First impressions of Havana differ for each individual. After a long flight from London to Havana I surveyed the view from my balcony, and as I opened the doors I was hit by the heat and the beat of the night. At 3am the sound of music from the rooftop bar opposite drew my eyes to the band and the sight of people dancing to the rhythm. Will this go on all night I thought, and how will I sleep in Havana?
Of course the reality of the above is clouded. My body clock told me it was 3am (which it was in London) but the local time was 10pm, so the entertainment was not really so unsociable but it was certainly uplifting.
And that is one of the most enduring memories of Havana, at each corner you hear music. Cubans love their music and they embrace it without apprehension. Whilst visiting the former home of Ernest Hemigway (now a museum dedicated to his memory) we we were enjoying an ice cold drink in the makeshift bar set up by some enterprising locals when the band struck up with some traditional Cuban music. Within one minute, the driver of our tour bus was dancing and proceeded to teach me his moves without seeing any reason why I wouldn’t want to dance with him (and I am a bloke).
And it is the amicable nature of the Cubans that endears them to visitors. Everywhere you go people are happy and they smile and greet you in the street, and whilst we are programmed to deal with such approaches with suspicion as we seek to identify an ulterior motive, in Cuba it is (mostly) people just being nice. And perhaps this is one of the characteristics of Cuba that would be a tragedy to lose.
So visit Havana, engage with the Cuban people and don’t worry, you will get to sleep – eventually!