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Our Varadero Wedding: Dinner + Reception

Again all photos by AV Smile – Cuban Wedding Photography and Videography, and you can absolutely tell when their photos stop and mine start in this post.

After the photo fest it was party time!

I loooooooved that we got to have the reception in the Italian restaurant (where we had dinner the second night), which is open to the ocean and beach and has a beautiful view.

After our guests were seated we did the big bridal party entrance, always a popular event. No one had quite as spectacular of a fail as I did back in the day, but it was very entertaining. We had everyone come in to “Let’s Get Married” by Jagged Edge. That song just reminds me of high school. Joel, our emcee, introduced everyone, and Joanna and Jeff were first up.

Hannah and Eric’s big entrance.

Sherrie and Ian.

Dawn and Mark, and they did an ode to my piggyback!!!

Theirs worked out, however.

Corey and Emily, and I did not know they did the Royal wave so I died laughing when the photographers showed us the pictures a couple days later.

They kill me.

And Lisa and Sean, just under the “Continues” sign!

He just started crazy dancing and she wasn’t expecting it. The video of this is even better than the picture.

And Mr. and Mrs. Evan Evanoff!

I accidentally hiked my dress up so high (stairs were tricky) that you almost saw my something blue.

Dinner time!

But first, our emcee Joel welcomed everyone and did a speech and toast. I met Joel on my first day of Grade 9 and he talked about how Emily and I immediately befriended him.

And then he went on about what an irresponsible driver I was in high school (weren’t we all?). And also about the baby squirrel that five-year-old Eric found in our yard that Joel’s dad ended up taking home, and that squirrel lived in their house for three years, in a giant cage that took up an entire wall in their living room, and the squirrel hated Joel and would try to pee on him when he walked by the cage. So, touching things, really. Just heartwarming stories.

As he was speaking they served our first course, shrimp cocktail. Again, I am not sure where they got the food for this because much like our appetizers, it was miles better than what was in the buffet all week. But I’m not complaining! The shrimp cocktail even had a curry sauce in it!

Next up we had French onion soup which was honestly DELICIOUS, and Ian and Jeff’s toast.

Their speech was heartfelt and funny. They talked about how they were all nerds together in high school and how I bring a new energy to Evan that they’ve never seen before. That seemed to be a big theme. Evan said afterwards that yep, I bring him up to where he needs to be, and he brings me down to almost where I need to be. Hahaha.

After our main course was served (chicken and potatoes and rice and vegetables, also really good), it was time for the bridesmaids to do their thing.

They each did a poem about memories with me, and they all connected to each other. Every single one of them killed me. It was hilarious and I loved every second of it.

I felt so loved!

Then there was Sean. Ohhh, Sean. He also talked about how he and Evan were big nerds in high school (Evan fist pumped and yelled “broadcast club!” when he said this) and how they were so well-liked by their teachers that they were actually allowed to have the keys to the school so they could stay late every Thursday night and work on their school’s Friday video announcements.

I don’t know why we look so sombre here, he was funny. I love it. He also closed it with a very serious piece of advice: don’t leave anything to interpretation. That really resonated with me.

And then, Lisa. A speech I’ve been looking forward to for years.

She nailed it. Her MOH speech was perfect. She talked about how she was actually my first love, and how we met skating on the lake. She said I skated confidently over to her in my Mickey Mouse sweatshirt over my stirrup pants and introduced myself. I can’t imagine how tough her speech must have been to write because we have so many inside jokes over the 25 years we’ve known each other. But her speech was funny to everyone (not just us), and she said wonderful things about Evan also (like how he always makes sure that not only am I safe and good, but also that she is, and that all my friends who are with me are). I loved.

I’m going to have to write a MOH speech for her pretty soon so I think I might just take hers and reverse it. Just kidding, I’ve been writing that in my head for 25 years.

She also gave me the notebook she had been writing her speech in with all her renditions and edits in it. I was not expecting that and I was touched!

I just want to pause here and say that I love how our photographers got so many amazing candid shots but they weren’t invasive at all.

Next up we have Eric. He can just stand there and not say anything and I’m already laughing.

