We survived!

The post tropical storm Arthur stopped by for a visit. We had lots of warning. We were leading the FYC Summer Cruise and we got as far as Douglas Harbour and pulled the plug. Douglas Harbour is very well protected, much better than Fredericton. So we pulled the plug on the cruise and did our best to prepare the boat for the winds and headed home to take care of the house. We did lots of cleanup around the yard filled all the vehicles with gas and filled a couple of extra containers of gas for the generator if needed. ( If I knew how needed I would have filled up a few more. )

The storm was about what we expected for being this distance from the eye. We got over 100 mm of rain in a day. Our weather station gave us a 1 second sustained wind of 30 knots, not even gale force. The gusts were much higher. The peak recorded in Fredericton, just north of use was around 106km or 50 knots. A hurricane is sustained 1 second above 64 knots. We didn’t have close to hurricane force winds, we were very lucky.

We lost parts of four trees, three other trees completely. We had no damage from the winds and the house survived fine. We lost power for close to 40 hours. Our generator was very handy. For the last 30 hours we were running around with the generator running our neighbours fridges and freezers a couple hours at the time to keep them cold. We were keeping six houses including our own in power. Our internet phone was dead and our cell service was spotty at best.

We went down to Douglas Harbour to check the boat. Our boat did not move but another boat dragged into it and did some cosmetic damage to the hull. During a lull they were able to move their boat to another mooring. Our hard bimini split in half and did a lot of damage to itself. But the boat was in very good shape all in all. There were three boats that moved, one just went into the mud, another did a fair amount of damage to another boat and took a lot of cosmetic damage to itself.

The bimini pieces are now off the boat and in my shop. We should be able to start the process of reconstruction shortly, it’s going to be a lot of do a little bit of epoxy, wait for it to dry, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, It may take a couple weeks before I get to the painting stage. It’s hard to say. Our biggest problem is going to be replacing the heavy zipper for the enclosure.

Easter weekend

Just got back from our Easter weekend visiting with my mother and step-father, brother, and extended family. We were in Alma for most of the weekend and it was a nice visit. It was a nice weekend and we walked down to the “beach” a number of times. The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world and as many times as I see them, they are still impressive.

Here are a couple of photos from almost low tide.

Nearly low tide

Nearly low tide

The boats are on dry land

Boats hard aground Easter 2014

We were on our way home about two hours later…, I had to stop and take a picture. There is still about 10 or 15 feet to the tide line on the beach.

Alma about 15 feet below high

The summary of our 2014 Cuba trip

I’ve put all of the posts in order so that it is easier to read and if you want to print a copy for easier reading, or taking to your mother so she can read it(the reason I did it). You can load the summary and just hit print.

Winter 2014 Our second trip to Cuba

You may notice a few “updates” to pages, most of them are fixing a couple of html items not real updates.

Now back to real life, a friend of mine died while he was teaching a CPS course so I’ve volunteered to help teach it. It has been bitterly cold for the last while so that is no fun. I’m trying to catch up to my treasurer duties with the Yacht club as well as organize a summer cruise. And oh yeah, I really wanted to start construction of the boat this summer.

Back to the boring retired life.

February 18th and 19th The trip home.

Pepe made our breakfast again, no eggs today either. We did have bread, apparently the bakery where most of the people get their bread had run out of flour so bread was in short supply. One of the other people we were talking to was complaining about not having bread.

We walked over to the Viazul bus terminal and waited, watched a lot of music videos on the big screen and watched people as they trickled in.

The Viazul bus drivers were standing around and chatting and we were 15 minutes late leaving the terminal. Instead of putting us in front of the resort buses we were in the long line behind the resort folk. It didn’t help that the line we were was slow, three people served in the time it took for one to get served on our side of the fence. Growl, Bonnie was getting more and more annoyed the whole time. Next time I might seriously consider taking a taxi, if Viazul keeps going down hill.

People were talking about a storm hitting the east coast and we were wondering if we were going to get out. The plane from Halifax arrived on-time so that a good sign, our plane arrived on-time, another good sign. We left and flew up the center of Florida. We watched and tracked where were were by watching for places we knew along the ICW. We saw the Vehicle Assembly Building at Cape Canaveral, I tried for a picture but nothing came out. We watched and the snow seemed a long way south this year. We were hoping that it might have something to do with flying over higher ground but it was a LONG way south.

The mountains over (I think) Pennsylvania were really neat and this was the closest I got to getting a decent picture.

