Weekend Eating + Workout Playlist

So the Cuba recapping is all done. Back to ye ol’ regular grind over here, meaning nothing too exciting has been going on.

This weekend was pretty low key. My friend Sherrie left for the Dominican on Sunday (am I allowed to be jealous even though I just came back from somewhere hot? because I am), and she has this tradition where she has a going away party whenever she leaves the country. So that’s what was going down on Friday night. I love a good friend gathering so I was all for that.

Evan and I stopped on the way for dinner at a Thai restaurant in my old Whitby neighbourhood called Sweet Basil Thai. I used to get takeout from there all the time and it was just as sweet as I remembered. I got the red curry chicken, which I can never seem to stray from.

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With coconut rice on the side. DELICIOUS. As you can see in the above picture my curry bowl is on top of another shallow decorative bowl, and my favourite way to eat curry is to put a few spoonfuls of rice on a separate plate and then spoon some curry on top, and then repeat. I thought that little half bowl would be perfect for that, so that’s what I did. Evan noticed this and said “I don’t think you are using that bowl correctly… I think it’s just for decoration.” I was very adamant though that the little dish was PERFECT for eating my curry the way I like. The server came over when we were finishing so I asked her if I used the serving bowl correctly and she immediately started laughing and said “No, I’ve never seen anyone eat out of that dish before. That’s why you have a side plate.”

Oh well. The dish was clean and adequate for getting curry into my mouth so that’s all that matters, right? We were really laughing about this.

We also got complimentary shrimp chips to start, which…tasted pretty shrimpy in chip form and I was not a huge lover of them.

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But I did love the peanut sauce it came with.

We eventually made it to Sherrie’s intimate gathering of about 8 people. It was REALLY fun. We played games all night and I laughed so hard I thought I was seriously in danger of having a heart attack. I took no pictures at all. Eventually everyone either left or went to bed and it was just Sherrie and I still up. We ended up staying up and talking until nearly 5am. I feel like I am still paying for that decision. My usual bedtime is around 10. I lived with Sherrie and her parents for a month about two years ago after a breakup and Sherrie and I would frequently have late night talks for hours, so it felt like old times.

On Saturday Evan and I had plans to visit Dawn and Mark and baby Scarlett, so we picked up Taco Bell for everyone and headed over around lunchtime. No pictures again, but it was a fun visit with them and the Taco Bell was pretty delicious. I got the taco supreme combo with soft tacos and it was so trashy and good. I haven’t had Taco Bell in YEARS.

We didn’t eat the most healthy dinner either… We came home and were both feeling lazy, so we got butter chicken and rice from an Indian takeout spot near us that Evan calls “Buddy’s Chicken.”

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Again, trashy and delicious.

Sunday was spent doing the usual groceries, laundry, etc. And we finally made dinner for ourselves. Stuffed green peppers (okay so those were purchased from the grocery store, but still a step up from the fast food we had been eating all weekend), steamed beets and salad with oil and vinegar.

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I felt like I ate crap for the majority of the weekend, so that was a nice change.

And that was my leisurely weekend.

I have still been trying to run a few days a week, and since the weather is still hit or miss (it’s snowing today, ahhhh!!!!) I have still been doing the mindless treadmill thing. Which means I need good tunes to run to, to distract myself from wanting to cut my legs off. Enter my Spring 2014 playlist!

Bad Blood - Bastille
Bleeding Out – Imagine Dragons
Cardiac Arrest – Bad Suns
Come With Me Now – KONGOS
Coming Of Age – Foster The People
Counting Stars – OneRepublic
Lightning Tent – Wildlife
Love Me Again – John Newman
Monster – Imagine Dragons
Shot Reverse Shot – Jack Johnson
Sleeping With A Friend – Neon Trees
Speeches – Walk Off The Earth (okay so this was on my last playlist, but I still really love it)
The Walker – Fitz And The Tantrums (playlist highlight!)

Yin Yang – USS (also a playlist highlight!)

If you like, check out my playlists page!

Cuba: How was the food?

That is the first question people ask me about my Cuban vacation. And how was the food? Always asked skeptically. It’s a legit question. Cuban resorts do not have the best reputation as far as food goes. I have heard many horror stories of getting sick from the food, from my own friends (none of us got sick!). They also do not seem to have a lot of condiment options, sauces, spices, etc. I pretty much live for sauce, I eat things FOR the sauce, so I was concerned about this. I also heard a lot of stories about resort food not being fresh. Like using the same dinner dish in the buffet for lunch the next day, etc.

