Tag Archive: travelling


Short Staycation Day 3

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It was another early morning.
I tried to get on the road before everyone else again and it worked out pretty well. Beaut of a view as I headed to Lake Louise.
In all the times I’ve been to the mountains, I’ve never been to Lake Louise and have you seen the photos of that place? How can you not go?

It’s a bit of a drive to get to – and once you’re there, there isn’t much too it. Well other than the amazing view.

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Quite enjoyed the little creek you have to cross over

It was quite cold being so high up and off the lake, a dramatic difference from the 28 degree the day before in Banff! The lake was a bit slushy but not really icy.

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Hello there little red canoes!

 

 

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They say the best time to get out the Lake is before 9 or so because it gets quite busy after that. I was lucky to make it there before the crowds. But after walking around a bit I couldn’t feel my fingers so I went and had breakfast inside the Chateau Lake Louise.

After that I took a quick tour around the hotel.

A lot of people were starting to arrive outside so I went and took a few last photos before hitting the road once again.

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I want to go back to Lake Louise in the summer at some point because I really want to canoe on the lake! And I want to go back in the winter one day to skate on the lake! Now if only the drive wasn’t so scary in the winter…

Between Lake Louise and Jasper there is A LOT to see. If you don’t do a bit of research, you’ll end up driving right past a lot of places going ‘oh what was that…?’
I only made a few stops because I wanted to keep a bit of a time schedule. Plus some of them I just didn’t know about until it was too late. So clearly I just need to go again. Anyway, I think I mentioned this was the first time I’d ever driven myself through the mountains. Once I hit the Jasper side of things, it got interesting. I drove through some snow, sleet, rain, fog, you name it, all within about a half hour. This part of the highway is also single lane. Half the time I was so interested in looking around, or looking for animals, I must have driven the few cars behind me crazy cause I’d look down and realize I was going 10km slower than the limit. Though – there were SO many speeders! Why are you going SO fast? What if you went around a curve and hit a moose or a bear? I beg you, please slow down.
Anyway, I’m not good with ‘edges’ – you know… being on the edge of the road looking down… and heights. Well, I guess it’s more the fear of falling. So I’m going down the highway and I can see these cars parked up on a bit of an outlook an thought wow, I wonder what’s up there, that looks crazy. Then I realized that was exactly the road I was on. My tummy was in my mouth for a bit, but I convinced myself to pull over on the lookout once I finally made it.

 

My next stop was the Columbia Icefield. I went as a kid, which was cool then, but I think you appreciate it more as an adult when you see what is happening to the area. You can do those big tire bus tours out onto the glacier. I didn’t, I just stopped in their very impressive (and very busy) interpretive centre.

It was then off to Jasper. I missed so much though on the drive. You could very easily spend two days just stopping at all the cool stuff to check out. Next time! I guess I can sort of forgive myself, after not being in the area for so long, at least I saw the highlights.

The plan was to get to Jasper and see how I felt. If was enjoying myself and wanted to stay, I’d stay. If not, I’d do the rest of the drive home. I can honestly say in the 19 years since I’ve been to Jasper, not much has changed. Except, I couldn’t find Jasper the Bear… is he still there? I always thought  near the train station but I never saw him 😦
Jasper is quaint. It’s not nearly as commercialized as Banff, which is nice, but there isn’t as much to do right in the town. I walked up the main street and looked around the shops. I decided that it was only just after noon, so I’d head home. Sorry, I only took one photo in Jasper!

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The drive as you continue to head out of Jasper is so nice. I did end up seeing and Elk and a mountain goat (damn tourists trying to feed it). Was sad I never saw any bears though! Maybe next time. It was a very long drive – once you get out of the parks area, and the mountains disappear, it’s so dull. I kept looking back in my mirror to get a last look until they finally went out of view.
I was so happy to get out of my car finally! And to have someone to talk to other than myself! I really enjoyed my little getaway. Sometimes you forget about the amazing things that you have in your own backyard. And is there ever a time when the mountains aren’t pretty? I don’t care how often you see them, they’re always impressive. I will really have to consider going back as soon as I can. This time I’ll take a week or so and really explore.