Eric winged it and he was such a natural. He talked about how close we are despite the distance (and the 10 year age gap) between us, and about the time I dropped him accidentally and he lost his two front teeth. And he talked about all the things I taught him, like his first jager shot. And all the things he learned from Evan like fishin’ and boatin’ and…tilin'(his words).

Certainly boating, I have the proof right here from the first time he and Kenya came to the cottage:

Nothing janky about putting a motor on a paddle boat.

Eric made me cry and then cry with laughter.

Evan’s mom also spoke briefly, about how welcoming our “wacky friends” had been all week. It was cute. They are quite wacky. My mom didn’t do a speech in front of everyone, but I heard that she took each one of my friends aside and personally thanked them for being so wonderful to me over the years. They were all moved by that, and so was I.

Evan and I also did a quick speech, aaand all the photos look like this because this is what I look like when I’m happy and talking.

I talked about how you need to just persevere with the online dating, because you may need to wade through some murky waters in the beginning. Sometimes people don’t exist, and sometimes people don’t eat, but then sometimes people are Evan, and look what happens. I also talked about how thankful we were to have everyone with us in Cuba, and how it was especially meaningful for us because we had gotten engaged in the ocean in front of that restaurant almost exactly one year before at almost exactly the same time of day. Evan echoed my sentiment about how great it was to have everyone there with us and how we loved seeing all our friends having such a good time all week long. And then he got a little choked up and had to stop, which was adorable. CHEERS TO OUR FRIENDS!!!!

We had dessert but I can’t remember what it was or if it was good. I was on a high.

Then we cut the cake.

To the most fitting song, I think, Cake By The Ocean. I am obviously singing in this photo.

We didn’t think to inquire about a knife so we just cut the cake with a butter knife.

There were also no forks around so I just put a piece of cake on the end of the butter knife and fed it to Evan. And then he was going to feed me but I forgot and almost just fed myself, whoops. I get things done.

That cake actually never got served, but Cuban cake is sort of weird anyway. It’s not as sweet as our cakes and it has a bit of a jelly consistency, so no big loss there. Plus we had already eaten dessert.

And then, our first dance. We danced to Lost Together by Blue Rodeo. I love that song so, so much. We also slow danced to it at their concert last summer so it means a lot to us.

I am serenading Evan in most of the photos of our first dance so my mouth is open and I look like a big idiot. This picture that Sarah took is probably my favourite.

Right before my favourite part of the song, when the strings come in, we called everyone onto the dance floor to finish the dance with us.

I loved seeing random dancing partners, like Dixon and Shanondoah, and Brent and Michelle, who definitely all met like the day before. It warmed my heart.

And here I am serenading…

After our first dance we did a mom’s dance to Heart of Gold by Neil Young (one of my all time favourites).

After we each danced with our own mom, we switched it up.

Cookie and I definitely sang to each other the whole time.

And then we again called all our friends onto the dance floor.

And we spent the next hour there.

My song with my mom has always been Fishin’ In The Dark (because we used to go fishing in the dark when I was younger), and I found out years ago that it is also Sherrie’s song with her dad AND they made up a dance to it! She taught it to me, and now we’re both pros at it.

So we taught people on the dance floor. Hannah was digging.

I did a bouquet toss, but I tossed it to EVERYONE for luck, not just the single ladies.

Sherrie, that tall drink of water, totally nabbed it.

And Lisa’s face behind her is my favourite.

She almost had it!

Lisa is another good friend from elementary (and high) school and I am so so glad her and Dennis could make it!!!

Michelle, Casey and Shanondoah, the beautiful bloggers and lagers!

The reception had to end by 9pm as they had limited speakers and they needed them for the nightly entertainment, so for the last song, our last hurrah, we played Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams.

And something happens to me when Summer Of 69 is playing…

If I’m feeling the guitar solo, then I cannot stop myself from pulling out my signature move. The dance floor air guitar.

It’s a spectacle even when not in a wedding dress, but the wedding dress definitely added a little something (padding for my knees, for sure).

Cheryl, my fellow Jambon!

Legs for days, Heather!

…and Brent.

