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12
Central ameriCa: Cuba
Cuba
Looking for a holiday with an
edge, a character that will linger
redux
and influence the way you see
all other countries you visit? Visit
at the bar of La Bodeguita del Medio,
Hemingway’s favourite watering hole half
Cuba, says christopher Baker,
a block from Havana’s antique cathedral.
for it’s never been more beguiling…
Troubadors moved among thirsty turistas
as I savoured the proletarian fusion of
dialectics and rum. Stepping from the bar

S

eñoras y señores.... showtime!” (an open-air cabaret now in its seventh with rum in my veins, I heard the boot-

Rumbling drums. Trilling decade of Vegas-style paganism) was an steps of conquistadores echoing along the
trumpets. Whirling extravaganza was an understatement. cobbled streets.
spotlights. The lights went Socialism and sensuality. It was Habana Vieja (Old Havana) – the
down and a troupe of near- almost surreal. ancient city core proclaimed a UNESCO
naked showgirls wearing Everything in Cuba is sensual, World Heritage Site in 1982 – is a 350-
silver thigh-high boots and glowing surreal, or nostalgic. The island has a acre repository of castles, cathedrals, and
chandeliers atop their heads appeared flavour entirely its own: an amalgam of columned plazas spanning 500 years.
at the back of the auditorium. Their see- colonialism, capitalism, and communism Memories came streaming back from the
through fishnet body suits dripped with merged into one. history books as I roamed streets
silver baubles that dangled like still-wet lined with stone confections
tiny fishes, and they sashayed down the home in havana in a spectacular amalgam
aisle like sex washing up from the sea. Walking Havana’s streets I feel like I’m of styles, many of them
I watched, mesmerised, as rainbow- living inside a romantic thriller. It’s restored palaces and
hued searchlights swept over gaudily intoxicating. Still laced with the sharp mansions turned
feathered, mocha-skinned dancers edges and sinister shadows that made into a fashionable
parading twenty feet up amid the palm Ernest Hemingway want “to stay here new generation of
trees, quivering beseechingly like tropical forever.” Bohemian restaurants
birds. To say that Havana’s Tropicana On a recent visit, I settled myself and boutique hotels.
Cities throughout the
Sunset at Plaza Mayor, Trinidad
780-mile-long island feel
like they’ve sidestepped
the currents of time. I had
to do a double-take, too, at all
the “yank tanks” of yesteryear
conjuring up the decadent 1950s era of
martinis and mafiosi. Classic American
cars were on every block, adding another
mantle to the multi-textured layers of a
temps perdu.
driving me crazy
I felt enraptured as José Pérez Pereiso
gunned his 1957 Dodge Coronet up the
riverbank beneath the shadow of the
Sierra Escambray. The car was as shiny
after its bath in the river Táyaba as the day
it rolled from the factory floor in Detroit.
The passenger door swung open,
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