Short Staycation Day 2

I got up bright an early on Saturday morning to head to Banff. I didn’t quite want to get out of that comfy bed and robe though…

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I headed down to breakfast in the hotel at the Rimrock dining room. It’s such a fabulous looking room. There are photos and artifacts all over the place to look at and how about this fireplace? DSC01701

I opted for the buffet as I can never turn down a buffet but I have to say – this one was a bit disappointing. It wasn’t bad but it was great. The staff though were great and it was a nice easy start to the morning.
I took just a few snaps of the hotel lobby as I waited for the valet to bring the car around.  I again just have to say the staff there is really excellent and so nice. I really enjoyed my stay.

And it was off to Banff! I’m lucky that I’m an early riser on the weekends so I was on the road just after 7am.

I haven’t been to Banff in 12 years so I was quite excited to go. I had also never driven myself there, so an adventure though the mountains was also something interesting.
Anyway, the drive itself is great. It’s so much fun to see the mountains get bigger and bigger the closer you get. And before I knew it, I had arrived at the Park gates. It’s still a bit of a drive until you’re in Banff proper but just being in the Park is great. I got to town and did a couple loops, it was fairly quiet being so early still. It still looked mostly like a remembered it. It has mountain village charm with a bit of commercialisation. Anyway, I decided my first stop would be the famous Bow Falls.

It was perfect, it was early and quiet and still a little crisp in the air. Part of my wishes I had just sat there all day. It ended up being 29 degrees so – a towel and picnic would have made for a lovely day. But as I said, 12 whole years means you have a lot to check out!

I made a quick trip over to the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. I had been invited to an event at the hotel and I had never been before so I was looking forward to checking out ‘the castle’. Quick shoutout to Poppy Barely for inviting me to their special event at the hotel, I mean shoes and Veuve Clicquot – two of my favouite things in one of the most beautiful settings!
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After that and a snoop through the hotel, which includes the loveliest ballroom I hope to have my wedding in one day… if I ever meet a man that will marry me… I was off on the next stop. A different view of the Banff Springs. DSC03233

Another ‘must do’ in Banff is a stop at Surprise Corner. The trail that starts from Bow Falls does go all the way up there but I hadn’t considered hiking – so I never actually packed proper shoes – so I drove up there. It’s a fantastic place to stop and take some photos.

Once I was done there, I was able to check in early to my hotel. I stayed at the Rundlestone Lodge – Pallisar hotel it’s not. It’s certainly a no frills kind of hotel but it was clean, there is a pool and a restaurant and free underground parking. I quickly changed and decided to do a walk down the main street in Banff. This is all we did the last time I was there. There are so many little shops to go in – most of the souvenir stores sell the same tack but there are also some fun pieces to find, like jewelry or art. If you go and want to check out some great art, I suggest the The Banff Gallery featuring the art of Jason Leo Bantle. It was so hard to not spend all my money on all the photos in there! I do plan to order a couple to hang on my wall at home. I wandered in and out of the shops and stopped for some lunch. It was so nice and warm and everyone seemed to be enjoying – the line up outside the ice cream shop was quite long.

After my walk I had sorta done everything I had planned on doing, which sucked in a way. I ended up getting my swim suit and heading up the mountain to the Banff Upper Hot Springs. Nothing like sitting in a 40 degree pool when it’s already 29 degrees outside.
It’s a bit smaller than some of the other hot springs but it was alright – though, like I said, not really a hot day activity. I only stayed for about a half hour or so.

There are no shortages of place to pick to eat in Banff but I couldn’t decide where to do. The biggest issue I had was my hotel was way at the end of the road and I didn’t feel like walking all that was, plus I was alone and while I believe Banff is quite safe, I don’t always feel comfortable walking alone in a place I’m unfamiliar with. I ended up at The Keg which was in a couple hotels down. The only thing that ruined my dinner was this – what I assume was mother and daughter – who were also sitting on the patio, talking as loudly as the could at each other. I can tell you pretty much everything about their lives, including the fact they had a whole jug of Sangria, which they pronounced sangree-AAAH. Two men joined them, who spoke at normal levels. The ladies ordered another jug and continued to tell all of us all about their lives.
That was pretty much the end of the night for me. I walked back to my hotel and sat on my great big king sized bed and watched TV. I mean, vacation is about catching up on rest and being a bit lazy sometimes too, right? I also wanted to go to bed early, knowing it would be a long drive to Jasper in the morning.

Short staycation

I booked myself a long weekend to head to Calgary, Banff and Jasper.

I was supposed to be in Calgary for an event but the devastating wildfires in Fort McMurray, the event was cancelled.
I still had hotels booked and desperately needed a couple nights with a change of scenery.