My favourite picture of Kim of all time:

Eric and Kenya…

Kim and Dylan…

Sherrie and Will…

After the official reception I changed into a shorter white dress and we all met in the lobby bar for an after party. I was going to bring the rest of my wedding playlist but they were actually playing really good music in there that night! And of course Randy was there. He’s everywhere!

That Randy just kills me.

I felt a lot less awkward than I look in that photo.

We got a picture of our Cartwright High School crew!

Just missing Crystal, sadly (and Crystal, we really missed you!).

After the lobby bar we went to, where else, the Beatles Bar!

I don’t know who this man is but I like him.

I don’t know whose kimono he’s wearing either. And I did not realize how nunga-tastic that dress is until I saw pictures later.

There was a new singer we hadn’t seen before!

He looked a bit out of place there, compared to everyone else in tight jeans and leather ensembles, but he was decent!

Oh man, it was a time.

We walked home from the bar with Kim and Dylan and we ran into the Stand By Me man. He was in the street with his guitar every night and when you approached him he would just start into “When the NIGHT. HAS COME. And the way is dark…” and sing the entire song to you. It was wonderful. Evan and I danced to it on this night.

And then Kim and Dylan paid for him to serenade us with another song and I am kicking myself because I can’t remember what song it was. I do remember it being a beautiful moment though.

It was just the most perfect day and I never wanted it to end.

I love those two pictures (and all the pictures!!!) so much!

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Our Varadero Wedding: Ceremony + Photos

Once again I have a million photos, and once again they are all from AV Smile unless I specify otherwise (and I’m pretty sure you should get married in Cuba just so they can take photos of you).

I left you yesterday at the start of the ceremony. We had the bridal party walk down in pairs and I’m really glad we did that because it was a bit of a long walk. We had to walk the path above the beach first (but I liked that!), and we figured no one wanted to walk by themselves. The bridal party walked down to Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, but the Piano Guys version (I will do a separate post about wedding music at some point).

Eric was walking me down the aisle so Jeff and Joanna took Hannah along with them.

Mark and Dawn, because obviously. And I love that they held hands the whole way down the path to the beach.

Sherrie and Ian.

The lovers Emily and Corey.

And Lisa and Sean, who sort of took over the role o best man in Brotherman’s absence.

And he took it very seriously.

My dad unfortunately couldn’t make it to Cuba (he walked me down the aisle during our Toronto ceremony), but Eric and I are very close so it felt fitting to have him by my side. Once the bridal party made it to the beach and I heard the first chords of Jack Johnson’s Better Together (because OF COURSE!)  it was time to get down there. (we used this instrumental version of Better Together.)

I was excited.

Because we had to walk along the top of the beach, everyone on the beach all stood and clapped and cheered for us as we walked by them. I felt like a celebrity!

Trying to catch a glimpse of my groom…

I loved how they had the ceremony area set up, I didn’t even know it was going to look like that.

To the left of the ceremony area is the public beach so a lot of locals were hanging out there and they had all crowded around to watch. As soon as we stepped onto the beach they started cheering for us, so I started cheering back at them and that is what’s happening in this picture:

I also saw Randy, Mikey (Sexy Position), a few others who worked at the resort, and also a few other people we had met during the week and it made me so happy that they all wanted to come see the wedding. I felt like Rose on the Titanic at the very end when she goes back to the ship and sees everyone who had an impact on her, and then Jack is waiting at the staircase. I saw everyone who made our stay such a great time and then my groom was there waiting for me!

Eric asked me what he was supposed to do when he handed me over to Evan and I said to shake his hand and then maybe stroke his cheek. I was half joking about the cheek stroke but he totally did it and Evan didn’t really know what was happening which was hilarious.

Kenya was taking pictures with my phone and she got a shot of it in action.

Made me laugh pretty hard.

I liked that they set it up so Evan and I could walk down the rest of the aisle together.

Hiiiii.

Our officiant was the resort’s PR coordinator, Elimay, who we had been working with us that week to plan out the details.

She did a great job, although no one except for Evan and I could hear her speaking.

But it was super short (which was also a good thing since everyone was in the sun and no one had seats) and not overly personal, but that was fine because our Toronto officiant Heather totally knocked that ceremony out of the park and I felt like nothing would ever be able to top it. The Cuba ceremony was still sweet and funny and I couldn’t stop smiling.