We had a long wait in Toronto so we walked over to Terminal 1, checked in at Air Canada and went to a restaurant for supper. and I had a Beer and a fish and chips and it was $35. The most expensive dinner for two people we had had in the month, but airport prices are obscene. Bonnie nibbled off mine and it was plenty big for the two of us, Bonnie wasn’t hungry.

It was funny normally we don’t see anyone we know on the flight, we were surrounded by friends on the way home, Tom a guy I went to university with, was beside us; Denis and Jane Lovely, boating friends, in the seats behind us; and Jim York a Masonic brother, and his wife returning from Jamaica, were in front of us. We had a bouncy flight. It was nice catching up with Tom.

The landing was interesting, when we landed we were in snow and a fair lot of it. I hadn’t landed in that much snow since the old EPA bush pilot days. We were blasting down the runway and where the two runways intersect in Fredericton there was a clunk, bare pavement noise, and clunk and we were in snow again. Wrong runway guys, might not have been but it sure looked like it.

Paul was there to pick us up at almost 2 in the morning. He dropped us off at the house and we dropped the bags in the garage. We never take anything from any trip into the house, that includes the clothes we are wearing. Everything, including the carry-on bag goes from the garage, to the washing machine, to the outside clothes line to limit any critters that might have come home with us.

Before going to bed we turned up the heat a bit, Paul had already turned it up from our being away low setting, we turned on the water and drained all the air. After waiting to make sure the water stopped running and we didn’t have any leaks, we turned on the hot water tank and went to bed. Another successful trip.

I hope you enjoyed the blog of our trip. If you decide to look at the full gallery beware it is 530 pictures. Lots of great stuff to see, but I should have been more selective.

February 17, 2014 Varadero cigar shopping, La Campana, art galleries and back to pack

Pepe made breakfast this morning, No eggs, they couldn’t find any. We had a long talk with Elisa and Pepe about food, distance, and some of our travels. It was one of our longest and nicest talks we have every had. Pepe doesn’t want to buy cigars for us, it is too risky, most of the stuff on the street is of rather dubious quality and if we get bad cigars it comes back on him. I respect that. So after breakfast we are off to one of the official stores. Running out of eggs is rare for Cubans, eggs are cheap at about 1.5MN per egg, about 7 Canadian cents. They eat a lot of eggs, and chickens are almost everywhere.

We decided if we wanted Pepe to cook for us before we left it was going to be at La Campana, the restaurant in Parque Jasone where he works, so we planned for a late lunch.

While we were shopping for cigars Bonnie fell in love with the cigar themed leather art wall hangings in the cigar stores. They were really works of art. While we were down at that end of town we stopped into a few of our favorite art galleries. There is some amazing art in the galleries, unfortunately priced for the outside world so the stuff we like is rarely in our price range, but, we still enjoy looking.

We walked the beach for a little while before heading to La Campana, we let Pepe make whatever he wanted and it was very good, INCREDIBLY good, and things that aren’t on the menu in his casa. We waddled out of Parque Jasone and saw the girls from argentina heading to the bus station. It was nice to see them again.

Back to the casa to pack and get ready for the long trip home.
tn_529-the-view-from-elisa-and-pepes-jpgThe closest I’ve ever gotten to a picture of Elisa and her daughter Julian.

February 16, 2014 Varadero

We woke Elisa at 8:30. Pepe got a call late last night and had to go to his parents house to help them, their fridge had died. So Elisa was holding down the fort. She normally doesn’t do a lot of cooking, I think, Juan may have been recruited to help.

Elisa and Pepe had a family picnic with friends from Havana in the afternoon.

We did a LONG walk on the beach. The cold front coming was driving Man-o-war jelly fish ashore. We walked carefully around them, and came out in a resort near the Don Quixote statue. We didn’t realize we had walked that far. We shopped for cigars at the official stores on the way back. We met up with the girls from Camaguey in Varadero. They are leaving for Argentina the same day we are heading back to Canada, but they are heading out of Havana.

We stopped at Parque Jasone looking for a Mojito that A friend of ours recommended, “The Cave restaurant at Parque Jasone has the BEST Mojitos”, knowing Steve it would have been an exhaustive sample so we had to try it. But it was never open for the three days we were there. We did settle for the best Pina Colada ever!

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We walked back to the BBQ restaurant, had chicken and Pork, both good. We figured we walked close to 150 blocks that day. No wonder we were tired.

February 15, 2014 Back to Varadero for a few days to relax and wind down.