I feel bad snarking on the food in another country, especially when Cuba doesn’t receive a lot of imports from outside countries. Evan and I were reading about it when we got back, and I think their main trade partner is Venezuela. So they are limited. It’s not like North America where we have access to absolutely everything imaginable. I don’t want to get into the politics of it all because I am not educated enough about the situation there to go on about it, and trying to compare it makes me feel a bit like a greedy, glutinous North American. But of course, food is a very important part of vacation, and people want to know about it.

The food on our resort was good. It wasn’t GREAT. But it was good. There was a lot of variety and though some things were on the sketchy side I could always find something to eat that I enjoyed. I actually wish there were more traditional Cuban dishes, because the things that I did not enjoy were mainly the things they made to try to appeal to tourists (pasta for example). Before you read this please know that I am probably the least pickiest person on the planet. I will eat anything, try anything once, and I really only draw the line at chicken feet, pig snouts, and cow hooves.

Things that our Cuban resort did right:

1. Ice Cream.
Oh my God, the coconut ice cream was to die for. I had it twice a day, in a cone as a snack either before or after lunch from the ice cream guy behind the snack bar (who was AWESOME), and again in a bowl for dinner dessert. I loved it. I have a serious craving for coconut ice cream right now. I want it. I want it in my FACE.

2. Shortbread cookies
Our resort had these little shortbread cookies hanging around that were also conveniently located in the ice cream stand with the awesome ice cream guy, and in the buffet. And I would crush those delicious little cookies on top of my coconut ice cream to make the best dessert imaginable. Such a good combination.

3. Fruit
The fruit was very fresh and amazing.

4. Olives
Specifically green olives with pits. They were so good.

5. Smoothies
The lady who worked at the breakfast smoothie bar was my girl! She was there every day except for Friday (her day off) and I hit her up every day for a fresh fruit smoothie with banana, pineapple, papaya, and guava (which Kelly calls lotion fruit because it tastes like lotion, and I kind of have to agree with her). I feel like the smoothie lady was the one true Cuban friend I made. Well, and the guy who ran the pasta station.

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I enjoyed him, but I did not enjoy his pasta.

6. Hotdogs
I don’t know what was in the hotdogs…probably the same leftover bits that are in the hotdogs here. But they were good. Just ask Evan.

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He likey.

I ate a lot of eggs, beans and rice, chicken, pork, fruit, and salad.

So, the buffet. Breakfast was easy. They had an omelette station and eggs made to order, so that was all fine. Most of the time I got over easy eggs and the only day I got an omelette was the first day when I was loading up my plate with all the things.

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The French toast was REALLY good, I had it every day. Did not enjoy the sausage. At all. I stayed away from it the rest of the week. I also stayed away from dairy. I thought both the butter and the cheese had a funny taste. You know how milk tastes different depending on the season, or your location? It may have been that, but to me the butter and the cheese especially had an almost slight mildew taste… This was very disappointing for me because I LOVE cheese. It is my favourite food ever. EVER. End of story. Chapter ends.

So I just avoided it, but I was sad about it.

The bacon was interesting…it had some skin with coarse hair on it. Like bristle-y hair. Sometimes the pork did as well. I still ate it, but I was on the lookout for that.

I never went to the buffet for lunch (I always went to the snack bar or Cuban a la carte), but most of my dinners looked like this:

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The fresh vegetables were pretty much limited to lettuce, tomato and cucumber. I never saw celery, and all the carrots I saw were pickled, which was kind of weird. But that could be a culture thing also. Those green beans, corn and peas were definitely canned or frozen, but I don’t mind frozen vegetables and I LOVE canned green beans, so all good. That plate is much more healthy than what I was hoping to eat there. I wanted to load up my plate with everything in the buffet, but some things were just a bit off and I couldn’t do it.

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I had to abandon the above salad because of the yogurt dressing (I thought it was Ranch, but surprise no). I thought it would be a good idea at the time, but again, the dairy and that weird taste. I just didn’t trust it. Sometimes the buffet had oil and vinegar around so I went with that, but otherwise I was sans dressing.

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That was the best night in the buffet. Wednesday I think. For some reason they had more options than usual, just that night. I got turkey breast, pork and beef, and it was all very delicious. And I have to mention that I really liked the beef meatballs also.

This was my very first buffet dinner and I learned very quickly that no.

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I was SURE the pasta bar was going to be my best friend, but the tomato sauce was just…like a tomato paste. No spices or anything. So I stuck with the beans and rice.

Our resort had a few a la carte restaurants, but we all only went one night since you had to make reservations and it was difficult to coordinate with the kiddos. Evan and I had reso’s for the Italian restaurant one night, but they were for 6pm and I wasn’t ready to leave the beach yet!

