Joined April 2022 Message
  • Day13

    Havana explosion

    May 6 in the Netherlands ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    You might have heard on the news about the Havana Hôtel Saratoga explosion.

    We are safe back in Holland, we heard about it when we landed.

    We were in that exact same spot, at the exact same time.... 24 hours before. 😱Read more

    Isabelle Bistagne

    quelle horreur aucune info ici. merci de nous prévenir

    5/6/22Reply
    Michael Berberian

    I knew you were safe but it must be weird to have been so close 😱

    5/7/22Reply

    Bizar, gelukkig zijn jullie veilig thuis. [Desiree]

    5/8/22Reply

    Het is een mooie vakantie geweest, als ik de verhalen lees en de foto's zie😊😘 [Desiree]

    5/8/22Reply
     
  • Day11

    Havana last hurray

    May 4 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    We start the day with fusterlandia. A crazy artist who decorated a whole neighborhood a la Gaudí, miro, Picasso.

    Quite interesting. Funny details we would have bought something but except hyper luxurious cigar shop no one accepts credit card - only cash.

    If we didn't had Franca or Barbara funding us pesos vs a bank transfer to their Dutch account, we would been eating white rice for a week already. There is no way to get any cah out at all or at 1/30 échange raté while the street gives you 1/110!!
    We burned our expected cash within just a few days and leaving with next to nothing 😅

    So we decide to burn the last of it on the local craft tourist market and we did a good job at it 🤣🤣

    We walk back home via a street art neighborhood - quite clean and nice actually and a hunt for bottle of water which is thus week cuban shortage. Nothing new here...

    Finally another good restaurant - top 3 in Cuba. We meet this kind of crypto American millionaire on his quest to visit 100 countries (he was at 99 already) and in a side quest for a new exotic girlfriend.

    Off to zzz, a last quickwalk and good bye to Havana. We are writing this from the Prado, just before the last shower, packing, drive to the airport one last time in Orge old timer dodge, and off to an long flight, connection in Paris, then Amsterdam in zombie mode!

    This was fun, eye opening in how poor those people are, but also how you can be happy with very little. Some things to ponder!
    Read more

    Isabelle Bistagne

    c'est triste de devoir rentrer

    5/5/22Reply
    Rens Wegerif

    Dit gaan we maken op Zwits!

    5/5/22Reply
    Nina Cornelia Schilp

    jaa, I'm in!!

    5/6/22Reply
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  • Day10

    Vinales day 2 / Transfer to Havana

    May 3 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    Wake up call at 5.30.....

    We decided to go on a sunset hike. One hour walk uphill in the dark with a guide and Franca. Watch sunset, one hour walk down.

    Despite the punishment and the early hour, this was very much worth it. Amazing views, endemic birds, jungle mountain sights, it was everything we hoped for.

    After a well needed shower and a gargantuan breakfast, drive to Havana in a modern car with air conditioning! Nap time!

    Arriving in Havana we looked at an old fort. OK, had to be done.

    Back at hotel we decide to go to complete different part of town. Clean, nice, almost modern : vedado. Compare to the absolute wreck and poverty of old Havana, this feels like heaven.

    We have a decent dinner there on a rooftop and we walk back via the malencon, the beach strip to the hotel.

    Its where couple hangs, Cuban plays music and fish. We saw one guy fighting and bringing up a massive barracuda - just from the shore. Impressive!
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    Isabelle Bistagne

    très intéressant avec des paysages magnifiques

    5/5/22Reply
    Isabelle Bistagne

    très belle

    5/6/22Reply
    Isabelle Bistagne

    belle pièce

    5/6/22Reply
    Isabelle Bistagne

    magnifique paysage

    5/6/22Reply
     
  • Day9

    Vinales

    May 2 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    Last minute change - we're going on horseback. Something not usual for Michael.

    We left with Franka towards the horses, I had the fast / more active one (Tequila) Michael the bigger easier one (Mojito). This ride was totally not like any other tourist horse tours I did before in the past. We stopped a few times, we adjusted te route on what we would like and this time we went again to see "real Cuba"

    Franka is a Dutch girl living here. Her daughter, Olivia, is probably the only blond with blue eyed two year old in town. She knows everyone here, perfect translator for us.

    First stop was a Tabacco farm, they explained in very details about the process and also the government rules. They take 90% of all the Tabacco, where 10% is left for the farmers to sell for themselves. The big difference is that the cigars made by the farmers are all natural, handmade, what we would call bio, while the rest of the production (cohibas, partagas, etc) is not.

    On this farm they also grow and brew coffee, honey and a special rum. We decided to buy 5 kilo of the coffee, delivered to us in plastic bottle
    .. The only packaging they have! Francesca helped making this happen, it would have been impossible otherwise. They started roasting the coffee when we left, and would later deliver it to our house.

