Sausage Parties, First Thursday and 1950s Bridal Showers

Hey hey hey.

So I have been procrastinating on my Havana post all week. I know it’s not that important and probably no one cares…but I do. We saw so much, I have about 500 pictures and I can’t remember what everything is, and I’d like to be at least a little educational. So it’s daunting and I just keep putting it off. Anyway, I’ll get to it. I just wanted to drop in so you knew I was still alive, so here are a few things that have been happening the last few weeks.

Our roommate (who was also one of Evan’s really good friends) Ian moved out a couple of weeks ago, so that’s kind of exciting. We love Ian, he’s funny and nice and he always goes to the store for snack runs (and he takes requests) so he’s good to have around, but I can’t lie, it’s nice having just Evan and I here again. Evan helped him move so the moment they were gone I was all…

giphy

I’m excited to dance around the condo in my underwear again.

We have been working on getting the guest room back up and running so we don’t have to make our friends sleep on the couch when they stay over. And we’re also preparing for our new roommate to move in, the kitty Mya. I’m not sure what’s happening with that though, as her move-in date keeps getting pushed back by the rescue organization… She has a rash on her tummy and they don’t want to give her to us with a health problem, which I completely understand (and appreciate), but I’m getting antsy. The summer tends to be pretty busy so I’d like to have a new cat settled in here before then. And I have really been missing Winnie lately. I know another cat can’t replace her but…I want one. I hope it still works out.

In other news, on the first Thursday of May some of my coworkers and I went to First Thursday at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

IMG_7145

It’s similar to Friday Night Live at the Royal Ontario Museum (we went last summer) — you can get drinks and food and walk around listening to music while looking at the exhibits. My friend Frances (on the right) took art history in school and is super knowledgable so it was like having a tour guide with us. I was so impressed, I think she needs to work there.

The main draw for us was the Outsiders exhibit, American photography from the 1950s-1980s. It was extremely compelling and interesting.

IMG_7150

And as expected I saw some art that I didn’t really understand…

IMG_7156

It was a good time with those girls though. We’re going to have to hang out outside of work more often.

IMG_7159 IMG_7157

A couple weeks ago I met up with my friend Catherine (aka CathRON) and her friend Cam for a literal sausage party. We took a sausage-making class at The Spice Trader on Queen West.

IMG_7201

Yep, sausage making! Close To The Bone, a butcher in Scarborough, use The Spice Trader’s spices in their sausages so they started running a class there. It was definitely a random thing to do, but it was super interesting.

We learned what cuts of meat are best for sausage making (pork and beef trim, and pork has the best fat for binding the meat so that is why pork is the most common sausage ingredient).

IMG_7168

We ground that meat using a meat grinder…

IMG_7173

We learned what to add to make a tasty sausage (we did a pork and beef sausage with onion, garlic, and paprika with salt and pepper, and a pork sausage with onion, garlic, sage and salt and pepper).

IMG_7176

We mixed that all up…

IMG_7184

Catherine was a pro.

And then we stuffed our intestines and separated the sausages.

IMG_7189

IMG_7193

I am a bit weird about the intestines, but the butchers explained that it is the best casing because it has the best consistency (artificial casings can be sort of papery) and it’s the best to use intestines because it is the most respectful to the animal — less waste.

Here’s a highlight video.

It was a really interesting night. And they brought us some sausages to try!

IMG_7186

All of them were delicious.

I also got a bag of sausages to bring home with me, so it was fun carrying that on the subway. Evan sent me a text just saying to get home safe and I was all “Don’t worry, if anyone tries anything I’ll just slap them with my bag of sausages.” I haven’t tried ours yet but we’re having them for dinner tonight so I’m excited for that.

Finally, last weekend was Dawn’s sister Melon’s bridal shower. Melon be gettin’ married!

IMG_7230

The theme was 1950s pinup model and there were some great outfits happening. Dawn’s mom Brennie looked pretty spectacular.

IMG_7249

And Dawn has a very fitting apron…

IMG_7233

How To Keep Your Husband, which includes sage advice such as watch your weight, always look innocent, always have dinner ready when he gets home from work, don’t make him jealous, and don’t boss him around. Wonderful. Really captures the 1950s theme.

So, that was a good time with the ladies.

IMG_7250

I think that’s everything exciting that’s been going on… Have a great weekend! I’m extra excited ’cause it’s a long weekend here in Canada land!

Follow

Varadero Restaurants

Just one more vacation post after this one and I’m all done! And the next postis Havana, so hopefully it will actually be interesting. First, some food stuff in Varadero, Cuba.