Taxi to the bus station and back to Varadero. It took a different route to Varadero so we got to see new places along the way. Lots of cane, lots of food production. Bonnie saw a horse dead in it’s traces on the road. That would have been a tragedy for the owner, replacing a horse would be costly. It bothered Bonnie a lot, not because of the dead horse, but because of the tragedy for the owner, it reminded her of how lucky and how fortunate, we are.

We saw at least one masonic lodge and lots of agriculture.

We were able to Check in early at Elisa and Pepe’s about 11:30. We walked down to Parque Josone and into most of the little shops selling leather looking for a leather back pack. There were lots of them available, but very few that looked unique and looked like what I wanted. I eventually decided against getting one but we did see a lot of nice leather stuff while I was looking.

Pepe was working so we went to Lai Lai’s and had a spicy chicken and Canton fried rice. The Canton fried rice alone could have fed both of us. The spicy chicken (you have to ask for it VERY HOT), was a nice change from our month of Cuban food.

Great full moon and we took a couple pictures and went to bed.

February 14, 2014 People watching, impromptu street theatre, time to pack

We spent a lot of time in the park people watching. We were happy to see a bunch of impromptu street theatre. Stilt walkers, actors in costume, dancers. Lots of Cubans and lots of small children. We were surprised at how few tourists there were.

We seemed to have one extra day at every stop. We had dinner at the casa and packed up to go. We had a very good split pea soup, salad plate, shrimp and pork. Our biggest mistake in Santa Clara was not eating our meals at the casa. The food was much better and a bit cheaper as well. The Hostal Restaurant Florida Center that we ate at is listed in the guides as one of the better places to eat, but we liked the food at Riki’s better.

People are older and heavier here, more obese people in Santa Clara than any other Cuban place we have been, still way better than at home, but a noticeable change.

February 13, 2014 Iglesia del Carmen, Decorative Art Museum, more churches, and a chamber orchestra

We were off in search of Parque Turdury, beside Iglesia del Carmen. The church, Iglesia de Nuestra Senora del Carmen is the oldest church in Santa Clara, was closed. Beside the church is a monument to the 13 founding families and another to one of Che’s most valued soldiers, killed in the train battle. Across from the Church was the IOOF hall, looking quite freshly painted.

We were looking for the Museo de Ciudad (the municipal museum) and when we finally found it, it was closed, looking in a window it was also empty. So we came back to Parque Vidal and went to the Decorative Arts Museum. There was an amazing collection of stuff, Bonnie recognized a lot of the crystal and the ceramic, I didn’t, the names meant nothing to me, “It’s the next teer above Waterford Crystal.” Chandeliers, artwork, most of it is dating back at least 100 if not 200 years old,fantastic stuff and well worth the visit.

The flower venders were out and people were relaxing in the park, so the people watching was good.

We walked over to the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora del Buen Viaje and it was open! We went in and enjoyed looking around the church. There were beautiful sculptures in the naves, nice alters, and what really surprised us was they are in the process of building a new alter. All of the churches we have been in, in all of the countries we have been in, we have never seen any trying the build a new alter. They are formidable tasks, but here was one in mid construction.

We left the church and walked over to the theatre, they were having a free concert. We expected it to be in the theatre, but it was actually in the lobby. There was a bunch of students from one of the school at a sea programs visiting and they brought the numbers up so the staff had to bring out more seats and then more tourists arrived, and more locals and before long we went from being in the second row to being in the fifth or sixth row. It was quite full. We enjoyed the music and the musicians were as well. I was surprised there was no place to give a donation. I enjoyed it a lot, so did Bonnie, and we were quite prepared to make a donation for a service very well rendered.

From there we went to one of the government run restaurants, it is easy to tell a government run restaurant, all of the servings, drinks or food have a listing with the number of grams or millilitres. We had the fish and the Beef Parmesan. The food was ok, but not great, and the cheeses the same goopy cheese as we get at breakfast in all of the casas. They may call it Gouda, but it’s not very good Gouda.

February 12, 2014 The train museum, the Che with child statue, coffee, and the theatre.

When Che and a band of 18 men borrowed a bulldozer and with Molotov Cocktails derailed and defeated a heavily armed train with 350 soldiers on board, the Batista regime was toast. And so goes the story. The boxcar museum celebrates the place where the train was derailed, even the bulldozer (a Caterpillar D6) has it’s own pedestal. There was some kind of celebration going on while we were there. We watched for a while but when the podiums started to get set up for the speeches we left and headed toward the smaller Che statue just a short distance from the Boxcar museum. If you continue walking away from town you will walk right by it. It’s not very far from the Boxcar Museum, it is small, life size actually, and you could walk past it.

