A. Party of AspenSpin is a stamp collector. A passport stamp collector. In addition to blogging and ski bumming, Party has established an extensive resume of travel to exotic locales in search of adventure, culture and one-of-a-kind experiences. One stamp that got away belongs to a 700 mile long Island Archipelagos in the Caribbean situated just 100 miles off the coast of Florida. Can you figure it out? It ain't the Bahamas, baby. I did not get the stamp...but I got the experience
Click 4 Pix: Todo es Posible
Click 4 Pix 3rd World Spin (on Flickr)
A short connection through Mexico led us to a place filled with music, history, politics and a nation of proud, hard working and colorful people. Traveling to a country that is forbidden by the U.S. Government is scary yet titillating. It's one of the main reasons Cu&@ has been on my bucket list for some time. A week on the Island (mainly in H@bana) was not enough time to fully explore this many facited country, but I did get a marvelous taste.
"Anything is possible in Havanna" wrote famed Brittish novelist Graham Greene, and based on my experience... it's true. Havanna is a mixture of many exotic layers, cultures and ideas. Anytime I travel into the sh*t, to a third world location (Bolivia, Cambodia, Tanzania etc) I'm both apprehensive and excited. In this case there would be no U.S. Embassy or a handy American Express Office or even a Marriot or Hilton Hotel to provide a safe respite from the risks of travel. I'm not even sure if I could've made a phone call to back to America...luckily I didn't have to.
My introduction to Cu&@ was not pleasant. I was one of the first off the plane from Cancun (Mexico...not a fan) and near the front of the line for passport control. When I was called forward, the uniformed agent gave me the once-over. He asked me lots of questions about why I was travelling to Cu&@, what my intentions were and how much money I had. He held onto my passport and documents said "you wait" and then preceded to let about 200 other people pass through to customs. He then took my passport and walked away...I ran after him, explaining in broken Spanish..."I stay with my passport". He tersely said "uno momento senor, you wait" and went through a door that said "El Jefe" ..The Boss. Two more agents came out and asked me more questions in Spanish and their broken English. They went through my papers very thoroughly and spoke to each other very rapidly in Spanish. Already nervous, I tried to remain calm, and act like it was no big deal, but I was scared sh*tless. Finally they directed me to a travel insurance booth (which was closed) and told me to buy travel insurance...but there was no one there to buy from??? After about 20 more minutes of interrogation..they let me pass through the control area---only to hand me off to another uniformed agent who searched my luggage more diligently than you can imagine. He un-rolled all my socks, reached inside every pocket, opened all my pills and my toothpaste etc. He made me count out my cash...all this occurring with a language barrier, en Espanol solo. I was getting a little freaked. Finally with all my possessions laid out on a a stark metal table, guys in uniforms (with guns) everywhere--he said "sequir adelante and pointed to the Salida...go ahead".
Soon I was sitting shotgun in a 55 Chevy heading to my destination, The famous Hotel Nacional. Shaken but relieved, I checked into the finest Hotel in Havana, one that used to be frequented by American Mobsters and movie stars in the 40's and 50's. Havana is a mysterious city that grows on you. It's a creeper. The Colonial Old Town, "Habana Vieja" is a mesmerizing maze of beauty, history and striking urban grit all set to a bouncing Caribbean soundtrack.
It was a great trip, a difficult trip and very worthwhile. The photos tell the story.
CLICK 4 PIX: Todo Es Posible
and 3rd WORLD SPIN (on Flickr)