Monthly Archives: March 2014

12 in 12 – Finishing Up March!

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Well March was my most successful 12 in 12 so far! I only missed three days the whole month.  I enjoyed getting my camera back in my hands and hope that I don’t find myself getting too busy again. Taking pictures relaxes me in a way that little else does. I have some good plans coming down the pipe for April but for that you are going to have to tune in tomorrow!!

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Cuba – Day Three!

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Day three started off a little rocky.  There are two things you need to understand, the first is that I have the bladder control of an 87 year old man which means I am, and have always been, a middle of the night pee-er. This was not helped by all the additional liquid I was consuming in Cuba.  The second thing you need to know is that the toilets in our hotel room were not shaped like ones at home. SO… when I got up in the dark to pee, trying to respect my sleeping husband I didn’t turn the light on. I mean I go to the bathroom in the dark at home every single night, maneuvering stairs and cats and whatever crap Kian has left on the floor. So yeah, I went to the bathroom expecting to pee and crawl back into bed, no harm no foul. What I didn’t count on was how much muscle memory goes into a trip to the bathroom. When I went to sit I was expecting my nice round bowl from home not the short square bowl. So… yeah…. I peed all over the floor.  I hope we can still be friends.

Okay now that I have shared my humiliation with you lets move along to the rest of my super awesome day.  Unable to get back to sleep after my clean up I grabbed my book and camera and headed down to adventure on my own while Gil slept.

I enjoyed several cups of that beautiful Cuban coffee while I read my book .  Once the sun was up I set out walking to see what I could see.

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Gazebo selfie!

 

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As I was walking I noticed that there were a lot of plastic drink cups and straws strewn about because people are dicks and don’t know how to use a garbage can.  So I, being who I am, really unable to help myself, compulsions being what they are, started picking up the litter. Don’t worry I washed my hands REALLY well.

On my way back I found the most awesome thing, a series of blow holes formed by the waves pounding against the cliffs of volcanic rock.

 

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By the time I got back to the room Gilly was up and ready to go for breakfast. After which we decided to pull a Robin Sparkles and head to the mall. We were actually going to the bank to exchange some money at a better rate then the resort offered. While the mall is certainly a place where things goods are exchanged for money I don’t want you to be confused by my use of the word “mall”.  The Plaza America is not by any stretch of the imagination Mic Mac Mall.  It was however very very pretty, much prettier than any shopping center around these parts.

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I can’t tell you anything about the actual bank as I was not allowed inside because I was not the person actually doing the banking so a cranky looking security guard curtly closed the door in my face. No Meggy’s Allowed!

When the banking was done we walked back to our resort stopping to take pictures of some of the amazing flora that we encountered. Gil is a very patient man and I would like to thank him for allowing me to turn a 5 minute walk into a 20 minute walk. He is such a good man.

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Back at the hotel we got our poolside gear and settled in to spend of the rest of the morning lounging. Gil, exhausted from his sleep in, immediately drifted off to sleep!

Gil Assumes The Position!

Gil Assumes The Position!

While he slept I drank more rum based drinks and studied the Spanish phrase book that we borrowed from Clint and Shelly. FYI rum is not a study aide.

Close to lunch time the clouds rolled in and the wind picked up a little. When the first rain drops everyone around the pool fled quickly, rats off a sinking ship. But not Gil and I, we stayed out for another hour laying in the light rain talking about everything!  It was sweet and romantic and amazing.

When we got hungry we went to Paellas for lunch where my life was saved by my handy dandy “I have a  shellfish allergy…” card which my husband made for me. As it happened everything at the restaurant had shellfish in it and you don’t order as much as they bring you the special of the day.  We did have some great Sangria  before we left to find some none deathy food.

After lunch the weather had gone from bad to worse so we hunkered inside for the afternoon, as had the rest of the hotel guests. All the bars and public spaces were in full party swing. It was loud and fun and we may have stuck around to drink with everyone except … and here is where I discuss one of my few complaints about Cuba…. the god damn smokers!! I have friends who are smokers and I still love them but I am very happy that they can’t smoke inside.  Much like our Vegas experience we were disgusted to learn that in Cuba people can smoke just about anywhere and so they did. I was constantly getting a face full of smoke at the bars, walking through common areas, walking down the street.  It sucked, please keep this in mind if you smoke and go to a resort.   Not wanting to hang out in the the cloud of toxic fumes Gil and I headed up to our room where I read and Gilly napped, yeah my baby can nap like a CHAMP!  I read a while and then got bored so I went back down to the internet center to log into FB for a while to let folks know I was still alive and mock the weather.  When my thirty minutes ran out I went back to the room. I had a nice long bath, read my book, had a little nap then woke up Gil to entertain me. We watched some awesome Spanish soap operas, an absolutly hysterical episode of Power Puff Girls in Spanish and when we were done with that we had a “disco dance party” all on our own.

