Looking back on when and why I first became fascinated with visiting Cuba, it must have been a combination of studying Spanish at school, and an exhibition on the iconography of Che Guevara that was on at the V&A back in 2006. My topic of choice for my A-Level speaking exam was Che, when I researched his life and the adopted country he fought for, and so it began. Throughout university, like a student of the 70s, I had the exhibition's poster on my wall, the famous photograph of Che's face gazing out into my room. During this time I also became really interested in urban agriculture, and discovered how Cuba is world renowned for growing food in the city. All in all, I became mildly obsessed with this communist island isolated in the Caribbean!
As plastered all over the media in recent years, the country is on the brink of change. With its progressive relationship with the United States, it felt like it was now or never to make the trip. We wanted to see what we could of authentic Cuba, avoiding the resorts and staying in the casas particulares, or B&Bs, of everyday Cubans that there are in each town or city.
Cuba truly is an island of contrasts: every city and town we visited was vastly different from the next. Even with its social structure there are distinct differences in wealth of the citizens, but what doesn't change is the friendliness and inquisitive nature of the people. Plus what we discovered (to our delight) is that the food wasn't as disappointing as we had expected, in fact quite the opposite!
In a place where very few people speak English and it does feel like you have stepped back in time by at least 30 years, the trip wasn't what I would call relaxing, rather more of an adventure, but that was what we were looking for. First stop: Havana!