We all ate together every night in the buffet, and the one a la carte we made it to was the seafood restaurant.

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Just a big family dinner.

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I started with a fruit salad…

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And then an actual salad…

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Those green tomatoes were GOOD. Not so much the pickled carrots, but what can ya do?

I followed that with soup, like a creamy vegetable chicken soup, with croutons, and it was surprisingly really good.

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And then LOBSTER!

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It was not quite as good as the lobster we had at the dolphinarium, but it was still pretty good and a nice change from the buffet. Of course coconut ice cream followed this. Coconut ice cream followed every dinner.

The seafood restaurant had a really great atmosphere and it was right on the beach, so pretty beautiful views as well.

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Evan and I did also hit up the a la carte Cuban restaurant, El Guayabero, for lunch on two separate occasions. It was also right beside the beach, so it was very handy to just walk over in our beach garb and grab a quick lunch.

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It was definitely a step up from the buffet and I would say we had the best meals of our entire week there.

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The first time I started with the fresh fruit salad, which included pineapple, grapefruit, papaya and lotion fruit.

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And Evan and I shared the spaghetti also…

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Which was not great due to the same sauce issues…but it was alright. The amazing chicken made up for it though!

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That chicken was actually cooked with garlic under the skin, so that was a pleasant surprise. I loved it.

The next time we went there I started with a fresh salad.

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The salads there are not exactly what we’re used to, but they do the trick. Notice again the pickled carrots.

And again I had a really great main dish.

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Pork steak! SO GOOD. So amazingly good. Evan ordered the same and we were both raving about it. And their fries were great as well. Again, just ask Evan.

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He likey.

You could get fries in the snack bar near the beach 24 hours a day, so I had a lot of those. Their Ketchup was much like their tomato sauce so I was not a fan, but luckily we brought our own from home.

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Yeah I like fries with my Ketchup. We brought our own hot sauce also. I would recommend bringing both Ketchup and hot sauce if you’re going to Cuba. Trust me, you’ll use them. I might even bring my own salad dressing next time.

The snack bar also had hamburgers, hot dogs, and Roberto’s pizza at all hours!

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I had many a personal pizza on the beach. That was my first one, and from then on I got them without cheese. It didn’t taste quite like the pizza here, but it was still good.

So that was the food. Not totally blow-me-away amazing, but not too shabby at all. I’m actually kind of glad that everything wasn’t crazy good, because I would have eaten about twice more than I did and I would have come back and my pants wouldn’t fit. But I only gained about two pounds and I am pretty sure I can thank the alcohol for that. Because THAT was delicious. Pina coladas, mojitos, the Brisas cocktail, all the rum, Bucanero (beer), all day every day. Just living the dream.

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If you’ve been to Cuba, how was the food at your resort?

Evan’s mom recently went to Cuba, to a Spanish-owned the resort so they had more varieties of food, and she said the food was AMAZING!

Resort Shenanigans

Hola!

So I am stilllll dragging out the Cuba trip. Sorry. Just a few more resort adventures I want to talk about and then the food and I’m all done. Don’t worry, nothing else exciting has been happening here over the last week or so, so you’re not missing anything. Annnnd once I’m done with the recapping I’ll probably go back to having not much to talk about.

Anyway, the majority of vacation time was spent at the resort, with Evan and Brotherman and the family. Definitely a lot more low key than my Jamaican vacation… In Jamaica I remember drinking all day and then partying until 3am, with nary a nap in the mix. I am really not sure how I did that. This vacation was not exactly like that…but that is okay! We had some fun family times. I really loved having the kids around. They were super fun, especially on the beach and in the pool.

Typical resort day looked like this: Wake up, roll out of bed and into my bathing suit + cover up and hit up the buffet with Evan to meet Brotherman, Kelly and the family for breakfast. Be at the beach by 10am, pina colada in hand. Bury Carson in the sand.

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Beach around until noon-ish. Break for snack (coconut ice cream). Beach around until 2ish. Break for lunch. Beach around until 6ish. Go back to room, shower, get ready for dinner. Go to Havana Club to meet up with the family for a drink before dinner.

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Drink all the rum.

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Eat dinner. Go back to beach bar for drinks and entertainment by the pool.

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Usually be in bed by 11. Repeat.

Sometimes we would switch it up and hit up the villa pool in the afternoon, or go on market adventures, but we all tried to stay on the beach as much as possible because it was just so beautiful, and for most of the time we were there the weather was perfect.

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Ridiculous, right?

