Monday Sessions – Cuba


Our next installment of the Mondays Sessions is to Cuba. This Caribbean Island nation has had a storied past.  Many travelers from Europe and especially Canada have been visiting for years at the numerous resorts found around the island and particularly in Varadero.  There have been some changes in recent years in regards to travel within Cuba. Other areas have become a bit more popular with visitors, which offers a chance to see the more authentic side of this country. My friend Aurora (a French expat in Canada), whom I met last year, visited the tropical locale earlier in 2017.  Let’s hear about her time in Cuba.


WTW:  What may you decide to go to Cuba?

Aurora:  I have been dancing Cuban Salsa for about 10 years now and I always wanted to go! I figured it was best to go as soon as possible to experience the “authentic Cuba” before it changes with the tourism boom.

WTW:  Wonderful! Regarding logistics, how did you get around? What type of accommodations did you stay in?

Aurora:  We wanted to rent a car but there was no availability, so we ended up using buses and private shared taxis to get around the island, the latest ended up being the easiest for only a little bit more than the bus. For accommodation we stayed in Casa Particulares, which are the local B&Bs – it’s the best option if you want to see how locals live and meet them!

WTW:  How was the food? And the rum? (I find the rum quite tasty)

Aurora:  The selection of dishes was limited. Surprisingly, we found that the quality of the food varies a lot even for similar price ranges. The cocktails were also amazing in some places or genuinely bad in others!

WTW:  Good to know that is varies. Which place or area was your favourite and why?

Aurora:  Havana was my favorite place because of its authenticity and eclecticism. The older part of the city is run-down, but I personally found it charming, you get to imagine the colonial times more vividly.

WTW:  I myself  like Havana too. What surprised you the most about Cuba?

Aurora:  It felt like going back in time, nothing has changed much in 50 years, and you feel the socialism spirit everywhere, it was like experiencing history! Also the double currency system is quite surprising, creating a segregation between tourists and locals.

WTW:   That is quite different. What type of activities and sights did you do and see?

Aurora:

  • Havana (visiting the old city, dancing salsa, listening to live bands)
  • Viñales (scenic walks and drives, horse back-riding, cigar plantations)
  • Playa Girón (snorkelling, history)
  • Cienfuegos (touring the city)
  • Trinidad (sightseeing)
  • Santa Clara (Che Memorial )
  • Varadero (white sand beaches)

WTW:  You covered a fair bit of ground! Wonderful. Any tips or suggestions for travelers considering Cuba?

Aurora:  Try to visit beyond the typical tourist destinations for the true Cuban experience. Go visit Centro Havana, get yourself some Cuban pesos, dance salsa with Cubans, and be careful of scams (tourism brings so much money that a lot of people seize any opportunities).

Photos are taken and owned by Aurora and used with permission.

Advertisements

Sunday Special – Bermuda


1030 km / 640 miles off the east coast of the USA are the Islands of Bermuda. This Atlantic archipelago is the oldest British Overseas Territory  and is also self-governing. Additionally it is the northernmost point of the Caribbean. Due to its northerly location its climate is humid subtropical (due to the Gulf Stream) with winters being a bit cooler with lows at approximately 17C/62F and summers comfortable at about 26C/80F.

Perhaps best known for its pink sand beaches, Bermuda has plenty to offer despite its small size. The two main towns are Hamilton and St George with the later being a UNESCO World Heritage site. Although there are no car rentals in Bermuda they have excellent public transit or you can opt for motorized bike or moped rentals. Taxis are an option as well as walking around areas on foot. For those who crave  outdoor activity there is much to choose from. Golfing, hiking, cycling, rock climbing, snorkeling and diving, kayaking, surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing await. I’ve heard the view is stunning too. If culture, arts, history and sights are on your list then seek out local theatre, fashion, dance and costume, its African history in local museums and its British history in the buildings around you. Retail therapy and spa pampering is also a way to experience this sunny isle. And don’t forget the numerous beaches.

Perhaps I’ll make it there one day soon.

bda_bermuda

Bermuda’s pink sand beaches – Photo attribution: Bermuda Ministry of Tourism and Transport (via Wikimedia Commons) 

Bermuda Ministry of Tourism & Transport [Attribution], from Wikimedia Commons

st-_george27s-1

St George, Bermuda – Photo attribution: Taken and owned by Captain-tucker via Wikimedia Commons 

By Captain-tucker (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday Special – Aruba


**Note: I posted this yesterday (Sunday) but for some reason it put it elsewhere in the blog & said it was posted in January. I’m not sure what happened there but I have re-posted it now. Enjoy!

—————

Located in the southern Caribbean Sea only 24 km / 15 miles from the coast of Venezuela is a group of three islands that are part of The Netherlands. Theses small islands are called Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao (The ABC islands). Among the most visited of these ABC islands is Aruba. This tiny island which stretches 9 km /6 miles wide and 30 km/19 miles long is known for its lush beaches, an almost constant temperature of 27C /81F and for being outside of the hurricane belt. Recognized by many as a beach resort destination there are some areas of Aruba that break from that. For those wanting a beach break there is no shortage of pristine white sand beaches and numerous accommodations to help you to tan, partake in a number of water sports,tour around or plain unwind – just head to the west coast of the island.  The capital city of Oranjestad offers its own charm with Colonial Dutch architecture, museums, shopping arcades, parks, Fort Zoutman and the Renaissance Marketplace. Wander away from the beaches and resorts to see various natural bridges, hike the 561 steps of Haystack Mountain, check out Guadirikiri Caves or visit California Lighthouse or the butterfly farm. Aruba may be a small island but it seems there is no lack of activities.

aruba-oranjestad-hafen-1

View of Oranjestad, Aruba – Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons – Photo taken and owned by Bgabel

aruba_palm_beach

Palm Beach, Aruba – Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons – Photo taken and owned by Andrei Atilin

YAKUMO   DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the many natural bridges in Aruba – Photo is Public Domain

 

Sunday Special – La Brea Pitch Lake, Trinidad & Tobago


Not a place that is traditionally considered pretty, nonetheless, Pitch Lake in Trinidad’s southwest city of La Brea is something of an unusual natural occurrence. It is the world’s largest “pitch lake” – there are only three in existence – and is filled with approximately 10, 000, 000 tons of pitch (asphalt).

Guided to it by Amerindians in 1595 CE, Sir Walter Raleigh saw it’s immediate uses and had his ship coated in the lake’s tar and took some home with him on a later trip.  In the 1790s it was the Spanish that refined the tar and called the area “Tierra del Brea” (land of pitch) and therefore the name of the town came to be known as La Brea.

In addition to commercial uses of the pitch, the lake also attracts over 20,000 tourists annually. Some areas can be walked on due to its semi solid surface yet in other areas standing on it can cause sinking. Additionally, there are local legends regarding the lakes formation. Trinidad & Tobago’s indigenous peoples believe that the gods opened up the earth to swallow up an entire village after celebrations over a rival village became out of control.

pitch_lake

La Brea’s Pitch Lake, Trinidad & Tobago. Photo Credit:  Taken and owned by Martina Jackson – Wikimedia Commons

pitch_lake_1

Pitch Lake in La Brea, Trinidad & Tobago. Photo Credit: Taken and owned by Carl Ungewitter – Wikimedia Commons