I was worried. I had just arrived in Fidel Castro´s island at Havana´s international airport expecting to be met and no –one was there to meet me. Unlike most sane people who book all inclusive holidays to a place they´ve never been to before, I´d booked a casa particular (a Cuban version of a B & B) over the internet. I was on my own, didn´t speak Spanish and was feeling more and more uneasy about the situation. I stood in the flag-decked passenger hall looking in vain for anyone with a piece of paper with my name on it. All sorts of thoughts were rushing through my head. Had I given them the wrong date? Were they just so unreliable that they hadn´t bothered? What was I going to do
now? To add to my concerns my flight had arrived late at night and it looked as if the whole place was closing down. By now I was feeling so wimpy that, if there had been another plane heading back to London that night, I would have been on it. But I knew this was impossible. I sternly told myself to pull myself together and approached the information desk. I was so relieved when they spoke to me in English.
They advised me that it was probably better to book a hotel for the night and then sort it out in the morning. The hotel room was reasonable and I thought I would stay one night, sleep on it and then
decide what to do. I was rapidly going off the idea of a holiday in Cuba.
The taxi whizzed through the largely deserted roads until we entered the city. In the darkness I could see little. It was boiling hot and there were groups of people on the streets. The place looked shabby
and rundown and I found myself growing more and more convinced that I had made a big mistake in coming to this country.
We arrived at the hotel, another disappointing ugly looking building.
I checked in and was taken to my room. I had my first good surprise.
They had surely given me a penthouse suite. The room was enormous and the bathroom had a sunken whirlpool bath. The bed could have taken at least six people. I was so tired by this time I just managed a quick bath before thankfully collapsing into bed.
I had forgotten to pull the drapes so in the morning I was awakened by the bright sunshine. The awkwardness of the whole situation hit me again and I felt like just going back to the airport and going home. I dragged myself out of bed and walked over to the windows to inspect Havana. What I saw completely changed my mind in that instant. The place was a riot of colour. From the bright blue of the sky, to the brilliant green of the palms, the houses and the people. Even the old American cars were bright shades of blue, yellow and pink. I saw the country people selling brilliantly coloured fruits and vegetables on the street. There were street sweepers dressed in dazzling white with straw hats. I fell in love with Cuba immediately and all thoughts of leaving went out of my head. I will never forget that first sight of a Cuban street scene. If I shut my eyes now I can still see it.