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  • Day20

    Another afternoon shopping

    August 25, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    Just when I thought it was safe I got dragged shopping again.

    We bought the last few things that Eva simply had to have. A couple of pairs of shoes, some jeans and a couple of other must have items.

    We then went back to The Standard Hotel and Eva went for a bit of a lay down after such a hectic expedition. I went and packed hoping that all of Fiona's clothes that she had bought and sent to the hotel would fit in my suitcase.

    Eva was still resting so I popped down the German Keller and cashed in my last free beer tokens on a couple of beers whilst talking to a guy called Tommy from Brooklyn about the area and how it had changed from being fairly run down to what is now one the trendiest parts of Manhattan, especially with google opening up their office there a couple of blocks away.

    When Eva surfaced we went for something to eat at Omai which is an excellent, small Vietnamese restaurant a couple of blocks away...and very reasonable at $50 for the two of us.

    Bedtime came relatively on our last night before our Virgin Atlantic flights back to good old Blighty.
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  • Day19

    Eva where are you?

    August 24, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    Last night the last thing Eva said to me was not to wake her up early.

    So I didn't. I had woken up at 03:00 and done a few phone calls to the UK and of course the usual emails. So I was kicking my heels early on after dozing off again and went for breakfast early. A few more calls over breakfast and the Apple Store was open two blocks away.

    As fate would have it we had been to the Apple Store on our earlier arrival to change the iPad. When I was there I looked at the new iPhone 7 plus as I just simply need a bigger screen the way my eyesight is heading. So I needed to buy Eva an iPhone following my swim in Heaven night club so she may as well have my 4 week old iPhone 6 and I get the bigger one. That is two iPhones now that I have fallen in water with during the past 6 months. I wish they would make a waterproof one.

    It took a while to sort it out but as usual the service at Apple was top notch.

    Oh well I may as well walk another block to Soho House and collect my new membership card that had arrived. The waiter had given my card to somebody else our last gist over two weeks ago. so I sat on the roof terrace by the pool with all the lovelies doing some work. Still no news from Eva, no texts or messenger messages....perhaps there was something wrong. So I sent a few messages to her over the next hour. Still no response. Perhaps there was something wrong? She was grumpy and tired last night I hope she is ok?

    I returned the hotel and range her room.

    'Dad where the f&?@ have you been?'

    'I have been messengering (if that is a word) you for ages?'

    'Dad you idiot I don't have a phone...remember.'

    'Ah yes...that is why I went to Apple to get you one'

    I laughed, she didn't. She had been up since 09:30 and knocked on my door three times getting rather concerned that I might have croaked it during the night. So she had been hanging around for 5 hours.

    Oh well at least she now had a new iPhone which I promptly set up and she was back in the civilised world.

    I rang the helicopter tour company and we could get on the next flight which was in 30 minutes time from near the Statten Island ferry terminal. We made it just in time and did the 15 minute flight to the Statue of Liberty, up the Hudson and back again to the heliport for the bargain basement price of $450...blimey! Still, it was worth doing it for Eva's New York visit.

    Unfortunately on the way to the 9/11 memorial pools we walked past a a few shops that just had to go in. Do these clothes shops put something in the ac units to make men go to sleep and loose the will to live? So that cost me too and of course her sister just had to have something even though she wasn't on the holiday.

    As Eva hadn't eaten all day we headed back to the hotel to get refreshed for going out.

    My clothes had arrived from Mexico so I now had my long trousers my T-shirts and a small plastic bag containing some women's knickers. All I can say is that I have no idea where they came from. That is my story and I am sticking to it.

    We left the hotel to the beer Keller next door for Eva to have a glass of water and then it was off to Fat Chick a couple of blocks away for Southern Fried Chicken.

    I said goodbye to Eva in the hotel elevator. She was in the 8th and I was on the 12th. I was a bit waylaid and went to check out the 18th floor where the club was located with views over to New Jersey and Manhattan. It was very nice but I decided to as always act my age and retired to bed.
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  • Day18

    Goodbye Havana

    August 23, 2017 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    My 08:30 call to Eva was not appreciated.

    Despite the fact that the flight was delayed because the airport had to close for a couple of hours...not sure why...I felt it best that we leave at 10:00 to get to the airport. If the reception was anything to go buy then the departure may be worse. However, that wasn't the case. We arrived in the departure lounge very quickly after our hour long taxi journey. It meant that we had 3 hours to wait for the plane to depart.