    We hopped on back on our horses. On our way we have seen our house owner, working on the land with his oxes. We stopped at a cave, rode through wetland and some jungle parts.

    Last stop was a cute restaurant up on a hill, we said good bye to our horses and left for a super nice cuban lunch with a amazing view . Franka parents joined us, super nice and friendly people with amazing travel stories! The apple did not fall far from the tree.

    The evening we walked over to her house, spend some more tile with her parents and learned more from Franka about the life in Cuba.
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    Isabelle Bistagne

    humm cela doit être bon

    5/5/22Reply
    Isabelle Bistagne

    un petit sourire mon fils stp

    5/5/22Reply
    Isabelle Bistagne

    stalactites

    5/5/22Reply
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  • Day8

    Travel day to Vinales

    May 1 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    It's a long travel day in front of us. Having said our last goodbye to our humble hosts, we stepped back into Orge's old-timer.

    Very bumpy road but now, direction. the west of Cuba. VINALES, an unesco world heritage, and the home of the tobacco.

    We stopped on the way at ciénaga de Zapata, an unesco biosphere reserve, the biggest swamp land area in Cuba.

    We made a stop at a "unfortunately touristy" spot called Guama a reconstructed indigenous village, where we did a small boat trip. Despite Nina's sadness of not seeing the "real thing", we still where able to see quite some bird species - a giant harron, emerald hummingbirds and the Cuban trogon.

    Back on the road we have some surprises for us.. Cuban style. For exemple half of the road is covered with grains.. So it can dry faster.

    No time for food. You can stop here on the middle of the highway, and buy local cookies, fruits from sellers who are standing there the whole day.

    Arriving in vinales we stopped first quickly at a tabacco farm, recommended by Orge, where we learned a part of the process of making a cigar.
    We knew the next day we would learn more about it so we didn't stay too long.

    At arrival on our new casa particulares, the most beautiful house on the street with again very friendly and humble Cubans. A few minutes later we also met franka (Francesca over here) a dutchie married to a cuban. She lives in this village and she will be our local guide for the next day's.

    Her parents are also visiting here right now so we decided to have dinner with them and try to figure out if there is any festivities happening since it is first of May (labour day). Except for a street market with cocktail stands unfortunately not much dancing going on, so we walked home, off to bed.
    Read more

  • Day6

    Playa giron day 1 & 2

    April 29 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Playa Giron in English is "bay of pigs". Yes, the same spot on the failed American invasion of Cuba. Which explains the Russian tanks and airplanes displayed center city.

    Now back to the trip. Drive there was a slalom between those stupid red crabs. They live in the forest and migrate to the beach to reproduce. The road is red from their carcass. The asphalt is their cemetery. They can Pierce your tire if your careful. The roads are already tricky because of their huge holes with them, horses on them, sheep's crossing. The crabs are just another variable to the problem.

    Super cute rental at playa Giron. A quick swim followed by an absolutely incredible meal of giant crab (not the roadkills one, they're toxic!!) and fish. Relax on the porch looking at Cubans passing by, off to bed.

    Day two : beach, Snorkeling, diving, sunburn. We did a few wild snorkeling spot with a local guide, Michael did a dive, and after we ended up on a beach, with bar, food and us doing absolutely nothing.

    The night dive Michael wanted to do was cancelled because nothing really works in Cuba, only one person with a license to do night dive by the government, and his compressor was broken and no spare sparts.

    We are starting to understand here that people are Happy but learned to live with shortage of everything. Parcetamol, oil, diesel, deodorant... Money can't buy it.

    Second dinner at la casa, made from ingredients gathered by the owner from the whole village...
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    Michael Berberian

    Michael eating seafood! That's new... 😛

    5/2/22Reply
    Monique Janssen

    Ziet er goed uit, lieverds.

    5/2/22Reply

    Mooi verhaal [Desiree]

    5/2/22Reply
     
  • Day5

    Trinidad day 2

    April 28 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    We were supposed to get a bici-tour of the town. Thankfully it didn't happen! This little girl, 1.50 meter high showed up, we don't know how the hell she would manage to drag us both along among the paved street of the city!

    So, walking tour it is. Through the old rich homes and Monuments, she learned us all about the history of Trinidad and the famous people who lived here.

    One example : a famous pirate who at one point was the first and most important person in the old town.

    He owned a big house full of pleasure lady's and next to it, a holy statue of Jesus from Vera Cruz, Spain!
    Long story short, he got stranded there, and the christ statue who belonged to a pirate, displayed in his whore house is now the center of a procession every year!

    The beautiful thing about the old Town is that each building and its frescoes are 300/400 years old, but still preseverd and in function!

