Monday, 1 June 2009

Heather Small's VIP Vacation

Singer Heather Small, 44, went salsa crazy in cultural Cuba when a work trip became a holiday
When Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman called me the "Queen Of Salsa", little did he know that my passion for the dance had begun nine years earlier, during a trip to Cuba.

I was in Havana making a music video and fell in love with the city so much that I stayed on for a week's holiday with my son James, who's now 12.

The city is full of history, with sights like Ernest Hemingway's House and the Che Guevara monuments, but it was the wonderful music that really impressed me.

In Britain everyone cringes when musicians play in restaurants, but not in Havana. On our first night, at a little place in the city centre, I ended up dancing around the tables. The night after, we went to a traditional salsa club and had a group dance lesson. Luckily I've got natural rhythm and can pick up the steps quickly, although Strictly viewers may disagree!

Heather and son James test a hammock

We stayed at the five-star Hotel Nacional, where Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra have stayed. It's by the sea and it's typical of Havana - comfortable with a faded grandeur. The pool and gardens were a haven for relaxation. James and I found a huge hammock and swung in the warm breeze.

I loved the Cuban food. I'm a vegan but had so much choice, with rice and beans, fried bananas and grilled vegetables available everywhere.

I came back from Cuba as fit as a fiddle because of the healthy food and dancing. Every time I hear salsa, part of me goes back to that magical week I spent there.

Rooms at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba start at £120 ( Flights to Havana cost from £602 return with Virgin Atlantic (

Heather's UK tour starts on May 14. For ticket information visit

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