The reason we were most excited about staying at a resort in town was we could actually do more off-resort eating! We had such a good time at Lenny’s Playa Prohibida last year with Coco Indio that we wanted more Cuban restaurant times. Again, Varadero is a tourist town, and the restaurants were obviously touristy, but still different as you won’t find any chains there (unlike in the Bahamas when there was a Dominos Pizza across the street from our resort). And it wasn’t only tourists eating. I love that Cuba is full of unique locally-owned restaurants and shops, and I hope that doesn’t change.

First we have Paladar Nonna Tina, an Italian restaurant that was recommended to us by our friend Corey (and recommended to him by a guy he works with). I had checked reviews also and had a list of Varadero restaurants to try, and this was one of them. Varadero has a double-decker bus that you can take downtown and then along the entire peninsula, so we did that one day and then went to Nonna Tina’s for lunch afterwards. It’s on a little side street right by Hotel Los Delfines.

IMG_6823

IMG_6814

It was so cute, and I can’t believe we found real wood-fired oven Italian pizza in Cuba! We both ordered beer and started with an appetizer, rosemary with olive oil on focaccia. We did not realize at the time that it was going to be as large as a big pizza but we weren’t complaining.

IMG_6815

It was goooood. J’adore.

Evan and I each ordered a personal pizza, thinking they would be on the smaller side and we could share both. Once again, they were huuuuuge.

IMG_6817

I got the Hawaiian, and Evan ordered a random assortment of goodness.

IMG_6818

Both of them were seriously delicious and I was really surprised. The food was just excellent, and very reasonably priced as for all three of those pizzas and our beer we paid $20 CUC (tip was included on our bill but we still left a bit extra). We couldn’t finish everything but we packed it up in a box and brought it back to our room. We had enough leftover to make another entire pizza! It was the perfect late night snack over the next couple of days.

IMG_6819

I can’t recommend that place enough. I saw people ordering pasta that looked amazing as well. We will definitely be going back next time we’re in Varadero.

Another day we went to the outdoor restaurant El Rancho for lunch, which was just up the street from our resort.

el-rancho-restaurant

IMG_6911

It has a great atmosphere in there, with live music as we ate, which is always a plus!

IMG_6914

(video here)

This is one thing that I really love about Cuba that I haven’t seen in other Caribbean countries I’ve traveled to, live music everywhere!

They seem to specialize in seafood but I wasn’t feeling it that day. I ordered the pork steak, which came with potatoes and rice. Nothing too exciting but it was pretty good, and great value at $7 CUC.

IMG_6917

That onion sauce in the little dish on the side though…I don’t know what was in that (aside from onions) but it was incredible and I could not get enough of it. I wanted to pour it over my entire plate. My mouth is watering thinking about it now.

Definitely a great place for lunch.

Our last restaurant experience was on the rooftop patio La Vaca Rosada, on the opposite side of the strip from us, closer to the hotel Roc Barlovento. We took a cab back and it was $5 CUC.

IMG_6426

I had a list of Varadero restaurants on my phone that I made before I left, which I compiled after reading a bunch of reviews. Beside this one I had written “rooftop patio!!! MUST GO” so, that was a must go. It has amazing reviews and people say it’s the best restaurant in Varadero. We eventually made it there on our last night, and I can’t say if it’s the best in Varadero, but it was the best of the restaurants we went to.

IMG_7049

I love the all the servers were wearing pink shirts.

We started with a side order of fries.

IMG_7036

And drinks. I got the Hemingway Daiquiri, with rum and grapefruit juice.

IMG_7039

It is called Hemingway’s Daiquiri because he drank so many of them at El Floridita in Havana (which we visited and I’ll get to in my Havana post) where he spent many days drinking in the ’30s and ’40s. It was delicious.

La Vaca Rosada’s specialties are pizza and seafood, and since we had already done the pizza thing we decided to seafood it up. I ordered the grilled fish.

IMG_7043

I asked our server what kind of fish I was eating, and I’m pretty sure he said “bargo” which I had never heard of and I still can’t really find anything about…but it was so, so good. It was cooked perfectly and super flavourful. I loved it and just demolished it. Also really good was the mash on the side, and I am not entirely sure what root vegetable that was made of either (squash or pumpkin I think), but it was garlicky and also very good.

Evan ordered the shrimp.

IMG_7044

Which were also garlicky and delicious. I definitely helped him out with those. We both really enjoyed our meals here. I wish we had tried more things!

