Barlovento, Varadero, April 2012

My sister and I went for two weeks to Cuba this year.  We stayed at the Barlovento, a small resort on 1st Ave about 1 klm from city centre, near the entrance to Varadero Peninsula.

Barlovento was fine.  The rooms were clean, the beach beautiful and the evening entertainment was great.  The dance troupe was thrilling to watch.  It was a pretty chill place.  Our Cuban friends were able to join us under the shade of huge trees and we spent many days together enjoying the beach chatting with other beach goers and marveling at the lengths little boys will go to, trying to catch a lizard.

  One red flag day.  Waves were huge.

On the downside the resort ran out of wine occasionally, egad!  (we brought our own into the buffet with no problem).  The food wasn’t the best.  I found it worthwhile to wait in the line-up for eggs in the morning and pasta in the evening.  These were good but after two weeks nothing to look forward to.  We ate out at many of the restaurants around the resort.    Some of the restaurants we ate at included:  KiKi’s and La Sangria for pizza, LaiLai’s for Chinese food, La Casita (which is a treat to eat at and check out all the beautiful antiques including some of interest to Canadians) and Coral Restaurant on the beach by Aquazul.

La Casita, Varedaro  CubaPicture of Trudeau in La Casita, Varadero

La Casita had Pierrre Elliot Trudeau Liberal posters and a picture of Trudeau on the walls.

During one of our weeks there is was a school holiday.  It was a highlight of the trip to see all the young people enjoying themselves on the beach.  There was a kite surfing business set up on the beach just down from Barlovento and lots of young people were gathered there.

Many also spent time fishing in the canal across from the resort and jumping off the bridge which signals the entrance to Varadero.   They had lots of encouragement from their friends in the water and watching from the side of the road.  There were barracuda swimming in the water they were jumping into.

           

We took our cameras out to get some photos and met all sorts of friendly people, swimming, fishing or just out for a stroll.

Varadero has changed a lot in the past few years.  This year foreigners are able to stay in Casa Particulars in Varadero.  Casa Particulars are Cuba’s version of a Bed and Breakfast, and in past years they were not available for visitors to Varadero.  This is great news for people who want to visit the beautiful beaches but prefer not to stay at an all inclusive resort.

Casa Particular Cuba  These Casa Particulars are located on the street beside the Barlovento Hotel in Varadero.  

Particular cars are now licensed to take tourists.  This gives tourists an opportunity to hire an independent driver who has lovingly restored one of the beautiful old cars that Cuba is so famous for.

  This is Gonzalo Rojas’ particular car.  We hired him to take us to Matanzas and Boca to visit friends.  We walked across the bridge to an area where lots of particular cars were parked and discussed the price before we got into the car.

Small markets are popping up all over the place as well.  Free enterprise is becoming more and more a part of life in Varadero.  This is the biggest change and one that I am happy to see as it benefits the people of Cuba.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: together

In Cuba the children use a cardboard box for a toboggan.  This happy pair is tobogganing down the sand at the beach.  I have also watched young people toboggan down the steep grassy slope by the bridge in Varadero on their cardboard sleds.   It was a new way of doing things for us Canadians, but the joy of gliding down a hill is the same everywhere.  We had an old wooden toboggan that would hold about 6 people squeezed on together.  It was a blast for young and old.

Off Again

My bags are packed.  Half filled with stuff I might need and half filled with things for my friends.

Tomorrow I am cooking an early Easter meal for about 20 friends and family and helping some young people decorate Easter eggs.  It will be cold here so we will be inside the house most of the time.

There will be a few people who can play guitar so we will have some good music to listen to and sing along with.

Sunday I will clean the house and Monday my sister and I are off for two weeks in Cuba.  We are going to Varadero and will stay at a cheaper hotel close to downtown so that we can visit with our friends more easily.  We will also be attending a christening in Matanzas. I will post something when I get back.

I am a sporadic blogger at the best of times, but will not be taking my computer to Cuba so will be out of touch for two weeks.  Happy Easter everyone, I look forward to reading your posts when I return.

A Visit to La Arboleda

Entrance La Arboleda

In 2011 we made a trip to Varadero, Cuba as a large family group.  There were 11 of us, 10 travelling from Nova Scotia and one from Alberta.  Our Cuban brother-in-law had arranged for his family to visit from Las Tunas at the same time.

As usual, our friend Pavel wanted to invite everyone to his house for a meal.  But his house was too small for our large group.  Instead he arranged transportation and we all joined him and his family at a park on the Canimar River outside Matanzas city.

Our transport couldn’t go under the bridge for the train so we all walked to the park from there.  It was a sunny day which made for a nice walk through the countryside.

We passed a campismo, a campground with cabins instead of tents, and soon arrived at the entrance.

We paid 1 CUC to enter and 5 CUC for a meal plus one beverage.

El Campismo

Time to eat

The tables were set up along the river under shade trees.  There were paddle boats for rent, horse back rides and even a bull ride.  One group went with Pavel in the paddle boat and explored an abandoned village nearby.  A few of us went swimming in the river; it had a muddy bottom which didn’t feel nice underfoot.  I prefer salt water for swimming, but our Cuban friends like swimming in ‘sweet’ water like the river.

Dominos

I brought out the dominos, and since there was so many of us we decided to teach the Cubans a new game called Mexican Train.  I don’t think they were much impressed, but with typical Cuban good humour they played anyway.

The meal was great.  Everyone had the choice of grilled pork or chicken, rice and black beans, and salad.  The salad dressing was in an old rum bottle that was stuffed with onions and peppers covered with oil and vinegar.  It was delicious.

We waved from the shore at the tourists in the boats going by, while we enjoyed a day at the park.