The smaller Che statue has a child on his shoulder, representing future generations. It also has many tiny sculptures within the statue, including the likeness of the 38 men killed with him in Boliva and buried in a mass grave. We spent quite a while looking at all of the statues within the statue, it would be interesting to know the story behind them all. The small Che statue is a must see. The figures that we noticed within the statue of Che carrying the child include: A child on a goat on his right shoulder; a person hiding with his arms wrapped around himself under his right arm; Sun shining on a drawing of him on horse with a spear and shield on his pocket; The 38 men emerging from his belt buckle; and infinity symbol with (I think) people on it, on his left front shirt pocket; Something in the hand of the child, after looking at a dozen photos of it I still have no idea what it is; The people in the hammock hung in his hair; The knife wound in his back; The portrait of a child suckling it’s mother with two smaller children in front of her; The girl looking out a window under his left arm;tn_478-girl-under-his-arm-jpg Mountain climbers climbing his left pants pocket; A group of people with a horse on a narrow path up his arm; A man on a bicycle on his pant leg; a “vitoria” with a few squiggles on his belt; and the cuban cigar in his hand.

We walked over to the tobacco store for a coffee, Bonnie wasn’t interested in a tour, we had a really good tour in Pinar del Rio. When to the Cafe Literario for another coffee and then to Hostal Restaurant Florida Center to book us in for dinner. From there, we went back to the square and toured the theatre, and the church, and people watched in the square until supper.

When we were home for siesta Riki wanted me to have a beer with him for his birthday. We talked for a while and he was depressed, he was 44. He told me how to do a cuban toast. “We have five senses:We hold the glass out to each other for the sense of touch; We hold the glass to the light to appreciate the color; We smell the liquid to appreciate the aroma; We touch our glasses together for the sound; and only then do we taste the liquid, and wish to each other’s health.”

February 11, 2014 Walking around Che city (Santa Clara)

The first day in Santa Clara we walked up to Parque Vital and then toward the Che Memorial. We walked by a wall of cartoon murals by the municipal bus station(“Los humoristas declaramos Guerra a la guerra”, “Comedians declare War on War” ) some of them were priceless and could have run anywhere in the world, some required a little thought, others were very blatant in their direction.

We walked out to the Viazul bus station and got reservations and tickets back to Varadero, so there will be less stress heading out if Santa Clara than there was heading into Santa Clara.

We walked back to the HUGE Che memorial. We went to the Mausoleum, there is a nice memorial behind the parking lot that most people miss.

Walked to casa for a siesta and then walked the pedestrian street called Indepencia. We went to Europa and had fun watching people. The locals were buying a bottle of rum and a can of pop at the bar and mixing their own, except for the students who would buy a pop at the bar and sneek away and come back with another bottle of rum. Seven students, three bottles of rum, and 4 small cans of pop. There was one poor little girl that looked at me and as both eyes slowly came to focus on me, I could see the glaze on her eyes. She was going to have a nasty hang over. One of the students disappeared to get bottle number four. So rather than wait for her to get sick it was time to move on. We walked up to the Pullman and had a pizza. The tomato sauce on the pizza was tomato soup concentrate. BAD PIZZA!

Walking home we took a bunch of night photos. Some of the came out really quite nice.

February 10, 2014 Off to Santa Clara

We had breakfast and watched the painters start back at the color change on La Soledad. We were off to the Viazul bus station to get tickets and travel to Santa Clara. We should have waited and got tickets when we arrived but we didn’t, and now we are paying for it. As more and more people arrive we get more and more stressed.

The bus was late arriving and late leaving. We met a woman from Montreal who comes to Cuba a lot, almost any serious festival anywhere in Cuba she is there. If we can’t get on the bus then the three of us were going to share a communal taxi to Santa Clara. Fortunately Viazul worked and everybody got on without a problem. As always the person with the mop controls the bus station. She shutdown the Viazul Bus loading area to clean.

Oasis, the restaurant we stopped at on the way to Camaguey was full so we went on. We stopped at a couple of stations for the 5 minute bathroom break. We stopped at El Vaquero El Rodeo Restaurante for lunch. Bonnie and I had an ice cream and a bathroom run. Drivers had a huge meal and were very late leaving. All of the passengers were milling around waiting for the drivers.

We went over and looked at the stadium. It has a setup for a real rodeo, gates for loading bulls and horses, stands with lots of seating.

