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Cuban Vacation…Part VII

The series of squares and Old Town Havana in part reminded me of being in Europe. The impressive architecture would capture the attention of any North American, as our vernacular architecture is different in many ways – style, size, material, age to name a few examples.

Old Town Square

Church at San Fransico Square.

The fountain in the square.

We took a stroll along the Caribbean sea, along the waterfront promenade.

The Old Town Havana is under restoration with many of the buildings getting a new lease on life, while others still require a facelift. One did not have to veer too far away to see that not all regions of Havana had the same level of prosperity. As we strolled along the water front I was briefly reminded of my roots of rural Newfoundland & Labrador. A series of small fishing vessels were moored in the harbour, while a couple of men were trying to catch some fish at shore’s edge. I reflected of a time, nearly two decades ago when my father and I went fishing on the wharf in an attempt to catch some rock cod. We were successful! I remember also catching some flatfish, unwanted sculpins and even a catfish. I kept the eely catfish for a couple of days before I realized he did not make a good pet and needed to be released back into the ocean.

After spending the morning under the suns rays of nearly 35 degree temperatures, we sought shade under a large tree. We were readily befriended by a local who chatted it up with us. He told us about a concert happening later that night due to the National Holiday. That he could get us cheap tickets. We passed on the offer. He disappeared and came back handing us two cigars. We noted that we did not want. He would not take no for an answer and insisted they were gifts. A gift in fact that you pay whatever you would like to give. :(. I do not miss the constant pressure from some locals to provide them with money. However, it is hard for me to judge as I am unaware of the personal circumstances and adversity that may challenge these  individuals. To move things along we stopped by the Museo de la Revolucion (Revolution Museum). The impressive building had an immaculate dome that caught my attention. It had memorabilia, information and praised national heroes.

The Granma Memorial and Gardens we were guarded. One must be careful not to loiter or sit as they will get a whistle blown from the careful watch of a guard at his post. There is an exhibit of war vehicles, including cars, tanks, planes and boats.

After spending the day sightseeing and walking many streets we had a rest to escape from the shade. Additionally, at the hotel I tried to purchase Internet. It appeared to be a rare commodity. The cards were not for sale at the front desk. The store hours at the hotel werre limited and when I did manage to talk to the worker, she did not have cards for sale. Quite often I heard, check back tomorrow. It was actually a blessing to be away from technology – where I was not frequently checking my Blackberry, Email, Facebook account or even posting on my blog.

That evening we have a meal and a couple of drinks at a quiet restaurant on the square. A great meal for a mere $10.00. It as quite the find. It was time to call it a day and make the most of the final two days of the vacation, as on Sunday I would be starting my way back to Varadero and making a flight that night for Canada.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher C. Mitchelmore

Related articles

Cuban Vacation – Part II

A Friendly Game of Chess

After the show, Tobias and I set up a giant chessboard for a challenging game. My goal was to get the dark queen of the night. However, she would be my downfall. Although I reached checkmate, it would be illegal. I ended up losing in the end to the dark queen. Great match from a worthy competitor.

One would be shocked to know that I went to the gym before breakfast while on vacation. It has been long overdue actually. I enjoy running on the treadmill, gliding on the elliptical and cycling the stationary bike. It was quite a workout. The combination of my activity and the heat had me left drenched by the end. I recommend some exercise, as it is a great way to start the day of energetically.

Cycling in Motion

“I never felt so alive! I guess that is why we should strive to remain active to continue a healthy lifestyle.”
Afterwards I would enjoy an oversized breakfast with a complimentary beer. It was time to hit up the beach. I read more of my Stephen Booth Detective novel. My colleague treated himself to a sports massage. After a morning at the beach, I ended up re-visiting the pool and enjoying the sponge floaters.
Sadly, all good times all-inclusive must end. We opted for a taxi to catch the afternoon Viazul bus to Trinidad as noted by the Tourist Office at the hotel. However, the only bus was at 8:15 AM. The employees found us a route at a premium rate of 60 C.U.C for both to Santo Spiritus via Transtor.

