I was woken, somewhat red-eyed and bushy tongued, at about 9:45 by the maid knocking on the door to inform me the water would be off for a little bit as they were running Chlorine through the pipes in order to clean them. Lucky for her I had gotten up around 5am for pee otherwise I wouldn’t have got my Mr Grumpy Pyjamas on, because I literally had fallen asleep after undressing the night before.
The morning I felt very rough as one might imagine and my various attempts of snapping out of the funk were unsuccessful. These included knocking back an number of fruit juices (Pineapple, Guava, Orange), water and having a quick dip in the pool, which in the past has proven to get me from walking dead hung over to slightly irritated-head hung over. Anyway I tried to focus my concentration on my book, but ultimately I returned to my room, had a shower and lay on the bed feeling sorry for myself for the majority of the morning. I had a bit of a catnap and went for a walk and began to feel a bit better.
Now the Hotel is quite interesting in some ways, the main lobby part looks pretty much like your typical holiday hotel bar with a small number of shops offering sundry everyday items such as toiletries, chocolate, soft drinks, ice cream etc., suntan lotion and after sun, plus your usual basic trinkets for tourists. There was a special tobacconists for purchase of cigars and alcoholic drinks. There is an internal stage platform which is only used in adverse weather and a relaxed lounged area.
The main pool was very large with a gentle slope one end to accommodate children and younger children a large area for more serious swimmers, a small bar with in-pool seating which was very easy to get sun burnt at, adjacent to this was the part of the pool used for Water Volley Ball. En route to my room was series of mock Roman architecture and statues which were to tie in with the Italian restaurant. The route to the beech was pretty simple and it was less then two minutes before I was walking on glorious white sands and hearing the gentle crashing of waves upon the sea. There is a marina and diving centre where you could hire snorkel equipment, boat and Pedallo hire and arrange small excursions around the bay such as fishing trips or scuba diving expeditions. Of course there was a beach bar which served light snacks all day as well as drinks and at night would double as the Hotel’s nightclub. Also on the beach you would sort your Pool Towel which you could exchange for a fresh one everyday, however if you lose it you would have to pay 10 Convertible Pesos, which is fair enough. Now, foreknowledge is key here and I had been to the same hotel in 2009 so I knew that if I followed the path and through some overgrowth there was a more secluded beach with no tourist trappings and ideal for a walk. I walked through the trees and had a quick chat with a Cuban fisher man who was setting up his nets and I found out he had come all the way from Holguin which was miles and miles away, but fortunately transportation and lifts aren’t a problem as there are various government set up systems and a surprising amount of workers will take up hitchhikers (I vaguely recall that if you have space and you are a commercial driver it is expected of you as simple good manners, also probably better use of resources). After a bit of a stroll down the beach I decided that may stomach was in need of filling and I made my way back to the Hotel and went to the Italian for dinner and had a Pizza for my lunch. There was quite a selection and I selected ‘Fruit de Mer’ which as you may have guessed was a sea food pizza with prawns, mussels, shrimp and other fish. It was very nice but the pizza was thin and doughy and I am a man who likes his Pizzas the same way as Good King Wenceslas: deep pan, crisp and even. I went for another stroll after lunch and decided to have another bit of a swim in the pool but only managed about five lengths before returning to the sun lounger and reading more of my book which managed to lightly balance whimsy and barminess. At this point the character I would called the audience reference point has uncovered the truth about the titular Iris Wildthyme, who is a heavy drinking, chain smoking adventuress who travels around space and time in a Time Travelling Red London Double Decker Bus and met the sentient Vending Machine. I then attempted to get some sun, but I don’t tan, I just go a darker shade of white… or turn into a Lobster. My plan for another dip was cut short by the hotel Entertainment kicking off a late afternoon rendition of Aqua gym, so I proceeded to the bar for a few coffees (no really) and read a bit more of the book. After a few proper drinks I returned to my room and had a shower and got out some more formal clothes for the Gala evening. I had bought what I call my Jimi Hendrix shirt, a pair of thin black trousers and a tie. I decided to drop the tie though, after all I was on holiday.
Because there were a limited number of tables Dave and I had booked a table together as we were both travelling solo and we met at the lobby bar and had a drink. The British Gala Night turned out to be little more then a British Meal in the Italian Restaurant… so we were in an Italian restaurant, in Cuba, having a British meal- hmmm. The choices were Soup or Salad for Starter, Beef or Chicken or main and a Sponge Cake for dessert. I went for Salad and Chicken, I think Dave had the Beef and Soup. We were given a complementary glass of wine which was… well you could tell it was complementary. The Chicken was nice and tender but I wasn’t so hot on the Plumb source, which I feel is more suited to a darker bird like Duck. The dish was served with some nice crunchy veg, namely Carrots and Broccoli, and some Duchess potato which I haven’t had since I was in Primary School.
Once the meal was completed I went to the pool bar and Dave went off to the VIP bar (he was on a VIP ticket) and I noticed a pretty blonde girl in the bar whom I’d seen earlier in the day. I ended up chatting to a Dutch guy for a bit and then some of the evening’s entertainment entered the bar and they appeared to be the Cuban Power Rangers! Essentially this was a preview of the evening’s entertainment and they were something between a traditional Circus act forming human pyramids etc and the Cirque de Soleii, indulging in contortionism and the like. Judging by what the stage was looking for it seemed the evening was going to be a bit like the Royal Variety Show and full of novelty acts, so I opted to stay in the bar. I ended up being drawn into a conversation with a rather creepy Canadian guy who was going on about his “exploits” boffing various Cuban girls offering them bits and pieces and hanging around the seedier side of various cities using chat up techniques which would make Barney Stinson look like a saint. Frankly he reminded of that creepy slime ball who runs that dodgy Casting Couch website. He then proceeded to ask whether or not I had a girlfriend or if I was married and why I wasn’t out banging beaver and suggesting I should accompany him… luckily he had a phone call and I was able to slip away. A few minutes later a somewhat crazy and pissed up lady called Stacy turned up and was pretty much looking for a bit of action, it was here I started chatting to a rather entertaining gay couple called Scott and Graham, one of who looked a lot like The Fast Show‘s Charlie Higson, and we had a giggle at the lady’s bizarre antics. While I was chatting to them about their holiday so far we were joined by a young blond Canadian guy by the name of Wyatt and ended up spending the rest of the evening drinking and having an in depth conversation about Marvel comics and various interpretations of Batman. I reckon it must have been about 1 when I retired but made sure I had kept copies of their email addresses for future reference as to crib Count Scarlioni “It’s be a shame to lose touch with such fascinating people.” I made myself a nice cup of tea and set my alarm as I had my first excursion in the morning.
Left to right: Dave, Scott, Graham
Crazy Tracy and myself
Left to right: Wyatt, Scott, me, Graham and Dave
NB. Checking the photos it seems Dave was present at the end of the evening, now thinking about it I think the VIP bar closed at 11 hence transferring to the Pool Bar. It is likely Dave introduced me to Scott and Graham.