Archives for posts with tag: vacation

Canadians assume you go to Cuba for all-inclusive beach vacations, a normal assumption since it’s cheaper to book that type of vacation than just a flight by itself.

Having opted out of the resort-style in order to to stay right in Havana (while still getting the airport transfers and hotel included- sweet deal!), I felt a little nervous- as I always do before a trip- that I’d forgotten to how to travel and that I would never figure it out again.

But the shock of the sight of the ocean and cars from the 1940s reminded us what it is like to discover and rediscover, my mother and I dusted off the frustrations of airports and broke out our rusty Spanish. Once settled, we slowly began to learn how to navigate the puzzling streets of Old Havana.

We also learned how and where to change money (flexible fact: to change money at a fancy hotel, you have to stay at a fancy hotel… which we weren’t. Exceptions occur on Sundays, sometimes).


Our nearly-daily money-changing ritual at la cadeca (we aren’t very good at estimating how much we’ll need, apparently).

After being taken for a ride and charged $5 for two tiny bottles of water the first day, we also learned where to eat and to ask how much things cost before agreeing to them, no matter how thirsty we were.

When our feet got tired and hot, we’d duck into fancy hotel lobbies. This is where we realised that while our little hotel may be fine for us (the towel-folding art delighted us each evening when we got back), it was no fine hotel. For instance:


Not our hotel.


Not our hotel.


Not our hotel.


Swans made out of towels in our hotel!

We did get a little sick of the dust and chaos and and noise and this was supposed to be a vacation! So I got a beautiful sunburn on the Playa del Este, the local beach (about 20km from Havana) and had the best shrimp I have ever had in my life at the canteen near the beach.


We sat in the shade all day, and yet…

I ended up as pink as this delicious mountain of grilled shrimp.

I ended up as pink as this delicious mountain of grilled shrimp.

Because the dusty hustle and bustle of big cities and going up and down those temple stairs in the sun take a lot out of you, sometimes you need to take a vacation from your vacation.

After a ridiculously long bus ride from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville on Cambodia’s coast, we had delicious Indian food and then took a boat to Koh Rong for our island get-away.

As a glimpse into what was waiting for us, the upper deck of the ferry was decked out with mattresses on which sprawled tanned youth boasting about their travels to date.

Turns out this small island is full of backpackers that smoke all day and bum around at the few bars lining the coast. Holly and I splashed out and got a cabin up on top of a hill with a far-off sea view. We had a gecko as an alarm clock and sand in our beds.

We listened to a stoned Turkish guy go on about ecology and not reading anything anymore and German boys gush about their adventures through Asia on motorbikes. A group of friends from the boat, beach, and bar was quickly formed.

On our second day, we walked across the jungle to an isolated beach on the other side, our sweat dropping on the rocks, marking the path for anyone who followed. A dog from the beach (we called him Leo) followed us up down the steep rocks and through the forest.


Smiling through the sweat.

Never have I ever been so happy to see the sea.


This is what greeted us. We stayed in this water all day.


Playing a plastic and feather version of a hacky sack.


We built a fire and watched the big red sun set into the ocean.

As the sky darkened, Holly and I jumped on a fishing boat that brought us through the big waves back to the main beach. We were happy to find that Leo had made his way back safely. The others bravely (insanely) decided to walk back through the dark jungle and we were very relieved (and a bit surprised) that they all arrived, with all their limbs intact.

There was another day or so at the beach, some sun burn, and a lot of pineapple, then it was back to the mainland, back to buses and tuk-tuks and another kind of happiness.

The smell of fire interrupted my kitchen-cleaning this afternoon. I thought maybe the CD player had had a short circuit because Ben Harper was skipping. It’s just a scratched CD and I think the smell was a fire somewhere in the hills because the normally periwinkle-blue sky was little hazy.

There was no one to ask, though, because I and my Italian carpenter coworker have been left on the retreat for ten days while the family/owners take a much-deserved break before holiday madness hits.


The black birds are everywhere and look a bit onimous. And they steal the chicken’s food.

The change of routine (or maybe the start of one) has helped me take in and appreciate my surroundings. The walk down to the homestead, where I’m staying for the moment, gives me an amazing view of the hills and the sky above the lilypad pond.

For the past couple of days, the clouds have been amazing in the evening.





I have taken on the kids’ chores of feeding the animals morning and afternoon and collecting eggs. I am getting to know the goats’ and chickens’ personalities. I think Nelly might be pregnant (really moody, greedy, and maybe getting fatter round the middle?) and that one chicken is a rebel that never wants to go to the coop because it might be guilty of contributing to the other chicken’s limp. And those alpacas have got to start asserting themselves or the goats will just keep stealing their feed.


Sassy but shy alpaca.


Seriously, don’t mess with this guy.


Baby goat Steps shares his food with a parrot.


Cute guinea pig. I don’t know why, but this one reminds me of my beautiful friend Erica. Probably the mischief in its eye and auburn hair.


The barn. Wheeee!

And now my new series of photographs: Animals next to the car.


Goats next to the car.


Rabbit next to the car.

And then once in a while, a wallaby will hop by and be cute.


We’re not in Ontario anymore, Toto.

I am playing the farm girl, trying to imagine living like this permanently. I love the animals (except for the poop and pushiness at feeding times) and the quiet and the changing light on the hills. I’m enjoying this time to be quiet and research the next legs of my trip before the retreat fills up with guests for the Christmas holidays.