The last casa didn’t say anything about having a taxi meet us so our Canadian friend and us were going to share a cab, we were just arranging it when a guy stuck a “Michael MacDonald” sign in our face, we followed him and we got to Casa Ricki no problem, 3 CUC. We paid up for 5 nights, breakfasts, and supper tonight. We had the shrimp, and it was very good.

February 9 2014 Sunday people watching, the ballet, and packing to go.

We got the casa to phone ahead and there was no problem except that she had to call back, she thought we were leaving at 1705 not arriving in Santa Clara at 1705 so she had to call back to straighten it out.

We were ready for a lazy day so we strolled down to Cafe Ciudad for a couple of coffees and did people watching. Sunday people watching in the Bahamas is wild. All the ladies dress up in their finest clothes and HATS, oh the hats are something to see. We were hoping for hats but were disappointed, Cuban women don’t do hats at all. They carry umbrellas to shade them from the heat and the sun.

We wanted to try for the church off of Parque Marti so we left and went that direction only to be disappointed again. We did a different route back toward Plaza de la Solidaridad and sat down to do more people watching. We watched for a while and then walked up Calle Republica. There were lots of Cubans out today as it was Sunday and people were out enjoying a beautiful day. Lots of locals in the streets and the restaurants. We went to the 5th floor of the Grand hotel for a coffee but the restaurant wasn’t open, so we took the stairs to the 6th (the roof) and took lots of pictures even one looking down on our casa.

Since we were in the mood for a coffee we strolled over to Cafe Ciudad for a cafe frio and although they vary a bit depending on who is making them they go from very good to very, very, good, and 0.50 each.

Back to the casa for a siesta then we walked over to the Plaza de la Trabajadores and watched people for a while. We watched a young woman go by with really fancy shoes with about a four inch heel, very stylish as they matched her dress. Later when we were over by the theater we saw her again going in the stage door for the dancers. I think I recognized her as a “Village girl” sat behind the sound guy on the floor and watched the ballet again. We went three times and the next time we go back to Camaguey our first stop will be at the theatre to see if anything is playing. If the same ballet were playing I would go watch it another three times. It was really something to see. If it wasn’t the ballet I’d would go to whatever was on.

The restaurant we had we had our eye on was closed, so we went back to Restaurante de la Carman and had Uruguay Beef (Breaded beef Cordon Blue) and Shrimp in Tomato Sauce. Both were excellent. Two Cuba Libras and a water, with tip for 15.50. We then had to go back to pack and sort out what we owe the casa, 5 beer and a coffee.

Cuba is a funny place, the restaurant was full of locals paying with CUCs. The food was top notch and compared favorably to any we have eaten anywhere. The napkin was one ply of a two ply kleenex cut in half.

February 8, 2014 Plaza de Carman, Art Galleries, Parque Jose Marti, and the Ballet.

We are sharing the casa with four young ladies from Argentina. They are in their early twenties and traveling on the cheap.

We were out early in search of Plaza des Carman and the church. We finally found the life sculptures that we were looking for, they are shown everywhere in advertising and we were on the hunt. The Plaza, the church, the courtyard life sculptures, and a few famous art galleries all concentrated in one space. We saw a piece we really loved at the Estudio-taller Martha Jimenez, really beautiful piece, it was the favorite of one of the attendants as well, “I know the price by heart, 9000 CUC.” Not in our price range!

We walked back to Cafe Ciudad and had the Cafe Frio. The cafe had become our go-to place for coffee, shade, and a clean washroom. The prices were great and the coffee had to be about the best we had in Cuba. 1 CUC for two very good coffees. We walked down to Plaza san Dios to see if the gallery was open, but it wasn’t. We passed the young women from the casa on the way out of the Plaza.

Two other galleries were open, one was a painter, and the other was wood sculptures in Cuban mahogany. One series was an “erotic” series. Someone thought it was a hand on a telephone and bought it, so the artist made a series of “telephones” with a hand on it. You talk into the balls and stick the head into your ear. Someone will eventually tell the guy he didn’t buy a phone!

We walked back over to Parque Marti and another church. The church was closed. Back to the casa for lunch, a beer, and a siesta.

We have covered most of the things to see in the guide books so we have at least an extra day. This is probably not a bad thing. Bonnie is recovering from her “winter cough” and it is taking some time.

We went to the ballet again. We sat in the balcony beside the artistic director. I videoed most of it except when the battery died. The sound was better on the main floor, the beginning scene is definitely better on the lower level.
Dinner at the Restaurante Casa de Carmen, surf and turf, salad and Brochetta, VERY good. 1 each and we shared, and we had plenty, with tip 20 CUC.