Floating by the Pool

It added to the travel adventure, as we realized we were not taking the expressway. We stopped numerous times to exchange wares, pick up some locals and even stop to check on some motorists that were having car troubles. At Santo Spiritus we got a “chico” (driver) for 30 C.U.C. to take us the remaining 71 km to Trinidad.  According to the original bus station at Varadero it would only be 30 km and 10 C.U.C.. Nevertheless, it was well worth the cost as we rode the distance in a Cruella DeVille 1940’s or 50’s Chevrolet automobile.

The Road We Came….

The Road We Came....

First Trinidad Meal Trinidad by Night from the Terrace

We arrived at 174, the Casa populaire of Dr. Suerez and Addys. Great house! Best laughter from this women who is an amazing cook. After getting a view from the Terrace, we decided to have dinner as the music from Casa de La Musica played in the backdrop. Addys whipped up an excellent jumbo shrimp dish. I also enjoyed the delicious vanilla ice-cream with sprinkles. We decided to venture into the streets and find our way to the outdoor concert. It was quite impressive to hear and watch the performance of the musicians and dancers.

Stay tuned for Part III of my Cuban Vacation…
Live Rural NL
-Christopher C. Mitchelmore

A Cuban Vacation – Part 1

In my 25 years, with more than 25 countries travelled – it was my first venture to the sunny south.

 The Caribbean is a stark  contrast to Rural Newfoundland & Labrador. When I awoke on May 20, 2011 from my home the snow was gingerly falling. My bag was packed and I looked forward to sunshine, sandy beaches and lots of relaxation.

I departed the Deer Lake Regional Airport to fly to Toronto, only to re-routed back to Montreal. From Montreal I would fly to Varadero, Cuba.

At the Pierre Trudeau airport, I was asked to complete a survey. I did not realize at the time the many wonderful features of this airport. For instance there was free Wifi, an abundance of easily accessible power outlets and comfy armless chairs for napping. I was pleased with the variety of food outlets and gift shops. Although, signage could be slightly improved, especially for international connections as the American flag represents all WORLD/INTERNATIONAL travel connections. What symbol would the USA have? In my opinion an update for this sign is needed.

The Air Canada service was again to be touted! We departed a few minutes late because of the tug break down during push-off. We departed late and arrived more than 30 minutes early. Arrival in Cuba was greeted with intense humidity. Vacationers were eager to get their luggage and reach their nearby resort. The airport was very small and was not equipped with good signage. I was an unsure Canadian as I waited for my luggage, as I had not booked an All-Inclusive vacation with Air Canada or Sunwing. I am glad to have booked a resort to start my 10 day vacation, as I left the airport people asked which Hotel I was staying. I noted the Melia Las Americas. They instructed me to get on bus #4. Since, I was not part of the vacation I was told to pay $10.00 for the ride versus a higher taxi fee.

The resort was breath-taking. As the lobby I met my friend Tobias of Germany, who I had first met when I studied at the University of Economics, Prague, Czech Republic back in 2007. We checked out the view of the beach and toasted to a Caribbean vacation to some Bucanero beers. It was wonderful to hear the waves gently touch the beach. We opted to go for a dip! The Caribbean sea was quite salty, yet pleasantly warm.

We stopped for a drink at the lobby bar, listened to some piano music and then caught a live band. The entertainment had the small audience captivated. Some lifted from their chairs and started to salsa! The Mojitos never tasted as brilliant, as they did in their homeland of Cuba.

An early rise was met with an extravagant buffet breakfast. The beach was waiting, it was not crowded. The pool, hammocks and beachfront games made for a fun morning. There was a lively game of beach volleyball. As well, a beach stepping game of Mojito-Daquiri, Pina Colada, Rum Punch. Each drink had a special step and as people missed the step, he/she was eliminated. I stand by Rum Punch as being my favourite.

A meal was reserved for the Italian Restaurant. A feast of 7 or 8 courses was served. It was matched by a pairing of a semi-sweet white Spanish wine, served in a stainless steel wine bucket. The meal had a specialty Cuban twist.

I will not forget the sky that evening or Peter’s Birthday party. We got to sing happy birthday to our table neighbours. They were kind enough to share the specialty cake.

After eating a delicious meal were went to the theatre and watched some very impressive and energetic dancers. Parts were moving that I never thought were humanly possible.

The day was full of relaxation, but also jam-packed with activities. It did not end with the show, which I will continue in my next post…Cuba Part II.

Enjoy!

Live Rural NL –

Christopher C. Mitchelmore

 

 

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