Subject: Re: Cuba
I visited Cuba in Jan 97 and wish I could go back tomorrow! It was another one of those moments of grace trips for me.

The beaches may be nice, although I believe they are quite busy with Europeans &Canadians, especially during the holidays. My only beach was down on Isla de la Juventud, which I would only recommend if you had a package. My sister &I didn't, of course, &the island is quite full with European package travelers &other accommodations are non-existent. We walked down to the yacht basin, walked up &down the boardwalks, &hailed skippers till we found one who was willing to let us sleep in a couple of his bunks. It turned out to be a marvelous experience, but dicey until we found a boat! We took a hair-raising scuba trip with a couple of very macho Italians, but that's another story!

But Havana! What a wonderful city! We had asked friends who live in Cozumel for the name of someone who might take in boarders in Havana &called when we arrived. It didn't work out &we stayed in one of the lower-end hotels (the Nacional, maybe? near the University) &enjoyed it just the same. Food was pretty short then (oh, my, do I hope it's gotten better for folks!). We met wonderful people (still write &phone them), listened to marvelous music, celebrated Jose Marti's birthday with Fidel (well, he walked by), walked &gawked alot. It was easy to get around: gypsy cabs are everywhere &will negotiate to take you just about anywhere you want to go. Rental cars are easy too.

We flew from Cancun on Cubana, with a deal from a travel agent in Cozumel for rt air &the flying visa. (no passport stamps for us ). Most people take it with accommodations, but that seemed to confining for me.

One 24-hour period down on the Isla we went without food, because there were no restaurants &we hadn't negotiated with the skipper of our boat to use some of his stores, which I never would have done without permission. Restaurants in Havana didn't have huge selections, but we did eat in a private home or two where they served simple soups &bread as a way to make some money. Hotel food was pretty basic; one morning for breakfast the choices were cold plain spaghetti or warm mashed potatoes &coffee, black. Next time I take some trail mix! We only had 4 days in Havana, so the only museum we visited was the National one, where there was a great show in mail art.

But everywhere we walked or sat, people stopped to talk to us, helped us get unlost, &were wonderful. Some intense conversations at bars near the university will stay with me a long, long time!

Dollars are accepted everywhere, but don't use your credit cards. I'm bilingual, but many people wanted to practice their English so communication was dead simple.

I'm having definite flashback moments. If you can figure how to make it work, go!

Gail in Eugene