February 7, 2014 Walking around Camaguey, noticing a bunch of Masonic symbols.

Breakfast was good. The plan was to walk around, come back for a siesta and then dinner and the ballet. We walked around Parque Agramonte. The statue has a masonic masonic symbol on it.

We walked up to the top of the Catedral Metropolitana and did a panaorama from the top of the bell tower.
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Camaguey is known as a maze, rarely are street corners rarely even close to square. There are lots of places to get lost. We walked around to the Plaza San Juan de Dios, the church had the stature of Cuba’s only person to become a saint in it. It was the church where he was a priest. There was a very obvious masonic symbol over an alter, not the official square and compass, but so obvious it could be nothing else. Bonnie looked at it and pointed it out. I would love to know the date of the placement. We bought a leather mask from an artist at his studio. Lots of really interesting stuff, 18 CUC. We came back to Parque Argamonte and had a cafe frio at Cafe Ciudad. Absolutely awesome and 0.50 CUC. I had 2 and Bonnie had 1, and it hit the spot. We walked looking for a painter’s workshop at Plaza de Dios and it was closed. Headed toward Parque Marti, didn’t go the right way, ended up in the cemetery and another church. We walked back to the casa and I caught up on the log.

We walked around to the Esperanza, for a Mojito, the best mojito became the worst mojito and the cost went from 1.50 CUC in the menu, not the 2 CUC the charged us the day before but to 3 CUC for the worst mojito we have ever had. We had dinner dinner at Isabella, spaghetti Veg and Ravioli. Tomato soup base again. Our two good places turned to trash.

We walked around looking for a 4G SDHC card for my camera. No luck. The church, La Soledad, at the square is being painted, the red and pink color scheme is being changed to yellow and mustard.

We went to the Ballet, 5 CUC each, Sylvester. Incredible company of 40+ dancers. Costumes were spectacular. We were on the floor and the opening was haunting. Lots of dancers all over the house and walking to the stage. Lots of pictures and movies being taken so I took a few. I hope they come out. Amazing dancing. We are going again!

February 6, 2014 Camaguey Calle Republica, the Cuba apps, and the street celebrations

There is very little English spoken at the casa, other than by the guests. The family lives in a very separate area from the guests so the casa doesn’t have the casa feel. This is more of a hotel than a casa.

The breakfast was good, but not as good as Lily’s. We left after breakfast and did some walking around. We are right on Calle Maceo which is a pedestrian street where the big hotel and there is lots of shopping. Calle Maceo joins Calle Republica another pedestrian street where there is another full street of shops and restaurants.

We were planning on walking around then back to the casa for a siesta then out to the theatre in the evening. We saw a few churches and squares. Lots of artwork everywhere. We walked the length of Republica up as far as the church beyond the train station. On our way back down Republica above the pedestrian section we stopped at the Municipal Museum. Lots of stuff and as the guide says, no theme. Archeology, antiques, stuffed birds and animals from all over the world, the list goes on. The building itself is interesting. Well worth our 2 CUC entrance fee.

We walked back down to the theatre and ran into a guy how claimed to work with a Cuban musical group called Deseada, or Deseado. The group was mentioned in a brochure we saw, it is a creole group. He told us about working with them and it was interesting. It sounded like the show at Maceo was going to be a really good show and we shouldn’t miss it. We decided to go the show on Maceo that night and then the ballet at the theatre the next night.

We talked about a lot of Cuban stuff. Last week the place was full of dust, scaffolding, and painters, this week it is pretty spiffy. All the painting had to be done for this week. They were in a rush and missed one side of the church tower. (We checked later, they had missed two sides.) It was almost like someone stood in the middle of the square and told the workers to paint everything you can see from here. They couldn’t see those two sides, so they didn’t paint them. No matter where we were there were places where there was a bit of trim missing paint, or the paint seemed to have run out so they stopped. The quote I remember from the brit was typical of a brit “they couldn’t organize a piss-up in a brewery”.

We stopped at Esperanza, a little bar across from Restaurante Isabelle and had the best mojito ever! It had a touch of lime which really brought up the flavor, and 1.50 CUC according to the menu, except the waitress decided to ding us for 2 CUC. So that ticked us a bit, but considering it was the best mojito we have ever had for 2 and we have been paying 3 that wasn’t too bad. We stopped at El Globo, a supermarket, and bought a large 1.5 liter bottle of water for 0.70 CUC.