We had an amazing dinner that night at the restaurant Trinidad. The food was spectacular, much better than the buffet. There was live music being played and we had the hottest waiter in the whole of Cuba, seriously, I couldn’t even make eye contact.  Plus we  had a extra special visitor for dinner…DSCF0491

 

 

Cuban Adventure – Part Two

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Our first morning in Cuba I was up with the birds, no seriously, I sat in the pre-dawn listening to the birds singing and the waves crashing and waited for the sun to rise.

For those of you who might be interested the sun does rise as fast as it sets! _MG_9543

I let Gil sleep in as long as he wanted because I am an AWESOME wife (if I do say so myself) but it was easy for me to sit on our deck and relax until he awoke. I could have sat on that deck for the rest of my life. I am planning my retirement as we speaktyperead..  whatever. I felt so inspired to write and I had nothing to write with, I found a few sheets of hotel stationary and a pen. All my notes from the trip are on this tiny pad, minuscule tight hand writing. I am betting Hemingway didn’t have that problem.

When Gil woke up we headed down to the buffet for breakfast. I found some really neat new fruits that I had never tried before. My favorite that morning was the guava.

After breakfast we headed out to pool with our towel, books, sunscreen and nothing but time! We had our first drinks at 10:30 am, god bless Cuban rum!

10:30 am Monday- toasting my work peeps!

10:30 am Monday- toasting my work peeps!

We laid there for three solid hours, drinking, reading, talking, napping. It was perfection. Well nearly. About half an hour in I got a little rumble in my tummy and then BAM, my first incident of what I have creatively dubbed “Cuba Belly”. I didn’t feel sick, I didn’t have any cramps or anything awful, just an “Uh-oh!” moment and then a lightening speed trip to the ladies. Happily I was fine for the rest of the day.

After lunch we had a coffee meeting with our WestJest rep Villma.

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She was like our Cuba mom, assigned to us to help us get comfortable in Cuba, give us some much needed info about what to do and not to do, giving us context for that social contract I was so worried about.  In addition she helped us pick out and book some excursions that would be safe,and we would be well taken care of. Villma is Cuban and lives in the area, she gave us her home phone number where we can get a hold of her if we needed to. I felt much more relaxed after knowing that, knowing Villma was on our side.

When we were all done with Villma we headed back outside but down to the beach instead of the pool. Oh the beach… I have no words to describe this beach to you!

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White sand and the bluest water I have ever seen. It was so warm, so clean and so clear. There was no seaweed, no rocks, nothing but perfection!  When I was done swimming I laid on my lounge chair, while Gil read, jamming to my tunes. I danced to “Happy” when it came on and sent out a boatload of love to my Aimee at home.

The beach was followed by a nap, we got lots of naps in Cuba. I think it was Gil’s favorite part. I liked the naps too and the king sized bed certainly didn’t hurt.

We had dinner that night at the buffet again. The food was half decent. We had heard lots of conflicting reports about the food in Cuba but Melia put out a good spread and we always found something we liked.  I am generally not a dessert person but I did love the offerings they had. We indulged in after dinner coffees because Cuban coffee is amazing and we weren’t at all worried about whether we stayed up past our bedtimes!!  Gil made me laugh so hard I was in tears when he pronounced that his espresso and blue cheese were not a taste sensation.

We took another after dinner stole in the moonlight, found one of the double beach beds by the water and had a long cuddle and chat while we listened to the waves pound the shore. We were deep in conversation when there was a thump right above our heads, as a coconut fell from it’s tree and landed on our thatched roof! It was so funny.

At 9pm we headed back into the bar where I actually ordered “what she’s having!!”  before heading over to the cabaret to watch the MAGIC SHOW!

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Our first full day on the island was most assuredly a success, we went to bed tired, a little tipsy and more relaxed than we had been in a long time.

Our Cuban Adventure – Part One

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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.A

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.

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And then Key West

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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 room entrance

 

The bedroom

The bedroom

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The deck, part 1

 

The deck, part 2

The deck, part 2

The view!

The view!

 

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!!

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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.

 

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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!!