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Brotherman and Carson

I need to tell you that Carson makes me laugh really hard. He was carrying around this little Canadian flag pillow that had a happy face drawn on it, and it was basically the Most Interesting Pillow in the World. When we were talking about swimming with dolphins, Carson said “Pillow swims with dolphins 10 times a year.” Oh really. Pillow is apparently 40 hundred 5 hundred thousand 40 million and 82 and a half years old. When Kelly asked Carson if he knew where Pillow went to school, Carson paused and then said “Pillow doesn’t go to school… Pillow goes to WORK,” which, I guess you maybe had to be there, but the way he emphasized “WORK” made me laugh for about half an hour.

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Carson with the sweet truck he scored in the market.

Carson and I really enjoyed laying around in the surf and and letting the waves push us up onto the beach.

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They were pretty intense, and it was a lot more fun than it sounds…

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As you can see. This made Carson just die laughing. He wanted to do this for hours.

If you stood at the shore long enough the water would recede and it would be like quicksand.

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Trouble in paradise.

Little Victoria was also a really good time on the beach. She is insanely cute.

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Victoria seems to have napping down pretty well.

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Exhibit A

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Exhibit B

That is the life right there.

We made a lot of sandcastles. And sand villages.

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One day Evan and I were walking along the beach and we came across a little crab.

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He was really hilarious, because he would try to sneakily hide himself in the sand by throwing sand all over himself with his claws.

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And we were all “Nice try, but we can still see you…” A group of older men came over to see what we were looking at, so we showed them the crab and then they formed a circle around him and started kicking sand all over him and laughing like maniacs! They wouldn’t leave him alone. Such bullies. I wish we didn’t show them the crab in the first place.

Sometimes in the afternoon we would head over to the swim up bar at the villa pool. Usually by Carson’s request (the pool was Carson’s request, not the bar).

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Carson calls Brotherman “Uncle” or sometimes “Buncle” (which makes me laugh), so he likes to call Evan “Uncle Brother.”

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When we were at the cottage in the summer, he was trying to figure out my relation to the family and what to call me, so he called me “Uncle Brother Daughter.” Umm, not quite. Not quite. But he seems to have figured it out now and just calls me Lindsey.

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Which is correct.

One evening we were at the beach bar after dinner and they seemed to be setting up for karaoke.

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I really, really like karaoke. Not because I’m a good singer (I’m not), but I think I might enjoy making a fool of myself. Really I just enjoy singing very loudly and very ridiculously. I would never, ever pick a serious song and attempt to sing it well (because I can not sing seriously anywhere but my shower or my car), so my game plan is always to pick an entertaining song that I know all the words to, and sing it funny. Laugh and the world laughs with you. It’s always good to be the first to make fun of yourself.

Anyway, I debated making Evan sign up with me and singing a duet of Total Eclipse of the Heart, but in the end I sang solo to Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams. I got really into it.

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And there was honestly a huge audience and I was kind of nervous, but then I just embraced being ridiculous. There is quite a long guitar solo in that song and I didn’t really know what to do for that, but my adrenaline was pumpin’ so I busted out the dance floor air guitar. Always a hit. I was pretty proud of my performance, even if it was followed by a fine older gent who sang Sweet Caroline which is ALWAYS a crowd pleaser

The next night I was getting a drink at the beach bar and this 60+ year old man from Montreal was all “Wait a minute, I remember you! You sang Summer of 69 last night! THAT WAS THE GREATEST THING I’VE EVER SEEN!!!! You are a true entertainer! You should be singing here every night!” And then to the bartender “You need this girl in your entertainment lineup!” so I was feeling pretty proud of myself, I cannot lie. I may have curtsied. That is kind of the reaction I was hoping to get. I just like to make people laugh.

I think that is basically it. Just a lot of relaxing time otherwise. It was a very good vacation with these three:

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And these guys:

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And can you guess what is happening here?

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Because I don’t really know either.

Scooter Touring + Tourist Market

Evan and I had a few other off-resort adventures that were a lot less structured than the catamaran trip. It was pretty much us just wandering around and checking out the area. I don’t know when I’ll be back to Cuba, so I wanted to explore a bit and see some culture. I still don’t feel like I saw enough, but, next time.

The coolest thing we did was rent this sweet scooter from our resort.

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Only 13 pesos for two hours! The convertable peso is nearly on par with the Canadian dollar so it was about $13. Not too bad at all. We did have to fill it with gas, but it was like 4 pesos, so not too bad either. We filled that sucker up and were on our way.

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We drove the scooter all along the countryside and through two different local towns. And I have to say that my mediocre-travelled soul found it very eye opening and enlightening to see how people live.