    In Heathrow at the Virgin Upper Class lounge it would have been ideal, but this wasn't Heathrow by any stretch of your imagination. So we waited.

    The flight to New York was just over three hours and when touching down there was a loud cheer. Not because we had arrived safely but because people could now receive WiFi internet!

    The customary hour queue at immigration even using the new electronic system meant that we were now running low on reserves. Quite frankly Eva was getting very grumpy...no internet as no phone, five hours sleep, long queues and nothing to eat as she couldn't stomach breakfast. Sometimes you just can't win.

    As soon as we arrived back at the Standard, High Line we dropped off our bags at reception and headed straight out for some food.

    A steak was called for to try to get some conversation out of Eva. We dined at Old Homestead Steakhouse.

    It says on their web site....'Combining tradition and elegance, The Old Homestead Steakhouse has been serving the finest cuts of beef in New York City for over a century.'....and it looks as if it is the original carpet.

    http://www.theoldhomesteadsteakhouse.com

    The steak was wonderful but the portions are so big that we went with sharing one.

    So with a 9 ounce steak lying heavy in our stomachs we went off to bed after a very long day.

    On arrival at my room I guessed that it had been raining in France.
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  • Day17

    Dodgy Havana

    August 22, 2017 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    Yet another late start. We decided it would be a good plan to hire one of the American Classic Cars for an hour and take a whizz around Havana. We got Senor George and his 1952 automobile that was his grandfathers, then his fathers and now his. So we drove around for a while and stopped off to get a Pina Colada for breakfast from a hut near the old fort.

    It was hot again and by the time we had finished my shirt was soaking wet thanks to the plastic seat covers. We were dropped off at the local market and we wandered around looking at the same old stuff that everybody seemed to be selling.

    By now we were getting a bit peckish and Eva chose probably the worst restaurant possible. No air conditioning and the food was as if my good wife Fiona had cooked it. We left most of it and walked on to the Cafe de Orientale. Now this was a proper restaurant and up to the standard of some of the best restaurants in London. We bathed in the luxury of the cool air conditioning and had garlic prawns and some pasta. The thing with pasta is it does make you want to go to sleep, so we went back to the hotel and had a siesta.

    Come the evening we decided that dinner back at the Cafe de Orintale would be an ideal end to our time in Havana. Well, that was the plan but how wrong we were.

    We stopped en route at Floridida and listened to the band playing then headed off to the restaurant. On the way there we saw Hubert the trombonist from the band we saw on Sunday and said hello. We had named him Pineapple because his hair was in dreadlocks and tied up on top of his head. He was from Haiti so my French started too come in handy.

    'Eva they must be playing again at the place we went to on a Sunday. Shall we call in there first?'

    ...and indeed we did.

    When we arrived we were greeted with enthusiasm and lots of hands shaking from the waiters and the other members of the band. We must have made quite an impression on Sunday!

    So we chilled out here listening to great music, drinking pints of cool Mohitos and when it came time to go to dinner, we didn't. We just ordered lobster and shrimps and continued to enjoy ourselves. The atmosphere was marvellous and when one of the locals left the place he took Eva's hand and kissed it.

    When they finished their set for the evening Pineapple and Jacob (Eva's boyfriend) a superb guitar player, joined us along with one of the bands daughters who we named Londres, just because it was easier to remember as she wore a T shirt with London emblazoned across it.

    We bought them all drinks and the conversation went across all subjects in various languages of English, Spanish and French. When we were talking about the revolution they were looking around to see if anybody was listening as I don't believe free speech is yet a part of their remit. When Eva was explaining something to Jacob he couldn't understand as his English was limited so she had me ask Hubert (who didn't speak English) in French, who then translated it in Spanish to Jacob, who then responded to Eva in English...but it worked and the conversation flowed.

    'Eva stick close by to me as I think it is going start to go to another level and we are going to move on somewhere else'

    We left the relatively safe confines of Old Havana and headed into 'Dodgy Havana' where we had been walking on our first night. They took us to a small jazz club in some run down building. We sat down and enjoyed more music and excellent company. The guys then just got their guitar and trombone out and joined the band playing with them for 15 minutes. It was a night not to be forgotten and and 03:00 we left and they walked us back to safer confines near our hotel.
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  • Day16

    Eclipse

    August 21, 2017 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    It was naturally a bit of a late start to the day today and we headed off to the museum of the revolution. It was quite interesting from a history lesson point of view, but quite one sided. It would interesting to learn a bit more about it.

