Chapter One: Ola´ – Welcome to Cuba

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Waves were quick and almost removed my souvenir sand scribe.

Sandwiched between two winter storm fronts, we had a perfect weather window for our vacation getaway.  Enroute to the Halifax airport we took note of the snow clinging stubbornly to the road signs and took bets on how much would be left or how much bigger the snow banks would be when we returned.

I took the ‘resort map’ out, using it to refresh my memory. Somehow just looking at the map provided me with a momentary escape. It was a holiday to relax, so I needed this little time to familiarize myself before we land and begin the mad scramble to capture luggage that may or may not come down the luggage chute assigned to our flight.

The flight is on time (at least in the beginning according to the departure monitors); we cleared customs without incident, even with the underwire in my bra!  A quick trip to the duty free shop and then we were off to wait at our designated gate.  From that point on, we really should have taken all the ‘signs’ as small omens that all would not be entirely well.  But hey, we were on vacation so whatever the universe was trying to throw at us; we could surely throw just as good back…right?

Veredaro Airport

Veredaro Airport Cuba

After a two hour delay we were finally underway.  It is a 4.5 hour flight, so with books in hand and neck pillows for a stolen nap along the way and the promise of a hot meal with complimentary champagne and wine, we were good to go.  Sleep did overtake us eventually and a short snooze was soon interrupted with the pilot announcing we were approaching Varadero. The landing approach looked familiar with the resorts all along the coast lit up like little galaxies.  We were tired but ready to plunk our feet on terra firma.

The first thing to register was the warm, humid air.  Overdressed in long pants and running shoes, I immediately broke into a sweat.  A sweat that did not abate for 2 weeks (well actually there were 2 days when the temperatures dropped to 2c degrees at night which was unseasonably cold for this time of year), but otherwise it stayed in the 30’s.  The locals were screaming at each other in Spanish, and a smell of tropical ‘stuff’ was still prevalent in the air.  Yep, Cuba hadn’t changed at all.

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Cuba Customs

The airport was the same as we had remembered it.  The Cuba Customs security gates still housed the serious looking guards who asked the same questions as other years (even though they already knew the answers).  I went through lickety split, but my better half was held up answering a barrage of questions.  When the answers failed to unlock the heavy metal door, a supervisor was called to view his passport and the same questions began again.  I could just picture me here in this country for 2 weeks without him and for some reason that thought made me shudder and giggle at the same time!  Eventually I saw him, sporting his favorite straw hat and with a subtle roll of his eyes, he joined me at the luggage carousel.

I really can’t understand how it works behind that wall where they plunk the luggage on the moving platform.  Half of our flight’s luggage came out one carousel, and the rest came out another.  Whatever!  It was the beginning of a typical vacation in Cuba…where they fondly refer to themselves as living ‘on Cuba time’, which is their excuse for anything and everything that doesn’t happen quickly enough for weary travelers.

We arrived at our resort by van around 9:30pm (which was actually 10:30 my body time).  The front desk staff seemed tired/bored/stressed and I sensed that something had indeed changed since our last vacation here.  But no matter, we repeated to ourselves (again), that we were on vacation and did not depend on anyone/thing to give us a good time.  It was our responsibility …solely…to make this happen.  And happen it did.  We had 2 weeks to do nothing but enjoy ourselves and the biggest decision every day was whether to wear a 45 or 30 spf sunscreen.

After a few twists and turns we arrived at our room.  We took note of the King size bed (not two singles pushed together which is common down here); dropped our bags and quickly changed into summer gear and headed for the ‘lobby bar’.  I needed some help to relax the leg cramps that were causing me to walk like I had new knees and hips.

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The Lobby Bar

The bar had changed but it was festive and a Cuban band was playing wildly in the corner.  We looked at each other and took our first deep breath of air and raised our glasses to celebrate our safe arrival.  Other guests were puffing happily on their Cuban cigars and I was surprised the smoke didn’t really bother me.  In Cuba it just seems right to see a Cohiba in hand!

I didn’t believe I would really blog while there as much as I did.  And because of this due diligence to my notebook, I will have to split this travel blog into several parts.

Come along though and with the help of our amateur photographs, you too might feel like you had a mini vacation!

Sandals

Day One. White feet!

Coming next; Chapter 2:  Cockroaches or Crickets?

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