COM0014 – Blog #1: Our Trip Down South

COM0014 – Blog #1: Our Trip Down South

Oh, a Canadian winter! How fun it is. If you live in Eastern Ontario like I do, you found yourself gearing up for today’s storm. We got hammered with about 15 cm of the fluffy white stuff and spent a good part of the afternoon shovelling ourselves out.  To be honest with you, I’m not complaining, I love a good Canadian winter storm! There’s just something about the way the snow crunches below my feet. Perhaps it’s because it is a fond memory of my father and I on Christmas Eve (read more about that in my previous post by clicking here!) or maybe it’s because I actually don’t have to do the shoveling, that’s part of my husband’s household chores. I just get to play with the kids and enjoy the fun part of the winter.

However, as much as I love winter, a little break right in the middle of it, to go somewhere warm, is sometimes just what I need. I used to go down south every winter! We would spend the week between Christmas and New Years at an all inclusive resort and come back beautifully sun kissed and ready to take on the new year.

My last trip down south was my honeymoon!

We decided on Cuba and stayed at the Sanctuary at Grand Memories Varadero. Click this link to check out their website. What a stunning resort. It did not disappoint. I have to admit, being a vegetarian I found the food options a little slim, however, we made it work by taking advantage of the all you can eat buffets with salad bars. The beach is phenomenal and the best part was how romantic they made the trip for us. We had a special dinner just for the two of us out by the pool after dark, with candles and all. At another restaurant they had a gentleman play his guitar at our table and, to my surprise (not my husband’s surprise apparently) he played the song I walked down the aisle to. To say the tears were flowing would be an understatement. The staff members were amazing and so accommodating. After leaving one of the bars one night, my husband (who had downed a few cervezas) decided he wanted to take a short cut through some bushes (even though I strongly suggested otherwise) and he tripped and rolled the ankle he had broken a few years back. The staff saw him limping and stopped their car to give us a lift back to our room. They brought him ice and told us if we needed a lift anywhere for the rest of our trip to just call them and they would be there in seconds – I made my husband walk. One of my favorite events they hosted was called the White Night event. We all had to dress in white and had drinks up by the hot tub. It was a great way to mingle with other guests, we had a great time.

I’ll never forget that vacation, it was truly amazing and we do plan on going back one year! Since having the boys a vacation hasn’t quite made it on to the planner, however, it will happen again! Perhaps Walt Disney will be our next vacation! My how the times have changes.

Have you ever been to an all inclusive resort?
Share in the comments if you have a favorite one!

COM0014-Blog#1: A Vacation? What’s that?

COM0014-Blog#1: A Vacation? What’s that?

Gone are the days of relaxing on a beach, hopping on a plane or even booking a hotel without the added stress of covid policies! But I’m going to take a snapshot back to 2017 when I took my most recent vacation…yes, you read that right- THREE YEARS AGO.

It was Christmas morning in December of 2016 and I was enjoying it with my boyfriends parents at home; completely unsuspecting of what was wrapped up under the tree. They made a bit of a scavenger hunt around the house to have the end piece be our plane tickets to Cuba in January 2017. This sounds like I’m quite “spoiled”, but seriously we were absolutely shocked and had no clue how to react. I mean how do you react when your in-laws buy you a trip to Cuba? (I still don’t know) I’m not one to accept gifts, or large gestures well; so I looked like I just stepped onto the glass floor of the CN Tower… pale and mouth dropped.

A few weeks later, I was boarding a plane for the first time in my twenty some years on this planet; and my boyfriend laughing at how nervous I was to step foot in the airport. I packed for two weeks trying not to forget something important, and surprisingly did very well at that aspect. It was a four hour flight, plus boarding time, baggage etc to Valentin Perla Blanca Resort in Santa Clara, Cuba.