IMG_7046

So that was a great final dinner in the Varadero.

IMG_7051

Next up, Havana. Have a great weekend!!

Follow

Varadero Adventuring

Next up we have cruising around the Varadero strip! We ate off the resort in Varadero for three meals, but I am going to do those separately. The food was delicious and deserves its own post.

So Varadero is totally a tourist town, and aside from the hotels there are many rooms for rent (called casa particulars as opposed to airbnb) and I think I even saw a hostel.

IMG_6428

Casa Particular

IMG_6417

Hostel

So there are many tourists, but people do actually live there as well. When I went for a run in the early morning I saw many locals heading out to work and school. One shop owner clapped at me as I was running down the sidewalk, so that was cute and made me feel like I was running a marathon. I should mention I noticed that I didn’t get harassed as much by random people as I do in Toronto. No one yelled at me from their cars, so that was nice.

Speaking of cars, there are classic cars everywhere! It is literally a rolling car museum, and now most of the ones you see are taxis, in Varadero at least.

IMG_7058

These old restored cars would cost probably hundreds of thousands of dollars here and Cubans are just using them as their everyday vehicles. It’s like being in a time warp. For four decades the country’s leader, Fidel Castro, placed a ban on foreign car imports, making it nearly impossible to buy a new car. Our Havana tour guide Blexie was telling us that although there are new cars now (I saw a few Mercedes and a few foreign cars that are newer but we don’t have in Canada), they are so expensive that Cubans can’t afford to buy them. Thus, the old cars. He was also saying that people are very lucky to own an old car, since they use them as taxis, they’re their livelihood.

The joke is that Cuba’s national sport is hitchhiking because most Cubans don’t actually own cars and hitchhike everywhere (their second national sport is baseball). I did see a lot of hitchhikers. I also saw a lot of buses. I also saw one guy riding down the street on a bicycle holding his baby with one arm and steering with the other, no helmets on either of them. So, their safety standards are not quite what we are used to… We drove around in a few old cars and none of them had seatbelts. I think we are slightly too concerned with safety in North America, so to be honest it was refreshing. Not that I am saying you should carry your baby while biking…

IMG_6430

IMG_6432

Anyway, just a little car lesson for you.

Still on the subject of motor vehicles, it was Evan’s dream to ride in this little helmet car taxi.

IMG_6449

And who am I to deny him of this dream. We paid that guy $10 CUC to just drive us around for 45 minutes. And he was playing Bryan Adams in that thing! We’re seeing Bry-bear in July, so it felt like fate.

IMG_6455

The best thing about our resort was the location, as I have mentioned (several times), as we were right in downtown Varadero and close to the action, but also on the most beautiful beach. Our resort was quiet and I’d say more of an older crowd (minus the Italians and the young ladies that flocked to them), but if we just walked across the street we could find adventure, and that’s what I loved most about it. Every day we went for a little stroll along the Varadero strip.

IMG_6421

IMG_6339

IMG_6341

There are many markets and restaurants and stores. And if we wanted to take a classic car taxi anywhere it was $5 CUC max, whereas if you were staying at a resort up the peninsula it would have been like $20 each way. We took a ride back to our hotel from a restaurant and it was only $2!

Right across from our hotel was this little store…

IMG_6245

As well as a restaurant called La Fondue…

IMG_6379

(an actual fondue place)

The nightclub Havana Club was just up a side street, which we did not go to because there was a $10 CUC cover and we had other options (although if we do have our wedding here that might be a good bachelorette night option). And Calle 62, an outdoor bar with live Cuban music every night was there as well.

IMG_6806

IMG_6446

After about 10pm it turned into a legit street party.

IMG_6871

That was pretty entertaining and we wandered over a few times.

IMG_6872

That screen in the back was a video of what was happening on stage, and it was the most hilariously poor quality, like an old school webcam.

Lots of characters over there.

IMG_6478

I like how that guy is wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs shirt…

The other bar we hit up a few times was the Beatles Bar.

IMG_7016

The Beatles Bar has a live rock band that plays classic rock songs every night. It was a popular spot for the touristas.

IMG_6481

IMG_6254

We stumbled over there our first night and fell in love. Evan also literally fell. He went to sit down in his chair and didn’t realize one of the legs was in a hole… I took a picture of the hole so I wouldn’t forget the story.

