Cuba: Day 3 (Part 1)

October 31, 2010

So, I was now officially a quarter-of-a-century old AND in Cuba.  There are no words to articulately describe what I felt then.  Thankfully, the Nacional included a free buffet breakfast, since we were short on cash.  As we were walking to breakfast, a friendly Aussie asked us if we knew where breakfast was being served.  We told him to follow us and as simple as that a new friendship was formed.  I have previously mentioned in my blog how deeply important the people that I meet while traveling are to me.  This was definitely no exception!  Marc, an Australian nomad, was by himself on the end of a round-the-world trip.  Looking for some fellow travel companions, he decided to join us after breakfast on our excursion to the beach.

The beach that we went to was called Playa del Este.  It was about a fifteen minute taxi ride from La Habana.  As we walked over the sand dunes and in the direction of the ocean the sight of the crystal blue waters took my breath away!  I will never become jaded with the Caribbean.

Sadly, the beaches in Cuba are divided between tourists and locals.  Tourists are discouraged from going to the local side.  Locals, however, are not even allowed to go over to the tourist side.  There are police watching to make sure that this never occurs.

In the next two pictures guess which side is the tourist side and which is the local side?

We decided it best to head over to the tourist side, aka the empty side of the beach (even though all three of us preferred otherwise).  There we found a man that would bring us anything we wanted for only a couple of CUC$’s. . .ahhh, que bueno!

I left Marc and Kristin to their sunbathing and went to float in the ocean.  While there, I encountered two very drunk Cubans whom kept insisting that I marry them.  Marc eventually joined me in the water and kindly pretended to be my husband to get them to leave me alone (poor Kristin became their next target).

Marc then tried to take their picture, but they started to get very anxious and talk so rapidly that I could barely understand them.  The problem was that they knew they were on the tourist side and if the police somehow saw the pictures they could get in a lot of trouble.  It was not just the ocean; hotels, restaurants, and shops that admitted tourists were not allowed to let Cubans enter either.  That type of segregation was really unsettling and continued to bother me throughout the rest of the trip whenever we encountered it, which was more often than not.

We laid out for several hours under the hot Cuban sun and when Marc and I would need breaks we would cool down in the ocean and engage in talk of politics, current events, world affairs, our travels, etc.  I felt like I had really met my intellectual match with him!  One of the question’s he asked me was, “What is your greatest vice in life?”  My response, of course, was chocolate.  I would pleasantly discover soon why he had asked me that question.

Later in the day it started to rain and we took it as a sign that it was time to find some lunch.  However, finding something vegetarian for me and non-seafood for Marc and Kristin was proving to be quite a challenge.  Finally, we happened upon an ice cream stand, which made all three of us very happy.  Unbeknownst to us, that also happened to be where our two Cuban friends had found refuge as well.  They insisted on buying us ice cream and asking for Kristin and I’s hand in marriage one last time (despite thinking that Marc was my husband).  The sun started to come out again and we thanked them for their “generosity” and left them with broken hearts.

About an hour later, having had enough sun for one day, we returned to the hotel in order to start the real celebrations. . .

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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110 thoughts on “Cuba: Day 3 (Part 1)

  1. Sarah Wu

    wow, they separate the beach like that?You’re too ebautiful, that’s why the man came to you at the beach, good thing M was there to help you out! I do want to visit Cuba one day, but I’m not sure how comfortable Allen feels about that. He was even worry to go outside the resort when we’re in Dominican republic. hahah yea he worry about me alot 😛

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  3. Kyle

    Ok, that definitely creeps me out big time about the separated beaches. I had NO idea it was that extreme. I knew there were different prices/hotels/places tourists were recommended to use. I did not know the locals were not allowed to use the same places.

  4. Andrea

    That’s fascinating about the segregation. I had no idea that was the case. Is it just for political reasons ie they don’t want you to get to know locals who might put the regime in a negative light or is it something else?

  5. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler

    Whoa!! That’s unusual that a tourist beach would be empty! Is that common in Cuba? Interesting how they separate the tourists and the locals, though. I’ve really enjoyed reading your adventures in Cuba, girl. Wish I was there right now!

  6. Jonathan

    it was like a GREAT book. better than an Oprah pick!!! YOU are so wonderful, from your words to your persona. we have GOT to go get a drink!!! besos y abrazos!!!!

  7. John

    Sounds Like Youre having Great fun…and its a very sad reality that Most cubans cant enjoy some of the best things their country has to offer,but hopefully that is all coming to a change soon
    Reply to this

  8. Emily

    I am so fascinated by the segregation of tourists and locals. I can only guess at the motivation and assume its political…. I’ve never heard of/seen that sort of thing before.

  9. Erica

    AHHH I want to go to Cuba so bad… I don’t think that I can convince Shaun to hop over there though due to the potential consequences. The beach looks beautiful.

    As for the segregation, that is definitely interesting… I would think that it is due to political reasons as well.

  10. Ted Nelson

    Interesting that they segregate the beaches. Many places have local beaches that tourists don’t frequent, but a policy that enforces segregation is new to me.

  11. Suzy

    It must be very strange to lounge on a beach separated into tourists and locals. My vice is chocolate too! Enjoying this Cuba series on your site too!

  12. Norbert

    What a great place to spend your birthday! Cuba caught my attention since I was young (growing close to it in Puerto Rico), but now reading more about it through your posts I have an even greater desire to go there. I love the nostalgic aura that it still has. It’s interesting, and somewhat disturbing, to see how the government controls every detail of Cuban’s daily life.
    Fun fact… I’m an extra in Dirty Dancing: Habana Nights since it was filmed in Puerto Rico. But I’m not recognizable in the shots… ha! 🙂

  13. Amy

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!

  14. Sophia

    Congratulations on having one of the most sophisticated blogs Ive come across in some time! Its just incredible how much you can take away from something simply because of how visually beautiful it is. Youve put together a great blog space –great graphics, videos, layout. This is definitely a must-see blog!

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