... the CUBA trip was absolutely amazing, fantastic, and hugely enjoyable
Hi Kiki - good to hear from you. I can honestly say the CUBA trip was absolutely amazing, fantastic, and hugely enjoyable.
1) Arrival went off without a hitch although the flight was slightly late and it took some time to get thru the airport so our taxi (Egon had arranged for someone to pick us up) ended up waiting quite awhile.
2) The hotel in Havana was great - nice, perfect location, friendly/helpful people and terrific music. We really enjoyed this as our home base for the first few days.
3) Egon was a terrific host - understanding him was a bit of a struggle at times, but overall it was great. He knows the places and the people at them so well, he really showed us a great time.
4) We completely fell in love with Trinidad - the drive down (with a few stops) was great and Trinidad itself was, for me, the highlight of the entire time there.
5) The food was better than we'd been lead to believe - we had some really good shrimp and lobster while there.
I think the 2 highlights for us were the music and the architecture. We are both musicians (that's Ann's profession) and Ann has a degree in architecture so this was all heaven to us. Live Cuban music which we both love was everywhere nearly all the time. And it was really, really good. I think Ann's biggest thrill was lucking out by stumbling across a concert with a group that included a couple of members of the Buena Vista Social Club who are still alive. What a huge thrill. And yes, we LOVED the Tropicana show.
Oh - and we simply couldn't get enough of all the cars - wow.
I guess the only negatives I can think of would be:
a) Varadaro - it was certainly fine and a nice way to relax at the end of the trip (and yes, I realize I asked for a bit of beach time :-), but it's really more of a "captive" environment vs. the earlier two where you can really wander around and explore. The resort itself was fantastic and we did take a taxi/bus into the market and a restaurant, but it could have almost been anywhere vs. Cuba. Again, it certainly wasn't a bad experience - the room/facilities were terrific - it just ended up being a bit of a let down when compared to Havana and Trinidad (and the countryside) ... too many obnoxious tourists and mostly canned (not live) music. If I had one complaint about the hotel itself it would be about getting reservations for dinner. They have 7 or 8 really nice restaurants plus a buffet place (which wasn't bad) ... but we found out that if you aren't there a full week, it's really challenging to get in. We were there 3 nights and could only get into one of the nice places one of the three - all the rest were completely booked solid before we even had a chance to sign up. Thankfully we stumbled across the Al Capone Beach House restaurant back near the base of the peninsula ... and it was terrific.
b) We got to the airport to leave about 2:20 before our flight which ended up being very tight. Thankfully we exchanged our money back outside security - we had to get pulled to the front of the line to make our flight and would not have had the chance to make the exchange if we'd waited. Might be worth mentioning to others to give yourself ample time for this ... although my co-worker Josh said there was no line at all when they went thru so who knows.
Gee - this is all pretty random/rambling. I do greatly appreciate all your work in putting this together. It was the trip of a lifetime ... and one we hope to repeat at some point.
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