IMG_6255

His chair looked like it just collapsed and he toppled backwards onto the ground. I can’t remember a time I have laughed so hard. I was dying. I was hyperventilating laughing, so much that I couldn’t even help him up so this lady came running over to be his saviour. He was fine. It’s still funny. We ordered cerveza’s and settled in for the show…

IMG_6261
IMG_6265

But we could not have anticipated what we were about to see. The lead singer of the band is this hilariously entertaining rock dude, like he totally has the look.

IMG_6279

He would just light up a smoke mid chorus, give the crowd a smoldering look, shake his hair, do a hip thrust, take a drag, and continue singing.

IMG_6293

He totally took his job as rock star very seriously, even though they only play covers of classics. He said his idol was Jim Morrison and I can see him acting like Jim Morrison when he’s not performing as well and being all moody and withdrawn. Such an artiste. He was a character and a half and I loved watching it. It was my kind of place.

IMG_6487

Evan was all “I don’t know what’s more entertaining, watching that guy perform, or watching you laughing at that guy perform.”

There was a woman singer as well who was very good, but I’m sorry, she just wasn’t as entertaining. There’s no way she could have been! You can’t top that shirtless skinny jeaned luscious locked wonder. You watch this video and you tell me it’s not the greatest thing you’ve ever seen.

(if that video isn’t showing up for you watch it here)

Maybe you had to be there. I couldn’t get enough, I tell you! Made my vacation.

Just after the Beatles Bar there is a pretty little park with a lake called Josene Park, so we took a stroll through there one day…

IMG_6308

IMG_6310

IMG_6311

There’s an Italian restaurant in the park, but we didn’t go to it so I can’t tell you if it’s any good. It was cute though.

IMG_6315

IMG_6333

There was also a bar overlooking the lake which I heard had the best pina coladas EVER so we had to hit that up.

IMG_6336

And those were some good pina coladas.

A few old cars in the park…

IMG_6329

I never know what to do with my arms when I’m alone in pictures!!! I need a prop.

IMG_6318

Evan ruined his classic car picture by asking “Hey, is that a real bird?” referring to this giant goose on the right:

IMG_6322

Which yes, was a real bird and totally looked like Mother Goose. There were many birds in the park, like this magnificent rooster.

IMG_6325

And this hen with her chickies.

IMG_6301
Actually there were many, many chickens hanging around the streets in general.

IMG_7028

Just a casual evening stroll with the fam…

IMG_7030

And dogs, and cats. I like to give Evan an anxiety attack and pet all the kitties. He would prefer it if I didn’t touch the feral cats, but I can’t help myself! If there’s a cat I am going to pet it, so I brought hand sanitizer around with me and he dealt. The dogs in Cuba are really funny because they all seem to have short little wiener legs. I loved this little doge!

IMG_7091

He followed us for a bit when we were out for a walk one evening. I wanted to bring him home.

We even saw this parrot just chilling on a fence!

P1000282

Pretty sure he’s a pet, but still, that was a weird thing to see.

The Casa del Ron, or House of Rum, was also right across from our resort, so on our last day we wandered in there.

IMG_7001

They had an interesting model of what it was like to make rum back in the day.

IMG_7013

IMG_7004

We did a very generous tasting…

IMG_7007

Scored some rum…

IMG_7009

And I left there feeling pretty good.

So, being in town was awesome and now I can’t imagine staying anywhere else. I’ll leave you with a you more pics from our adventuring.

IMG_7066

IMG_6407

IMG_6412

IMG_6413

IMG_6910
IMG_7099

Follow

Coral Beach and Cueva Saturno

Since our resort didn’t have great snorkeling on the beach I wanted to do an excursion for it. I love snorkeling, I rarely get to do it, and we had brought our own equipment. It needed to happen. We talked to our Sunwing rep about the various snorkeling excursions offered and decided to do a half day snorkeling at Coral Beach outside of Varadero, which also included a swim at Saturno cave. It was only $35 CUC each and sounded pretty good to us. So on Thursday before the big proposal, we got on the bus with the other touristas and headed to Coral Beach. We brought our own equipment (except fins) but our tour guides had everything we needed also, so that wasn’t necessary. I have no pictures above the water so I can’t even show you what it looked like, but fishies!

P1000070

P1000097

I think they’re all side-eyeing me…

P1000124

hello.

P1000098

They swam so close to us, so that was really cool. I have one picture that is just a huge silver fish scale because a fish swam directly in front of the lens as I was taking the photo. The reef was pretty and the ocean was clear but I have to mention that I was sort of disappointed with the fish variety. I saw many more types of fish when we were in Cayo Coco last year, and Jamaica also. But when I look at the pictures of Coral Beach on TripAdvisor there are many different types of fish, so maybe we went on a bad day. It was still a good time. Plus, we got a new waterproof camera this year so it was fun to play around with that and take pictures of each other.

