Trip to Cuba

On Sunday 20th October, 40 Year 11-13 girls accompanied by Mr Martini-Phillips, Ms. Newman, Miss Hunter, Mr Waring and Miss Hill set out via Gatwick to Havana, Cuba. The first three days were spent exploring the stunning Old Town of Havana and acclimatising to ‘Cuba time’. Students got to learn all about the history of Havana including its rise to prominence as a result of harbouring the Spanish treasure fleet, its role as a colonial capital, the impact of the USA on Havana including figures such as Ernest Hemingway, George W Bush and Donald Trump and the impact of the Cuban revolution, including figures such as Fidel Castro, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and Camillo Cienfuegos. We also had the chance to embrace Cuba culture by having a Salsa lesson and getting the chance to put our newly discovered ‘skills’ to the test when invited up to dance in one of our lunch

On day 4 we headed out of Cuba northwest to Vinales which is a stunningly beautiful Unesco world heritage site. Here the girls got to learn more about the Cuban missile crisis and to engage with the Cuban people and in doing so learn about the economics of life in Cuba and about how the socialist system works. In the evening, following impromptu horse and cart/classic car rides (after the road was closed to coaches) we went to Wilfredo’s organic farm. A panoramic view awaited us along with fantastic home cooked food. We woke the
next day to a picturesque sunrise across the valley floor which from our elevated position highlighted the towering limestone karsts which rise up many hundreds of metres from the valley floor (well worth Googling). We then had a lengthy journey across Cuba to the Bay of Pigs on the south coast where we had an opportunity to snorkel in the Caribbean and in a naturally occurring fresh water pool. Sadly the sea was a bit too choppy for everyone to snorkel but the fresh water pool was perfect for those wishing to splash around. We headed on to our hotel whilst tour Cuban guides Jorge and Reynolsa explained more about the Bay of Pigs invasion and subsequent Cuban missile crisis.

Day 6 we headed to the Unesco preserved colonial town of Trinidad. Our guides gave us a tour of this quaint and charming place and the girls were then given the chance to explore Trinidad themselves and to partake in some souvenir shopping before gathering for lunch. We were treated to a performance of Cuban music at lunch before heading back to our hotel. The hotel was situated right on the beach so we took the girls down for another swim in the sea and then they had some time to themselves to relax in the pool before dinner and packing. Day 7 involved a long coach journey via Santa Clara to visit the Che Guevara museum and the nearby Tren Blindado memorial to a crucial event in the Cuban Revolution when Batista the Cuban dictator’s troops were defeated. We arrived back in Havana with enough time to change and head out for our final dinner together in Cuba. We had managed to secure for the girls the rooftop terrace of Hotel Ambos Mundos, famous for being the home of Ernest Hemingway and where he began his seminal book ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’. A great place to finish our last full day.

The final day saw a fleet of 12 classic cars pick us up and transport us along the Malecon (seafront promenade) and through Old and new Havana. Photos by the thousand were taken as we visited some of our favourite spots for the last time. Then it was time to say goodbye and head back home to London. I want to take the time to praise all the girls were their excellent attitude, enthusiasm and behaviour and the staff for all their energy, patience and hard work. Organising, feeding and taking care of 40 excited teenagers in 30 deg + weather for 7 days is quite the feat and the staff did this admirably and with good humour throughout!

Mr Peter Martini-Phillips, Head of History