Outside, the streets are shrieking with sunlight. "A good day for the beach," says Carlos, our guide. He sounds a little anxious. Dismiss his suggestion with "Manana". Today, I want to shop and booze in Hemingway's bars. El Floridita wall-to-wall journalists, downing Mojitos and whingeing about expenses. Shops empty, no milk, coffee, bread. One has window dressed with military uniforms. "Army chic," says boyfriend. Combat posters everywhere. Che, Che, Che - no women in the revolution?
Next day, duvet of wet cloud descends. Should have listened to Carlos. Repair to Palacio de Salsa. Girls, girls, girls. So these are the famous "jiniteras". Never seen so much Lycra in my life. The beauties are squired by wrinkly (rich) men. No wonder Hemingway liked it. "Bum, bum, bum," mutters the boyfriend, then swears he is humming a salsa tune.
Kept awake all night by the sound of shagging. First, jinitera and "friend" next door. Then dogs outside in the alley. May as well try to sleep in a brothel. High time the Pope visited. Have promised Tatiana (devout Catholic) a video of his open-air Mass. Struggle up at 5am, and join hope-hungry people in the Plaza. El Papa whizzes by in Popemobile, as though in Formula One training. Miss him completely on the videocam. Tatiana will never forgive me. Thousands, who've waited a lifetime for this, surge towards crash barriers.
Kept awake all night by desperate people cheering. Turn on telly. Castro, for once not in camo gear, talking to the nation. Benefits no importante. Educacin, educacin, educacin ... sounds familiar. Doze off. Come to. Castro still droning on. False teeth don't seem to fit. Still, at least he's got some.
Boyfriend now drooling over classic cars. "See that, babes ... it's a '57 Chevy ... the shape on it ... the body." Hmm. Could be talking about the car, or the jinitera perched on the bonnet. Insist we visit country for a rest from bodies. Comunicaciones muy malo, but manage to book a hotel.
Hotel is a building site. Piscina, without water, being painted. Have a full-blown tantrum. Shout. Stamp. Chew Cuban straw hat. Tastes better than most of the food we have eaten. "Easy," cautions the boyfriend. Manager charms me with large daiquiri. Lie by brilliant blue (empty) pool and get drunk in the sunshine.
Present time. No shortage of rum and cigars. Buy Tatiana flesh-squeezing jumpsuit in Dayglo pink. If she wears that on the Kingsland Road, she'll definitely get arrested. Presents gratefully received, though Tatiana disappointed no papal blessing. Syd opens the rum as Yasmin lights up a Havana.
"Well," says Syd, "from what you've told us, sounds like it's time for a Cuba Libre"Reuse content