I left for Calgary early Friday morning. I used to live there so, while I enjoy going back to the city and see things (and how things have changed) – it’s not overly exciting, like if you were going somewhere new.

While some might call it blasphemy for a born and raised Edmontonian to say ‘I like Calgary’, I’ll say it anyways. Their sport teams on the other hand, well…
Basically if you haven’t been there, go. It really is quite a lovely city. There is lots to do. The most famous event is obviously the Calgary Stampede but if you don’t care to visit in July or just want other things to do, some of the many things I’d check out include the Glenbow Museum, the Military Museums, Stephan AvenueCalgary Tower, and Canada Olympic Park (Calgary hosted the 1988 games). Or do as I did and take a road trip to the mountains…

It was a pretty quiet day in town for me. I headed to Chinook Mall for some shopping and a quick coffee with any old friend. But that meant I accidently found myself on Glenmore Trail at the start of rush hour. The one thing I never got use to – was driving in Calgary. Doing 100 km/h and then come to a sudden stop for no apparent reason. Anyway, I met a friend for dinner at the Blue Star Diner. I totally forgot to take a photo of what we had – I had the burger, Lacey had wings. They were really good. It’s a cute little spot, pretty unassuming but if you’re in town and want a quiet, small place for some food, put this on your list.

After dinner I finally had time to head downtown and check-in to my hotel.
I was fortunate enough to stay at the Fairmont Pallisar.
For those who may not know, there are a number of Fairmonts across Canada (and a around the world!). Many here have ties to the rail line. They’re all very swish. I’ve been to the Chateau Frontenac (great patio), and the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald is one of my favourite spots for cocktails, they also do a crackin’ high tea. I’ve been to the Pallisar twice before but never have stayed there. It met all my expectations, it was such a great stay.

The valet helped me unload my trunk before taking my car to their secure parking. Check-in was super quick and easy. I really did think as just some single person only staying one night I’d be stuck in some dumpy room in the far back corner. Turns out I was wrong.
On the 11th floor, with this as my view.

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Not bad! Once I was in my room and my bags arrived, I wished I had checked-in sooner. Heck I wish I has just skipped shopping and dinner and came to the hotel. The bed was one of the top 3 comfiest beds I’ve ever slept in. The bedding was just awesome and I was oh so tired. Plus it didn’t have any cat hair on it, which is a hazard in my house. I am also disappointed I never made it down to the pool. I packed the bathing suit with every intention but I didn’t make it, looked lovely though.

I did head out for a bit, down over to National On 8th for a couple drinks with a friend. It’s a pretty cool place, with a fantastic rooftop patio. It’s quite trendy and loud so if that’s not your scene, there are plenty of other places to go in the area. But I think it was great! The drinks were decently priced as well… we didn’t eat anything but the food looked good going by.

After a couple drinks I went back to the hotel – very excited to sleep in that cozy bed!
Maybe I’m just so used to staying in hotel in other countries but I liked that there were big fluffy facecloths in the bathroom along with the towels. The bath products were nice too – I just used the soap but took the mini lotion with me because my hands were so dry.

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Goodbye Cuba

I’m currently in self imposed exile.
We are leaving in a couple hours. Everyone is down at the pool and I’m on my patio. It’s an absolutely stunning, sunny day here but I got a few more red marks yesterday. I won’t say I’m sunburnt, i just have a few red spots/lines that either got missed by sunscreen or rubbed ect. So as much as I’d love to be at the pool – this is why I came – I don’t want to have to deal with the sunscreen process and then having to have a super fast shower and run across the resort to catch the bus. The skin on my face is quietly thanking me I’m sure.

I did go down to the beach for a bit. Correction, that’s why I came. I walked along the edge of the water and got my feel and legs wet. I had to pull myself away knowing if I stayed any longer my skin would start to get crispy.

So now I’m sitting here having a beer, this time tomorrow beers before lunch will be frowned upon.

I’m not looking forward to putting pants and stuff on to go to the airport, or the drive to the airport or the wait there or really even the flight but I am looking forward to going home. Actually a little bit anxious. I haven’t turned my phone on for a week and I’m terrified about what might be waiting when I do. I’m probably over thinking it, I’ll probably just have 800 work emails and a text from a friend who forgot I went away. But this one time I went away – 12 coworkers got fired. So that always plays on my mind. Geez I think I need another beer.