Before we left I downloaded a bunch of Cuba tourist apps for the tablet. All of them were absolutely useless. The funny thing as I was getting more and more frustrated at actually trying to use them, I noticed that one of the pictures in the app was showing where I was sitting from the roof of the hotel across the street. Cuba Free Travel Guide, Cuba Travel Guide by Triposo, Cuban and Havana Guide, none were worth the disk space. Any guide that requires either a data plan or wi-fi is useless in Cuba. If you are staying in one of the Government hotels with wi-fi, they might be of some value, until you step out of the hotel. We also found our spanish english translator to be useless as it required wifi. The spanish english dictionary was VERY useful. If you are planning on using an app in Cuba, download it, turn off the wifi and/or your data plan and try to use it. If it works at all, play with it. One of the apps had maps in it with no street names, so it was impossible to use it for traveling around.
We tried to find out how to use the Transtur bus but we couldn’t get any headway, back to Viazul.

We went to the Plaza de la Solidaridad after a pizza and focaccia bread at Restaurante Isabella, worst mojito ever!

Lots of great people watching at the square. The dancing at the square was good, the music was terrible, way too loud and miked very badly. You couldn’t hear the singers at all and the speakers sounded terrible. We enjoyed the flamenco and the young ballet dancers.

February 5 Bus trip to Camaguey

We left Lily’s on a bicycle taxi and got to the Viazul bus station. The bus left late and the bathroom on the bus was not working (not an unusual occurrence), by the time we got to the first bathroom stop Bonnie and I were the first off the bus, Bonnie dug out two coins I got a quarter and Bonnie got a 5 centavo. The attendant gave Bonnie the 5 centavo back on the way out with a scowl, Bonnie found another coin for her and that made her smile. Late leavin the lunch stop and almost an hour late arriving in Camaguey.

We werer met by a guy with a sign that said “Megual MacDonalg”, close enough. Got punted to another driver and a guide, that made me nervous. Driver dropped us and the guide took us up the pedestrian street to the casa. We are in a central room, AC only, view at the window is a large heat exchanger and a flat roof. Outside the room is a nice patio area and on the roof is another area you can use. We liked sitting up there at night.

There was another couple at the casa, she is German, he’s from Arizona and living in Mexico. She did translation for us. The Casa owner has little English. This week is Camaguey’s 500th anniversary party. Lots of festivals etc. Supposed to be a very good dance troop here. Bonnie says the Ballet de Camaguey is a world class ballet company. The wife of the couple suggested Transtur over using Viazul as it costs the same and they pick you up. There is a large hotel across the street. We didn’t get the Viazul tickets and its a log way to the bus station. We will check on Transtur tomorrow. She was saying that the average government wage is about 20 CUC a month and people need about 100 CUC a month to live, so everyone is keen to work.

February 4 2014 Final day in Trinidad, the Pottery place

We had breakfast with a birthday cake and a present from Lily! Lily’s birthday cake had a different icing than we were used to, almost a cocoa icing but an awesome chocolate flavor. We loved it, and I can’t thank her enough. I got Bonnie a trip to Cuba for her birthday! Gave Lily a load of laundry to do for us as well as asked her to call the next casa. They had called the previous day looking for us, the first one to ever do so but Lily called and everything was ok. We expected the laundry bill to be 10-14 cuc if she charged what the previous casa had charged but it was 6 cuc so we were very happy.

We went to the pottery place not far from the casa and we knew we were close when we saw the Transtur bus. The pottery was being made at the place so there was no question about it’s origin. The kiln was there and there were people working on stuff made in the store. We really liked lots of stuff, it was very different than the stuff we can get around home. We ended up buying a piece of pottery, (now all we have to do is get it home!) It is an interesting piece. If you visit remind us and we will show it to you.

We saw in the guide there was a hop-on hop-off bus for Trinidad and we had our eye out for it the whole time we were in Trinidad and never saw it, until the afternoon we were leaving, it isn’t a open top bus, just a regular bus that has a single stop in town, no sign telling you were it is. We were thinking about jumping on but weren’t sure if it was the last run or not so we passed. Too bad.

We sat in the park for a while and people watched, then went to the Iberstar and had a mojito, (3.75 and very good), and a cafe colida. Nice bar.

Went back to casa, did our packing and cleaning up, a spanish lesson, and read up on Camaguey. We had supper in the casa. Lobster for supper and it was extremely good. We settled the bill and got Lily to get us a bicycle taxi for the morning.

