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Adventures in the Caribbean: General: Golf:

Part 2 - A Day in Paradise

We get up early Saturday morning to check things out, but first, breakfast. With some trepidation we make our way to the dining room as we've had bad experiences in the past with Cuban cuisine. We are very pleasantly surprised to find out it has all kinds of goodies. Fresh fruit, oranges, grapefruit, some sort of guava or mango, pineapple, all fresh cut right in front of you. Plenty of Cuban coffee (mmmmmm), fresh squeezed orange juice (there is a machine that they put whole oranges into, peel & all & you see them being made into juice), rolls, a toaster for sliced bread, tons of butter (lacking at last years resort) a huge buffet table of hot foods (pancakes, sausage (well sort of, kind of hot doggy), fried potatoes, French toast, all kinds of stuff), and to top it off, there?s a woman at the end of the table with 2 cast iron frying pans making omelets or fried eggs, whatever you want right to order in front of you with fresh eggs. Heaven!!!

A very satisfying breakfast. The dining room has several sections, one slightly elevated section (one or two steps) indoors with open windows, or holes for windows, remember there's no winter there, an outdoor section, and a section near the lobby. It's great. We wander around to check the place out. It's huge. Massive pool, with a swim up bar (I've always wanted to go to a place with a swim up bar), gorgeous palms all over the place, an outdoor grill, lots of buildings (hotel rooms) integrated into the fauna, you hardly notice them. We go to the beach. Not as nice as Varadero, but the scenery is much better. Spectacular scenery, mountains in the background and also behind the hotel. Interestingly enough, it can be raining inland, but where we are, the mountains hold the clouds up & we get sunshine & warm temps. Awesome. It's kind of clammy in the lobby, about 80-85 early on, but a nice breeze, just enough so you don't feel the heat too much. You still know it's hot, & the swimming pool looks very inviting already. We meet with the tour rep at 9:30 & sign up for a bunch of tours. A 2 hour horseback ride on Sunday afternoon, a full day trip to Santiago on Tuesday, a 1/2 day trip to La Gran Piedra (the highest point in Cuba, 1,131 meters above sea level) on Wednesday, and a 1/2 day snorkeling trip on Thursday. We only have a week so have to cram things in. Next year I can see taking the snorkeling trip again but spending the majority of our time around the pool or on the beach. The tour guide informs us that we are the only people signed up for the day trip to Santiago, so it may be cancelled, as they need at least 8 people. We'll have to wait & see.... more on that later.

Now it's time to explore the environs of the local area. We pass the guarded gate to the hotel complex and within moments are accosted by the local "cigar" guy offering us cigars straight from the factory that his brother works in. You know what? I'm convinced that everyone in Cuba has a brother working in a cigar factory! He takes us aside so that the security guards at the gate (they keep the guests from being pestered by beggars & hustlers while in the complex) can't see & we hear his pitch. Between my broken Spanish & his broken English we manage to communicate. I know what I want so tell him & he insists on $40 US. No way, (I've done this before) so get them for $30. 25 Cohiba Robustos (about 5? long, almost an inch in diameter) in a nice wooden cube box (Market price demands about $240 U.S. if they are from the Dominican Republic, real Cubans command almost $400 U.S. for the box back here, really!). We are to come back at 8:15 the following morning & "do the deal". Fine, we continue on our way along the driveway out to the road that passes by the complex, the only road around for miles. It leads into Santiago one way, and I imagine Guantanamo the other. We walk along a hundred yards or so and are accosted by a couple of "chicitas" with their pimp. Rather large older "chicitas", if you know what I mean. They want some clothes or soap. We have neither but promise to see them again if we should ever come back that way (yeah right). Nancy says that I was lucky I wasn't by myself or they really would have wanted something else, LOL. We continue on & come across a nice cactus garden & take some pictures. Time to go back to the hotel as it is very hot by now & we're on a road, making it even hotter. We decide to go back through a fairly open wooded area near the shore and are again accosted by a rather decrepit looking 1/2 crippled older gentleman again trying to sell us not only cigars, but Rum and a guided tour of Santiago. Jeeezus...the guy won't leave us alone, blah blah blah, he follows us & won't shut up. Finally we agree to see his "wares" & he takes us to a fence near the boundary of the hotel grounds, where there is a cop/security guard on the other side of the fence, obviously on the take, keeping an eye out to make sure we don't steal his precious cigars & rum. We make a 1/2-hearted promise to return should we want some & make out way back to the hotel, still followed by this guy continuing on with his non-relenting diatribe.

Once safely back in the hotel, we check out the store. Not much in the way of souvenirs. The rum is cheap though & they have a fridge full of cold bottled water, pop, & Cuban Cristal beer. We changed into our bathing suits back in the room and wandered down to the pool & the beach. We decided on the pool. This is where we met Francisco, the bar tender, quite a character. This guy was extremely animated & we tipped him a lot. When we got home we even sent him pictures we took of him and an elastic bandage for his knee, which was sent off just this morning. We spent a very pleasant morning sipping rum drinks (the bar opens at 10, it's fairly busy from the word go, believe me) alternating between the pool & the beach. At lunchtime we decide to go back to the dining room but discovered an outdoor grill on the way back to the room. Well, screw the dining room; let's have lunch here! It was excellent, except for this weird hamburger type thing that looked under cooked. We left that alone but had grilled fish & chicken, salad, bread & table service with white wine, beer, red wine, whatever you wanted. They burn palm leaves to get it going & then cook on those coals. Awesome. Great flavour.

After lunch we went back to the pool for more relaxation. It was great. We spent most of the afternoon sitting in the pool at the swim up bar. Supper comes at about 7:30. The dining room was busier than the pool or the beach was (where were all these people all day?), but the food was excellent, and table service again once you finished with the get it yourself buffet. They had an area where they would put huge roasts of beef, or chickens, or turkey legs, or pork, or fish & carve great slathering chunks off for you in addition to the buffet. After dinner, time for the nightly entertainment. It started at 9:30, so we had a little time. We went down to the beach for a walk & had a bit of a snooze on a chair. Quite a lot of rum for one day! The entertainment was some ?guess that tune? thing. Nancy was doing very well, running up to the stage & getting quite a few right. Then they started giving out 5 points per answer & this girl who only got 2 or 3 right won because of the skewed points system. What a rip. People even came up to Nancy the next day & said that she should have won. Oh well, it was all in fun anyway. To bed after the show, 11:00p.m. & beat!

Filed under Adventures in the Caribbean, Sep 10, 2005

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NEXT ENTRY: Part 3 - Injury - Added on Sep 11/2005

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