    More interestingly, we then moved to the non tourist parts of Trinidad, the "new town" (still dated back to 1800) with real people. We even stopped at our guide place for coffee, and visited her home, where she lived with her daughter and grandmother. Three generations of women under the same roof, no men, but small pig getting ready to be slaughtered in few months.

    She explained us about the difference between government and private buildings, food coupons and their school systems.

    Still absolute poverty around - unlike anything we've ever seen. But no crime, no feeling of anger.. Only smiling faces - its Cuba, be happy! On every corner she was greeting friends and family, like she said this part is like a big community.

    Highlights of the morning was a potery atelier, owned by many generations. Specialized in "Canchànchara" cocktail cup, a fermented sugar alcohol.
    The origin of this cocktail was to incite the mood of the warriors who were gonna have to fight with machettes against guns. The consequences are if we have more of those during our trip, we are gonna come back both diabetic.

    Come afternoon, we're dead on our feet and happy to see our driver, Orge, back.

    We drove to an old villa (plantation house) and an old sugar cane plantation - surmonted by this weird tower of cuban Pisa made by a rich owner to impress a lady.
    The bees living in the stairs made it quite an adventure to go up. Of course Michael didn't reach the top, fear of heights!

    They were selling impressive table brodery and crochet table cloth for 35€.. For a considerable amount of work! We decided to be reasonable, and not to buy everything because of the story behind it. A table cloth of this finesse has a life expectation of one dinner with us before a glass of wine ruins it - and it is definitely not washing machine friendly. So we passed.

    We tried an excellent fresh pressed sugar cane juice - amazing. It's absolutely not preservable, as it has to be pressed and drunk within 10 mn.

    We also tried two fruits, unknown name for us. A weird sweet acovado type, almost with a dates taste. A red peer with the inside texture of a lychee...

    Another lobster dinner for Nina who's gathering the last of her energy to dance later!
    Read more

    Wat een mooi en leuk verhaal [Desiree]

    4/29/22Reply
    Rens Wegerif

    Hihiii neem mee!

    4/29/22Reply
    Michael Berberian

    nice 😀

    4/30/22Reply
    Isabelle Bistagne

    Nice pic

    5/1/22Reply
     
  • Day4

    Havana Trinidad - transfer + night 1

    April 27 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Long drive ahead from havana to Trinidad., through 5 provinces..

    We changed plans on the way (recommended by our driver, named Orge btw) and stopped in Cienfuergo. Cute and clean little town! Very different from the Havana gigantic mess. Originally created by the French, which you can see in the architecture.

    Back on the road, tainted red from dead crabs (migration period, they infest the road at night), we made a few stops on the coast, and arrived in Trinidad late afternoon. Trinidad has a small center, but very old, full of history and charm at every corner.

    Our new casa particular is a big colonial house with many roof terrasses.

    We had the best food in Cuba so far on a rooftop terrace, full lobster for the price of a Mc Donald menu in Holland...
    One last drink at a bar with cuban music and off to bed, very full day ahead Tomorow!
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    Rens Wegerif

    Mooi bakkie!

    4/28/22Reply
    Monique Janssen

    Gave foto

    4/29/22Reply

    😁❤ [Desiree]

    4/29/22Reply
     
  • Day3

    Havana day 2

    April 26 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Massive healthy fruit (with taste!) and egg breakfast before a full day of walking.

    Capitoli nationale (capitol), Old churches and cathedrals, plaza vieja, Cuban fine art museum (with a lot of propaganda!), Malecon sea side, Santeria (local religion) memorabilia market where we bought a cement guardian weird statue - we'll learn more about this religion later in our trip.

    Monuments are clean and in pristine conditions, which is a big contrats to the people living conditions, when you look inside apartments (they live with open doors), it is beyond poor and insalubrious

    Prices are quite low. Lobster meal is 13€, regular meal about 6€ in the tourist area. However shortage are common. Lines for oil in the street. No milk. No chicken. Diesel hard to find....

    Our internet is very limited and slow, updates will come when we are able.

    We found a way to get rid off all the harassing people offering tours etc. "last day here, sorry". Worked so far.
    Read more

  • Day2

    Havana - night 1

    April 25 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Picked up at the airport with a car from 1953, passed from generation to generation. They obviously didn't think people would travel with suitcases back then so the car was full.

    We drove to meet our tour organizer, Barbara, a cuban lady living in Amersfoort but currently in Cuba. Then off to our local casa particares, think bed and breakfast. Quite empty because very few tourist presently. Owner, Alina, and most of Cuba don't speak English but she has a neighbor helping out.

    Then we walked a bit around old Havana, where we got asked a million if we wanted to change money or get a taxi.. We were advised to always say no but we did not one time and got trapped for 10€. Live and learn.

    Old Cuba is in shambles. Overwhelming Poverty, but still friendly and safe.
    Still beautiful, still historical...
    Read more

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