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We saw houses ranging from the thatched roof variety…

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To basic structures with no windows or doors.

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To more elaborate two storey houses that look more like what we are used to in North America…

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To apartment buildings…

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Evan actually lived in Trinidad for about two and a half years (and worked for an ad agency! I know, he is so worldly and cultured) and he said that it was quite similar there. Structures ranging from the very basic, to the elaborate, with a lot of fluorescent porch lighting and window slats. It made me wonder, could I live like this? I mean, I did grow up in the middle of nowhere in a house that was basically a cottage, so maybe yes I could. But why is our own culture so obsessed with having the biggest nicest houses, with the perfect yard, and stainless steel appliances and granite countertops and master bedroom ensuites and all the fancy things? I think there is something to be said for living a simpler life. The people that I met all seemed incredibly happy. Do they care how many bedrooms their neighbour has? Or what kind of tile is in their bathroom? It kind of makes me want to move to a beach hut somewhere. Maybe not Cuba because I’m not sure I could live with certain things (government censorship, Communism, etc), but it is interesting how different things are depending on where you live in the world. Man, I really need to do more traveling.

Welp, that’s my deep thought for the day. Moving on. Driving through the towns was a really cool experience.

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There were many scooters on the roads, many cars as well, and a TON of horse and buggies in our area.

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I’m not sure if that is typical or just because where we were is so touristy and tourists eat that right up.

As we were driving on one of the country roads, I waved to a family sitting outside of a house and they waved back like “Come on over!!!” and looking back I regret not stopping. I would have loved to talk to them, and because I am nosy I wonder if they would have showed us around inside.

We did stop in the town a bit closer to our resort as we had some extra time left…

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And in the below picture that tent behind me is a snack bar, or maybe just beer bar, where some locals were having a drink. So we went over and I got a cerveza.

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I really wish I made better friends with the locals so I could ask them more questions about their life. But I felt weird being like “Hi there, tell me how you live” anytime I did talk to anyone. It was mainly just small talk. I did notice that many people were dressed very well. They would come out of a simple house wearing high heels and designer duds (designer looking, anyway) and well, whatever floats your boat, but if I lived there I would probably be dressed for the beach the entire time (Evan again said he noticed Trinidad was like this).

Eventually we headed back to our resort and we could not stop talking about how glad we were that we did that. It was a good time.

Earlier in the week we rented some bicycles from our resort for free and biked over to the local market.

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They were not exactly quality bikes and they were the kind that to brake you had to pedal backwards, so they took some getting used to.

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But we figured it out, and neither of us went over the handlebars, so that’s a win. The market was just off another resort near ours, Club Amigo, and you can also walk there from our beach, which is a LOT quicker than the road. But we did not know this at the time. Anyway, we got there, and the market was pretty cool.

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I actually felt a lot safer there than I did at the market I went to in Jamaica outside of Montego Bay. I was not hassled NEARLY as much, and no one tried to convince me to go into the back of their shop with them to “look at something”. When we had the bikes with us we ended up leaving them with some locals running a booth and I felt completely safe doing that. I found the people to be super friendly and talkative.

And they had some hot items!

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Lots of hand carved wood, and lots of leather.

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We ended up visiting the market a few times during our week there, and we got some pretty awesome souvenirs. There were a ton of carved cars also, because you know Cuba is about the old cars!

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There were old cars everywhere, mostly taxis.

The market also had a snack stand, where you could get beer, and there were some people wandering around selling various food items. Like this “cookie”.

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Which was not a cookie at all, but it was quite good.

We also checked out the public beach that was near the market, the Guardalavaca beach.

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I did see quite a few local people enjoying this beach, which made me happy because I like to see people enjoying their own country. You could also walk to this beach from our resort beach and it only took about 15 minutes or so. On the day we rented our scooter we had some time to kill while we waited for the scooter rental ladies to get back from their lunch, so we kept walking along the beach to this big rock area along the shore.

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There were all these random staircases that didn’t really lead to anything so it makes me wonder what used to be there.

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We did find a path that led over to a couple of restaurants.

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We did not eat there, and looking back I wish we did just to check it out… But we figured the food would be similar to what we were eating on the resort and we’d have to pay for it. I bet it would have been an experience though. We did talk to one of the owners for a while.

And that’s that. Just leisurely resort happenings left to tell you about, and of course the food!

The Cuban Catamaran and Swimming with Dolphins (aka the dream day)

On Friday Evan and I went on a catamaran trip that included swimming with dolphins! Or, one dolphin, this beautiful, magnificent dolphin.

