Glenn and I returned from Cuba recently. This was our fourth consecutive visit to the Iberostar Varadero. Why four times when there are so many choices? Truthfully?  We are lazy. When we find what we like, we stop looking. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

There are many reasons we feel such fondness for this resort:

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  • It is smaller with only ten three-storey buildings.
  • It is secluded, set well back from the busy dual carriageway.
  • It has an easy layout: never far from the pool, the lobby bar, the buffet, the entertainment and the beach.
  • We can be anywhere on the resort in five minutes.

The Iberostar Varadero has several à la carte restaurants, but we prefer the “Ambrosia Buffet.” We love the hostess, Mabel, and servers, Monica, Raimara and Fletus. They remember us from year to year.  Well, that isn’t exactly true. They remember Glenn. They only remember me if I am with Glenn, considering the timid, shrinking violet that I am.  Glenn, on the other hand, chinwags with everyone and participates in all the sports and games.  He won four events this year. Did I mention every prize is a bottle of Cuban Rum which is funny because we don’t drink? Glenn uses the rum to bribe elected officials, but I can’t share names.

We made a marvelous first impression with the housekeeper — well, that’s a big fat lie. Just as I picked up a bottle of fire engine red nail varnish, I lost my grip and watched in slow motion as the bottle fell and shattered into a million pieces on the unforgiving ceramic tile floor. The room resembled a murder scene from your favourite crime show. My feet and legs were blood-spattered as if I had been stabbed a hundred times.

Crime SceneWe tried to clean it up with a travel-size bottle of nail polish remover, but we only made it worse. A gallon or two of acetone may have done the trick. We wrote a humble note admitting our misfortune, left a couple of fivers and, just like Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, we ran away and hid for the day. When we returned, there wasn’t a drop of red nail polish on the floor. Even better, the housekeeper made no attempt to blackmail us. Phew!

Aside from this little glitch, we enjoyed eleven glorious days of sunshine and warm, turquoise seas. The Varadero beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Cuba, stretches as far as the eye can see. It looked significantly different this year. A hurricane had come ashore, gobbled up the beach and ravaged the shoreline. The resort staff continue to work diligently to create a new beach. This year there were only two rows of sunbeds, where there were several in previous years.

The beautiful beach of Varadero in Cuba

Although the beach is narrow, the sand is clean, luxurious, powdery white and raked clean every day. Children do what children have been doing forever —  they spend hours building sandcastles. Men and women with severely damaged, leather-like skin, grease themselves from head to toe with oil, not sun cream, and bake to a crisp in the hot sun.   It sounds like a recipe for melanoma. Oh well, horses for courses.

I’m an oddball, I mean very sensible. I prefer to spend the day at the beach or pool, swimming from time to time to cool off,  but mostly lying  under a palapa. A what?

A palapa (a Spanish word of Malayan origin, meaning “pulpous leaf”) is an open-sided dwelling with a thatched roof made of dried palm leaves. It is very useful in hot weather and, therefore, very common in Caribbean beaches.

My full shade sunbed was a great place to catch up on my sleep and eavesdrop for the first couple of days. I could have enjoyed lots of juicy stories if I understood more languages than English. The British couple immediately beside me gave themselves away using words such as whilst, fortnight, gobsmacked and Bob’s your uncle.

Once refreshed, I began to attack my book-filled rucksack. This year I chose a new-to-me author, Ann Lamott,  a progressive political activist, public speaker, and writing teacher. I read five of her thought provoking books.

Then I moved on to something lighter. My inner grammar geek cackled, chortled and even snorted as I read “Eats Shoots and Leaves” — so much fun for linguistic zealots. And, yes, I read actual books. I still love the experience of cradling the book in my hands and smelling the pages. You probably think I’m off my trolley. I saw very few Kindles, Kobos and Nooks in use by the primarily Canadian, British, German, Polish and Russian tourists.

Each year we meet new people. We like some and avoid others like the plague. This year we got to know a smashing multi-generational family of seventeen from Ottawa. Every year the Grandpa takes the entire family gallivanting somewhere in the sunny South to celebrate his birthday and he pays for the whole shebang. The old bloke’s investments have multiplied to the point he can  live and travel until at least 100. He wants the thrill of watching his family enjoy his money while he is still alive.

I jumped on that bandwagon immediately and began to plan a family holiday for 2017, only to be gobsmacked by reality. If we begin at age 60,  we will be skint and living with our children long before the ripe old age of 88.

Then again, we could be pushing up daisies long before 65 rolls around. It would provide  Jeremy, Dana, Greta, Allison, Edward, Edison, Isaac and Maddie  with special memories that would last long after we are gone.

Our final day was a contrast from all the others. We awoke to the roar of an angry, upside down sea. The sunbeds, the catamarans, the kayaks and the pedal boats had been moved to higher ground. The black flag was flying which warned of a deadly undertow.  No one was allowed in the water.

Paradise Beach

A vacation, by definition, is not permanent. At some point, it is time to pack up the dirty clothes and go home.

Now about that family vacation next year.  With interest rates almost at zero, we may have to settle for a wienie roast with a side of S’mores and a game of lawn darts in the back yard, but at least we will be together.

redneck hotdog rake-2

As Sod’s Law would have it, we realized we chose the wrong dates. We missed the visits of the Pope, the Obamas  and the Rolling Stones. Then again, perhaps we chose the best dates — we didn’t have to share the limelight.

Cheerio! Ta-ta! Pip-Pip and all That!

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