Joined May 2016 Message
  • Day48

    Toronto airport canada

    February 15, 2019 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 1 °C

    As most of you know Chris and I like to extend our holiday to the end. This was no exception as we planned to meet our friend Pam, Jen's husband Malc's sister-in-law, during our 7hr stopover in Toronto. It worked out really well and we all enjoyed a 2 hour lunch together before Pam's daughter, Susan picked her up.
    Our boarding passes for the overnight leg to Heathrow were in different rows but a helpful lady on the Air Canada boarding gate desk managed to find us two together.
    We managed to doze for a few hours and Jo and Ali picked us up around 9.
    Lovely to see them and be back home after our 48 days of travelling.
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  • Day47

    Hotel Sol - Sol!?

    February 14, 2019 in Cuba ⋅ 🌙 22 °C

    Would it clear up? Rain all night but dry and dull as we had breakfast. We did some chores and by coffee time it was fine enough for a walk along the beach. We had an early lunch put on the swimmies and spent the afternoon on the beach beds. We did get wet but the red flag was out so only in up to the knees.
    Chris enjoyed a water ballet show while we sipped our last Mojitos and then had dinner.
    The alarm was set for 00.30 so we skipped the stage show and got a few hours sleep before the taxi turned up.
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  • Day46

    Come Rain or Shine

    February 13, 2019 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    The taxi wasn't due till noon so up to the old town again for a wander and coffee. Took some nice shots of the Plaza Mejor from the balcony of the art gallery before back to our 'home' and taxi dead on time as usual.
    About half way into the journey the rain started! A real tropical downpour that kept going for around 8 hours! So much for our plans for an afternoon swim off one of the top ten beaches in the world! The wind was howling as well so the hotel, not designed for such weather, was awash inside and out!
    A couple of cocktails , a meal and a Cuban dance show later we were ready for bed.
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  • Day45

    Foot sore in Trinidad

    February 12, 2019 in Cuba ⋅ 🌙 25 °C

    It's not a big town but quite hilly and the whole of the historic centre is cobbled with uneven stones from the river. This makes walking tricky and in 30 degree heat, tiring as well!
    We set off on our guide book's suggested walk, visiting various historic buildings and craft markets. At 11.30 we stopped for coffee in a nice courtyard restaurant and found a quartet about to set up and play for the lunch crowd. They were so good that we ordered a snack and listened to their whole set, buying the CD at the end rather than giving the expected tip. We'll probably bore you with it sometime!
    We continued wandering after lunch and made it back 'home' for Chris's afternoon tea. After a bit of a siesta we were off to a bar high up in the town for Mojitos and the sunset. A nice bar with live music again but nowhere near the standard of this morning. After a couple of cocktails and two very nice tapas plates we descended back to the main town and decided to order a pizza between us in a lovely restaurant we had spotted in the morning.
    Low and behold another combo started to set up. They were excellent and gave us a full hour of first class music. Didn't have enough money for their CD so just a 3 CUC tip this time!
    Finally back 'home' to write this but had to visit the ATM first so we had funds for tomorrow!
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  • Day44

    Trinidad without cricket!

    February 11, 2019 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    A long drive today, 6 hrs but at least our driver spoke excellent English. So he should as he was a graduate teacher of English turned to taxi driving because it pays better! He told us that many things in Cuba are 'upside down' like that.
    We arrived in Trinidad around 4pm having spent an hour in Cienfuegos on the way. C. was a lively town that somehow felt less safe than even Havana. Nothing to really substantiate that just a feeling really and the people on the streets. Anyway after a bit of sightseeing and a drink we were off to Trinidad.
    This 'home stay' is much like the other two but right in the old town centre so easy to do the sights tomorrow.
    After a couple of Mojitos listening to Cuban music we decided to eat cheaply tonight and splash out on our last bought meal tomorrow. I spotted a little bar on the Main Street that did Cuban snacks and pizza so in we went.
    Now I can understand flags of Valencia F. C. and Barcelona F. C. but why Nottingham Forest? The barman had no idea but suggested they were given them so up they went!
    A nice snack later and a fight with the ATM and we hit the sack to be ready for 8am breakfast tomorrow.
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  • Day43

