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Lessons learnt

This time last year – ish I was having the MOST joyous of arrivals in a new country with incredibly random arrival protocols (see post from first day in Cuba).

This year there was more of a formal visa involved. Knowing that queues for these bad boys on arrival is nearly always hellish, slow and all you want to do is get the hell out of the airport, I decided to sort it online prior to my trip (it involved having an email in my birthday to wish me a wonderful day as well so the difference in price for the forethought was frankly worth it in my book). I smiled to myself as I filled in the landing card and customs declaration slip – for this journey at least there was the foresight to give this to you on the plane as well rather than having it thrust into your clammy hand having passed the interrogation of the boarder police. I was going to positively rock the arrival this year. 

The heat & humidity engulfing me as I trotted off the second leg of the journey, trying desperately to make a good impression upon arrival rather than a shattered, smelly, unamused Brit with a massive sense of humour failure after having the back of my chair kicked my a devil child & had to endure the whining for the ENTIRE flight.  Into the visa/ passport control hall I went glanced at the busy messy queue and have my self celebratory pats on the back for being so organised. Not a queue at passport control as I handed over all if the required completed documentation. Thought better if it to wish the sour faced lady behind the desk a merry christmas & so opted for a beaming award winning smile and a very happy new year to you. 

Bag was one if first off the belt. Boom. And out I skipped to the Explore! sign & Eric who was meeting us but not our guide for the week. All was going so well. So well. So of course the other flight with the remainder of the group in was delayed with no confirmed time due. 

Why don’t you go get a coffee and I’ll come get you? Eric said pointing down through the crowds where I spied a Costa – honestly I’d rather a frickin beer I think!! 


The joys of flying 

I was packed to perfection with my hand luggage. That was until I needed to get anything from my bag and then everything had to be turned out as it was invariably at the bottom! The copious amounts of shopping I managed to squeeze in at Gatwick South really didn’t help either. Breakfast at Wetherspoons with a glass of bubbles – just because.

I’d given myself the luxury of staying in the Hilton at the airport as I was due to check in around 7/730am. Quite early enough thank you very much. Parked in Purple Parking which was most confusing as its where the Airparks car park was that I always parked in for my flights to Sharm. Think I must have done meet & greet last time I went. I wondered why the journey seemed so darned familiar. Was upgraded on arrival at the Hilton – helps when you ask to add points to your Hilton Honours card (only ever collected points in Sharm before now!!). The bed was comfy & I promise you it was quieter than sleeping in the room above the garage at my parents. There were JUMBO JETS flying over my head all night & I heard not one.

Aware that I wasn’t likely to get online in Cuba I spent the eve & morning messaging loved ones & putting generic message on Facebook. I’ve read the guide books – there’s little to no wifi & even then you have to pay as mobiles etc are such a recent thing in Cuba. Despite this, my gorgeous brother who of course is always right let’s not forget, proceeded to inform me after I mentioned the lack of wifi that things had changed there in the last 2 months & there was going to be wifi everywhere. The infrastructures in this landlocked island of Cuba were reputable screwed at the best of times with ROADS incomplete. The likelihood of wifi suddenly – in 2 months – being available country wide was about as likely as, well a very unlikely thing. But readers please do not think that this is the only time he has been proven wrong, I feel inclined to share the time that brother dearest tried to tell us all that we were actually pronouncing limas incorrectly and it wasn’t as we all pronounce but instead pronounced – leeeemuuuure. It’s why he will forever be in my phone as that. Pillock. (Love you H!! Xxx)

Flying the Spanish equivalent of easyjet I’d already read it was basics only. I was expecting to pay for food & drinks. The flight to Madrid to get the onward connection was exactly this. Surrounded by screaming children and snotty noses I sprayed the First Defence up each nostril (thanks Father Xmas) and pulled out the adult colouring book to keep me occupied. Couldn’t get food or drink as had no card machine working. Amazing.

When I’ve been on these trips before you do always seem to look at everyone on the flight wondering if they are with Explore or not. The only time it was easier to do this was having got off at Madrid to get the connection. Having been very randomly wiped in severely odd places with a piece of cloth – palms, crease of elbow, wrist & shoulders (in that order) I was looking somewhat bemused at having been searched by a male security & thankful it was no more than that (the underwire in my bra is usually a beaut for setting the alarms going!) I passed a comment of some form to the couple in the queue behind me before walking on to the gate, only for them to appear behind me & on asking established that they are on the tour too. Double bonus tho as they had spotted that the flight was delayed so at least I had some company for what turned into the two hour delay. I’d have been quite happy on my own mind as I’d logged on to the free airport wifi & was following the Bath match. (We won about 5 min before boarding – hoorah!!)

I’d been given a middle seat in the middle – the girl next to me promptly fell asleep even before take off & I got the air stewardess to find me an aisle seat as it thankfully wasn’t full. My fellow passenger who I nicknamed Huff in my head, was NOT impressed that I was now sat next to him & proceeded to huff constantly. He was a German engineer – spotted only from his landing card, not by actual communications – I’d have just had a huff. Lady behind me kept stretching her leg out and raising it up as if it was actually going to hit my face – most disconcerting! We were fed & watered and all things considered it was pretty decent. But then I was expecting slop – oh no, sorry that’s what I’ll be on all week!!

The sound didn’t work on the audio thing – we were going old school with the screens in the middle and a big one at the front. Wasn’t just me tho it appeared. Not actually sure why they bothered keeping it going?!! The landing cards came round with a sheet of paper in Spanish. I will never know what the piece of paper said as when I asked if there was a version in English, reasonable request I felt?!, I was told ‘No’ & it was taken off me! Charmed.

Watched Building Jerusalem on the way over on the iPhone. I’m sure I was reacting to watching the coverage perhaps even talking to the screen at points and I know I laughed at one point as I got some looks!!

Only a 2 or so hour delay into Havana and hate to think what time we start in the morning. Sod the coffee first thing – mohitos all the way!!

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