Although the days of dressing up to travel have almost vanished people still see long haul holidays as being special occasions. Yes, weekend breaks in Europe are grand, but there’s nothing like settling down to plan the exotic trip of the year. With the world now ‘a global village’ and still shrinking at an astonishing rate, there are so many places in easy reach. It is therefore becoming even more difficult to make a decision. This is where a twin centre holiday is a winner.
This is where the two centre holiday has really established a welcome niche. If you’re going to fly to Cuba then why not head down to Antigua whilst you’re at it. Somehow it seems to appease our environmental thinking by combining two places with one long flight. This was the decision I made when I couldn’t decide whereabouts in the Caribbean to stay.
The Classic Cuban Shot
I have always been fascinated by taking a holiday in Cuba and those wonderfully evocative shots of 1950′s American cars taken against the crumbling colonial buildings which imbued atmosphere and mystery. Having read plenty of literature from this country it was always on my ‘Must See’ list. At the same time Antigua, which also has a colonial past held its own set of attractions and I was almost reduced to flipping a coin. Yet after doing just a little research I realised a two centre trip would be just the thing.
I booked the Ambos Mundos in Havana for 7 nights. Yes, of course I did, as Ernest Hemingway stayed there in Room 511 as he was working on For Whom The Bell Tolls. The hotel has been a landmark since the 1920′s.
Travel to Cuba and experience Old Havana
Its location and ambience were perfect and Old Havana is such an intoxicating place which breathes possibilities from its faded glamour and cobbled stones. It has sufficient élan to warrant a UNESCO World Heritage Listing and has imbibed all manner of influences from Africa, Europe, North and South America; all life is here. I can’t help feeling it won’t be long until Cuba is sanitised and the atmospheric architecture will be licked into shape for ‘tourists’ rather than curious travellers, so it’s worth grabbing an opportunity now.
It was so easy to slip between urban streets and beach culture from the warm welcome offered at the Ambos Mundos. That may well have something to do with a slight excess of Mojitos, however. After 7 days it was time to set off for Antigua. The whole point of the second leg was to bring the pace down and simply relax while contemplating my hectic Cuban sojourn.
Holidays in Antigua are a different proposition all together and visiting two centres back to back allowed me to compare and contrast, which was an intriguing exercise. Apologies if I wax lyrical about the Hermitage Bay Hotel. No more smoky cafes and shabby chic of Old Havana, in Antigua the Jolly Harbour Bay, hidden in the south west corner of Antigua, offers little except miles of white sand and 10 acres of tropical gardens. With just 25 holiday cottages it appeals to a certain type who have that dreamy, ‘We want to be alone’ expression in their eyes.
Antigua’s Hermitage Bay Hotel, was an inspirational choice
The hotel itself is set in a secluded bay and the water shimmers on the surface like a cut Emerald; it is tranquil and naturally beautiful. Hotel staff were discreet, but could be relied upon to provide everything you could possibly wish for on a luxury retreat. I need to admit now I had ‘maxed out’ on culture and passed on the museum and the fully restored sugar mill but did experience a glass bottomed boat trip and some gentle snorkelling so I wasn’t entirely immobile for seven days. Still if you had seen the beach cottage suite you would have done the same. Views were panoramic, the bed a king size and the hillside pool suites have their own private plunge pool. Dear reader, it was bliss and served as a dramatic contrast to Cuba’s salsa rhythms. Put together the whole trip was inspirational, exciting, relaxing and memorable for a host of different and differing reasons.