P1000121

P1000122

P1000117

I like to call this pose The Derp.

P1000120
P1000128

Evan is much more graceful than me. But of course he is. He’s a porpoise.

Our attempt at a selfie:

P1000133

We snorkeled for about an hour and afterwards our group got back on the bus and headed over to Saturno Cave, or Cueva Saturno. That was a highlight for me!

IMG_6878

IMG_6889

IMG_6887

IMG_6908

Saturno Cave is a subterranean cave with a freshwater pool that is 22m deep in some places. It’s filled with beautiful stalactites and stalagmite formations, and the water is turquoise and cool and refreshing. It is pretty much my dream swimming situation.

P1000165

The cave is apparently very popular for scuba divers. One day!

P1000154

P1000158
P1000172

P1000175

P1000178

P1000187

P1000180

There’s a snack bar on site so after our swimming we were able to get a couple cervesa’s and explore the area.

IMG_6905

It was really cool and if you’re in Varadero I recommend hitting it up. We loved it! It’s pretty popular with tour groups but I heard you can take a taxi there also if you are interested in just going by yourself.

Follow

Starfish Cuatro Palmas: Our Resort

This is pretty delayed but last week was super busy and sort of got away from me. I still have a lot of Cuba-related things to talk about, so here we go!

First I want to talk about our resort. I put a huge amount of research into where to stay in Varadero and TripAdvisor reviews are definitely helpful, but I would have loved to find a detailed blog post when I was looking for information. So, hopefully this helps someone if they are deciding between hotels in Varadero. When I was researching I found some horror stories about other hotels in the area: flooding, missing toilet seats, horrible food and sketchy food preparation in general, no hot water for a week, no towels — resorts in Cuba have come a long way but you still should do some research because sometimes standards are not what we’re used to. I can not picture those problems happening at our resort, our staff were amazing. They went above and beyond. We had two minor issues when we were there (the safe in our room needed a new battery and we lost our room key) and both were rectified immediately.

We stayed at the Starfish Cuatro Palmas and I notice there are a few negative reviews on TripAdvisor lately but we absolutely adored it.

IMG_6807

IMG_7107

IMG_7108

P1000195

It is a small boutique resort (only 280 rooms) on beautiful Varadero beach and also right downtown Varadero. I have found that I really prefer staying at a smaller resort over a mega resort. We got to know the staff, it was quick and easy to get around, and when we came back from adventuring off the resort it truly felt like coming home! It is by no means fancy, but it is clean and comfortable. The only things I could possibly complain about was that our bath towels were very small and the shower was sort of a weird setup so that if the door wasn’t in the right spot water would leak onto the floor. Other than that it was great, and I thought the best hotel we’ve stayed at so far in Cuba (previously we have stayed at the Iberostar Mojito in Cayo Coco and the Brisas Guardalavaca in Holguin). We actually liked this resort so much that we are thinking of going back there for our wedding (Dawn and Mark’s amazing Jamaican wedding sort of sold me on a destination).

I didn’t get a picture of our room, but we stayed in the Colonial building just off the main building, and it looked exactly like this.

Accommodations-1-min

Again with the two double beds. This always happens and we just push them together but sleep on one, no biggie. It was cute, the A/C worked well and it had no musty smell (that’s a plus). Our building definitely had a colonial feel to it.

DSC_3986

Our balcony is on the second floor, the one closest to the middle with two beach towels.

IMG_6380

We didn’t have an ocean view, we faced the street and I loved it!

P1000061

We could sit and watch all the old cars drive by and see all the action that was happening. On the mornings I went for a run I stopped by the lobby bar and got us both coffees so we could sit with them on our balcony.

IMG_6391

LOVED their coffee. It is so good.

We spent so little time in our room though, so onto the rest! I should quickly mention that if you book an economy room, those buildings are actually on a side street a block and a half away and not on the beach. I don’t think that would be a big deal to me, but I definitely would want to know that in advance.

The most important to me is the beach, and that was beautiful.

IMG_6226

IMG_6345

P1000237

P1000009

P1000017

It wasn’t quite as beautiful as our beach in Cayo Coco last year but it was pretty close. And I should mention that you didn’t have to get there at 7am to get a chair in the shade, which is a big problem I have found at other resorts. We had no problem getting a palapa, and the beach staff is always there to help you if you can’t find one. We spent a lot of time on the beach. We wanted to swim in that delicious ocean every day!

