Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Flights from USA to Cuba started again, so we plan to spend holidays in Cuba. After a long time, we can enter Cuba legally from USA with one of 12 legal reasons for obtaining a visa. We are in for some people to people education exchange. This trip is different from our other trips, we have to carry cash for everything since our American ATM cards and credit cards will not work in Cuba.  Also, we could not book accommodations as we always do, by using tripadvisor, etc. Fortunately, airbnb is in place for several cities in Cuba we plan to visit. 
There were several limitations which impacted our itinerary. For example, traveling by train to the island's easternmost part and going to Santiago de Cuba was not possible, since the train drives only every third day. With less than two weeks we have for this holiday that would take too much time, so we plan to stay in the central part of the island.

This chronicle will not be a vacation blog, but rather a log of cultural activities under Department of Treasury license for engaging in people to people educational exchange.


Friday, December 23, 2016

It is time to say goodbye to New York, we are heading to Cuba over the holidays.

In the plane, filling some paperwork.
Upon arrival, we needed to find transportation to Varadero, our first stop.  We were looking for a taxi to take us for this 3 hours ride.  There are many old cars in Cuba which are kept in excellent condition since boycott prohibits car import from USA. 

This car took us for the biggest part of our trip to Varadero.

That ride took us through some beautiful areas, first through Havana, and then through lush nature and along the coastline.  The car had no seat belts, the driver was driving fast, and was occasionally talking on his mobile phone (no hands-free device). I napped and woke up in the middle of a race with some other car along the way. Well, we arrived in one piece, and ahead of time, which is a great achievement for that day.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

After the breakfast on our shaded terrace, it was time to explore the beach.  Varadero is a tourist town.  It has a 20km stretch of a beautiful beach with pink sand. This is one of the nicest beaches in the Caribbean and it truly is beautiful. In addition, Cuban coffee is amazing so this combination will guarantee a good vacation.  

Our B&B is a nice little boutique hotel with only several rooms. The small garden in the front and a terrace has a thick shade and is where we spend some down time. The house has many nice details and is only a few meters away from the beach. I love it.

By now we found out where to purchase needed supplies. The mini markets sell mostly imported items, lots of beer and rum, and not really anything to eat. 

On our evening walk, we also found a bakery and purchased some cakes.  There was a church nearby but we could not find it, or it was all dark, so I am guessing there was no Christmas mass was conducted.  But our neighbors celebrated the whole night.

Varadero Beach

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The beach is beautiful. The colors are amazing, Caribbean colors at their best.

Varadero is a long thin peninsula. We went from the hotel (calle 13) to the bus station (calle 36) and to the bakery (calle 43). It is a healthy long walk, and a healthy workout.
Today our neighbors celebrated again - those who did not do so the first night.  There are no rules about night noise in Cuba.

Hasta la Victoria

Monday, December 26, 2016

Our last day in Varadero. We test try to pick up money with our ATM cards. US ATM and credit cards do not work in Cuba. We came with all cache that we thought we will need, and then some more. Still, it is very strange to feel that we do not have a backup, and can not get more money if needed.

The Bay of Pigs

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Time to move to our next stop - Playa Giron at the Bay of Pigs.  We headed there early in the morning, and upon arrival, located our next casa particulares.
Very different than Varadero, Playa is much smaller, and much more laid back, with only one hotel and a few streets. This is the place of the unsuccessful invasion to Cuba, where Cuban army successfully pushed back. There are many signs and billboards to remember this event.

We are here for scuba diving - so we explored where we can go scuba the next day.

Playa Giron

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Another amazing sunny day, perfect for scuba diving. Early in the morning, we check out our scuba equipment, and board a bus to bring us to the first dive site.

There is a wall drop barely 30m from shore with beautiful coral, and all dives are shore dives here.  The whole family made two dives today. We saw some beautiful corals and fish, eels and boat wrecks.  Due to no industry and not too many tourists, the water is amazingly clear, underwater visibility is 40m, and the reef is healthy.