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Originally we had booked the catamaran/snorkeling/dolphin trip for Thursday but the weather was super sketchy that day and the ocean was really rough, so the trip ended up getting cancelled and we had to reschedule for Friday. No biggie as we spent the less than ideal weather on Thursday scootering around the local towns and countryside instead. But Friday we went on the catamaran!

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The weather was still a bit sketchy and the ocean was very rough at times, so we did not get to go snorkeling. It was disappointing because we were going to visit a live coral reef and I was pretty excited for it, but they were upfront about the chance of not snorkeling and gave us the choice of having extra time with the dolphins, plus a dolphin and a sea lion show, or rescheduling. We could not reschedule, but the good thing was half of our group did, so our original catamaran of 50 ended up being only 25. And the drinks were a’flowin (included in our trip) and it was a time!

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Our tour guide Mario was hilarious, and I can’t remember our other lady tour guide’s name but she reminded me of J Lo. They were both awesome and I really enjoyed talking with them.

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Mario and I. Big thumbs up for Mario.

There were very few people on our boat who spoke English, so Evan and I bonded with Mario and friend. But there were a bunch of crazy French ladies in our group who were a ton of fun.

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I took French all through high school but I can’t seem to remember much besides the dirty words (this seems to be a theme in general with languages and me), and the crazy French ladies couldn’t understand English, so there was quite the language barrier.

Good thing dancing is a universal language and I was able to sneak my way in to being friends with them.

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As soon as I joined their dance group they started yelling and pushed me to the pole in the middle of their group, so I pole danced as best I could and proved myself worthy of their party. By the end of the day we had learned to communicate with each other through hand gestures and hip thrusting, enough to get our points across. I really enjoyed those crazy French ladies.

We sailed around in the morning for a few hours and though the weather was not the greatest it was a gooooood time.

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Mario made us all a snack to hold us over until our lunch (lunch was included with our trip as well). It was a salmon salad with sardines and olives and onions and peppers, served with water crackers, and no lie, it was one of the best things I ate all week.

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Honestly if that same salad had been at the buffet at our resort I probably wouldn’t have trusted it, but Mario knew what he was doing. I don’t even usually like salmon salad (I like tuna!), but I couldn’t get enough!

We passed some sort of interesting Native demonstration happening at the shoreline…

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I think I would have liked to be a part of that party right there. And we also passed a couple fishing with a guide on a paddle boat and we actually sailed up to them and passed them beer from our boat. Definitely a hilarious moment. They were very appreciative.

And then we sailed to the aquarium!

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It is not a typical aquarium. It is actually a dolphinarium called Acuario Cayo Naranjo. Swimming with dolphins has always been a dream of mine (who hasn’t had that dream?!) and we read about this place but before visiting I was a bit worried about the dolphin habitat. How could we swim with them? Were they in tanks? Were they treated well? But I needn’t have worried. There are only about 6 dolphins living there and they all seem extremely happy and well taken care of. The staff and trainers CLEARLY love the dolphins. They live in the ocean, not in tanks. Though I guess they are technically in pens, but the pens are huge, and the walls are quite low. The dolphins can jump crazy high and I’m pretty sure they could escape any time they wanted. Our dolphin trainer actually told us that in the wild dolphins live to about 35 or 40, but at their dolphinarium they live up to 50. The dolphin we swam with was 20, and she was pregnant! Here’s our girl right here.

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Our catamaran group was split into two, so our dolphin swimming group included the crazy French ladies and another dude, eight of us in total. As soon as we saw our dolphin and got into our life jackets we were PUMPED.

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We weren’t allowed to bring our camera into the water, so our trainer offered to hold it and take pictures for us. I was briefly worried about this, and thought he wouldn’t have a chance to get more than one or two, but oh my God the trainer went above and beyond. I never could have even imagined how great the pictures would be! When I got my camera back I was blown away.

I think the trainer said our dolphin’s name was Harness but that seems kind of odd now that I think about it, so I’m not sure if that’s correct. We’ll just call her dolphin.

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She was just the cutest, nicest dolphin ever. I fell in love immediately. And I am pretty sure she loved me, which was apparent when she slipped me the tongue…

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Maaaybe she loved Evan a bit too…

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Step off, dolphin.

The swim was pretty structured. The trainer would tell the dolphin to come over and do things with us, and then she would go back and get her fish reward. So maybe she had an incentive, but I still think she liked it and would have hung out with us anyway.

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I was just in awe of her. I couldn’t stop smiling.

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For the below picture the trainer was yelling “Give her a hug, wrap your leg around her!” so we did and, I did.

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And then he instructed us to hold her up.

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Just insanely, ridiculously amazing. Such an incredible experience.

