Cuba 2007: Day 15

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It's time to go back to the UK. My flight is from Havana Terminal 3 at 2035 and with a 3 hour checkin and a car drop-off I need to be there at 1700. It's about 3 hours from here to the airport. And I decide to leave late morning or early afternoon. I guess it would be good to get away early in case anything goes wrong en-route. There again I don't want to get there too early. One possibility is to look at Havana's Parque Lenin which is not far from the airport.

After breakfast I drive to Vinales to get some money from the Cadeca. I think I need to change 120 euros. This will give me 147 CUCs. (I need 161 CUCs to pay off the car insurance rather than leave it on the credit card.) The cashier counts out the money: 5 20s, 4 10s, one 3 and some coins. Having got the money, I then count it out and as I'm doing this she discovers it is 1 CUC coin short. This scam is pointed out in the guidebooks.

Whilst there I also get rid of two English books at the Library. He seems pleased for me to donate them. He's not heard of John Grisham, but he has heard of the other writer who is Cuban and I think he's very pleased to see this.

Back in the Hotel I start to pack just in case the cleaner gets stroppy about getting the room before the checkout time of 2pm. There seems to be less luggage than before.

I then write the notes for yesterday, and the first part of today's notes. It's about 1130 when this has been done.

So it's time to checkout and then go to the airport. It's very uneventful and boring. Although I filled up with petrol yesterday the gauge does not seem to move after I have driven 200K! I decide not to fill up with petrol as it still says full and I can probably con the car hire people into thinking it is full.

I get to the car rental office by 1500. She wants to know why I'm so early. I tell her that my flight is at 2030. She suggests I return this evening. I think she thinks I want to count it as 6 rather than 7 days. She puts me to one sides as deals with a friend on the phone and another customer. Amazingly in Spanish/English she says that as I'm not in a hurry I can keep her company. She seems to use the same Spanish word for "company" as the woman who wanted my company in El Vinanero last night!

Eventually another car hire person comes and we out to check over my car. I leave my baggage in their office. Whoops! That breaks all the rules.

The man says nothing as he looks at my car. Eventually after writing stuff on another sheet of paper he gives me the form back with 50 written alongside the petrol. When the woman processes the form she says there's 138 CUCs to pay. I'm confused as I was expecting to pay 23 CUCs for each of 7 days plus petrol. I work out she is just charging me 6 days and no petrol. Later I see the form (that I was given at the start of the rental) also says 50 for petrol at the start.

It's so confusing as when I got into the car on the way from Havana to Las Terrazas the gauge said Full. It then moved off Full straightaway. So the car was not full of petrol, maybe as the form says it was half full. This might explain why I was charged with 35 CUCs of petrol the other day!

There's a long queue for the Air France checkin, but they start processing it with 6 staff 4 hours before the flight leaves. So I quickly get to the front. I mention how pleased I am with the speed to the person who checked me in. Air France say that they will board at 1940 and this they also do. Excellent service.

The flight is not very full and there is no-one in the seat next to me. On the flight I ask for a beer and get a Buchanero but later decide that that's a bit strong. So I keep it and the rum miniature (that came with the meal) for later.

Charles de Gaulle is no easier on the way back. The plane arrives at Terminal 2A and I miss a sign for how to get to Terminal 2F and have to backtrack. Then I find there's a queue of about 20 people for the shuttle from 2A to 2F. Curiously, they have a separate queue for 2F from the queue for 2B, 2C and 2D. However, four buses for 2B occur before a bus for 2F arrives. It's frustrating that we are not allowed on these buses because they go to 2F after 2B. Most of people in the queue for 2F have tight connections, and we all moan and groan about how silly this is (because the buses that keep stopping and leaving without us are labelled "B F D C"). Eventually the bus for 2F arrives.

When we get to 2F there is an enormous queue for security. I say to an Air France official that there's not much time before the last checkin for my flight. He says we will pull you out of the queue if need be. I had noticed this has already happened for other soon-to-depart flights. After 5 minutes, people for London are taken to another queue to be fast-tracked through security. Unfortunately, it's not very fast. And when my luggage gets X-rayed, I get told there's a bottle in my luggage. (I don't recall seeing any signs about see-through bags and 100ml limit.)

Having found my luggage is a security risk, I am taken to a table divided up into cubicles but no-one watches over me as I take a bottle out and give it to a member of staff in the next cubicle. At this point, they just let me go on. I would have expected a full search of the rullsack. I know there is also a 120 ml bottle of cleansing solution in my rucksack and that this should not be allowed. I decide I haven't time to fish it out. When I'm unpacking when I get home, I find the can of Buchanero and the miniature of rum in my rucksack (which I had forgotten about)! These should either have been removed by the security staff or at least had had the seals checked.

Getting my car back from Courtlands of Heathrow works smoothly.

Here is a link to today's photos. Click the big i button in the centre of the screen to get the titles of each slide.

Here is a link to tomorrow's diary.
Here is a link to yesterday's diary.
Here is a link to the index of the days.