    We thought we would get some breakfast despite the fact that it was lunch time so we crossed the road to Sloppy Joe's for our customary Mohitos and a very tasty burger.

    The eclipse was to be at 16:00 in Havana so we walked back to the hotel and went on to the roof top pool area and just chilled for a few hours. It was a lovely sunny day but just before 16:00 an almighty thunderstorm arrived complete with lightening and the sun and the eclipse were gone.

    We rendezvoused again in the early evening and wandered back into old Havana for...yes you've guessed it...a Mohitos. The rain continued to pour and we had a booked a restaurant a few minutes walk away. So we hailed one of those bike taxis and he pedalled us direct to the door of the restaurant.

    The door was locked but they let us in. We thought it was very strange that they would lock the door but perhaps that is for security. Anyway we ordered the food and it was excellent.
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  • Day15

    Gold Medal

    August 20, 2017 in Cuba ⋅ ☀️ 32 °C

    So what should we do in Havana? A nice American girl we met last night gave us a few tips on places to go and see, so we thought the first thing to do was to get a hop on, hop off bus, around Havana. We decided to hop on and not hop off during the tour around the city. I suppose one can sum up the city in a few words...run down buildings, American classic cars, Salsa bands, cocktails and a a fair bit of poverty.

    We were on the bus for a good 90 minutes then returned to where we had started. It looked like we might have to tick off some of the few words...so cocktails it was at the world famous Floridita. The establishment is famous for its daiquiris and for having been one of the favourite hangouts of Ernest Hemingway in Havana.

    Some history...In 1914, the Catalan immigrant Constantino Ribalaigua Vert started working in the bar as cantinero (bartender). Constantino, nicknamed Constante, became the owner in 1918. Constante is credited for inventing the frozen daiquiri in the early 1930s, a drink that became linked to the fame of the place, whose motto is now "la cuna del daiquiri" (the cradle of the daiquiri). The bar became a school of highly skilled cantineros (bartenders) specialised in cocktails prepared with fresh fruit juices and rum, whose traditions are still preserved by the disciples of Constante.

    It was packed but we found a seat and listened to the live music whilst sipping Daiquiri. The food looked a bit iffy so we left and went down Obispo Street which seemed fairly lively. Part of the way down was a kind of pop up restaurant in an old knocked down building enclave. I think it was called Ruin De Parques. Outside was a sign advertising lobster lunch for around £10 and a great band was playing. A few hours later after I dined on lobster and Eva on Chicken with quite a few Mohitos, we knew most of the people that were coming and going...the professional lady photographer from Argentina and her set of girl friends who asked if Eva was my girlfriend, the hippy American lady that had come to Havana for one week and hadn't left four weeks later and who now had a toy boy Cuban boyfriend who was the trombonist from the band, the German couple from Hamburg (he had proposed to her but she hadn't said yes), and of the course the band.

    They were brilliant!

    I got up and did my Gold medal Dad dance with Maracas or Maraques...not sure which...and they got a reluctant Eva up to join in with what looked like a stale baguette with ridges in the side that you slide a stick up and down. I even bought their CD...I hope it sounds as good as they did during that day.

    The weather was very hot and we were perspiring a lot so ice cold Mohitos seemed just the job.

    We arrived there at 14:00 and we left at around 22:00. It took us an hour to get back to the hotel and it should have taken 15 minutes! Goodness knows how we got lost.

    We decided that a quick night cap was in order after such a long walk and went to the hotel bar. The only people in it were 3 Australian couples...the banter soon began to flow and the event moved into the next day. After Trevor the Australian decided it was a good idea to get his manhood out on the bar, with much encouragement from Eva but less so from his wife, we decided it was time to go to bed.
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  • Day14

    Cuba

    August 19, 2017 in Cuba ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    It was late one last night so I ordered breakfast in our suite and started to pack. Eva was still asleep.

    Our personal assistant Marios knocked on the door with a gift for us...a bottle of Tequila.

    'Erm thanks but no thanks Marios you have it as a present'

    We set off to the airport some 90 minutes away. You know when you get that feeling that you have left something behind or forgot to turn the water off? Nope, Eva was here. What can it be?

    Then it dawned on me that I had left my trousers and shirts still in the wardrobe back at Hard Rock Hotel. I quickly called them to see if they could get another taxi with my clothes on board to follow. it would be too late so hopefully they are en route to meet me in New York. I shall have to use what I have.