DSC_3972

P1000029

P1000246
P1000270

P1000276

You could also get the beach crew to take you to a reef for snorkeling off the resort in a little Hobie Cat for $20 CUC (as we did last year, and unlike last year the snorkeling wasn’t great off our beach, you’ll only see sand and the occasional fish, but that is okay). And you could borrow (for free) paddle boats and kayaks and take those around

IMG_6801

The three guys on the paddle boat were from Italy, and obviously the guy standing up was the leader. I liked to call him the Rooster. As we watched them paddling around Evan and I were telling each other what the Rooster was saying and it was mainly “PADDLE FASTER, PEASANTS!” It was also hysterical to watch them try to mack on the ladies in the lobby at night while we played cards and pretended to not watch. It was like a soap opera. Highly entertaining.

One day a guy came onto the beach with a cart of pineapples that he cored and then filled with pina coladas. Um, yes please. Best 5 CUC I ever spent.

IMG_6395

We also, as I mentioned, had THE BEST sunsets on the beach.

IMG_6837

IMG_6373 IMG_6364

P1000226

We watched the sunset almost every night.

The pool was very nice too. The pool guy Mikael really took pride in his work and was cleaning up around the pool all day long.

IMG_6354

IMG_6385

IMG_6948

No swim-up bar but whatever. People probably just sit around and pee there anyway. The bar is very close by and we had our Bubba Kegs. We spent a few afternoons at the pool, usually around 4pm until it was time to get ready for dinner. It’s my favourite time of the day.

IMG_6441

P1000047

P1000055

The entertainment staff during the day were pretty awesome. They made sure to include everyone in their activities and I still have “HeyyyyyyyyyyAYYYYY BABY! (HOO! HAH!) I wanna knowwwwohhhh woahhhh, will you be my girl?” in my head because they sang it all the time. We always end up having a takeaway song from our vacation, and that was this year’s.

IMG_6830

Just picture them singing that song while the bridge parade was happening.

The entertainment staff did a lot of games during the day and had bottles of rum as prizes, like BINGO, who can stay on top of a beer keg the longest in the pool (not kidding, I enjoyed watching that), and a ring toss game down on the beach, which as you know, Evan won.

IMG_6976

We hung out in the lobby bar most night after dinner playing Rummy before we went to the beach bar and then out adventuring in the town.

IMG_6358

And in the lobby bar every night there was a live Cuban band playing, so we enjoyed listening to that. Sometimes there was a conga line. I am the jambon so I can’t resist.

IMG_6865

On Fridays it’s Cuba day at the resort so they put up a big flag, have Cuban coloured streamers everywhere, an outdoor barbecue and live music Cuban music and dancing all day.

DSC_3954

IMG_6987

Last year in Cayo Coco we watched the evening entertainment almost every night, but our resort was in the middle of nowhere so there wasn’t a whole lot to do. This time we did a lot of downtown adventuring in the evening, since there was so much near us, so we barely watched the night entertainment. But from what I did see, it looked pretty good. Much dancing.

IMG_7081

The drinks were great. It’s all-inclusive and you know we got our money’s worth. There were four bars and the lobby bar was 24 hour. Best mojitos I have ever had.

IMG_6357

Especially from our man Abel at the beach bar.

IMG_6786

Abel’s bar by the beach was only open from 6pm until midnight but that was his domain and he rocked it. He had multiple disco balls and Cuban music videos playing on a little TV, so it felt like another world in there. He made THE BEST drinks.

IMG_6796

He also had Montreal Canadians paraphernalia everywhere. My dad likes. And Hemingway pictures (Hemingway LOVED Cuba, more on that in my Havana post). We mostly sat outside because it was so nice and there was a great view of the ocean, but there was a pretty interesting back room.

IMG_7104

We are such dummies and didn’t sign the wall!!!

And now, the food. It was fantastic! Best food I’ve had in Cuba so far! Still not quite the variety I found in Jamaica, but they switched it up a bit every day and the things they focused on they did really well! I was impressed.

Breakfast was eggs to order…

IMG_6393

Also scrambled and hard boiled eggs (that I watched them scramble on the grill, so they weren’t those freaky ones in other buffets that have been made from who knows what and have been sitting for who knows how long). Lots of cheeses and different breads and pastries (all very good). They didn’t have bacon every day, but they usually did. Evan and I loved their crispy sausages, and I loved their little croquettes (fried balls filled with potato and cheese).