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The parting shot

 

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So bit of an adventure on the way to the airport . Our bus was super late picking us up but it finally showed up. Turned out they broke down and had to wait for a replacement but made sure we’d make it to the airport on time. We just pull away from the resort and some guy who had been on the bus for a while I assume starts yelling about carrying on about how we need to hurry up and was being so rude to the driver and the hostess. He was just loaded. And that continued all the way to Varadero – when we had to pullover at a gas station for him. Some guy that wasn’t even traveling go with him had to get off the bus with him and help him. You’d think after that he’d stop. But he didn’t. I was pretty sure they weren’t going to let him on the plane. There was some guy behind me too who was upset with a tour guide they had earlier the week and had some things to say about her. I turned around in my seat and gave him a look. He stopped talking.

Anyway, get to the airport and no sign of drunky. Standing in line and I heard someone talking really loudly but didn’t think much of it. I look over and there is an older couple (probably mid to late 50’s) talking with an airport official. They’re both holding beers. I did my best to heard what was going on and quickly learned the couple was drunk and airline staff though their behavior was unacceptable. The man was so mad at the airport guy and was all up in his face. Airport guy told him they need to go outside and get some fresh air and maybe some water and that once the rest of us were processed, they’d consider letting them back in.   The couple, not satisfied with this, started talking to another airport person. Eventually they went outside. Fast forward and they did let them back in. But how embarrassing! You’re adults! I know you’re on vacation but standing in line at the airport drinking beer…and then getting up in the face of airport staff? What is wrong with you? Anyway, I finally got through security and who do I see? Drunky sitting in the airport lounge drinking! How he got in and was allowed to keep drinking…. He was a couple people in front of me when we boarded and I told the stewardess that he was drunk, she said thanks and then went and told the other staff. He ended up sitting next to this young couple I recognized from our Havana tour. And he was a big guy, I felt bad for them. He asked where they were from and when they answered, he replied with ‘oh, sorry to hear that.’ And that was that. I’ll check in later with a trip wrap up!

Cuba Day 7

I’m happy we’re going home tomorrow. Strange right? I’m just tired of a bunch of stuff. The rude, pushy, loud Russian tourists. Seriously – do they ever just shut up? On the beach they’re screaming at each other or singing, at the buffet they’re talking loud enough for everyone to hear and push you or butt in front of you in line.
I’m tired of feeling damp while I’m sleeping on my hard bed.
I’m tired of being hungry (save for my lobster load up).
Tired of waiting around for people. If you’ve read any of my past posts you know, this is why I like travelling alone most of the time because it’s just me and my schedule.
And I’m a little bit tired of all the sunscreen. I’ve said it before, I love the hot, sunny weather but I can only take so much.

Today was another hot and sunny day and everyone wanted to sit outside at the pool again. I was in a bad mood quite literally since I got up. I don’t know what it was. Maybe just the combination of all of the above.

It was great out there today but I just sorta sat there being grumpy. I found some trees that offered a bit of salvation but my face got crispy pretty early on.

I had enough so I went and had lunch at beach grill. First time going there and it kinda sucked. Happy cat was there but so where about a million birds that kept swopping at me and landing on my extra chair. Not cool. Oh and being pushed my a Russian lady in line.

I went back to the pool for a bit and went in the water but I was bored and so very, very tired of the sunscreen reapplying.

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So I just came back to the room and had a shower and packed my suitcase.

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Towel creature and a note from my maid! 

My aunt and I went into Varadero before dinner. We wanted to try and find a spot to watch the sunset in town and then do some last minute shopping because we hadn’t really found anything throughout the week.
We never did end up getting to see the sunset so that was once again disappointing. We did go though a few markets. It was the same as the stuff we had seen earlier in the week but we ended up finding a few things to buy for ourselves and for other people. We came back to the resort and had dinner. No lobster guy tonight 😦

 

The entertainment was a ‘water ballet’ – so sorta like synchronized swimming. They had some amazing singers too. It was pretty much the only entertainment I actually sat down to watch all week. I got cold though from being in the sun all day and then there was a cool breeze sitting by the pool so I was kinda happy when it was done because I just wanted to go back to my room and warm up and go to bed. Home time tomorrow.

Cuba Day 6

Assessing the (sun) damage. My face hurts.