    The flight is a short hop to Cuba and we touched down around 16:00. They do not greet you with a smile. In fact they are down right miserable. After clearing immigration and customs which took ages we then queued outside in the humid heat for the currency exchange. This took about half an hour to eventually queue and change my peso's to whatever it is in Cuba.

    We then grab a taxi into Havana. We are staying at the Hotel Saratoga. Not five star but sufficient for the next four days and with a roof top pool. We went up there for a cocktail and found on the map a small restaurant called Lamparilla Tapas & Cervezas. When I say on the map I mean google maps. The only thing is that for google maps to work out needs the internet...obviously really. But in Cuba there is no mobile network just hotspots. We would have to resort to old technology called paper to get around and a thing called a paper map.

    So not in possession of either digital or analogue technology I memorised where it was located. After 10 minutes of walking we seemed to be in 'Dodgy Havana' rather than 'Old Havana'. Although they are fairly similar what gave it away was a man feeding his cockerel on the doorstep to the almost derelict town house, piles of rubbish everywhere and the strange looks that we got as we wandered along. There was nothing for it but to return to the hotel where we could get wifi. So we asked one of the Bike Taxi chaps with gold teeth to take us back. No sooner had he started to pedal he got pulled over by the very aggressive looking police and had his papers checked and was asked to get off the bike. We decided to walk.

    When we got back to the hotel Eva asked, 'Dad are you sure you turned the right way when we set off before?'

    I double checked. No I didn't, we ended up going completely the opposite way. So off we strode again with a not to give up attitude. After 15 minutes we arrived, located down the street Lamparilla, which indecently still looked a bit dodgy to me. However the food was very good and we sat there for a couple of hours before heading in the right direction back to the hotel.
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  • Day13

    Zip It!

    August 18, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    I was hoping that yesterday's zip line would suffice. Unfortunately not. Eva was determined to get more of it.

    I tried to let her sleep but unfortunately she awoke and was rearing to go.

    When we arrived at Xplor we were told it was $150 dollars each for zip line, atv, swimming and food. It was only the zip line that were interested in. Alas it didn't make any difference to the price. The price was the price, which meant that I didn't have enough money and had left my credit cards at the hotel.

    'Never mind Dad we don't have to do it'

    Whilst that was music to my ears I couldn't let her down so we got in a taxi back to the hotel where the taxi driver waited and then drove back to Xplor. This was getting expensive.

    What we hadn't realised was that the zip lines involved a lot of water too. We had our clothes and no swim wear. Oh well we have come this far.

    There 14 zip lines in total ranging from 10m high to 40m high, that is 14 episodes of terror. Just to cap it all it so involved spiral staircases...oh joy.

    The course was split into two parts the lower part and the really high part. Eva decided to do the high part first.

    'You can get the hardest part out of the way first Dad'

    The zip lines run from tower to tower and then one climbs up the tower that one has zipped to and repeat. 90kgs of flesh and bone hurtling down a 500m line from a height of 40m is quite some momentum. Meanwhile as the wind blows you around and from side to side it just adds to the exhilarating experience, as you can see by my face!

    Eva thought is was incredibly funny and at times was doubled up with laughter as I climbed spiral staircases, went across suspended rope bridges and hurtled myself into oblivion.

    'Well done Dad you did it! I am really proud of you'

    It was worth it just to hear that.

    The last two zips involved heading into water so when we left Xplor we were soaked in our clothes. A taxi driver deposited us at a The Hard Rock and I gave him a tip for the fact that his seats were soaked.

    Time to relax and Eva to have her facial and me a salt scrub massage. The Mexican lady had incredibly powerful thumbs and I think she would have been great marinating the joint of pork for Sunday lunch. In fact I was almost ready to be put on 220 degrees Celsius with all the oil and salt rubbed into me.

    I arranged to meet Eva at the bar in Heaven after our treatments. There we got talking to a recently married couple Lee and Chloe who had come here in there honeymoon. He was much older than her and not somebody you wish to get on the wrong side of. So we didn't and I bought a few drinks. Well I like to think I bought them but as it is all inclusive it doesn't really matter.

    We arranged to hook up with them a couple of hours later and go to the night club at Heaven. Much to my amazement they turned up! So off we went to the over 18 night club complete with DJ, decks, swimming pool and all that jazz. Admittedly I was a bit hot but having only been to discos before in the 80's and perhaps a couple of more modern clubby things, I decided to go for a swim and in I went.