Every lunch and dinner had various grilled meats and fish to order, and the lineups were minimal, so that was good. I ate a lot of grilled chicken, pork, and fish.

IMG_6225

Even grilled salmon and mussels and crab legs.

IMG_6360

And sushi!

IMG_6780
I would not have trusted that, or the mussels, at other resorts in Cuba I have stayed at, but here I did. All was delicious.

They also had an entire large salmon out every day that was absolutely to die for. I got it on the side of my dinner every night. And there was a pasta bar of course, which previously I would stick to at a Cuban resort because I didn’t trust a lot of the other food, but that was not a problem here and I switched it up a lot more.

IMG_6243

IMG_6779

IMG_6982

IMG_6445

This is also the first time I have seen cucumber on a Cuban resort. And they had good salad dressing, and also various oils with vinegars. This is also something that I have found to be lacking in the past, so I was a big fan.

One afternoon we went to the beach restaurant for lunch. Not quite as much variety as the buffet but they still had grilled meat and fish to order. And paella, which was delicious.

IMG_6346

They also had burgers, hot dogs, fries and pizza over there.

And it had a great view.

IMG_6348

There are two a la cartes, Cuban and Italian. We ate off the resort a couple of times, but one night we hit up the Italian restaurant. It’s at the same location as the beach restaurant.

IMG_6834

IMG_6832

I got the spaghetti bolognese.

IMG_6835

And it was not too shabby at all.

In our opinion, the resort is fantastic. It was so great to be downtown where the action is as opposed to being way out on the peninsula (and a $20 CUC cab ride each way to downtown). That brings it up a star level for me. And then add the actually good food, drinks and the ridiculous beach, and I don’t know what more you could ask for, especially for the price. I loved it and I wish I was back there right now.

P1000014

 

Follow

The Porpoise Proposal

Thank you so much for all your comments about Evan making an honest woman out of me. They made me so happy. I read them to Evan last night and we both feel very lucky to have so many people love our love. And don’t feel weird or creepy if you haven’t met us. I read blogs, I know what it’s like to feel like you’re friends with someone you’ve never met or be excited about something awesome happening to basically a stranger. I loved Paula and Fabian’s love before I met Paula and Fabian (and I love it even more after meeting them!). You’re not alone!

I was originally going to save the proposal story for last, but I can’t do that to you. How evil would that be? Who wants to read about what types of beans we ate with our rice when I have a juicy engagement story! I’d rather write about this anyway. The beans can wait. Love comes first. Also, I LOVE proposal stories. They are my absolute favourite. The first question I ask anyone if they have gotten engaged is “How did he propose?!” I’m sure many of you feel the same. It’s a moment you’ll remember forever, so it’s important.

So on Thursday, our second last day of vacation, Evan and I decided we were going to have a late dinner that night and swim in the ocean as the sun was setting. It was Evan’s idea but I didn’t suspect anything was going to happen because we’re both huge fans of swimming, in the ocean, or a dirty lake, or in any type of water anywhere, and who doesn’t love a beautiful sunset, so it was a totally natural suggestion.

We did the snorkeling and cave excursion in the morning and just when we were finishing snorkeling, Evan found the most perfect empty but intact clam shell spread on the sand on the bottom of the ocean. He dove down and got it and was so excited about this clam shell. He was going on about how perfect it was and at the time I did not understand what was so great about the clam shell. I mean, it was a nice shell and I was happy for him that he found a clam shell that he really liked, but we’ve found other shells and I had never seen him get so excited over one…

Anyway, we came back from our excursion, had lunch, hung out by the pool for a bit, and then set up shop on the beach. We read our books, drank Cuba Libres (rum and cola with lime) and got in and out of the ocean as we waited for the sun to set.

IMG_6939

Evan was not acting weird at all, that I noticed, but he did pretend to run to the bathroom and instead went back to our room to get the ring from the safe (I didn’t know this at the time). As the sun got lower in the sky we got into the ocean and frolicked around for a bit. I brought the waterproof camera because I wanted to take pictures of us doing doing water yoga in front of the sunset (ha!!!!). I took this photo…

P1000197

and then I went underwater after and when I came back up Evan was on one knee (although I couldn’t really tell and I thought he was just kneeling on the bottom), he said to me “Sweetie, you know that I want to have adventures like this with you forever…” and out came that clam shell he found, and then it opened, and there was the ring (tied to a leather shoelace wrapped around the clam and then tethered to himself because he is cautious and bringing a meaningful ring in the ocean is definitely out of character for him). It took me a minute to process what was happening and I think I said “Is this what’s happening right now?!” and I think he nodded and then I don’t know, we were hugging and there were tears but you couldn’t tell because we were already wet. And he said other romantic things and asked me to marry him and he put that amazing ring on my finger and it fit so perfectly and I know it sounds ridiculous but I felt like I had always been wearing it. I took it off for a minute afterwards so I could really look at it and my finger felt weirdly bare without it. And I have really fat fingers! Since we were kids my best friend’s sister has always called them Simpsons fingers because they are stubby like the Simpsons’ fingers. I couldn’t believe the ring actually fit.