This picture is my absolute favourite.

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Dolphin’s all like “heyyy just hanging with my pals Lindsey and Evan!” She’s even smiling! And all her chins take away from my double chin.

The trainer even got a video with my camera!

(if that isn’t showing up for you, you can watch the video here)

Seriously, OMG. I got totally hosed. I love when she makes her noises! When I got my camera back and checked it out after I could not believe the contents. I did not expect any of it.

After 20 minutes or so, it was time to say goodbye to our girl. She gave us quite a finale.

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Now, we had signed a waiver that explicitly stated that we were not to touch the dolphin’s genitals. I’m not even kidding. I tried to take a picture of it, but it’s blurry. So during the dolphin swim I was very conscious of where my hands were. I did not want to accidentally inappropriately touch our dolphin. But that cheeky little dolphin had other plans for me. As I was climbing up the ladder to get out of the water, I felt the dolphin trying to help me out. I thought it was very nice of her, but then it got a little intense…

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Oh hellooooo dolphin! Yes her nose is where it looks like it is. It is RIGHT where it looks like it is. Evan got out just before me and apparently the trainer said to him “Something’s going to happen right now, but don’t be jealous.” He might have been jealous.

I am so glad, so so so incredibly glad that the trainer only had our camera and the professional photographer who was there had all the crazy French ladies and the dude’s camera. So glad. I just know their pictures couldn’t have been as good. The trainer knew exactly what was going to happen when it was going to happen and he got ALL the best shots. He really centered me out. I tipped him, but I was so grateful for these photos that I was ready to promise him my firstborn. I wish I could have done more for him. I never even got his name. He was my saviour.

After the amazing dolphin swim we saw a show with Anita the sea lion…

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Anita is 15 and she was born there. She was a beaut.

And we got a dolphin show with two other dolphins (who were 25 and 30!)

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Our dolphin does not participate in the shows as she is preggo, but these two were fiery minxes.

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Both of the shows were great. We had such a small group, so they were very intimate. I can’t ever see this place being packed. And I really have to say again that it was clear how much the dolphins and sea lion (and her baby) were well cared for and loved. There were signs everywhere that said things like “love animals as you love yourself.”

After our shows we had a lobster lunch, which was also great.

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Seriously the lobster was very, very good. And so were the fries and Spanish rice.

We spent a couple of hours at the dolphinarium in total. There was also an open bar included in our trip and a live band playing.

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And then it was back to the boat, and finally the sun came out! We even got in some suntanning as we sailed around, drinking our cerveza.

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A big shout out to the best El Capitaine ever who let me drive the boat.

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He was the nicest.

So overall it was a dream day. Just a dream. The snorkeling would have been the cherry on top, but the dolphin experience exceeded every single expectation I could have possibly had. I will never forget it.

Brisas Guardalavaca, Our Resort

Alrighty, as mentioned in my last post we stayed at the beautiful, all-inclusive Brisas Guardalavaca outside of Holguin, Cuba. Here is a map if you are unfamiliar where the Holguin region of Cuba is (I was).

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Way down at the bottom right. As you can see it’s at the opposite side of the country from Havana. I would looove to visit Havana sometime and do the whole Hemingway tour and see legit Cuban city city, but I think it was about an eight hour drive from where we were, so, next time. Where we stayed was pretty cool also. Guardalavaca is about an hour from Holguin city, where our plane landed, and the bus ride to the resort was basically a bus tour. I could not stop looking out the window (more on the way home as we arrived in the dark).

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Just such a different way of life. It’s fascinating.

Brisas Guardalavaca seems to be the kind of resort that people go to once and then keep coming back.

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We had people in our group that were returning for their 8th time (and staying two weeks, lucky duckies), and I mentioned that Brotherman and Kelly were returning for their third time. I think because Cuban resorts can be hit or miss, especially in the food department, when you find somewhere you like you stick with it. I understand that mentality but I like trying new places so I think it will be a few years before I go back to Cuba, and when I do I think I would do closer to Havana, just to check it out. And speaking of food, our resort food was fine. It wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t bad (and I have heard horror stories about Cuban food). It was fresh and I could always find something I liked, though it wasn’t anything to write home about. But I sure will write an entire blog post about it!

The lobby was pretty (though a bit dated) and had live plants hanging around.

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And it was open to the pool and beach area beyond.

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Lots of wood everywhere, throughout all the corridors and at the entranceway in our room, which gave the hotel kind of a cruise ship feel.

