Sunday, May 12, 2013

Authentic Cuba

Nick Detorre, reporting from Havana                       
About two hours east of Havana is the town of Varadero. Signs along the highway suggest an "Authentic Cuba" awaits. I could hardly contain myself.

This bridge crosses a valley in Matanzas, about 60-
miles east of Havana. It is the tallest bridge in Cuba.
We passed through hilly farmland, crossed a scenic valley, eventually arriving along a rocky coastline with the occasional oil derrick. Beyond it all - glimpses of the Caribbean.

As we drove along the Via Blanca highway, the imagery used on the billboards changed. One of them showed two dolphins - which I'm sure are present in these waters - each kissing a tan, blonde girl on the cheek. The second shows a group of dolphins jumping through a set of rings.

Authentic Cuba? We hadn't been in Cuba long, but the only blondes I'd seen were sitting behind me on the bus. Where did they get these pictures, Sea World?

A couple miles further, signs for the Juan Gualberto Gomez Airport. Another international airport, less than 90 miles from Havana?

The beach from Mansion Xanadu.
(Photo: Ed Rabel)
Our driver paid a toll at a stop on the highway before continuing to our eventual destination, the former DuPont Mansion, Xanadú, where we were scheduled to eat lunch.

By now, the scenery had changed once again. Far behind were the herds of cattle and oil wells. As the hotels appeared, so to did the sandy beaches. Architecturally, the buildings were unimpressive. They were large and there were several of them, most were on the water.

With only six rooms, Mansion Xanadú is an exclusive hotel with restaurant. Also on the property is the Varadero Golf Club, Cuba's first 18 hole course.

Further down the road, several more hotels. Between us, a beautiful white sand beach littered with hundreds of tourists like me.

Lunch at Mansion Xanadu.
Fish, ratatouille, and rice.
After lunch - which consisted of fish, ratatouille and rice - we made our way to the beach. For two CUCs - Cuban tourist dollars - you could rent a chair and umbrella for the afternoon. Compared to the $50 dollars these chairs would cost at similar beaches in the states, we were happy to pay and enjoy our afternoon in the sun.
Enjoying the beach at Xanadu.
(Photo: Madison Horner)

A group of us sat together. We talked about baseball, Havana and school while smoking cigars, pausing for an occasional dip in the Caribbean. I looked around, hoping to catch a glimpse of "authentic Cuba." Still, the only blondes were in our group, and I'd yet to see any dolphins. There weren't many Cubans either, save for the handful sitting in the shade of a tree next to the parking lot while their children played in the water.

On the ride back to Havana, I wondered if the people staying in Varadero truly believed they were experiencing "authentic Cuba," or if they too were still waiting to see the dolphins.


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