January 27 2015 ESCAPE!
Made it out of Fredericton in the nick of time SNOWMAGGEDON was what the US was calling the storm. Our forecast was 20-30 cm (8 to 12 inches) with blowing winds. Everyone called asking if we knew about the storm and asking if we were going to get out. The weathernetwork.com weather forecast said that we should expect to get snow starting about 5 am; the Environment Canada forecast said it would start at 3am and the NOAA’s forecast for Houlton ME said it would start about 4EST or 5 local. We were scheduled to leave at 0530. It was supposed to start with accumulation of 2-3 cm per hour and build to 8-10 cm per hour. If it did start at 3am we would have a couple inches on the ground when the plane left but if it held off until the 5am time frame we could easily be gone before the storm really started. We crossed our fingers and watched to see if the forecast changed. It held consistent for the 24 hour, 18 hour and 12 hour forecast. I was considering changing the flight and leaving the night before just to get out of the range of people asking Bonnie if she knew there was a MAJOR BLIZZARD Going to hit on TUESDAY the day we were leaving. Believe me, we knew!
Paul picked us up at 0400 and there was no snow. He asked us if we wanted him to wait but it would have to be a miserable storm for us to go from no snow to airport closed in a couple hours. We did know the plane was the one that came in at 1am so it was sitting on the ground waiting for us.
We told him we would call if needed but to go back home and go to bed. At 420 when they opened the gate there was no snow coming down. I thought it might have started a couple times but the snow was blowing off the roof. We left Fredericton before the storm made it. We sent a text to my niece Nicole and asked her to call my mother to tell her we got out ok. This is a toss up, lots of times we don’t tell her were going on a trip until we are back, but she knew we were going, so she was in full panic mode with the storm. Nicole works with the school timetable and the storms had shut the school system down by the time we were waiting at the gate for our fight from Toronto to Varadero. There was a light snow in Toronto at the time, something we didn’t need to tell Nicole. By the time they called our flight the snow was gone and Toronto was starting to clear. We took off on time and got a free UPGRADE to the front of the plane nicer seats, more leg room and FOOD! I bought a lunch for the plane but didn’t bother eating it. It got claimed by the agricultural dept in Cuba. Bonnie was thinking we would have it for dinner.
We changed our money and went to the new Viazul office at the airport. There was a TRANSTUR bus leaving for Varadero for $10cuc/p rather than the $6/cuc for Viazul but they would drop us at Elisa and Pepe’s (or close as it turned out) and we wouldn’t have to wait for 3 hours. A deal at twice the price. Taxis are charging $40cuc. The official exchange rate is 1.2969 Cdn to 1 CUC ouch! (Later when we counted our money more carefully we discovered we got stung again at the exchange place. We were a little shy on the change we were supposed to get but that’s known to happen. Count your change especially carefully at the airport exchange office. )
We arrived at Elisa and Pepe’s it was great to see them again. They were in the process of a bit of painting. Their TV died and they bought a new set and since it was down it was time to paint. Joan was helping Pepe put up the mount for the TV. Julien was painting the wall behind the TV. She was only slightly less covered in paint than the wall. Joan, their son is graduating in Civil Engineering. Julien is graduating high school this year and she is going to med school in the fall. Elisa is turning 50 and Juan is getting married in May. BIG YEAR for Elisa and Pepe. Pepe has a new job as chef at one of the more informal restaurants. He was in great spirits and we were very happy to hear that he was willing to cook for us. We’re having his lobster ($8cuc) and shrimp ($7cuc) meals.
Both Bonnie and I are tired and not really interested in doing much. We got up at 3:36(2:36 Cuba time), got cleaned up, and then drained the water from the house so if we had a power failure we wouldn’t come home to frozen pipes. We turned the heat down a bit (the brick fireplace is a massive heatsink and I’m not sure turning the heat down a lot makes a lot of sense that is a lot of thermal mass to have to reheat when we come back. The house seems cold for days after turning up the heat and it is just the brick heating up. It also gives us a bit of a hedge if the heat goes off in the winter. The hot water tank costs almost as much to run as it does to heat the house. We did turn it off before we drained the pipes.
Pepe always treats us very well and Elisa gave bonnie a self embroidered place mat from her to bonnie and me. I loved the Cuban coffee and the HUGE Cuba libre.
It is nice to hear the street venders again. We have our birds eye view of the world again. Time to go and relax
Since Pepe was available we had him cook dinner for us. We eat earlier than most Cubans which I think suits Elisa and Pepe they can have us out of the way and still have an early night.
Juan and Aylin(his fiance) took us up to the roof to watch the sunset and we talked about Cuba for awhile. They are excited to see the Americans coming. Cuba has 2 million tourists a year and they are expecting 5 million from America alone once everything is in full gear. We have been up since 2 their time so we are ready to die. The recipes were completely different than last time and still very good. The shrimps had a slight peanut sauce. After Dinner Juan asked our opinion of his wedding invitations he was going to order. All three were good pictures but one stood out for us. He and Alyin kissing on the beach with the turquoise water in the background. For a young couple getting married that seemed to fit better than his others. He is anticipating great things from the opening of the American market to Cuba. I hope he is right. He is talking that there is 20000 rooms available in Varadero. They are expecting to get that number to grow to 45000 with the American influx.
Here is the link to our 2015 Cuba trip picture gallery, stay tuned it will be updated as our photos are added and I bring the web site up to date with our cuba trip.