    'Dad nooooo'

    Too late. Eva's iPhone was in my pocket so it was 'hasta la vista iPhone' and a very annoyed Eva. Oh well that will cost me when we get to New York.

    Eva decided if you can't beat 'em join 'em.

    A thoroughly good but very late night, was had by all.
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  • Day12

    Mayan Wonders

    August 17, 2017 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    The morning started off very peacefully with Eva getting her nails done with acrylic something or other along with extra gel at an extra $25...

    'Would madam like to have gel to make them last longer? It is an extra $25.'

    'Don't care really I'm not paying'

    So whilst Eva was busy spending my money I was having a detoxification facial. This basically involves the facial lady squeezing as hard as she can your nose at various points to clear out the pores. It hurt.

    Feeling like somebody had punched me a few times on the nose I thanked her and left.

    After a small brunch we were picked up by mini bus and headed off to see the Mayan pyramid at Coba. It one of the few historic sites that the public can climb to the top of. Why you would want to do this in 38 degrees Celsius is beyond me, but none the less it was apparently on Eva's things to do.

    The head honcho lived at the top of these pyramids and all the underlings then had to come and deliver his food with his 7 wives living nearby. They would sacrifice a few people now and again by cutting out their hearts whilst alive, then chop off their heads and all was well.

    We cycled to the pyramid site and we began to climb. Now if it's one thing I hate it is heights, uneven steps and spiral staircase. No spiral staircases but lots of the other. It was relatively easy going up as one just had to keep looking ahead. We soon reached the top. Now we had to come back down with our shirts already wet with the heat. It would be cooler in a sauna.

    We headed back down hanging on to a rope in the centre of the steps to steady us. It took us a while and I was glad that the ordeal was over.

    The Mayans used play a ball game that involved two sides of around 3 men each. The picture here shows the stone buildings that were used as the court. The circular ring of stone at the top was the goal and above that is where the important people would watch the game. A royal box I suppose. The only parts of the body that could be used where the elbows, hips and knees. Not exactly bend it like Beckham but quite tricky, especially as it went on for 5 days and nights.

    There is a bit of a twist at the end of the game that I don't think xxxx would particularly enjoy despite him being the chosen one. Apparently the loosing manager of the team would be sacrificed to the gods...you know, heart and all that stuff. Then the winning managers reward was to be....erm....sacrificed too. In fact I suppose it is similar to managers in the Premiership as they are generally sacrificed, just not heart and all that stuff.

    The excursions was in two parts. The Mayan wonders and then we had a choice to either go to see a Mayan village or go for a swim and a zip line fall over a lake. Unfortunately the winning majority was for the latter.

    Eva couldn't wait. I could.

    We scaled a 40m rickety old tower with steps made out of old trees. At one point I thought of turning back but how could I let my daughter down?

    Onwards and upwards to then have my harness clipped onto the wire and off the edge I went speedily following Eva to the platform across the lake. Terrified is not an exaggeration. To Eva it was a breeze, to me, it was horrendous. I gripped the harness straps with both hands very tightly and prayed for a safe ending.

    'That was great Dad wasn't it?'

    'Yes darling, great'

    When the whole crew had descended we drove off to an underground cavern that had been carved out of the limestone by an underground river. It had a massive pool of water 150 feet deep and it was here where we were going to swim. Sounded great and the pictures looked wonderful. The only draw back was that we had to climb down there using a wet slippery spiral staircase made of old wood.

    Why is she doing this to me?

    The water was beautifully crystal clear and cool. If it was to stay that way I had to get out quick. A sudden rumbling in my bowels meant a quick ascent back up to terra firma just in the nick of time. Must have been that chilli sauce last night.

    Eva couldn't stop laughing when she finally surfaced.

    The final part of the excursion was to have a dinner of traditional Mayan food. Ok, they said it was traditional but who knows. Whilst we were dining the locals laid on a show which was involved a fat bloke banging a drum and some others dancing around with feathers in their hear and playing the bend it like Beckham ball game. 3-0 to the side with a player painted as a skeleton. Well done...now what about the sacrifice?

    The only sacrifice was me putting $200 (Pesos I hasten to add) in a bowl marked tips that was duly handed around.

    We arrived back to The Hard Rock at around 09:00 and the party girl was exhausted so bed time it was.
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