Day One –
The alarm clock went off at 2:30, roughly thirty seconds after I had finally managed to fall asleep. My initial thought was “Cuba can wait, I’m effing tired!” And then reality kicked in… we were heading to CUBA!! With a last minute check of our paper work and carry on luggage, we waited for Aimee to come and pick us up; we took the doggies out for a pee and gave all the fur babies one more snuggle.
Aimee dropped us off at the airport at about 3:30 am which just left ungodly early but there was already a cue at the WestJet desk. Watching the masses try and check in at the kiosk made me amazingly grateful that I had checked in online the night before so I could skip that step. Check in and security were a breeze thanks to my amazing organizational skills (giving myself a pat on the back right now). Even Gil who habitually gets pulled aside for further security checks sailed on through. When we got up to our gate we had free wifi to occupy is and Starbucks opened and I was the first customer. It was like the stars lined up just for me! Time passed quickly and we were boarding for Toronto in no time. I had prepared myself that the plane would be small so there was no moment of utter crisis when I stepped aboard the cramped airborne transportation unit. The flight there was actually really good, we were being chased by the sunrise which was beautiful.
It was a smooth take off and landing and I proud to announce that for the first time in at least a decade I didn’t shed a single tear.
Our luggage went ahead of us to Cuba so we didn’t have to waste time chasing it down which meant that we got to spend our time in GTAA eating an awesome breakfast at Fionn MacCool’s, the sausages were to die for, seriously if you have the time, try them.
The trip from Toronto was a little more … eventful. The two men sitting behind us were total idiots, loud, steadily drunker and obnoxious. The women in front of us snuck a box of wine on the plane and were getting sloshed on it until they got caught by the flight attendant who flipped out. Way to go middle aged women! And at some point I hope we are going to be addressing HOW this criminal mastermind managed to sneak a LITRE of wine through airport security!!
Oh and did I mention the baby that cried for three solid hours?
My TV crapped out somewhere above North Carolina which was annoying at first until I discovered the most amazing thing happening outside my window. I realized somewhere around South Carolina that I was as far south as I had ever been in my life, which excited me to no end. I watched eagerly as we approached the Florida coast line the water slowly changing colour until it it was sweet tropical teal and the beaches snowy white. I thought is was the loveliest thing I had ever seen, and then we flew over the Everglades.
And then Key West
As we passed Key West and left continental North America behind us I felt a thrill of excitement and terror simultaneously. The terror was due to the fact that I have rarely traveled to a country where I don’t speak the language and where I am utterly unfamiliar with unspoken social contracts. Rules are good, I like rules but damn don’t I get nervous when I don’t know them!
But oh… those blue green waters! The sight of them just washed away feelings of anxiety.
We landed in Veradero and proceeded with trepidation to Cuban customs and security. It was actually a fairly quick and painless process, much easier and friendlier than any time have been through US customs. We stepped out of the airport into a wall of beautiful, tropical heat, my hair instantly gained 10 lbs of volume. The WestJet rep met us and showed us to the bus that would take us to our resort. It is a pretty quick ride from the airport into Veradero proper but it was long enough that we got to get a glimpse of the some of the staggering poverty. The emaciated cows dotting the country side, the ramshackle homes. Even though we had been told about it there is a difference when you see it first hand. Trust me, we will be talking more about this later.
We arrived at Melia Varadero by about 2:30 pm, exhausted, hot and ready to have a nap. Check is was amusing and largely unorganized, the concept of being in cue seemed a bit lost but thanks to Clint and Shelly’s advice about not trying to rush our Cuban hosts, Gil and I were able to stay remarkably relaxed. A bellhop named Gilberto came and took our bangs and showed to the lifts and said he would meet us up at our room. We rode the tiny glass elevator to the third floor, it was as terrifying as any fair ride I have ever been on! Gilberto met us at the hallway that led to our suite, talking to us the whole way. His english wasn’t great and his accent was heavy and was too tired to listen correctly so as it happened I missed a bit of important information but I will come back to that.
From the minute the door to our suite opened my breath was taken away.
The room entrance
The deck, part 1
The deck, part 2
When Gilberto was done showing us around he did that shuffle around waiting for a tip dance that I have only ever seen on TV. Because we hadn’t had a chance to exchange any money yet all we had on us were Canadian 20’s so he was given the best damn tip. By the time we were left alone in our room Gil and I had been up and traveling for more than 12 hours, we wanted nothing more than a shower and a nap and not necessarily in that order but as soon as we laid down we realized we were way too wired to settle. We changed into more appropriate clothes and headed out to explore. We found the “cafeteria” Guantanamera where we had the yummiest damn pork sandwiches and I discovered that despite the fact that they call it Coke it isn’t (no diet coke for me, good thing I discovered Cuban rum!). We converted some cash into CUC’s and then for a walk about. We found the sweetest little lizards inhabited the area, cute little things, we couldn’t find out what kind of lizards they were but the locals call them perrito’s “little dogs”. We also found the piano bar and had our first drinks!!
I was very happy to be with my husband for this adventure, as beautiful as it was there the experience, especially on day one, was really overwhelming. All the languages around it, the worry about not knowing if there was shellfish in the food which was frequently labeled in Spanish. The language barrier with the staff. These factors combined to make us a team, a unit. It was a very good experience for our marriage.
After dinner I watched the sunset from our balcony. It was glorious but it was so different from sunsets at home. Gil told me that it was because we were further south but the sunset SO fast, I scarcely had time to tell Gil to come look at it before it was over.
After the sun was down we took a long moonlit stroll around the resort. There was full moon and it was just magical. We fell into bed and slept as deeply as we have ever slept in our whole lives. Our first day in paradise!!