“Una Cuba libre por fabor!”


I’m not one for the cold weather. While it might be fun to play with layers and textures in clothes, battling the wind and rain it’s no pleasant task.

What if we escape to a tropical paradise while the wind blows outside? Sounds amazing right? Then come right along with me to Cuba.

First things first, one just doesn’t go to Cuba and escape a Cuba libre, a mojito or pure coconut with rum, it’s impossible and, lets be honest, no point in fighting such typical and delicious drinks.

Getting off the plane and being hit with what feels like a wall, such is the humidity in the air, is the first sign that what follows is going to be like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

The white, thin sand on the beach receives each of my steps with a soft tickling sensation and the warm, transparent water is calling my name, making it impossible to physically remove myself from such a perfect paradise.

I had the chance to go to Playa Pilar and Cayo Coco and the only thing I could think of was how I must have been dreaming. The water embraced me so delicately that I was expecting fins to replace my feet and the water was so calm it resembled more a pool created by nature.

The weather definitely had my back since it was warm during my whole stay (as expected) and I only got one delicious tropical storm. I’ll never forget how amazing it felt to be in such a heated water while it rained cats and dogs on the outside.

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Since having to endure a 9 hour flight just to go to two extraordinary beaches would be just plain bat crazy, I also went to Habana, which is (or should be) a mandatory stop when going to Cuba.

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My expectations were going through the roof with anticipation. I’d seen a million brilliant pictures, read the most amazing stories and couldn’t wait to feel the city and its people. I was not let down in the slightest.

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One of the things I was most expectant about were the classic cars that everyone associates with Cuba. Seeing the first one, I felt transported into a movie set. They demand to be seen and appreciated, their presence does not go unnoticed and many took advantage of that by transforming them into taxis.

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Because Cuba has one of the most interesting stories in its making with a revolution that is known worldwide and still raises a million questions, my first stop was the Plaza de la Revolucion, the famous square where many political speeches of Fidel Castro took place, attracting millions of people to witness them. The square is huge, with an image of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos in two of the governments buildings around.

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What I loved the most was the opportunity to just roam around the crooked streets and absorb all the culture. Everywhere is brought to life with the typical cuban rhythm masterfully played by the most diverse bands scattered around the streets and in the tiniest of bars. “El Bodeguita del Medio” is a mandatory stop for a mojito and this is written by the very own Ernest Hemingway. The bar is small, there’s a band playing in one corner, everyone is pushing and elbowing each other yet you can’t take that stupid grin off your face or the crazy will to start moving your hips to the sound that found its way into your veins.

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Somewhere along the walk, I found myself in Plaza del Armas were a book market was taking place and little kids were running around, not a care in the world. The books smell different, their touch is singular and even if Spanish is not your first language there’s at least one book which finds its way into your bag.

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The city has a air of its own, there’s nothing like it. The music, the people, the drinks, the paintings, everything is so peculiar and unique. This was definitely one of the best experiences in my life. And if one of the locals is quick to say the government can own every building but they don’t own him, other isn’t shy to say what you’re looking for is a “mentirita” (little lie) when asking for a Cuba libre.

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_MG_4907.JPGLove, Ana

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”

The past 9 months have been the biggest challenges I ever faced, and there’s a couple of experiences that really left a mark.

Going to a LGBT youth group meet up and interviewing the members is definitely one that had the biggest impact. The hurt, pain and suffering they endure for having the courage of being themselves is truly gutting. No one should know such pain, at any age. Their armours were so tick, their walls so high up, their defences always on alert. I felt enraged against a world that should be gentle and kind and instead is only throwing rocks. I also felt helpless, still do. What they gave me, what they taught me, I can never repay.

Doing a short, intense course on Fashion Journalism on the Arts University in London was completely surreal. I’’ve always been such a mamma’s girl, coming to the UK to study was a big step, but going to London, alone for a weekend to attend something that only fuelled my passion, I never felt more certain about what I want to do for the rest of my live. Two very intense days gave me more knowledge and insight view than what I could ever hope for. A much needed push in the right direction and, just sometimes, the right words at the right time, can change a whole course. And the love affair I had one gloomy afternoon with the British Museum was the cherry on top.

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The Telegraph Academy day felt like the perfect closure for such an intense year. By getting me completely out of my confront zone, pushing my limits and teaching me a little more about the ins and outs of this peculiar world that has been part of me for as long as I can remember was the right kick to adulthood. A truly inspiring and eye opening experience, that left me completely drained while giving me so much.

Head and heart have been fighting a losing battle lately. The high from this wonderful experience abroad pushing me into staying and seeking the unknown, once again. The desire to go back to those familiar and corky streets I know like the palm of my hand, the voices of loved ones stumbling a little every time the dreaded future comes up getting my heart clenched in my chest. If only the UK and Portugal were a 45m ride away……

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Love, Ana