Once we arrived, we had an hour and a half bus ride from the airport in Santa Clara to the island where our resort was located; this was long being we got off the plane later at night as well. We got to the resort, checked in and basically fell asleep only because we were exhausted from the flight and time change. The next few days we spent exploring the resort, finding the places we liked to eat (which was difficult) and booked an excursion off the resort to a nearby town. A little insight as to why it was so hard to find food… my boyfriend at the time and myself were both picky eaters (pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers, fries) and we were in a foreign country. We finally found a place called “The Snack Bar” which was open 24/7, but were out of bread and cheese for most of our visit… still we managed not to starve! My next trip would have a resort with closer food to our culture, even though I did enjoy the experience-I would like to relax and not worry about always disliking my meal or having a 25 year old child complain there is no pizza each day!!!

Our excursion went to small towns close to our resort and then our last stop was a beautiful town with a market, tobacco shop (we saw how they make cigars-so touristy) and then lunch at a small restaurant with everyone on the bus trip. Being this was my first experience being anywhere other than Ontario or Quebec, this was a huge insight to culture change and was really enlightening. I am a bit of a photography nerd, and captured a few shots during my bus trip as well… shown below!

All in all, my first experience with flying, new culture and lack of food was not too bad! I would definitely like to visit some other places in my lifetime-if Covid ever hibernates long enough… What destinations are you excited to get to after this pandemic lets up? Why?

Thanks for reading ❤


COM0014 Blog #1: Visiting Cuba made me uncomfortable

By Cindy Macdonald

Just prior to the coronavirus shutdown of global travel, my husband and I took our first vacation to a Caribbean all-inclusive resort. We have taken Caribbean cruises a few times, but decided this was the year to try a beach vacay.

I was worried about being bored, with seven days at the beach and by the pool, so we chose Varadero, Cuba because if offered the possibility of some cultural learning in addition to beach time. We took a day trip into Havana and another venture off-resort to hear a local band. Boredom averted.

The architecture and ambiance of Old Havana was a little less colorful than I had hoped, but still enjoyable. The spectacular stonework, wrought-iron balconies and awe-inspiring churches definitely had a tropical, colonial feel.

Check out the video (here) and photos of Old Havana.

Old Havana, February 2020
Old Havana, February 2020

The quality of service, food and accommodations at our resort in Varadero was well below what we are accustomed to on cruises, but then, so was the price.

When choosing our vacation destination, one of my concerns was how we would deal with the dramatic lifestyle gap between us as middle-class North Americans and the poor local Cuban population. There’s a brief history of Cuba here, which states:

“Life in contemporary Cuba is thus challenging, given the limited access to food, transportation, electrical power, and other necessities.

The problem is, life is not challenging for the tourists who flock to the island’s resorts. They get the best the island has to offer, and that has to create resentment, doesn’t it?

Pool at a Sandals resort. By Ashley Burton, Wikimedia Commons

I have been part of the working class in a town dependent on rich summer residents. During that time, I did not have favorable feelings toward my upper-class employers. In my imagination, the feelings of working-class Cubans toward vacationers must be similar, or even stronger, given Cuba’s socialist/communist roots. Therefore, it struck me as false when the servers and cleaners were overly friendly toward their clients. Servers would give some vacationers hugs each morning at breakfast. My husband took it as genuine friendliness. I perceived it as currying favor for tips. It made me uncomfortable.

One of our servers even gave us cheap little souvenirs, and that made me uncomfortable, because I felt an implied expectation to give her something in return.

When I caved to popular protocol and left “gifts” of cosmetics and toiletries for our cleaner, she was not overly thankful, and seemed to want to avoid conversation about it. It made both of us uncomfortable.

I’m curious. Has anybody else experienced that discomfort when visiting a poorer nation? Let me know in the comments.

Obviously, not everyone shares my reservations about Cuba. More than one million Canadians visited Cuba in 2018. For good reason: It is cheap, accessible, beautiful and safe. The cultural differences just made me uneasy and put a damper on a sunny, tropical get-away.

About me: After more than 25 years as an editor of trade publications, I’m now learning social media techniques. I’ll be writing about news, communication, social media and travel as I go through this career transition. Please join me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or my blog, and we’ll chat.