La Despedida Paraíso


For the first time all week, I was the first to rise and get ready for the day. Neither Cheyenne or myself wanted to waste a moment, with the hopes to enjoy as much time on the beach as we could before we had to catch the bus to the airport at 5pm.

We enjoyed one last meal in the dining hall, and decided we would spend the morning lounging at the pool before our 12pm checkout. As the weather person had promised, it was the hottest day of our vacation with clear skies and very little wind. The pool was the warmest it had been all week so we both spent some time actually relaxing in it instead of jumping in and jumping right back out.

I partook in my first poolside game but unfortunately, our friend Herbert was enjoying a day off. Our entertainment person this day was Fenye (or Obama as he jokingly called himself), and the morning game for a bottle of Cuban rum, was ‘basketball’ with a liquor box on the ground that we had to bounce tennis balls into. As always, there were many contestants but the big winner wasn’t me. Us Canadians all had fun playing against one another.

We were checked out with a few minutes to spare, and from there we had a hotdog by the pool before heading to the beach for the rest of the afternoon. There would be a room for us later on so we could shower and change before we left.

The ocean was like bathwater and was the busiest we had seen it all week. It was never ‘can’t find a lounger’ busy, but it was definitely alive on this day. We spent the entire time in the water, talking with Cam from British Columbia (Richmond I believe), whom we met on the Havana trip.

I left Cheyenne to dry (literally), around 3 so I could enjoy one last writing session by the pool bar before we headed off. Cheyenne joined me for the last half hour, a bit choked up by our experiences and sad to say goodbye. “We’re coming back,” were her final words as we rushed to get changed.

We had realized the night before, that the group of lady guests we referred to as ‘14 kids between them’, were not only from our hometown, but they lived in the same neighborhood as us. We spent our last moments on the resort talking to them about our experiences.

I was the last to board our bus, and took a few moments to look back with fond memories before the door closed on a week we won’t soon forget.

The sun shone brightly during our 30 minute trip to the Varadero airport, as we enjoyed the sites of the resorts and ocean one last time.

From the moment we arrived last Tuesday, Cuban’s worked very hard to sell us something whether it was exchanging from/to Canadian currency,  a beer as we opened the airport doors into Cuba, right up until those last moments before we re-entered the airport to return home. We learned a lot, and are not sorry for a peso we spent.

We continued our conversation with 14 kids between them as we waited in line to check in for about 45 minutes, and continued it even further about a half hour after that when we finally all found ourselves through all the security, and waiting that last hour at our gate to bid farewell to Cuba.

As we waited to board the plane, we realized our hotel WiFi cards also worked at the airport. Only I had any time left so I let Cheyenne share. I laughed as she logged in, because she got an error message she didn’t understand, and I scrolled up for her and hit the English button. Apparently she’s been using the default Spanish screen. Silly lady. No hot showers, wi-fi in Spanish. She also got burnt as we soaked as much sun and sand in the last remaining hours before our bus arrived at 5pm so a few blips for Cheyenne but she’s had the time of her life so nothing has phased her.  

The flight home was quiet and a lot of folks took this opportunity to sleep, including Cheyenne. The in flight movie wasn’t working so I spent almost the entire flight finishing off my travel posts.

We arrived in Toronto around 12:30 am, and were home around 3am by the time we figured out the self-serve security checks, got our car, and drove home. We grabbed decaf coffees for the trip. Let’s just say it didn’t compare to Cuba coffee.

The cats were quite happy to see us when we got home, after they spent a few minutes peeking up through the basement cat door, staring as if to say ‘who are you?’ Needless to say they were very cuddly all night, either sleeping on our chests on on top of our heads.

We both slept in, but quickly got dressed to go pick up our pooch. She too was quite happy to see us although I think she had a fun week with my brother Andrew and his girls. They live in a one floor ranch on a half acre of land in the middle of our big city. Talk about paradise. She smelled of campfire which made us eager for our yearly camping trips to the beautiful, quiet north.

While Cheyenne went to pick up her daughter, I took off to my home paradise, a little lake just outside our city that I love to take our dog to. I not only missed her, I missed our walks and hikes so we more than made up for a couple of days apart anyway.

