I travel in pink

Varadero is not Cuba

It’s hot.

As someone who is not particularly thrilled with the heat, it seems ironic that I’ve been chasing summer for the past two winters. In fact, I think I shock my friends and family every time I choose to go south. However, deciding to visit Cuba was a special choice.

Varadero beach

This is the Cuba in brochures. It wasn’t the Cuba I would find.

Canadians have enjoyed the ability to head to Cuba for years. Countless friends, family members and acquaintances have taken advantage of the short flight time and the all-inclusive resorts offered in Varadero. I can’t blame them. The beach is stunning.

Varadero beach and ocean

My half-day at the beach in three weeks.

The history of Cuba has fascinated me and confused me at the same time. As a student of conflict studies, and philosophy of law and political science before that, revolutions and communism have been a part of my vocabulary for years. The vacuum of law that exists in Guantanamo Bay has enraged me. In fact, it led me to my thesis subject regarding the concepts of citizenship and terrorism. With the thawing of relations between the States and Cuba, and the promise to close the prison, I knew Cuba would be changing. So I changed my plans and booked a non-stop flight to Varadero.

The airport is located close to nowhere. Landing in Cuba was done among green forests, lakes and mountainous terrain, which was a little surprising. I took a bus that was suppose to be for tourists who had arrived to the resorts. For $10, they agreed to take me to the centre of town. Which is not really anywhere.

Welcome to Varadero

Legit, this is where I got dropped off.

It’s jarring to drive to the resorts. The villages we pass are run-down, crumbling houses, clotheslines filled with shirts blowing in the wind, broken cars sit idly in their yards, pieces scattered around them. The apartment buildings shoot up, crumbling balconies and dirty walls, garbage littered everywhere, wires tumbling down around them. Oil rigs, Canadian ones, scatter the fields on the right, our history of exploitation as clear as possible in the blue sky. The ocean appears on our left. It’s a hundred shades of blue. Just the bluest it can be. I could try to describe it for hours and I wouldn’t even come close.

Varadero CHURCH

A church in Varadero, near Parque Central. I wandered through it when I saw the door was open.

The resorts are scattered among a coastline, which makes me laugh at my request of city centre. It’s really just one street that runs parallel to the ocean. I get dropped off near the Parque Central and try to find a room.

Varadero

Just a hop, skip and a jump from the beach.

Oops.

It takes two hours of wandering the streets to find a place where the man who runs it tells me his friend has a room. My second impression: Cubans are friendly, generous and kind. They apologize profusely for their lack of rooms and try to steer me to their neighbors. A few even call their friends . The man I met who led me to my room even walks me there, offers to carry my bags and tells me a bit about the city. My room is a great find. Private little sitting area, bathroom, a double-bed with air-conditioning and a small kitchen. The door in front of me leads me to the beach and a small museum. My impression of Cubans will change during my trip; the ease in which I ended up in Varadero would not be replicated in other cities. But for now, I changed out of jeans and cardigan and head out.

The other side of Varadero

The other side of the road – away from the coast, away from the resorts.

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