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Cuba: Playa Girón

The beach at the Hotel Playa Girón
The beach at the Hotel Playa Girón looks pretty good... from this angle

The plan had been quite simple. We'd hoped to drive to Playa Girón in the Bay of Pigs, book into a casa particular and chill out in this historic spot for a few days while planning the rest of our jaunt round Cuba. Of course, things didn't quite turn out like that...

Hotel Hell

The beach at the Hotel Playa Girón
Pan away from the beach, towards the sea, and the horizon darkens; is it a band of cloud, a large clump of seaweed or a particularly dirty tsunami? No...

The casa owners had been, to a tee, smiling, helpful and genuinely sorry that they couldn't find us somewhere to stay. The grumpy, fat trollop behind the reception desk at the hotel couldn't have been more of a contrast; when we asked her if she had any rooms, she looked us up and down with clear disdain, put on her most condescending voice and said, 'I need your passports and $70 in cash.' Seeing no option I pulled out 70 pesos convertibles, popped them on the desk with our passports, and tried to smile as politely as I could while the old dragon huffed and puffed and grudgingly filled out the forms for our arrival.

An Historical Location

The beach at the Hotel Playa Girón
Wecome to the beach at the Hotel Playa Girón, home to the strangest looking horizon you'll ever seen on a beach

The Bay of Pigs invasion is one of those stories that makes your heart sink at the stupidity of man. When Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba on , after a long guerrilla campaign to oust the dictator Batista, the US decided it wasn't happy having a left-wing neighbour so close to the US mainland, so in 1961 Kennedy cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba, and on an invasion fleet set out from Nicaragua, consisting of 1400 Cuban émigrés, trained by the CIA in Guatemala and Miami, along with ships from the US Navy acting as escorts. On 15 April, while the invasion fleet was on its way, planes from the Nicaraguan air force bombed Cuba's airfields with the aim of disabling the Cuban air force before the fleet arrived. Seven men were killed in these raids, and at the airmen's funeral the next day Castro announced that Cuba was a socialist state, effectively putting up a solid middle finger to the incoming invasion.