Saturday, 24 December 2011


On the menu in Cuba
Have you ever heard a pig squeal?  With a bag over it’s head and carried out of the home into the unknown, the pig will kick and struggle and you can hear it’s cry sounding all around the neighbourhood.  The first time I heard it, I thought, ‘what the hell is that?’, but now the sound has become familiar and accepted, it’s a sign of a Cuban celebration; a birthday, Christmas, New Year.  

All year round Cubans will collect their scraps in a slosh bucket, ‘sancocho’, and it is someone’s job to come and collect it every few days to feed the pig in which they have a stake.  Usually, family members will buy a piglet amongst themselves and feed it all year round ready for Christmas or New Year celebrations.  

Christmas in Trinidad, Cuba with the family usually means a family meal on Christmas Eve.  As they are not very religious, Christmas Day is just like any other day, but New Year’s Eve is when the party begins, it’s a day-long fiesta!!!!  

Draught Beer in Cuba
My New Year’s Eve experience in Trinidad, I arrived to find that the family had hired a beer pump with easy access to refreshing cold beer all day long, and the family pig roasting slowly in the garden.  People from the neighbourhood & friends passing by all day long with warm wishes, and a quick drink to toast in the new-year; it was like Piccadilly Circus!

Then the family would arrive and the feast would begin, by which time I was already feeling merry, and full from picking at food all-day long.  There’s only so much beer I can take, so I crack open a bottle of rum and the dancing begins into the early hours of the new-year.  

Feliz Año Nuevo, amigos mios, I will miss you this year!

Typical Cuban Meal Fiestas

New Year Celebrations Trinidad, Cuba 2006

Friday, 9 December 2011


What type of power converter should I take to Cuba?

The voltage in most Casa Particulares in Cuba is 110V, but you may find that they have a secret outlet, connected to an air-con machine somewhere in the house which is 220V.

Don't ask me how this works, I don't even understand it myself, but one time I had trouble charging an i-pod, it wouldn't charge in the socket in the bedroom, where I have charged countless numbers of mobile phones or cameras.  How can this be?  Just when you think you know how things work in Cuba, something comes along to test you.

I took it to my family, and Gustavo unplugged the air-con unit in the bedroom and stuck the i-pod charger in it, and hey, it worked!  Off course he tried to explain about voltages and the reason it wouldn't work in the other sockets in the house, but I had to admit, I couldn't get my head round it.  I was just happy it worked.

I've always been the kind of person that has tried to work things out on my own, refusing to ask for help.  But if there is one thing I have learned during my travels, especially in Cuba, if you don't know, ask, it's definitely the best policy.

In any case, coming from the UK or Central America, I usually take both a 2 pin flat head and a 2 pin round head adaptor and that usually works for most chargers that are coming from the UK.  I take both as you never know, but mostly I have used the 2 pin flat head adaptor in most Casas in Cuba.

Check out this information on Tripadvisor, but remember it mostly refers to hotel rooms and not Casa Particulares.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011


La Habana is a fascinating place and the best way to get to know the city, the people, the culture, the do’s & donts is to have someone show you around and answer all your questions.  We can recommend an excellent local guide that can walk you around la Habana and charm you with all the splendours that it has to offer.  A typical itinerary includes visits to:

  • The 4 most important Plazas of la Habana; de La Catedral, de Armas, Vieja, de San Francisco and it's surrounding areas
  • Capitolio
  • Parque Central
  • Paseo del Prado
  • La Avenida del Puerto
  • Calle Obispo
  • Malecón Habanero
  • Avenidas Monserrate y Zulueta

The guide will also walk you around some non-touristy areas of la Habana, talk to you about the most common scams of Cuba and how to avoid them etc, this will give you a good starting point and make your stay all the more enjoyable.   Contact us for more details.

Capitolio & la Habana Vieja

Monday, 31 October 2011


Are you a secret musician dieing to let your creativity burst free? Cuba is the perfect place to explore your musical talent. Come to Trinidad, Cuba and learn to play the Tumbadora (Congos), Maracas, Guiro, Clave, Chequere or the Bongo with David López Garabito.