By early evening, the 5 of us were finally all together again. We gave the girls their gifts which they all loved, enjoyed hugs and kisses and telling them all about our trip. We look forward to sharing Cuba with them hopefully sooner than later.

I want to take a few moments to thank everyone that we met in Cuba, and all who followed our adventure. This blog has never been so busy with viewers from all over the world checking us out. We had guestsfrom:

  • Cuba
  • United States
  • Columbia
  • Canada
  • Czech Republic
  • United Kingdom
  • European Union
  • India
  • Dominican Republic
  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • Hong Kong SAR China
  • Italy
  • Norway

I hope you will continue to pop by to follow our story as we attempt to buy a school and change how we deliver local education. Especially where special needs students and those disengaged in their education for various reasons. 

Yours in adventure,

Jack Taylor (but not really)


The Sneaky Tourist

Day one of our Adventure in Paradise is in the books, and I would say operation peace is Fait Accompli

The point at which total and utter relaxation set in, Cheyenne and I both determined, was that moment we found ourselves lathered in vacation protector, side by side on a lounge chair, at the pools edge with drinks in our hand, books to read (or not), and nothing to do, shortly after breakfast.

Our first full day wasn’t the hottest of days. The morning was mostly cloudy, cool and windy but when that sun did finally show its welcomed face and the wind subsided, it was just the warmth that our internal doctors ordered.

Breakfast was just about anything from fruits and sweets, to pancakes, French toast, breakfast meats, beans, screamed eggs, omelets, tasty breads, juices and even smoothies. The coffee we just realized, is not true Cuban coffee in the common dining area but we did find by the end of the day, that the best and finest was just down the stairs at the Cafe Bar in the lobby. I hadn’t had caffeine in almost seven months but it hasn’t stopped my ticker yet. It certainly is tasty

The staff are wonderful. I know they have to be but from what we’ve encountered, their sincerity it seems is both unforced and natural.

We took another walk to the beach in daylight but we didn’t stay long as it was overcast and the wind was brisk. Mind you we we’re in shorts and t-shirts so it wasn’t the cold we just left behind in Canada from any means. The shot above is about as long as we stayed. ‘We’ve seen the beach. Look at how blue it is. I’ve never seen Turquoise water like this. It’s gorgeous. It’s cold. Back to the pool?’

We seen more dogs in the daylight and one cute little female pup stopped to let us say hi.

Cheyenne and I have talked a lot about wanting to understand Communism and the complete political and social truths of this country. Although the security might have been intimidating at the airport – perhaps it should be in a country we are visiting, the hospitality and bright smiles more than make up for it and have us eager to know more.

The orientation was fun. Ernesto our guide had us laughing as he called his wife a scary tiger and told us our travel company had special dolphins. There are so many great adventures we can take but so far we have not left the resort or really planned anything. We are just ‘being’.

After orientation, while Cheyenne was back in our room, I pulled Ernesto aside as I began my day as The Sneaky Tourist.

When I realized that we were going to Cuba just a few weeks before we landed, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to finally ask her to marry me. I had individually asked my girls and Cheyenne’s daughter their thoughts on me popping the question many months before. Neither of them hesitated and somehow, kept this whole thing a secret all of this time.

I snuck off one afternoon a month ago, and made the hour each way trip to ask her father for his permission for his daughters hand in marriage. I took him out for lunch in their small waterfront town, and we had a wonderful conversation in which he expressed he and his wifes unwavering support.

Now all I needed was a ring, and when and how this would all occur. I had met a local artisan, Kathleen, a few months back who makes her own jewelry and we finally hooked up to find the perfect ring for the occasion. Because funds are not in abundance, the artist suggested a ring she had already made that was in her Toronto studio, that she thought would suit the location of the deed.

When Kathleen and I met, I easily chose her suggestion as the one. It was to be a temporary ring and when we were ready, we could go back and exchange for the purchase value, so we could sit together and design the perfect forever keepsake.

With ring packed in my suitcase, I kept it locked up each day to ensure there was no way Cheyenne would accidentally see it. I was constantly conscious each time I opened my suitcase, to ensure it wasn’t exposed. Talk about a stressful first couple of days.

