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John Mitchell

Cuba -- the Yanks are coming!

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No offense to our American friends but this news makes me wish I had gotten it together to visit Cuba ten years ago:

 

http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2016/02/16/commercial-flights-restored-between-cuba-us-after-50-years.html

 

No doubt there will be an increased demand for Cuba images in the US.

 

P.S. I don't mean to sound too uppity about this. Canadians have been invading Cuba for decades.

Edited by John Mitchell

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And we Yanks have been vacationing in Cuba for decades via Canada. My ex-wife, my entire ex-family, took a package tour by way of Montreal. I had intended to go down myself, to complete the circle of having the right drink at all of Hemingway's haunts. The two bars in Havana were the only places left to do. And since I have two legal passports, I could have flown to Mexico City on my US passport and then flown to Havana on my Irish passport. Oh well, too late now.   :unsure:

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It's a good thing, of course, that the US is finally "normalizing" (whatever that means) relations with Cuba, but it will change the country immensely.

 

Always best to "get there before they build the road," as the old saying goes. Or at least before they build a Walmart. B)

Edited by John Mitchell
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I strongly suspect they'll have to make some significant changes to Havana's airport to cope with the increased traffic. When we arrived for our tour two years ago, it took 3 hrs to get our luggage and leave the airport. Well worth the effort though, it was a fascinating trip.

 

I also wonder if they'll be removing 'Cretin's Corner' from the Museum of the Revolution. For those not familiar, it consists of cartoons and slogans deriding former US presidents.

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Been there last July, we traveled by car (with a driver) from Havana down to Santiago de Cuba, more than 1000 km.

Fascinating place, it was nice we´ve been there before the "american" invasion that for sure will happen now.

Still, there are two faces to it, it´s good that we had a "real cuban" experience, but the country is struggling with a lot of things.

Food was kind of boring, for instance, because people don´t have access to spices to use in the restaurants, this was very unexpected for us in a caribbean country.

Public transportation outside of Havana means trucks carrying people, very shocking, looks like a concentration camp, trycilces, horses, yes, back in time.

We used cars, taxis, bycicle taxis, coco taxis,..., for tourists its a lot of fun, for normal people leaving a normal life, not so sure.

Air Cuba is very unreliable and lots of flights get canceled so don´t do what we did, and dont book a connection internation flight in the same day your flying inside Cuba. Go to your end destination by plane and back by car.

Avoid trains, we knew a couple who traveled from Havana to Santiago de Cuba, they said it was a nightmare.

Don´t drive between the cities by yourself, its not that its dangerous, but the signs are unexistent on the routes, the distances are long and the traffic, "exotic" (very old cars, horses, ...). Get a driver and enjoy the view.

Take Euros instead of Dollars and convert them to CUCs in the airport.

Very few places take credit cards so you need to take cash.

The region around Santiago de Cuba was severely damaged by Sandy Hurricane and the beaches are not very nice at the moment.

Having said that, the people are extremely friendly, the beaches are awesome (we havent been to Varadero, but Guardalavaca and Trinidad, they are paradise), there is a lot of HIstory and historical places very well conservated (fortresses, even the oldest house in the Americas and so on). 

Havana vieja is a must go, music everywhere and a turn back in time historical city.

Downtown Havana is in ruins, but we went to a restaurant in the middle of the ruins of an old building, it was very interesting.

So, go with an open mind and open heart and you will enjoy it,

Cheers!

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A great report, Alex -- very helpful for those who'll go..

 

Thanks.

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I spent some time in Santiago de Cuba and I agree with Alexandre. The only detail I would add is that Cuba has an excellent universal healthcare system open to all.

 
We spent lots of time off resort. Ever village had a free medical clinic. We did not see a poor person left suffering from an untreated medical condition, the way you did on other island nations in the Caribbean.
 
While we were there, an elderly tourist suffered a serious heart attack. He was stabilized by the resort nurse. He and his wife were take by ambulance to a hospital in Santiago de Cuba. He was in the hospital, with his wife by his side for 3 weeks, until he was medically ready to fly home. NO CHARGE !! 
 
If you go, buy medical travel insurance just the same.
 
Here is the good and the bad about Cuban health care.
 

