Saturday, 26 September 2015

Varadero 2015 (Part 1)

I honestly didn't know you could travel to Cuba already. And apparently you (a Canadian) have had been able to do so for the last 10 years. I had assumed that once Fidel Castro wasn't - technically- in power, the doors to very selected people would open for tourism. So I was very surprised when I learned otherwise, and that most Cubans in the tourism industry are fluent in English. They knew most of things that were happening in Canada than we knew of them!

As our bus was taking us from the airport in Matanzas, Cuba to our hotel in Varadero, I couldn't help but exclaim out loud "I can't believe I'm in Cuba!" Just four days before I had been in the middle of the harshest storms Metro Vancouver has witnessed in a decade. And also the fact that just the day before I had been working in my office; one of the two jobs I've been working at for the last 8 months to pay a ridiculous, yet not completely regretful credit card debt that I had accumulated for the last couple of years - although this is a story worth telling maybe in a few years from now.

The possibility of Katia Villa going on a trip to relax  and forget her responsibilities and troubles for 8 days seemed so absurd that actually saying aloud that I was in Cuba was more of a statement to convince myself than any arrogant thought. A big thank you to my parents who convinced me to take this trip with them and my sister a few months after my breakup, with the promise of paying half of my fare. I don't remember when was the last time we had a family trip - the four of us! It was overdue ;-)

Day 1:
The thing about traveling with your family is sticking to your parents' way of doing it. And in my case that is: always follow the rules. And the rules this time was to arrive to the airport three hours before departure. "That's what the booking says." So there we were, at 4:15am at YVR, looking for the rest of our entourage (my uncle Hugo, my aunt Nora and my cousins) to check-in. They had arrived 20 minutes before us, so they were checked-in already. We were probably the first ones to do so, and so we realized -actually, THEY realized. I would have still been in bed by then- that we got here too early and now we had one hour and forty minutes to kill. My mom had forgotten to put her peaches in the fridge at home and she kept lamenting they would go bad by the time we came back. "You still have time to go back home and put them in the fridge" I half joked, since we lived merely 18 minutes away by car. Of course, it was silly to take a cab and pay $40+ for the sake of saving some peaches.

Finally our flight got called and we proceeded to board our direct flight to Varadero, Cuba. We were a little concerned to encounter angry turbulence since a hurricane had just passed through the Caribbean just a few days before. Luckily our 6-hour flight was smooth.

Cuba greeted us with a very warm humidity as soon as we stepped out of the plane. Excitedly, we rushed inside the Juan G. Gomez airport. We couldn't wait to arrive to our hotel and let the holidays begin. It didn't take long for us to start sweating buckets, feeling the same welcoming warm humidity slowly smothering us. We jumped on the bus that was waiting for us and other passengers to take us to our hotel, and after a ride that seemed took forever, we finally arrived to the Sol Palmeras Hotel in Varadero. We all let out a big sigh of relief as we surrendered to its AC.

Sweaty and hot at the Varadero airport -nice try in your photobomb attempt, Daniel *slow clap*

Claudia and our luggage

Arrivals at the Jaun G. Gomez airport in Varadero, Cuba
As soon as we got our rooms and dropped our luggage off, we raced to the buffet, serving dinner at that time. We hadn't really had lunch during the flight. We had only gotten a sandwich, a biscuit and a couple of drinks. Naturally by the time we grabbed our tables it was well after 7pm and we were starving!

Arriving to our hotel Sol Palmeras
While checking-in, they had given us these magical bracelets. It worked this way: you asked a bartender or a waiter for a drink, any drink, and they just gave it to you, without having to put your hand down your pockets. It's a thing of beauty, these all-inclusive packages. It almost seemed too good to be true until my dad ordered a rum and Coke that 1st night of our stay, and a minute later he had a nice cold drink in his hand. When I went up to the bar to order one myself, I couldn't believe the amount of alcohol they were actually pouring into my glass. I had figured, because it was an all-inclusive, they would cheap out and give you a drink with almost no alcohol and LOTS of ice, like many bars do. But these guys seemed to have an endless supply of alcohol, especially rum! I'm definitely not complaining ;-)

Dad and I enjoying a Cuba Libre and a rose wine.

The food this first night was good. As good as a buffet goes. Needless to say, we went a little overboard and had 2 or 3 dishes each -before dessert! We were all in a food coma for the rest of the evening. We had heard that all food in Cuba was very greasy and fried, but I was glad to see there were plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits.

Huge variety of bread that I didn't get to try but looked delicious!

I was calling it a night when my cousins and my dad suggested we walked to the beach, to help digest. I was so full I could barely breathe, let alone walk to the beach! (even though it was only 250 meters away). But I thought "Freak! I'm in Cuba!", so I followed them. It was pitch black and we couldn't see a thing. We took our phones out and illuminated the soft sand towards the sea. We couldn't see much but we decided to wet our feet in the shore anyway. It was quite fresh outside, but the water was warm, very inviting. If I hadn't been wearing my only pair of jeans I had brought to Cuba I would have gone all the way into the ocean and swim with my clothes on, floating away in the salty waters and relaxing after our feast.

Silvana and Astrid

Claudia and Daniel

Aunt Nora and uncle Hugo

Soon after, we all went back to our rooms. My parents were already making plans for breakfast - I mean, we had JUST eaten a massive dinner! How can you think of food so soon!!! Me, on my side, I was planning on sleeping in and most likely would be missing breakfast. No biggie, the lunch buffet opened at 11:30am. Plus, when was the last time I slept 11 hours? And more so, when will be the next time I will be able to sleep 11 hours?

It had to be done.

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