Last summer, Matt and I booked a family trip to Cuba! It was going to be our first trip south and our first trip on an airplane with Alex since coming home from Korea. Since Matt is a teacher and does not have any flexibility in his vacation schedule, we had to go prime time – over the Christmas holidays. We left our home on December 29th – expecting to depart at 3:20pm. Unfortunately due to a number of factors beyond our control… weather, delays, incompetency (did I say that?!), we were delayed until 10pm and then again until 6am - essentially losing a day of our trip We got to know Terminal 1 of the airport quite… quite well… as we sat around for hours on end. Luckily we were put up in a hotel for the night.
However… we eventually did get to Cuba! And it was sunny… it was warm… and it was fantastic.
I will say, on the way to our resort, we had a real eyeopener. We knew Cuba was a relatively poor country, with people making approximately $12-20CDN per month. We had packed lots of children’s clothing, ladies clothes, hats, stationary, creams etc, that are generally difficult to get or are otherwise very expensive, to leave as gifts for the housekeeping staff and others that we came across. But when we saw the homes along the road… I know Matt and I were more than a little shocked. The homes were as well maintained as resources allowed, but compared to where we were coming from… let’s just say it was a different world.
When we finally arrived at the Riu Playa Turquesa, we tried to relax. We were overly exhausted – with each of us running on about 3 hours sleep – Alex on about 6. We found our room, got our suits on hit the pool. Hola! That night, we were in bed by 7:30.
The next day, New Years Eve, was overcast and a tad rainy. However, we still hit the pool. Compared to Ontario, it was still very very warm. That night we headed to dinner with a wonderful couple we met on the bus to the resort – they were there on their honeymoon – thankfully they didn’t mind hanging out with a couple and their kid. We stayed up quite late for us- until about 11:30 – attending the kids disco and the New Years Eve show. We didn’t make it to midnight thanks to the way Cubans measure their drinks…
The rest of the trip was amazing. We spent lots of time by the wading pool – mainly because Alex met a few nice kids that he wanted to play with every second of the day, but also because the pool bar was there for easy access to the slush drinks. Don’t worry – we weren’t drinking all day long – we were ordering the virgin drinks too! It was very very warm which caused some crazy hair for me – I had no idea humidity would affect my hair as it did! I now know for next time…
The beach was amazing. It was a coral beach – so finely broken up pieces of coral and tiny shells – so very cool. We snuck a few shells out of the country - don’t tell Castro! Alex wasn’t as fond of the beach – he was scared of sharks.
One day we went to a tourist market in Guardalavaca by double decker bus – it was a wonderful way to see more of the country side. We picked up some souvenirs and some cigars and hoped back on the bus to go back to the resort since it looked like rain.
One of the very cool things about Cuba is their cars. The classic cars are abundant there since they don’t trade with the US. We got to see many pre 1960s cars – colourful, cool vintage rides – many as taxis. My dad had a ’55 Bel Air so it brought back a lot of memories. But we also, surprisingly, saw many Korean cars! There were a lot of newer Kias and Hyundais.
Matt celebrated his 37th birthday in Cuba. He spent the morning on an excursion fishing at a coral reef and then snorkeling with our new friends at the beach. He said he saw lots of very cool creatures. That night we all went to dinner together – we sang happy birthday over a selection of deserts from the buffet. After we went to the evening musical entertainment where Alex danced up a storm. The singer thought he was great!
On our final day, I got to do the one thing I had wanted to do all trip – go to a swim up bar. I know – kinda silly – but I had never done it before!
One thing people always comment on when they travel to Cuba is the food. And I will say, that while I was quite tired of the buffet and the offerings by the end of our trip, the food was pretty good. People have to remember that Cuba is a communist country with rations and often difficulty getting resources in. Some days there was no bottled water. Some days no eggs. But the Cuban people did whatever they could to make what they did have to offer the best they could They were extremely friendly, outgoing and happy people. That being said, I would recommend anyone going to Cuba to pack snacks in their luggage We had some – but in the end, it wasn’t enough.
We had a great time and are already talking about where to go next! 2014 looks like Disney… then 2015 another trip south!