    Tobacco Road

    February 10, 2019 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    The house phone rang and Mariacele (our landlady) announced 'Jesus is coming' well it was a Sunday but pretty unlikely we thought till a young man arrived and introduced himself as our guide Jesus and added quickly 'but my surname is not Christ!'
    He led us along paths through the field systems to a small farm where the owner showed us, and a pair of American ladies, how they lived and produced cigars which we had to try. Jesus turned out to be pretty poor at English but luckily the American ladies' guide was reasonable so we learnt a lot and drunk a cocktail with local rum. A bit early for alcohol but what the heck!
    Back in the town we had a light lunch and then set off by ourselves for a walk close to the mogotes. The scenery here is not dramatic but very pleasing and we were surprised by the variety of domestic animals we saw mostly just wandering around!
    We stopped back in town for refreshment (Pina Colada for Chris, beer for me) before walking the 1k back to the house. Mariacele was providing our dinner tonight, a vast improvement on our cheap one last night and then we settled down to edit photos, diary and Penguins.
    Wifi is a real problem in Cuba. Only one state provider and you have to buy tokens for it at official offices. Only one such in each town so queues are long and you have to show ID as locals are restricted in use. It took me 10 min or so to buy 1 hour of use and that is only at 'hotspots' that are not widespread. You may be reading this after we arrive back in UK!
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  • Day42

    Havana to Vinales

    February 9, 2019 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Our taxi turned up on time yet again and our driver, Hernando asked if we minded his 5 year old daughter coming with us. Fernanda was a delight and Chris taught her a few words of English during the journey of about 3h. The roads are very good with little traffic on them so only hold ups when behind slow vehicles once we were off the motorway. We arrived at our home stay right on time at noon expecting to find a guide there for a three hour trip through the Vinales valley, a region dominated by megales, limestone outcrops similar to the caste scenery in Halong Bay. He didn't show up and after several phone calls Hernando found his house and it was finally agreed that H. would take us to the main sites that afternoon and the guide would pick us up in the morning for the rest of the trip.
    We then had a problem with entry as we had vouchers but only electronic and they needed hard copy! More phone calls and H. was told to pay (remember we had very few Pesos left!) and claim back the money later. Finally we waved goodbye to H. and F. having given him a tip in dollars, not a popular currency in Cuba.
    We found a cheap meal in the town that night (again we couldn't use our meal voucher without a printout) and were drawn to the main square by the sound of music. It was a bit loud for us so we wandered a bit further down the road and I noticed a light up a narrow alley inset into a wall. It was a very well hidden ATM! It worked, we were back in funds so celebrated with Mojitos in a bar near the square.
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  • Day41

    Havana in a day (and night!)

    February 8, 2019 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Breakfast with the family followed by some money exchange with Dad preceded Alain coming to pick us up dead on time. He took us into the centre of old Havana where we met our guide for a walking tour of the old city.
    One of our first stops was the National Theatre where Chris discovered that a ballet was on that night so, of course, she bought a ticket which was a third of our pesos! Later a stop at Hemingway's Mojito bar (3 Mojitos - one extra for the guide), a tip for her at the end and then another for Alain who had waited to take us 'home' and refused payment left us short of Pesos.
    We had a two hour classic car ride later in the afternoon and, again dead on time, a Chevrolet 1957 'Bellair' convertible turns up in superb condition for the trip. I had thought these classic American cars were a bit of a tourist gimmick but not so! They are everywhere in various states of repair and can be hired simply as taxis. You see very few modern vehicles apart from yellow taxis and Transtur busses. Even old motorbike combinations are quite common!
    He dropped us off at the theatre (another tip!) and we had a drink in the cafe waiting for the performance. I found a bar with live Cuban music and managed to make two beers stretch out the evening.
    On the way back to pick up Chris I passed 4 ATMs but they all refused me money! We had enough for a taxi 'home' (a Lada from the 70's) but only about 20 pesos to last us over the w/e as change places only open Mon to Fri.
    Watch this space as they say!
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  • Day40

    Viva Cuba!

    February 7, 2019 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    An easy journey right up to customs at the airport. No one had told us (nor many other travellers!) about the form we had to fill in to actually be released into the country! A frustrating 15min later we found a source of them - a security check point that we hadn't used! Back to the exit gate but behind a group of about 30 Chinese who also had no idea about the form but we managed to sneak through in the confusion and find our taxi man, Alain.
    30 min later we were at our first of three 'home stays' and warmly greeted by one of the family, Alek who showed us our room. A bit shabby but clean and comfortable with our own bathroom, fridge and , much to Chris's delight, a kettle!
    Breakfast ordered, a bit of unpacking and in bed by midnight.
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    Christine McNeill

    Travellers' Joy!


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