I began the journey with delays to trains, planes and finally luggage system in Havana. My first evening spent looking around the area near my Hotel Park View on the borders of Havana Vieja. I ended up visiting Casa del Tango in Calle Neptuno for an impromtu Salsa with one of the teachers
As I walked from the Hotel Plaza, I noticed a young woman carrying a Tango shoe bag over her shoulder. I called over to her but she carried on walking faster, avoiding my attempts to talk. As she reached her partner I managed to say in my Spanglish that I saw her bag and I was a Tango teacher from London. It turns out they were teachers here and invited me to the Art Gallery in Calle Oreilly where the teach. What a coincidence! Whilst awaiting the private lesson, I danced 4 dances with Sandra and video’d them. I have to say she was as good a dancer I have come across in London and Buenos Aires. She is Cuban and only dances TANGO. Most of my week in Havana was spent mainly in La Habana Vieja. I enjoyed dancing in Lluvia de Oro. Each day they have live music with fabulous musicians. I also met Yaneisy and Felipe who dance at the Bar across the road.
I danced with her a couple of times and received great ovations from tourists and Cubanos watching from the street.
I was able to dance at Hotel Florida, Bar Montseratte, Bar Franco which are all located within 500 meters of Hotel Seville. Casa de la Musica is another popular place with tourists but also has a significant number of women after one thing. I also enjoyed Bar Asturias in Prada. Its an airconditioned small club with live music and costs $5 cuc. Open till 4am most days. I met a dancer Mara who was such fun and didnt drink alcohol either!
There are many enjoyable experiences to be had in some local Bars. Of course, sightseeing is something to do and there are museums and places to visit. I enjoy walking along the Malecon and around Havana Vieja. There are many Cubans who will hustle you for money and it becomes a bit wearing after a few days. The usual is I have money to feed my baby. Can you give me $5 for milk. It shows how well communism works if the average Cuban cannot feed their own children. I would say to most of them, why not ask El Commandante for money. Police are everywhere in LaHabana and often if you are talking to a Cuban in the street the Police will call them over for documentation. It will then take about 20 minutes for the interrogation to finish.
TRINIDAD I stayed at the Club Amigo Costa Sur which is 13k from the centre of the town along the coast. It is a resort with some bungalows by the beach plus normal single and double rooms in a complex. I found the staff in the main very obliging. When I did have problems they were sorted out quickly. I would recommend the resort for those wanting a safe, clean, friendly resort with good amenities.
Trinidad is not as busy as LaHabana but still full of people trying to make money from tourists. They constantly approach you with many offers, try and ingratiate themselves with you. The most common expression is “where u fron? If you say Ingleterra it is usually followed by “Olimpic, I like Eenglish peepol, I show u Trinidad” which is then followed by a trip to a Bar. They order Mojitos all round. Of course you are expected to pay. I got caught once but if you are happy to pay for the company then go ahead. I found it a bit irritating after 3 days of constant “I am yor fren”.
The dancing was great fun which compensated for the stress at times. I managed a few hours teaching in Trinidad and Costa Sur. Most of the students were tourists although I did a Tango lesson to a Cuban dancer in a Casa Particular. I also did a stint as a DJ at the Club Amigo on a Wednesday afternoon which was fun. The Cubans seemed to enjoy the ecletic mix I did.
I met many dance teachers there and despite the fact that they generally dance brilliantly, most do not have great teaching skills. It surprised me. I met some tourists with their Cuban teachers who seemd to be dancing to a different timing.
At Casa de la Musica I met a lot of local dancers and once they realised I love dancing, they were very hospitable. A local teacher asked me over to dance with his partner who had told him she wanted to dance with me. It was flattering in a way. I can say I have definately danced with some of the best Salsa dancers in the world. I really enjoyed the dance with Lidise Ramirez who is one of the top professionals in Trinidad. It was filmed at Casa de la Trova by a French guy. No rehearsal just out there. She gives lessons with her partner Lesbiel who also performs with an Afrocuban group.