When Elimay asked us to say our I Dos she had us yell them so our guests could hear which made everyone cheer and it makes me cry every time I watch the video of it. I really, really loved that we got to do this again with our friends.

I didn’t realize that the photographers mic’d Elimay and were recording her words (possibly with an iPhone or something) so that in the video of the ceremony you can hear everything she says clearly. I’m so glad we have that because otherwise I wouldn’t remember.

And then she pronounced us husband and wife. Yay married!

And then we realized we forgot to exchange rings. So, we took care of that.

What’s so crazy is there were so many people behind us on the beach and in the water watching the ceremony in their bathing suits, some of them were even taking photos and videos! The photographers edited them all out and you can’t  even tell anyone was behind us in any of our pictures (they are still there in the video). That is some serious photoshopping skills.

I want to know who Evan is smiling so cheekily at in that photo.

Although it was a symbolic ceremony we still signed a certificate, which was really funny because it had these hilarious drawings of a bride and groom on it.

And then we got to toast.

I didn’t know this was going to happen, but I liked it.

And that was that! Married! We took our wedding bands off after the Toronto wedding and didn’t put them on again until after the Varadero ceremony, so now it felt official official.

I love that heart of flowers. It stayed there indefinitely after the ceremony and for the rest of the week we saw people on the beach taking pictures in it.

The picture below might be my favourite from the whole day, and Kenya took it on my phone! One thing we did remember to bring was bubbles for our guests to blow during the ceremony — I love that she got the bubbles in this pic!

And she also captured the beach-goers behind us, which adds to the ambience. Doesn’t everyone want to see a handful of shirtless men on their wedding day?

Aw, Dawn and her mom.

When the ceremony ended we immediately took a group photo with everyone.

What a fun bunch of people. Seriously, we could not have asked for a better group with us. Everyone got along so well and I feel like EVERYONE is just friends now, even if they didn’t know each other before. And I love that Lisa and Dennis and Phil and Allison could make it to the wedding, even though they were staying at different resorts. It makes me a little teary when I think of all the people who travelled so far to spend our wedding with us.

After the group photo we got a couple family shots. The moms!

Family pic!

Evan and his mommers.

And more of the bridal party.

And the groomsmen and bridesmaids together.

I wasn’t surprised when they picked Evan up like this because it’s sort of our signature move…

I was surprised when they attempted this though.

It didn’t last long. MAN DOWN!

Immediately after the ceremony we had a cocktail hour with canapés.

It was some of the best food we had all week. Alex, the photographer, told us later that it was a really big deal that the resort put out nuts and dried fruit for this, since both are really hard to get in Cuba and especially rare to find on a resort.

I did not want to ever leave those snacks. We chatted with our guests for a few minutes, I shoved about five little toasts in my mouth, and then we headed out onto the streets of Varadero with our bridal party to get some photos.

This man wanted a knuckle sandwich.

We started at the Beatles Bar, and we got a very fitting photo of Evan scolding me for touching the do-not-touch Beatles statue.

That is a very accurate representation of our relationship.

Right beside the Beatles Bar is Josone Park, so we frolicked around in there for a bit. It’s a really beautiful park and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re in Varadero.

Corey’s floating head kills me in this one…

We have some creepers…

We told the guys that they needed to do sexy positions to make Mikey proud.

They did not disappoint.

Do not ask me what Mark and Corey are up to.

Tres romantique!

More canoodling.

I love love love any photos with the old cars!

After the picture fest we walked back to the resort to have dinner and party with our friends! I’ll talk about the reception later but at sunset the photographers brought us down to the water for MORE PICS. It was especially meaningful to Evan and I since it was right where we got engaged almost exactly one year before, and at the same time of day. I love all of the pictures and I’m sure you’re done with them by now but I have no shame. I have about 400, what else am I gonna do with them?

You know we had to do the cheesy sunset heart. Had to.

And we had to get an engagement reenactment.

We were in the water for the actual engagement though.

And we got a couple with our friends!

White people can’t jump.

Except Joanna. She needs to teach everyone her ways.

It was such a wonderful day.

Reception to come.