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I also wonder if they'll be removing 'Cretin's Corner' from the Museum of the Revolution. For those not familiar, it consists of cartoons and slogans deriding former US presidents.

 

Probably not, US intervention is a big part of Cuba's history. In fact, they may have a new bloviating cartoon character -- the likes of which no one could have imagined -- to add to the corner soon. 

 

However, the new battle cry of the revolution ¡Turismo o muerte! will probably get a lot louder. I think Obama deserves much credit for trying to improve US relations with Cuba. Hopefully, all his good work won't get undone after the upcoming presidential election. I don't think that the Cubans will be putting him in 'Cretin's Corner'.

Edited by John Mitchell

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I spent some time in Santiago de Cuba and I agree with Alexandre. The only detail I would add is that Cuba has an excellent universal healthcare system open to all.

 

We spent lots of time off resort. Ever village had a free medical clinic. We did not see a poor person left suffering from an untreated medical condition, the way you did on other island nations in the Caribbean.

 

While we were there, an elderly tourist suffered a serious heart attack. He was stabilized by the resort nurse. He and his wife were take by ambulance to a hospital in Santiago de Cuba. He was in the hospital, with his wife by his side for 3 weeks, until he was medically ready to fly home. NO CHARGE !!

 

If you go, buy medical travel insurance just the same.

 

Here is the good and the bad about Cuban health care.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_Cuba

Yes, they are famous for the gealth care. Also we didnt see kids begging on the streets as we see in Brazil and it is very safe to walk in the streets.

We just think that cubans deserve more, the challenge is how to have the benefits of an open market, but keep the good health, education and safety.

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It's about time we reached out to Cuba. We've had an embassy in Hanoi for sometime now.

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I spent some time in Santiago de Cuba and I agree with Alexandre. The only detail I would add is that Cuba has an excellent universal healthcare system open to all.

 

We spent lots of time off resort. Ever village had a free medical clinic. We did not see a poor person left suffering from an untreated medical condition, the way you did on other island nations in the Caribbean.

 

While we were there, an elderly tourist suffered a serious heart attack. He was stabilized by the resort nurse. He and his wife were take by ambulance to a hospital in Santiago de Cuba. He was in the hospital, with his wife by his side for 3 weeks, until he was medically ready to fly home. NO CHARGE !!

 

If you go, buy medical travel insurance just the same.

 

Here is the good and the bad about Cuban health care.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_Cuba

Yes, they are famous for the gealth care. Also we didnt see kids begging on the streets as we see in Brazil and it is very safe to walk in the streets.

We just think that cubans deserve more, the challenge is how to have the benefits of an open market, but keep the good health, education and safety.

 

 

Cuba is in a better position that a lot of so-called "developed" countries -- universal healthcare, high literacy rate, free post-secondary education, etc.

Edited by John Mitchell
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As an American, I can say that I love the culture of Cuba, but I am no fan of it's government.  Florida is loaded with people who fled the country in fear of their life.  My hope is that they work to better themselves and create a government more in line with what the people actually would like to see.  Sadly, as already stated, the old cars and old buildings will be slowly replaced by modern tech.  Is is kind of a love hate thing for me to see it happen, but progress, right?

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As an American, I can say that I love the culture of Cuba, but I am no fan of it's government.  Florida is loaded with people who fled the country in fear of their life.  My hope is that they work to better themselves and create a government more in line with what the people actually would like to see.  Sadly, as already stated, the old cars and old buildings will be slowly replaced by modern tech.  Is is kind of a love hate thing for me to see it happen, but progress, right?

 

I think that Cuba will slowly open up and gradually become more democratic, especially if the US continues to engage with the Cuban government. Things could change dramatically, though, depending on who ends up in the White House next year. As mentioned, Cuba already is very advanced in a lot of social areas. Economic progress can be a double-edged sword. With increasing capitalism will come both the best and worst of that philosophy. Hopefully, Cubans can strike a balance that won't destroy the good in their society. I guess they will eventually have to build a very large museum to house all those old American cars.

 

P.S. Not to paint a too-rosy picture of the Castro regime, but there are plenty of people living in Canada who fled the US fearing for their lives at various times in the past.

Edited by John Mitchell
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