David is truly talented, he has a wonderful gift which he loves to share with others. His talent has been noticed by others, so much so, that he has been invited to Canada on numerous occassions to give concerts and teach Cuban music.

Don´t miss out on the opportunity to learn from this Master Percussionist, experience true Cuban musical culture with a professional musician dedicated to giving you an experience you will cherish forever.

Saturday, 10 September 2011


Being close to the beach, well about 10km, was one of the reasons I chose to study Spanish in Trinidad, Cuba.  When I set foot on Playa Ancon beach for the first time, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  My checklist for an ideal beach was pretty much covered:
  • gorgeous aquamarine waters
  • perfect temperature - warm enough for me to bathe in (me and cold water do not agree)
  • crystal clear – excellent, that way I can see if anything is coming to bite me
  • soft white sand – feels good on the feet and looks good enough to eat (like vanilla ice-cream)
  • a beach bar – food & drink is always essential
  • trees on the beach – having shade is always a bonus
  • sun-beds & umbrellas – for those who don’t mind paying a little extra for some additional comfort
It’s easy enough to get from Trinidad to Playa Ancon, hop on the tourist Trinibus or try and share the taxi fare with someone.  The Trinibus is a hop-on-hop off service but the final dropping off point is beside the Hotel Playa Ancon.  There are a couple of hotels on the beach, but don’t let that put you off, you still have pretty much 4km of beautiful beach to yourself, especially if you take a stroll away from the hotels, but then you might not find so much shade.

Thursday, 6 January 2011


“Quick, quick, hide!!!!!”, my casa’s 8 year old daughter came running over to me while I was sweeping the leaves from the mango and advocado trees in the back garden, still in my pyjamas. “Where?”, I think out aloud and we both look towards the tiny outdoor bathroom used by the family. So in I get and lock the door behind me from the inside. It’s probably the first time I have had a good look at their bathroom, and it’s tiny and less flashy in comparison to the one used by the tourists inside the house.

I had no clue what was actually going on, but I had an idea that it could be a random house inspection. They are always a threat to a casa particular in Cuba. Whilst hiding in the bathroom, starting to feel a little claustrophobic, my casa’s father is at the door, talking to the Inspectors, he invites them in, he has the gift of the gab, and is always the joker, but he has no clue where I am or that his family were sneaking around the house trying to hide my belongings; my backpack was being thrown out the bedroom window by one of his 8 year old twins, whilst the other one carries it across the garden and over the wall. His wife is in the bedroom, throwing the washing over the bed and is calmly re-folding the clothes when the Inspector and her husband walk by. The Inspector didn’t even bat an eye-lid!

Luckily I hadn’t unpacked my stuff totally, probably conscious that I was actually staying in the casa particular illegally. Amidst the madness they receive a telephone call from the UK, it is my mother asking to speak to me, she is told to call back in 10 minutes without giving an explanation as to where I actually am.

After what felt like an eternity, the Inspector leaves without finding me and they come rescue me from my hiding place in the bathroom. Everyone laughs in relief and makes a joke but we are all shaken, it was a close shave. These random monthly inspections send everyone nerves all over the place, more so that particular month than others as I am staying in their casa particular illegally.

Casa particulars in Cuba have a license to rent a room to tourists and they are required to pay a monthly fee of approx. $200 CUC, depending on how many rooms they rent out and the location of the casa particular. During the low season, some casa particulars take a 3 month reprieve from having a tourist license and switch to having a license to rent out rooms to Cuban tourists only. The monthly fee is considerably less, however foreign tourists are not permitted to stay in these casa particulars.

However, this coincided with one of my visits and being a member of the family now, they still welcomed me into their home, in fact they would have been hurt if I didn’t stay with them, even if it was a bit risky. But off course the problem now is in our eyes I’m no longer a tourist, I’m their long lost cousin!!!!! Regardless of that, I was still illegal in their casa particular.

June 2009