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Our Varadero Wedding: Details + Getting Ready

Sunday was wedding day!

I’m going to start with getting ready and the stuff before the actual wedding. I have a million pictures and it seems like the best way to split it up. So, get ready for a ton of pictures. But who doesn’t love wedding pictures?

All photos unless I specify otherwise are by AV Smile, Cuban Wedding Photography and Videography. Alex, Vianca (hence the AV) and their team were AMAZING. Hiring them was the best decision of our lives (aside from getting married). We had a team of five at our resort for the wedding — Alex and his wife Vianca, two videographers, and a lighting guy. Not only did they take beautiful pictures but we had all the edited photos, from both the wedding day and a shoot we did with them a couple days later in Havana, an edited video DVD of the entire day, as well as all the raw footage in case we want to make our own video (we both have video editing experience), and a personalized photo album (with our names on it) including 24 8.5×11 prints in THREE. DAYS. They had editors working overnight to make sure we got everything before we left Cuba. AND they were so nice and wonderful to work with. We were blown away. I feel so, so lucky.

THE DETAILS

First of all, my dress!

I wore a different dress in Cuba than I did for the Toronto wedding. My dress is this one by Morilee Madeline Gardner, in champagne. I loved it so much. I felt really comfortable (and beautiful) in it and it was breezy and light, perfect for the beach.

I also added this belt, to both dresses.

My shoes were like $10 from Ardene and they were super comfy with a little bit of bling.

For the ceremony on the beach the bridesmaids and I all wore these barefoot sandals that I got on Etsy.

On my head I wore a starfish/seashell crown that I also got on Etsy.

Since Evan proposed in a clam shell, in the ocean right where the ceremony was taking place, we put the rings in a clasped clam shell that belonged to Evan’s nana.

I’m not usually a fan of wedding detail shots, and maybe I’m biased because these are mine, but I thought the photographers got exceptionally beautiful shots of everything.

My mom gave me the pearl earrings I wore a couple years ago, and the Starfish necklace was also an Etsy find.

My wifey clutch was from Aldo accessories.

Lisa got me a beautiful bracelet for the Toronto wedding that I wore again in Cuba — it’s a spoon (a big inside joke with us because the neighbourhood’s bully was nicknamed Spoon when we were growing up), and they made the spoon part into a mermaid tail!

I love it.

And the flowers!

They are fake, almost like a rubber material so they’re not only realistic looking but realistic feeling. My bouquet, the bridesmaid bouquets, my toss bouquet (that I threw to everyone for luck, not just the single ladies), the moms’ corsages and the groomsmen boutonnières were all from my friend Ashley at From The Stem Up. She did such a great job! I used my bouquet for the Toronto wedding also, and then I just packed everything up in my suitcase and brought them to Cuba. It was perfect.

And I can keep my bouquet forever!

Emily’s mom got us a frame that people can sign and write well-wishes on, so we brought that along with us.

Except we forgot to change the photo in it to one of us. Whoops. Everyone was like “wow, you guys look really different!”

The other big thing I forgot was part of the sign for the front of the restaurant where the reception was taking place. For my bridal shower Lisa made this amazing sign that said “The Adventure Continues” and each letter was on a triangle cutout of a map. I loved it and I wanted to have it in Cuba, except when I was packing I somehow forgot to include the word “Adventure”. We just had “The” and “Continues”. Will, Kim and Dylan were putting that up while we were getting ready and couldn’t figure out what “The Continues” was supposed to mean. So, they put up what made the most sense which was just “Continues”. That makes me laugh when I think about it now.

THE GIRLS

In my bridal party I had Joanna and Dawn, who I met on the first day of Grade 9 and have been my pals since; Lisa, my MOH, who I grew up with and who has been my bestie for like 25 years; Emily, who has been my good friend since elementary school; Sherrie, who I hit it off with in my first year of journalism in college; and Hannah, who I became close with when I worked at OFSAA.

Joanna, Dawn, Lisa, Me, Emily, Sherrie, Hannah

The seven of us got ready in my room and it was definitely a bit cramped but it was so much fun and I’m so glad we had that time together. We blasted music and just laughed for most of the day. Will and Dylan brought us up fruit and sandwiches that they made for us in the buffet, so that was much appreciated!!!

