My daughter Megan and I have recently been watching the Bond films in order of release, and it must be said they haven’t aged too well. A recurring these is our hero’s arrival at an airport where he is met by a driver who takes him to his hotel usually leads to a car chase involving some very dated vehicles, with the film speed altered to give some sense of speed to cars that weren’t really up to the job on the un-surfaced roads.

A period piece whose day has long gone; or so it seemed until I arrived in Havana. My greeter Ivan was waiting patiently for me displaying a printed sheet with my name (though without any reference to Universal Exports) and introduced me to Barbaro who was to drive me to my hotel. Barbaro was a mountain of a man, and the miniature boxing gloves handing from his rear view mirror explained why. I was reminded of Whisper in Live and Let die.

Bond was of course conceived in the Caribbean, supposedly whilst Ian Fleming was on honeymoon in Jamaica, so the Cuban environment feels right for the fantasy. The dated vehicles are a reality though, the result of the trade restrictions imposed by the USA following the Cuban revolution.APW_9023

After a short journey past some of the city’s most famous landmarks I arrived at my hotel; a venue that has welcomed many notable guests over the years, an eclectic mix that includes Naomi Campbell, Jack Nicholson, Winston Churchill, and in its heyday in the 1930’s the heads of the Mafia families. (This latter meeting was recreated in the 50’s for Godfather II)

One of the bizarre things about Bond is that despite his job as a spy, he is often known personally in many of the world’s great hotels who always have a suite available for him, and though it’s the villain who gets to say “We’ve been expecting you Mr Bond”, it seems that hoteliers do too. No such luck for me.

Reception had no record of my reservation. I was directed to a director’s office where I sat in a chair and was politely interrogated about when I had booked, with which company, in which name, and when? All search criteria failed to solve the problem and there was no way to contact my travel agent on a Sunday evening. Could I pay by credit card while it was all sorted out? I agreed. Credit card authorisation did not, though there is nothing outstanding on the card. Same with my debit cards. Starting to feel a little concerned, for though I had cash with me that would cover my accommodation for a few days, what then?

I had to go to bank in the basement of the hotel to change my cash, where I tried the cards again and luckily this time the debit card was authorised so I have a room for a couple of days until I can resolve the missing booking. My plan for Havana had been to make it the subject of my next 365 day blog when Venezia ends; I wasn’t expecting those plans to be hampered by financial and accommodation constraints.

As George Lazenby quips at the beginning of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service;

“This never happened to the other fella”

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