Sunday, 2 March 2014

Arrival in Varadero Tariq Hossenbux

Tariq Hossenbux
Arrival in Varadero - Tariq Hossenbux

Our flight from Ottawa to Cuba eventually gets airborne after a trip to the deicing pad. It's a 737-800 series which is modern but not yet equipped with the latest seatback entertainment screens. Nicely staffed though by a friendly crew who in part probably are not Canadian. This airline sends its plane to do work elsewhere in the off season from sunholidays flying from Canada. After debarking from our Sunwing flight around 11am, we encountered an enormous lineup at customs. Seemed like about 3 planes had unloaded all at once and we were at the end of the line! Finally after a very long time in what was probably one of the slowest moving of the lines we were processed by the customs officer. They don't ask many questions, but they do take your photo. There are some footprints painted on the ground that you stand on, then a little logitech camera takes your picture. They don't stamp your passport, but instead stamp your visa. As you open the door to the next area we thought we were done with the lines, but then you get in line for ANOTHER big line for security going into Cuba! It gives you some time to consider the differences. Why is there another line? Stopping smuggling? Providing jobs to more people? I think it's probably the latter. Anyhow because our party had young children we were able to pass ahead more quickly than others. Finally stepping outside into the parking lot we were blasted by heat that felt like about 38 degree heat. Be careful to have your sunscreen here in Cuba! We were directed towards our bus. It's a nice modern Volvo coach and once aboard our tour guide was a friendly young Cuban woman. She was able to give us some early tips and information about the pricing of excusions from the hotel like bus tours to Havana or Catamaran trips. They have beers on the coach that you can buy  2 for $5. To be honest the scenery isn't very interesting on the way to the hotel. They land has sandy soil that only seems to support scrubby vegetation and there are not very many farms here. Sometimes you see horses or a few cows grazing by the roadside. There are a couple of smalls towns along the way during the 30 minute ride to the hotel, with small square concrete dwellings. The people are obviously very poor, but sometimes they manage to make their homes better by growing hanging vegetation like vines over them or growing litle gardens. Being a communist country you don't see a lot of businesses in these towns from the highway other than little cantinas for the locals. When you enter the hotel zone though the scene changes in an artificial seeming way as they bus makes its stops at the well maintained hotel properties dropping off guests. You won't really be absorbing the authentic local culture of Cuba at the hotel because they are isolated from Cuban towns. You can however rent a scooter or cab to see other places though. Our hotel is the Melia Marina Hotel which at the end of the Varadero Peninsula. When we arrive our rooms are not ready yet (which is not good) but we go to the restaurant to eat lunch. It's an all inclusive, and our fears (based on the stories of others in Cuba) were proven to be unfounded at least in this case. There is a wide selection of foods available and everything is perfectly good. They don't seem to spice the food a lot, but they have some sauces that you can add to it . There is pasta, fresh grilled fish, beef and chicken among many other things. For some reason there usually isn't a lot of lettuce at the salad bar. I find that strange because it's so easy to grow. The staff are friendly, attentive and eager to provide good service. The restaurant is on the second floor of the hotel and has a nice view overlooking the marina and the main entertainment area alongside it. In between eating lunch we check the main lobby television periodically because Canada is playing an Olympic semi final hockey game. There is a big crowd of Canadians watching of course and a huge cheer when we win 1-0! A good start to the vacation i would say. After checking in our nice rooms overlooking the marina it's time to check out the famous beach.....

Tariq Hossenbux -  Melia Resort 2014

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