I didn’t have a picture of this so I took a screenshot from the video

And Brent brought us up a tray of drinks!

We were excited about that.

I did my own makeup…

And Sherrie did my hair. She has such a gift for it. She gave us all the ‘Sherrie pouf.”

I think my hair turned out even better than when she did the trial on me.

I was feeling the love that day.

After our hair and makeup was done we headed down to the moms’ room so I could get into my wedding dress with them.

I should mention that the bridesmaid dresses were from RW&Co and their necklaces were from Etsy.

My mom looked so beautiful and happy!

And so did Cookie, Evan’s mom and my new mom!

I could not ask for a better mother-in-law, and I’m so glad our two moms get along so well.

Once we were ready we galavanted around the resort with our photography team.

The boys were also taking photos around the resort so the photographers all had walkie-talkies to make sure we didn’t see each other.

Randy, our favourite entertainer, came over to see us!

His extreme V needed to be more extreme. He was also wearing a ring on a chain around his neck that he pretended to put on my finger.

Mikey, the pool guy (aka Sexy Position) also dropped by to say hi. He got picked up.

My first love!

Gah, I love the beach shots. It was really sunny which I know is a photographer’s nightmare, but I think they still turned out great.

My favourite part of the video is all of us getting ready and then just walking around getting photos.

The guys

In Evan’s party he had: my brother Eric; his good friends from high school Ian (who lived with us for a while a couple years ago), Jeff, and Sean; and Mark and Corey, who he became close with after hanging out with them all the time because they’re married to Dawn and Emily.

Eric, Ian, Evan, Sean, Mark, Jeff, Corey

Unfortunately Brotherman couldn’t make it to the Cuba wedding, but he stood up there with us in Toronto!

The boys all got ready in Sean’s room.

What a handsome groom I have.

His tie is from Le Chateau (and the bowtie he wore for the Toronto wedding is from there as well).

And then they also traipsed around the resort with their photography team, looking super suave.

What a friggin’ handsome bunch of groomsmen!!

After we were all ready it was time for the ceremony, and I was ready to walk down the aisle!

Again!

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CHAN CHAN!

I last left you on Thursday afternoon just before my bestie Lisa and friends were arriving from Calgary. I felt like I was on pins and needles all day waiting for them, and finally I heard Lisa and Heather’s (not quiet) voices drift over from the lobby so I ran over there and practically tackled them. They made it!

Now we were just missing my pal Joanna, my brother Eric, his girlfriend Kenya and their best friend Dixon, who were all arriving on Friday.

To celebrate the Calgarians arrival and also Hannah’s birthday, 20 of us had dinner reservations on the patio of the restaurant next door to our resort, Barbacoa.

I wanted to make sure I got a good group photo of everyone, so I took several. That dinner was so much fun and probably one of my very favourite memories from the entire trip.

It was my first time seeing Lisa and Scott since their big engagement!!!

Lovers! I’m so excited for them. Scott is a thoughtful cat like Evan. When we came back to Lisa’s place after our great western road trip in September, Scott had cleaned her entire apartment (we had tornado’d through there and totally trashed it) and left her a vase of flowers on her kitchen counter. He had also packed the car for us before we left and let us borrow all his camping gear. Smooth moves all over the place. I already can’t wait for their wedding.

We are definitely each other’s first loves, however.

Sherrie and Will were looking quite lovery as well.

And so were Corey and Emily…and Sherrie…

I was loving Emily’s green number.

Lovers all around.

I ordered the chicken supreme and it was pretty delicious. I also hear the steak there is very good. But the biggest treat is the live band that plays there!

Cheryl got her hands on some maracas…

And then we passed them around so we could all pretend to be in the band.

I really, really wanted them to play my favourite Cuban song, Chan Chan. I love it so much and I hear it every time I’m in Cuba so it just reminds me of fun Cuba times. So I requested it (probably obnoxiously) a million times and they finally played it. And they even let me come up there and play it with them!

I think that is my mom’s “I am so proud of my wonderful daughter” face.

