the toilet
    • there is dog poo just like in Vienna

    • 13 min

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