Today is the first day where its been hot and sunny allll day. The family went on a day trip to Trinidad and Cienfuegos and I stayed here.

Some people moved into the room above me last night and were so loud. Dragging chairs, talking on the patio, open and closing doors. Then I got a bit sick from our dinner – something we had touched the salmon and while it was very mild, eating salmon makes me feel like I’m having my intestines ripped out one at a time- so it was still not fun.

Anyway, got up and went and had breakfast, it was blah as usual. I went on a bit of a walk around to the backside of my building. There is a nice walkway.

Then came back and layered on the SPF 30 as thick as I could and headed down to the pool.

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Happy Cat was down there, sleeping on a chair with a nice lady. I like people watching and I had noticed this woman and her boyfriend quite a bit around the resort. They’re both really good looking and seemed like fun people. Then I realized at the buffet this morning that they were signing to each other. I just found them so interesting to watch! Anyway, I started telling this British woman all about Happy Cat and our adventures. Her and I talked for ages and she told me the building beside ours had been struck by lightening the day before we got there and that was part of the reason we had no power in our building when we got here. She said that there was a fire that started in that building but the strike had knocked out the power and in turn the fire alarm. Luckily it wasn’t too bad and no one got hurt. It rained so hard that the pools flooded and they looked like big mud puddles. Glad we missed it!

She was telling me how her and her husband have traveled lots. They’ve been to Cuba quite a few times and all over Europe. Said their son is a special forces police officer back in the UK. I should have asked if he was single! They were great to talk to and then she came over a bit later and gave me another book. They disappeared later so I guess I get to keep it!

After a while I made myself go in the freezing cold water (I’d much rather been in the ocean but I figured I’d go after lunch). I tippi toed to the swim-up bar and had a beer with some people from Ontario. As I sat there I could feel my back getting warm so I decided to go for lunch – I only had that one beer and a Pina Colada earlier but I figured I really needed more water and a break form the sun for a bit. My poor fish belly white skin can only take so much.

I came back up to my room to re-slather the sunscreen, I find it much easier to do when I can see in a mirror and headed back down. Some new people had moved into the chairs beside me and I think they are the noisy ones who moved in above me last night ’cause today is the first day I’ve seen them and I saw them come down the stairs behind me. I thought they were foreign at first and then I realized they’re just from very northern England and that’s why I couldn’t understand a thing they were saying (so still foreign but less so than someone who doesn’t speak English).

It was so hot by this time – it was great but I could feel my face burning. I made myself a little head canopy with my swimsuit cover-up. I kept making sure I topped up my sunscreen it but I find my face still gets reddish and hurts a bit. My cheeks are pink now but it usually goes down, it always does later in the day so I don’t think it’s sunburnt it’s just that this sensitive – pale little white girl from Canada doesn’t really tan – just turns different shades of pink, red, and white.
I found that when the rest of my crew (especially my well tipping uncle) isn’t with me, the staff at the pool bar here tend to ignore me. I tip them too but when it’s only me, they don’t get as much. So I walked over there and got a strawberry daiquiri. I was trying to tough it out and stay out by the pool, so I thought this would be a good way to cool down with out freezing my tail off in the pool and then having to reapply the sunscreen all over. It was a very strong daiquiri and was a bit instant drunk – the heat never helps that (remember that Las Vegas post from a couple years ago?)
So I packed up and thought I’d try out the beach for a bit. Down there you’re facing away from the sun and they have those cute little palm umbrellas, I know there is an actual name for them but I can’t remember what it is. I lasted about 10 seconds out there – the wind was blowing so hard, it was not enjoyable.  Probably a good idea, I still have one full day here and the last thing I need is sunstroke.

So here I am on the patio of my room. It’s only 2:30 but I had a shower and got all the icky sunscreen scrubbed off.

I don’t have anything to do now until 7:15. I booked in at the French restaurant by myself because I don’t know what time everyone will be back. Maybe I’ll go nap.

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So it’s just about 6 and I’m in the lobby bar killing time before dinner. I felt lame just sitting in my room watch TV. I went out briefly and got some chips. I started feeling really gross in my room but I think I was just hungry! I didn’t really want to go to that one restaurant that’s always open – I just wanted a snack. Anyway, I did get slightly sunburnt – thankfully it’s fairly minor as far as sunburns go. Just across the bottom part of my chest, so when I was tanning my back, it’s where my sunscreen would have rubbed off on my towel. Though I was being so careful to!. And I have one little red patch on my back. It could be so much worse so I won’t complain. And now as I sit here – I’m watching what appears to be quite the wicked storm rolling in. I better drink this Pina colada and search for cover.

