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Half way through our trip, we were ready for some beach time. When we were planning our Cuba trip, we heard a lot about Varadero, some good stories, but mostly bad ones. I think there is a lot of prejudice when it comes to Varadero. Mostly one will hear that it is a very touristy and trashy town. Truth is though that it really is just prejudice. Yes, there are lots of tourists in Varadero, but the town and especially the beach are anything but trashy. In fact, the Varadero beach is maybe one of the most beautiful beaches that I have ever seen.

We reserved our accommodation with lots of effort. I think that it has never been such an overload of tourists in Cuba like this year. The lifted travel ban for US citizens helped Cuba become the number one destination in the Caribbean. But it is not just that. At this point the country is undergoing a significant change politically and opening up itself to the world. Canadians still were the most numerous nation to explore the country, with the Germans right behind them and then lots of others like the Russians, the Chinese, and other Europeans.

Once we got to Trinidad, we still had no available accommodation in Varadero and it was unclear at that point if we were going there or maybe to one of the Cayo Islands. Walking through the town of Trinidad we stumbled upon a travel agency and a very good sales man made sure we got our accommodation in Varadero at last.

Again we booked a private car with a driver which we would share with a pleasant couple from Argentina. The journey itself from Trinidad to Varadero was a far easier and faster one than the one from Havana to Trinidad. It might also have to do with the fact, that we had a newer car (this time one from the 1990s) which was in pretty good shape though.

Once we arrived to our casa, the true adventure started. The street our casa was situated at, was a beautiful one. The location, just perfect, some 100 meters away from the beach. So it was normal to expect the house to match the street. But not in this case. What we got was a huge surprise, to say the least. The house, a conch house, which is typical for Varadero as well as Key West in Florida was quite run down, not to mention dirty, with no warm water and no windows. Instead there were only wooden blinds. I can’t even begin to explain how shocked I was. The lack of windows wouldn’t be a problem if the weather stayed sunny and warm, but instead it started to rain and the wind turned cold, Caribbean cold, but as the Cubans themselves say, it is winter, even if a tropical one.

An example of a conch house.

The first day was a beach day. An endless dream of white sand. No wifi and I finally had time to catch up on some reading.

Since the weather changed the next day, we decided to explore the town.

The weather turned on us.

Often Varadero is viewed as the least Cuban town in Cuba. It might have to do with the fact that for as long as it exists, Varadero was always a place to host foreigners.
It reached the peak between 1929 and 1959 when Varadero became a luxury vacation resort for the American high society. With Irénée du Pont, Al Capone and other American billionaires building luxury mansions.

Once the rain stopped, we took a hop on – hop off bus and made a tour through the town. We ended up at the Blau Marina Varadero where we had lunch, stayed for a coffee and afterwards went to see the Mansión Xanadú, former property of Irénée du Pont, located nearby. There we stayed for an afternoon drink.

Mansión Xanadú

The nice day made the desperate accommodation bearable.

The rest of our stay was fine (if it were not for the accommodation), but I learned to adapt, since I had no choice really. We tried to find a different one, but the town seemed to be completely booked out.

We discovered a couple of very good paladars (private restaurants at private casas), where we got decent food and would get acquainted with other foreigners. One of those acquaintances stands out, since we met a Cuban American Telenovela former actor and current producer who works for Telemundo and lives like most Cubans in Miami, Florida.

Mr R.R. told us that Florida is mostly Cuban, preferred to talk in Spanish and was telling us with much love all about Cuba, Florida and Mexico, since his wife is Mexican. It was a very pleasant evening with nice food and company. We ended up with an invitation to Miami and a further one to explore together Mexico.

After five days in Varadero, the time came to leave and to return to Havana. This time we caught a tourist bus, made a stop on the way and had literally the best Piña Colada ever.

What a perfect way to end that part of the journey.
What remains is Viñales. And about that, the next time.

xx Azra/Swedish Avenue

Swedish Avenue February 22, 2017