I am not a big jewellery person. I don’t wear a lot of it and I’m not diamond savvy, and I absolutely did not want some huge flashy ring weighing down my finger. I do not believe the size/style/expense of your engagement ring indicates how good your relationship is or how much your fiance loves you. It’s a symbol and that’s all. But honestly, my ring.

IMG_7122

I could not possibly love it any more. It is more perfect than I ever could have imagined. I love how pretty and unique it is! About a year ago I saw a picture of a pear-shaped diamond ring and I mentioned to Evan that I liked the look of it, and he remembered it and went from there. His whole design is incredible. I love the crossed band. I can’t stop looking at it, even now.

People keep asking me if I suspected anything or if I knew a proposal was coming, and well, yeah, a little. I wasn’t blindsided, we had talked pretty extensively about our future and what that looked like for us and I knew marriage was in our plans. So I knew, but I didn’t know. I didn’t know when it was going to happen. Apparently he’s had the ring since February that sneaky minx, and I had NO IDEA. He even arranged a sly meetup with my dad to ask him for his blessing, and again I had no idea. Looking back there were a few things that were suspicious, but only on our trip. Evan brought a carry-on in addition to his suitcase, which he NEVER does (he had the ring in an envelope and wrote on it “RING, be discreet” so airport security wouldn’t harass him), and when we got to the hotel our room wasn’t ready yet so we changed into our bathing suits to go to the beach and put our suitcases in a locked room, and Evan continued to lug around his carry-on with him. I was all “Why don’t you leave that?” and he was like “Oh I don’t mind carrying it…” because he didn’t want to leave the ring behind! I thought for a second, but I didn’t want to dwell on it because I just wanted to enjoy our trip without any expectations of anything.

And the clam shell!

IMG_7126

No wonder he liked it so much. It still had the little hinge intact so it would open like a ring box. Evan had brought another shell with him to propose with but it wasn’t nearly as good. He said when he saw this shell so perfectly open on the sand he knew it was fate and that he was meant to propose that day. That made me tear up.

I am glad he waited to propose like this, it was the perfect moment. I love that it happened in the water! Evan’s nickname is Porpoise or Porpy because he’s such a graceful swimmer — all his friends and family call him Porpy, and I grew up on a lake swimming every day. Swimming has been an important part of both of our lives. So that was amazing. Afterwards we watched the most beautiful sunset as we admired how my ring glittered in the golden sunlight and talked about when we knew we would get married (we both said we knew by our second date).

P1000217

P1000226

And we had a little photo shoot (but we were not doing yoga).

IMG_7114

You know, I met Evan a few months before I turned 30. When we get married I will probably be 34. I know a lot of people are lucky to meet the loves of their lives early on, and maybe it’s even their first love. But I think a lot of people are like me. I needed to muddle through dating people who were totally wrong for me and made me feel insecure and not like myself, and would have made pretty crap life partners when I think about it (not something I was thinking about when I was younger and living in the moment). I learned a lot of lessons before I found Evan (or he found me, as he likes to say). I would like to think that if I met Evan 1o years ago that I would have appreciated him for everything that he is, but I honestly don’t feel like I would have had the emotional capacity to be able to. I think I needed those lessons, like a necessary evil. I needed to be with someone who was wrong for me so I would know and appreciate when I met someone who was so incredibly right for me. It took those relationships for me to understand what I want and need in a partner, and to respect myself enough to hold out for those standards. 10 years ago I don’t think I could have imagined someone loving me the way Evan loves me, or someone treating me the way that Evan treats me. And I don’t think I could have pictured loving someone as much as I love Evan.

So I am glad I met Evan when I did, and I am glad everything that has happened since happened the way it did. I still have my entire life ahead of me and I am so incredibly happy and thankful that I get to spend it adventuring with my lover the Porpoise (who is the best ever, as you may know).

P1000247

IMG_6859

And finally people can stop asking us when it’s going to happen. Jesus.

Follow