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Ok last update for the day!
The family was back much earlier than we all expected so they joined me in the lobby for a bit. They said their trip was great and the pictures are really cool. So if you’re thinking of Cuba and a trip other than Havana, this could be a great option. Like everything here, there is a lot of history down in that area.
I went off to my reservation at the French restaurant. It is lovely inside. Great decore and a live pianist, who was wonderful! I ordered the grilled lobster, thinking if it was half as good as the stuff in the buffet I’d be in good hands. It wasn’t. It was gross actually. It was mostly raw and came with a small scoop of vegetables. No one really came over to see how my food was so I picked at it and ate what I could and left. I met the family over at the lobby and we all went to the buffet. The lobster guy was there, so I loaded up my plate and ate as much of the salty, buttery goodness as I could. I was much happier 🙂


After dinner, you guessed it, more courtyard sitting. It started to rain so we moved our table and chairs under the covered walkway area. We all got a bit buzzed which was nice. Our waitress there the past few nights is fantastic. Her name is Mary and she’s super funny (calling my not so old uncle Papa because he ordered coffee and we all had drinks), really pretty and is really good at her job. Just an overall great personality and someone we enjoyed interacting with.

Anyway, bed time. Tomorrow is our last full day!

Cuba Day 5

Hey lady, you wanna buy, hey lady, you want your hair braided, hey lady, you have money, hey lady, you want drink, hey lady, you wanna skydive? hey lady, where you from?

I think my new name is hey lady.

Didn’t do much last night. Went for dinner once again in the buffet and I was so happy – they had a man grilling fresh lobster with salt and butter and it was SO GOOD! I must have eaten like 3 tails worth. I was in heaven. SO GOOD! I hope he’s there every day now until we leave.

Today we did not do anything. Literally. I got up and went to the buffet for breakfast again. And then the old routine of going back to my room, getting all sun screened up and then headed to the pool. It was slightly cloudy – then in rained so we went and sat in the lobby bar for a bit. Then back to the pool.

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Then I headed back to get a shower and head down to the beach. Every Friday night there is a sunset beach party. I went down there by myself. There was a fire dancer but that was about it. And I couldn’t see the sunset, it was sorta on the other side of the buildings. That was disappointing but the sky still looked nice. I waited for a while but nothing else was going on. I ended up talking to a very handsome lifeguard who says they weren’t having the party but didn’t say why. I was looking forward to it 😦

I headed back up and met up with the family at the Japanese restaurant in time for dinner. Food was good – except some of it was salmon, which I’m allergic too. Major bummer. And our cook and waiter were super entertaining. Our cook was telling us that his nephew is in jail cause he didn’t want to do the mandatory army service that’s required here in Cuba.

After dinner – we once again headed to the courtyard. But this time, I made my own fun. A Cuban and a Pina Colada. When in Cuba eh?

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Eesh certainly not the most flattering photo…

 

Oh and look! My maid left me a heart and a little  souvenir!

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Cuba Day 4

Did I want to go to Havana? Yes and no. No, because I go somewhere everyday when I’m at home and vacation (this one anyway) is about sitting and doing nothing. Yes, because it’s Havana and I’m here and who knows if I’ll ever come back.

So off we went really early. First to be picked up – it made for a long trip. I’m not a big fan of guided tours/bus trips. I like to go at my own pace and I’ve found there is always someone on those tours that either ruins it, is dumb, ask too many questions, gets lost or is rude. Or all the above. And I’ll tell ya what, this one was no different. I love my fellow Canadians but oh man where there some folks…

We went though the city of Matanzas which is the capital of the province, also named Matanzas. It looked neat, everything here is so different compared to what I’m used to. The cars, the buses, the scenery, just how day to day life looks in general.

The countryside is nice, lots of leafy valleys and green, green, green. I did briefly doze off, our tour guide had a very monotone (but informative!) voice. I liked seeing the neat little old houses tucked away with cows in the yard and random roadside bars.

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We stopped at one just over halfway to Havana. I didn’t get anything but was watching two cats scour the floor for food. One disappeared under a tree and next thing you know, had three kittens with her! They were SO small. The little runt was one of the smallest cats I’ve ever seen. I played with the little black one and his grey brother kept jumping on him. These sweeties were not like the resort cats – these ones had fleas but I couldn’t help myself. After a few minutes it was time to go!