Ernesto hooked me up with our meal planner Kaly, who eagerly planned flowers, champaign, and a vocalist to sing during the big moment with a big smile. I slipped her 20 cuc and I was to return the next morning to finalize the plans. I was hoping to do it that night but it was too late for both reservations and to get flowers sent to the hotel. I was anxious to have my nerves and my sneekiness put at ease but one more day after almost three years together, was not a big deal.

We met our housekeeper Olga who is a sweet lady who speaks a bit of English. We chatted for a bit before she signed off with Happiness Day in this soft, seemingly more African accent but it’s a phrase that captured our hearts.

We missed lunch somehow although perhaps it was the constant flow of cervaza’s that was playing tricks on our time management – or maybe we had just finally said forget you time. We also realized that we really feel lost in this void of time because when asked last night what time Cheyenne’s daughter had, it matched our phones. Is their DST later than ours?

It’s liberating not having access to phones and having spotty Internet. Although I have spent time typing these posts on my mobile tele, there have been no games, no mindless social media or Internet searching. No news or knowledge of what’s happening in the world, although we did hear of the unfortunate passing of Stephen Hawking.

We’ve mostly just been in the moment and it’s blissful.

We attempted some Salsa lessons on this day which perhaps wasn’t a wise idea a few drinks in, but it was quite fun and I at least, laughed a lot. Cheyenne got it but it didn’t surprise me coming from someone who has a lot of energy and who loves to dance. I was perhaps too much into the band and wishing I could be up their playing harmonica with them rather then paying attention to my two left sandals.

At one point watching the band set up beforehand and showing a couple of locals how to play the bongos, I suddenly felt like another Canadian Jack, Jack Kerouac – In the Air if you will. For a few brief Cuban moments,I was in some San Francisco bar hearing Slim Gaillard before the world knew the charming, playful sounds of his big smile through songs like Potato Chips or Serenade to a Peddle.

The beach side host (I’ve yet to get his name or partake in his fun pool-side games whith Cuban rum as the prize), is as dark as an overcast, rural summers night, but his smile, caricature and energetic bounce with musically timed whistles to the constant flow of Spanish music, has me giggling and following him around from my comatosed horizontal position by the pool. He is constantly on the move around the vast, double pool. There is something almost comforting hearing his fun-loving voice and that whistle both as he walks by you, or in the distance, doing his best to engage us and make our days memorable ones. With all the available day trips, it seems it’s a tough gig but I for one appreciate his efforts. He gets everyone laughing.

I’ve already come to the conclusion a day and a bit in, that Cubans have this passion that along with everything else, makes the language, people and the music the most romantic I have encountered.

We had our first dinner in the dining lounge having not really been too worried about making any plans yet never mind planning meals at the eating spots that require a little better dress and reservations. The food isn’t fancy or as tasty as say a good Italian or French feast but I enjoyed it. I tried a bit of everything and there wasn’t anything I didn’t enjoy.

The dining room is quite large and is a very well oiled machine considering the number of people that pile through through those doors over he duration of each sitting. Its fascinating seeing people leave toiletries for tips. We brought them on recommendation for our housekeepers, but we didn’t think of it for other staff. We have virtually anything at our finger tips in North America. Once again, so much to learn about this mysterious island and it’s hard working and intriguing peoples.

In this sitting area within but slightly raised from the lobby, the same band that played during our Salsa lessons played for us. It was a remarkable show. The lobby is so electric when the there is a show there. Some folks are downstairs getting a wifi fix, some are another raised level above us sitting in chairs along the ledge or at the round bar, and some are dancing in front of us or at one point, engaging in a few laughs over a game of musical chairs. Once again with a bottle of Havana Club Rum on the line.

After the band, we all made our way out to the pool area to catch a water dance. There are a couple of bleachers by the pool, and two rows of chairs were also set up. We were lucky to get front row seats.

Three woman and Three men constantly changed costumes and braved the bitterly cold water and cool winds to put on an amazing show for us including a romantic one on one coreogrpehd to the scene in Titanic where Jack finally tragically sinks into the arctic seas. The lights, the music, the cheers and bodies flying and moving to the sounds echoing through the night air were a wonderful way to end the evening.

Even without making plans, days here can be as busy or as relaxing as you want. We slept well that second night.