Thursday, 17 October 2013

Havana, Varadero, Cuban Food and my Cuban holiday

I recently went on holiday abroad to the unique island of Cuba. I say unique as it is one of the few countries left in the world that have a communist regime and have a blockade which prevents trade with the America, which the locals call, bloqueo. Cuba is not renowned for its food and friends who have visited have stated that the food is bland and there was not a lot of variety. With this in mind, I was not expecting much culinary wise, even though I was staying at the 5 star Iberostar Laguna Azul hotel in Varadero. So imagine my delight after reflecting on my two week stay that I stumbled many culinary delights across during my two week all inclusive stay.
I went on a few excursions, which I will share later on in this post and was fortunate to try a variety of Cuban dishes and see many landmarks. The most impressive meal that I had whilst I was in Cuba was at Paladar Vistamar in New Havana, which was not only "good for Cuban cuisine" but, in my opinion would be a delicious and exceptional value for money meal anywhere in the world. The lobster meal with rice and black beans, vegetables and banana chips cost 20CUC which is around £15 and was tasty, tenderly cooked and delicious.
Me with delicious meal at Paladar Vistamar.

Lobster, garlic sauce, rice, black bean, banana chips.
I was making the most of enjoying fresh (and may I add cheap) lobster so when I went on a Catamaran excursion that I booked via Thomson, I ordered the  lobster meal which was accompanied with prawns and rice. For some reason this dish was bizarrely served with fish fingers which was not what I would serve alongside lobster, I can only imagine this was to do with lack of other foods that could be served in addition to the lobster. More on the excursion later on in the post.
Lobster and fish fingers.

Rice.

Whilst I was on the beach I thought I would try some coconut water, which was 5 CUC around £3.50 but I did not think this was good value for money as the coconut water was not very sweet and there wasn't a lot of it.
Coconut
As mentioned earlier I stayed at Iberostar Laguna Azul, the hotels A La Carte restaurants were good, well some of the restaurants were. At Iberostar Laguna Azul there were four A La Carte restaurants: French, Italian, Japanese and Cuban. We decided to not visit the Cuban restaurant as some of the reviews on Trip Advisor were not good, but the other three restaurants were good in terms of service, food and wine selection. The only downfall were the portion sizes were too small for my liking and some of the pairings such as lobster and french fries for a starter would not be found in the UK.  The following pictures were from the French restaurant.
Lobster starter.

Steak.

Lemon sorbet.
The Italian restaurant was also pretty good and there was calamari so I was happy!
Lovely plate

Calamari

Fish main.

Sorbet.
We also went to the Japanese restaurant and had tepynaki, in Cuba!
Rice

Ice-cream with rum

Cake with rum.
We booked a day trip via taxi to Havana which cost around £115 and was more expensive than the group coach trip, which cost around £50 per person, but I felt this was good value for money as we could pick and chose the sights we wanted to visit at our own pace. Our taxi driver first took us to Bacunayagua bridge which is the highest bridge in Cuba and offers spectacular views of the Cuban countryside. There was a live band playing traditional Cuban music alongside a bar offering Caribbean cocktails. The views are simply breathtaking, and alongside the salsa music makes this holiday experience, surreal, something out of a film.
Bacunayagua bridge

Bacunayagua bridge bar.

Our next stop was El Morro which is a fortress guarding the entrance to Havana bay which offers stunning views of Havana city and also some interesting old style guns that were used to deter intruders from other Islands/countries. The entrance fee was around £2 from what I can remember, there was also a mini market and people selling cd's if you chose to bring back the Latin beats of Cuba back home with you.
El Morro fort

El Morro fort

View of Havana
We decided to take a horse and cart to view Old Havana which we paid 20 CUC (around £6) after haggling and getting 5 CUC knocked of the price. Old Havana is such a unique, mystical city which few cities in the world could match to the nostalgic cars, cobbled streets and very old houses (some which are in a desperate need of repair). We viewed numerous monuments from the remaining Spanish forts, The National Ballet Museum, The Revolution Museum and Havana Cathedral.

Old Havana
Plaza de Revolution
Havana Cathedral


Old Havana



Reveloution Square
If pacing yourself around the cobbled streets of Havana is not for you, how about a catamaran trip? We booked a catamaran excursion via Thomson which cost around £70 each and included a dolphin experience, snorkeling and a lobster lunch, plus unlimited soft and alcoholic drinks whilst abroad. The boat trip took us to Cayo Blanco, which is one of many Cayos in Cuba.

Catamaran trip


Me with dolphin


Catamaran trip

The beach x
Disclaimer: I booked and payed for this holiday myself via Thomsons, I shared my holiday as I love sharing my snaps. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Cuba and will definitely will be visiting again.
xxx
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