We arrived in Havana about 45 minutes later.
It was everything and nothing like I expected. Lots of people, lots of colourful old houses and smelly cars. I was not expecting how built up it was, like office buildings and apartments-  it was taller than I expected, I always thought of it as a ‘short’ city.

Driving though was just incredible. I love old architecture and this city is not short of that, though all I want to do is take a big power washer and spray everything down. Our first stop was Revolution Square – probably some of the most recognizable scenes in the city. There is of course the government buildings featuring the iron images of  Che Gevera and Camilo Cienfuegos. Across the street is the  Jose Marti Memorial. That includes the star shaped tower that Fidel Castro built and it is high enough so he could see all around his island to make sure no one was attempting to invade. Or so we were told.

We had about 15 minutes there before it was time to move on. Our bus drove us all around and we got to see some cool buildings. We drove past the federal building which is still under construction so we could not get close or stop.

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Then it was off to this store where they sell rum and cigars.

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Unfortunately this was not a tour which takes you to an actual rum or cigar factory. Our group had done that on their last tour and I was really looking forward to it. So I do recommend if you’re going on a tour of Havana, make sure this is included. This time they just wanted your money. The owner of the store briefly explained the different rums and prices points but that was it.
As we waited to get back on the bus, I just sat and watched the people go by. People watching is so much fun, especially in a new place. It’s so busy and it’s just so interesting to watch the people and see how their daily life is. Some kids in school uniforms walked by and one was carrying a pigeon. I don’t think it was a pet, I think it was dinner. Our next stop was this area where they let tourists off and we walked down a couple streets and saw a few buildings. To be completely honest, I don’t know what most of them were. This is part of the reason I said I don’t like guided tours. It went too fast and if I don’t have an interest in what your showing me, I won’t absorb it as well. I like doing my own research and then going and seeing things. The scenery itself is great and I loved walking around and seeing the buildings and really getting a feel for old Havana but I can’t tell you what I saw. We did stop by the Cathedral of The Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception and the surrounding plaza. This cathedral has been visited by the last three Pope’s including Pope Francis earlier this year.


We also saw a few places frequented by Ernest Hemmingway. Our journey took us to the Hotel Florida for lunch. It was pretty traditional, pulled beef, rice and beans. It was good! One of the best meals I’ve eaten so far. We had to make small talk with some of the other people, a few of them weren’t so bad but one guy – yah that guy – I wanted to tell him to stop talking. A band serenaded us as we finished our lunch.
After that it really was just more walking. Our tour guide didn’t give us much time to stop and look at things. I didn’t get the chance to take many photos either. We stopped by a gun museum, an old church that had been converted into a concert hall – they had a enormous Christmas tree inside, a couple more plazas and the only mosque.

We were then given a hour of free time but I didn’t feel like walking around any more. We walked back toward the bus area that we were meeting at and did more people watching. A few people asked us for money but left alone for the most part. A man did ask my aunt for a lighter and then started talking to us. He was standing along the water line fishing. He told us all about the life he has. He makes about 20 pesos a month and his rent costs 12 but that includes utilities. He said that they do get some subsidies for food but we weren’t sure what that included because he was saying something about baby formula was not included. Maybe we just misunderstood. He was saying how many of them are not happy the embargos are being lifted and they really don’t want the Americans to start coming into the country. He was really interesting to speak with and we enjoyed it. He gave us each a peso coin to show us what their money looks like. While I’m sure his intention was to get money from us too – we were almost happy to help him because he at least took the time to engage and talk and ask questions. I gave him a Canadian loonie and my aunt gave him some Canadian money and some CUC’s. After that though, we started getting harassed by others who saw us talking to his man and giving him money. Thankfully it was time to get back on the bus.

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We made one more stop in the city at one of the forts – we took a quick look inside, it was pretty cool. At little claustrophobic in some of the walkways. The views back on Havana were the best part!

We made another brief stop at a roadside bar area. No kitties this time but they did have Pina coladas in pineapples! I was told I could put as much rum in it as I wanted!

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Now we’re back at the resort. The last people to be dropped off! Time for dinner and bed. Tomorrow – beach.