We had a great time at Casa Lily y Carlos, their card says Hostal Lily y Carlos of the 6 dinners we had in Trinidad, 3 were at Lily’s and they were the best dinners we had, they were also the least expensive. We would definitely go back to Lily’s if we were to go back to Trinidad, and I would recommend staying there to anyone. We really appreciated the casa feel compared to the hotel feel of the last casa.

February 3, 2014 Getting lost in Trinidad, a museum day.

It rained a couple times during the night and we woke up to close the window, then it stopped and it would get stuffy so we would open the window, then it would start to rain and we would repeat the cycle. The Casa has a nice sea breeze that cools it down nice at night. It gets a bit hot about 2-3 pm and then the sea breeze seems to kick in and cool the place off.
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After breakfast we walked over to old town and managed to do almost two complete circles before we managed to find it. One of the great things about getting lost is you find things that you would never find any other way. Cuba is about as safe as it gets so we were in no real danger. We found a little shop that carried locally made musical instruments. We thought of Nicole, our niece who is extremely musical, as we walked around and didn’t find a thing that we thought we could get home that she would like. The “that we could thought we could get home” was the real problem lots of neat and innovative stuff. We taught her a couple words in english and she got us a couple in spanish.

We saw the Santa Anna Church, it is just a shell of a church now. There was a German bicycle tour bus there, it was interesting. The Transtur bus took out the seats on one side of the bus and stored the bikes there. Lots of Germans around. Even the cubans ask if we are German before asking if we are Canadian.

We saw the Architectural Museum, the Museum of the African Religion, the Municipal Museum . The Municipal and the Architectural Museums were worth the admission fee.

Lily is willing to do laundry tomorrow, and we are running out of things to see. 5 days max in one location on the next trip.

We got money from the BFI (Banco de Financial International, another 1200 CUC (A lot to carry around, next time I might get a max of 500, banks to get cash are easier to find than I expected.) Back to the casa to load the money bell and let Bonnie have a siesta. She found it pretty warm.

Supper at San Jose’s very good food.

February 2nd 2014 Trip to the Sierra del Escambray National Park

Breakfast early to get the taxi to the mountain. Lilly organized it for us (35 CUC). We stopped at a lookout that we actually saw the day we were atop the bell tower. Bonnie had pointed out the road to the Escampray.

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The taxi dropped us near the entrance to the hike. A LONG hike and very steep in places. We found it harder on the way in than on the way out. Lots of down on the way in, hard on the knees and legs. Uphill is harder but easier on the legs. Lots of huffing and puffing.
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Waterfall is spectacular. The swimming pool is cold according to the german girls that arrived at the swimming pool as we were recovering from the trip in. We had a good hike out, the German girls caught up with us at a patch of sensitive plants and we showed them the sensitive plant (good excuse for a rest stop). It has a small pink blossom.

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From there we went to the “Jardin de Variedades de Cafe”. Cuba has been growing coffee in the Escampray mountains since 1748 there are over 20 varieties of coffee trees in the little park that you can walk through. Some are labeled very well others, not so much. The taxi driver in his limited english with our limited spanish and a bit of pantomime explained the coffee production from picking to drinking. In front of the little coffee house is the old area for coffee production and they still use it on occasion, more for tourism value than the coffee which is really produced elsewhere.

We really enjoyed seeing the coffee plants, everything from little twigs coming out of the ground to trees the size of a large apple tree and even the size of a small elm. There were trees in blossom and full of red bunches of beans. Sometimes we suffer from not having enough Spanish and this place was definitely one. I would have loved to spend some extra time asking more questions about the coffee plants.

And yes you can get a coffee made with the beans on site and yes it is incredibly good. The Expresso can make your eyes flutter!

We went back to the casa to relax and sit a bit. We had had enough walking for a while. We needed a little catch up on chores anyway, a little work on the log, read the guide books, do a little planning, play a few games on the tablet, do a Spanish lesson. Bonnie has a couple of museums that she wants to check into.

I didn’t bring the laptop on this trip I just took notes and lots of pictures. Next time I think I’ll take the laptop. I can process the pictures while we have downtime on the trip and label them while they are still fresh. It is a lot more work to do the log when you are home and trying to remember which church those pictures were taken in and where that picture was taken, and why I took it. Part of the reason this is taking so long. Getting one or two days posting a day is a chore. It will take me two weeks of effort to get our trip onto the web and process all the pictures. Time to stop whining and back to work.

Our next job was deciding where to have supper. We went to supper at Taberna Guanahuac. It was reasonably close and that was worth something. We had the shredded beef(ropa) and the chicken. Both were very good but the beef was the winner. Back early and we slept soundly!