I actually do not have any pictures of our room, but it looked exactly like this:

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Pretty standard. Definitely dated and not fancy in the least, but it was clean and comfortable. We did not spend a lot of time in our room anyway. My only complaint is that there were two double beds instead of a King, so we pushed them together and pretty much just slept on one. I did wake up and find myself in the crack between the beds a few nights, but it was no big D.

But the view from our balcony was AMAZING.

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Our hotel had two areas, the hotel section and the villa section. You could use the amenities of both from either section, and the entire resort was not huge so everything was very easy and quick to get to. One thing I will say about the hotel section was that it was loud (villa section is quieter, and the rooms are a bit nicer and a LOT bigger). Our oceanview room faced the entertainment stage and the beach bar, and the entertainment usually went until about 11pm and obviously people were partying until all hours. It honestly did not bother Evan and I at all and actually I liked it because we could watch the entertainment directly from our balcony if we decided to have an early-ish night.

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So that was handy. But most often we watched it from the beach chairs beside the pool.

If you are a light sleeper then people yelling at 3am may bother you but for the most part I didn’t notice. I DID notice an interesting “OO-AH! OO-AH!” sound at 6:30am on our very first morning there and Evan and I were both like “WTF is that?” I thought it was some kind of exotic bird, but later found out it was Roberto who makes the pizza in the snack bar beside the pool. I found this out because he made that sound all day long whenever someone he knew walked by (older ladies in particular, and they loved it) and you could hear him from pretty much wherever you were on the resort. It was like his mating call. It kind of became the soundtrack to our vacation. That and Chan Chan.

We tipped our maid well and she was really great. We had a new towel animal every day we were there!

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But we spent most of our time outside, so let’s get to that. We were on the top (fourth) floor and just outside of our room were outdoor stairs to get down to the pool, as well as a lookout over the water and Guardalavaca countryside.

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It was fun to watch the road from there because there always seemed to be things happening on the road, and a lot of old cars driving by.

The beach, as I mentioned, was incredible.

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The wedding gazebo!

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(the Porpoise showering with the porpoise)

You could rent snorkel equipment (for free) from a hut on the side of the beach, so we did that and went on a beach snorkel adventure.

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It wasn’t crazy fantastic or anything but it was decent. There were a few sea urchins, but the nice ones, not the scary black spindly ones.

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You could also rent a car paddleboat for free and take that around the shoreline.

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Evan and I did that also and paddled it further away from the resort where the snorkeling was a bit better.

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We found a coral reef, which was definitely dead but still pretty awesome to explore.

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And we saw some colourful fish, so I was happy to at see a least a few because our big snorkeling trip got canceled due to weather (more about that later).

There were two big pools at the resort, the main pool that our hotel room looked onto…

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Which had a swim up bar!

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And the full bar and the snack bar were just off that pool.

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Which were both open 24 hours a day, but I will talk more about that in my food post.

We spent more time in the pool over on the villa side, which was a bit quieter than the main pool.

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And also had a full-sized bar and a swim-up bar.

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My favourite bar though was the Havana Club. It was right beside Brotherman and Kelly’s room, so we would often all meet there for a drink before dinner after we were all showered and ready.

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They only served Havana Club rum, but I liked it so that was alllllright with me!

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I loved that the Havana Club had a panoramic view of the resort and the surrounding area.

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It was a great lookout spot.

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Brotherman agrees.

The resort was incredibly scenic. You could walk along the beach over to a tourist-y market on the far side (the market was after another resort called Club Amigo) and the walk itself was a beautiful adventure.

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And there were other fun things around, like the Tea Garden, which we did not really visit, just took photos around…

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And a John Lennon garden, apparently some sort of symbol of peace…

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You can see the write up for the reasons why here. I’d paraphrase but I don’t really know what it’s going on about.

The entertainment was absolutely fantastic.

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There was usually a different band playing every night, followed by a show. The water ballet was seriously amazing. We were all in awe. My camera did not get any decent pictures, but if you click here you can kind of get an idea of what it was like.

And there were some interesting critters around, like crabs, fat lizards…

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Which you would expect, but there were also a few resort dogs kicking around.

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This one was sooo friendly and nice. He came over and sat beside me for about half an hour when we were at the beach bar one evening. I don’t really know where he’s been, but I couldn’t resist petting him. He was just a little muffin.

And I could not resist mildly harassing this cat!

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I think she lived on the resort also, and I have to say I don’t think I’d mind being a resort cat. She would set up shop right outside the main buffet every evening so I brought her fish a couple of times and I basically made a new best friend. I noticed people did this a lot. She was well fed, that is for sure. 

So now you have a bit of a background on the area and resort we stayed at and I can get to the shenanigans. Dolphin swimming and our catamaran adventure are up next :)