Oh look! A swan! (I think)
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Cuba Day 1

People warned me that things move a little slower in Cuba then in the ‘real world’ but I was not expecting this.

Let’s go back to this AM. To be honest, this was probably the least excited I’ve ever been for a holiday. I desperately need a break. But between guilt over leaving my cat all alone for the first time ever, guilt over the money, a little seasonal depression /anxiety – I was less than thrilled. I actually started to cry at home this morning, how lame! Especially for someone who normally loves to travel. This is another new country on my list and some place I did want to go.

Anyway, the flight wasn’t too bad. It always amazes me how awful people are and how some just have no clue how to behave in public/on a plane. Keep your clothes, on cover your mouth when you cough, use your inside voice – all that jazz. We flew Air Transat. The plane was older, kinda dirty and no individuals TV’s, which I find to be odd these days but you can download their app to use on your tablet. I just ended up spending most of my time looking out the window.

We got to Varadero and that’s when the slowness started. It took ages to get through customs – aagggess – it was painful. And of course, all those people going through customs had to get money then too – and that was also another long line.

We finally got on the shuttle to head to the resorts, which would another long journey. But I’ll say, at least the bus ride entertained me. I knew things here were different, I mean the airport is surrounded by an old wooden fence. It’s a fairly rural drive for the first bit but It was nice to see all the green and some of the houses that are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Going through actual Varedaro was cool, more neat houses and architecture, lots of colour and of course, the cars! I’m looking forward to exploring there.

We finally got to the resort the Paradisus Princesa del Mar but there was more waiting. They took our passports and told us to wait. And wait we did. I don’t understand why this very long process took place. I’m traveling with my aunt, uncle and grandparents. They’ve all done this kinda vacation before they say they’ve never done something like this done. Usually check-in/rooms and that sorta stuff is settled on the bus. We fiiinnally got our passports and keys to our rooms. We all loaded up on a golf cart and off we went to our building – which was pitch black. There was no power outside or in the hallways of the building. So there we are, walking in the pitch black trying to find our rooms. It was terrifying and I was not impressed.

The room is ok, two beds pushed together to make a bigger one. I checked for bed bugs, one looked in a bit better shape than the other so I’m sleeping on that one. I don’t think there is actual bed bugs, I’m sure I would have seen more evidence but it’s always a concern. There is a canopy over the bed but it’s kinda dirty and falling down. The bed has a waterproof cover on it, reminds me of the plastic bed I slept on in the dorm my first year at college. Good size room though and a nice big patio – looking forward to seeing the view in the day time. The walls are quite thin though, I can hear other people in other rooms.

After another scary we walk in the dark – we went to the buffet for dinner. This was also something I was warned about, the food. Was it great, no. There is lots of food but not much that I’m too interested in and what is there, sorta all tasted odd. There is a whole wall of different breads to pick from which might be a saving grace. I’m hungry.

After that we tried to find the evening entertainment. We did, kinda. There was brass band and they were good, there was supposed to be some other stuff but we couldn’t really find it. I don’t think much could have entertained me anyway. I’m tired and sticky and bored and still in an off mindset. I’ve got six days to perk up!

I’m hoping tomorrow being a full day, I’ll enjoy myself. I want sunshine and a beach. Right now I’m in bed, watching a U2 concert on tv .

So – day one, long, slow, sticky, my hair is starting to look like Monica’s on that episode of Friends when they go to the Caribbean, it will only get worse too. Oh I do love, love the warm and humidity so don’t get me wrong! Looking forward to what day 2 brings, I think.

Safe travels 

Morning everyone!

The countdown is on until my Cuban adventure, thanks to everyone who sent me ideas. We’ve actually changed our location and are going to Varedaro instead. We’re supposed to be staying at the Ocean Vista Azul, though they’re just in their soft opening phase and I’m a bit nervous about that. No wifi, how ever will I keep you guys up to date?! Haha

Anyway, just wanted to share a quick something and see your thoughts. In light of recent world events, have you rethought your travel plans? I’ve been to Paris a few times and wouldn’t hesitate too much to go back. I don’t know of any place in sort of the ‘western world’ so to speak that I wouldn’t go because of the terrorists threat. Could something happen? Sure but I can’t let that stop me from doing what I want. I mean, something could happen to me right here at home, right? I’ve seen that some school groups are canceling their international trips and some people canceling vacations because of different risk factors. But what is your take? Will you let the possibility of something happening, stop you from traveling?

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