I was trying to sing Chan Chan along with them but I don’t know Spanish so I was mostly just making the sounds. I’m sure it was awful, and when I looked over at our table most of our friends were crying with laughter.

This is Evan’s favourite picture:

And this is mine, mostly because of the guy’s face beside me.

He likes. CHAN CHAN!!!!

They even played it a second time…possibly a third? It was amazing. Scott said I looked like I was enjoying it so much he bought me their CD! Now I can listen to Chan Chan all the time! I’m gonna listen to it right now!

It was Hannah’s birthday and we told our servers in advance that we wanted to have a surprise celebration for her. All of a sudden the lights started flickering in the entire restaurant and we were all like “OMG the power’s going out!” but no no, our servers were just creating some birthday drama.

I thought it was so sweet that they brought her a dessert. We all sang happy birthday, our servers in Spanish, which none of us knew, so we all yelled it in French. I bet the rest of the people on the patio really enjoyed us.

Notice Hannah’s Blue Jay hat, Cuba edition! Evan and I picked it up at the market that morning when we were there with our mom’s. She loves the Jays so it was a perfect find.

After dinner we headed back to our home base, the lobby bar, for a few drinks.

And piano playing.

That green dress, I tell ya.

And then we walked over to our favourite spot, the Beatles Bar! I think we went there almost every night. But when you can walk for two minutes and see this happening, how can you say no?

Again about 20 of us made it so we got a big section at the back. The new guy was redeeming himself.

I still don’t think he’s quite as big of a character as the guy last year, but the leather pants were definitely stepping up his act.

We had a special surprise for the very last song of the night. Cheryl made an appearance on stage.

Girl SLAYED that song!

Just so into it. Evan calls me The Jambon (The Ham) but I think I may have some competition in Cheryl. I was dying laughing when I saw her up there.

Since the outdoor bar Calle 62 is right across from our resort we dropped by there on our way home. This picture is from last year but it looks like this every single night, so just to give you an idea of what it’s like over there.

Just a total street party.

They have a charcoal grill where you can buy half a grilled chicken for 2CUC. It is DELICIOUS and the most wonderful thing at midnight.

My first picture of Heather, and some bearded man who we did not particularly enjoy. Though Dawn enjoyed his glasses.

And Sarah makes an appearance!

I feel like a broken record saying “it was a good time, it was such a good time” about everything, but seriously, it was a good time.

The next morning after breakfast we headed back to, where else? The beach.

Friday was our only overcast day, but that didn’t stop us from beaching around. It was the day to bust out my mermaid suit, one of the best buys of my life, from Cupshe. That site does not have great reviews but Lisa ordered a bunch of bathing suits from there and they were all amazing so I gave it a try and was also impressed. When I was reading the reviews for that suit they were mostly like “the bottom half is great but the cups in the top are as big as my head!” so I knew it was the one for me. I have such a hard time finding bathing suits that the nungas don’t want to escape from. It’s a real problem.

Lisa and I used to play this game in the lake when we were younger where one of us is Forrest Gump and the other one is Bubba and whoever is Bubba has to be carried. You may remember…

Since we were there for my wedding I got to be Bubba.

Heather and Brent were doing life right with their floaties.

I had to get in on that leisure life.

Every Friday on the resort is Fiesta Cubana and it’s a Cuban themed day with flags and everywhere and live music all afternoon.

And a special lunch by the beach.

They have these grilled pork sandwiches which are THE BEST. The bread is so soft and fresh and the pork just melts in your mouth. So good.

Also coconuts filled with coconut water and rum.

I didn’t even try one. I don’t know what I was thinking.

And you know there’s dancing. Evan was down.

Actually I witnessed him literally get down.

There was also quite the party by the pool. You’ll notice our pal Randy on the right.

And that’s where we spent the rest of the day, by the pool. And that is a story for another post.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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(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.

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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.

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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.

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I love the all the servers were wearing pink shirts.

We started with a side order of fries.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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So that was a great final dinner in the Varadero.

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Next up, Havana. Have a great weekend!!

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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!

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I think they’re all side-eyeing me…

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hello.

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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.

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I like to call this pose The Derp.

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

Our attempt at a selfie:

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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!

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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.

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

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

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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.

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