Archive for the ‘Cuba’ Category

As a former travel agent I know the importance of reviews, I also know the importance and of reading many reviews to come to a conclusion. Let’s face it, some people are just assholes and will write a bad review no matter what. Seeing as I read reviews constantly it only seems fair that I contribute. I won’t go into great detail as the full reviews can be read on TripAdvisor.

Coralia Club Playa De Oro

This hotel is owned by Accor, well actually it’s owned by the Cuban government like everything else. It is a middle of the road resort. Don’t expect fine dining, luxurious rooms or immaculate facilities and grounds. It is a great value hotel though, you get what you pay for right? At $830 for 7 nights for the flights, hotel, drinks, food and round trip airport shuttle, I’m not complaining. I go to Cuba to relax, meet great people (local and tourist), see some sights and have some drinks. If you are a middle aged couple looking for a romantic getaway then try somewhere a little higher up. If you aren’t high maintenance and want good beach, safe surroundings off the resort, good nightlife and an overall relaxed atmosphere then go here. Oh yeah, if you like drinking your face off and require a 24 hour bar then this might be a place for you as well.

Check out my full review of PLAYA DE ORO

El Rancho

Go ahead, get pulled in off the street and suckered into a meal. When they tell to you to eat there because the chicken and beef are imported from Canada you long for down food. What you get is food that should taste delicious but tastes like a bowl of salt instead. I’ll get to the point, don’t fall into this tourist tramp. There are many great restaurants in Varadero in all the different price ranges. I’ll take a Cuban sandwich and a Cristal for $3 or $4 over this lobster meal anyday

Read the full review of El Rancho here

Pizza Piazza

Formerly known as Pizza Nova, this restaurant is located on the second floor of Plaza Las Americas. Great atmosphere and great food. Certainly not Cuban food but great if you’re looking for something familiar. I had a pizza with prosciutto and green peppers and my friend had ham, pineapple, green peppers and onions. Both were delicious and the bruschetta  for an appetizer was great too. They have a pretty extensive menu of mostly Italian dishes. I highly suggest a meal here if you happen to be at the mall. The mall by the way is a one stop shop if you need to change money, use a reliable internet cafe, a snack or get souvenirs right from cheap little things to high end merchandise. There is also a full grocery store with great prices on liquor and beer.

Read the full review of Pizza Piazza here

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I just returned from a week of all-inclusive debauchery in Cuba. There were nights where I made the Mayor of Toronto look like a saint. Well not really, that guy is a party machine. This was my third time to Varadero, Cuba and a trip like this will be decidedly different from  my upcoming round the world. In my past trips to Cuba I’ve spent days in Havana walking around attempting to escape the tourist hoard, as well I spent a day in a city called Matanzas. Hardcore travelers will often shun the whole all-inclusive thing but I will always be a sucker for free drinks. The key to these trips is escaping the resort to explore cities and towns and eat the food, hear the music and meet the people. Last year I was invited to dinner by a bartender at the resort. I joined him, his wife, his child and his in-laws at their home. Being invited to someones home for a meal means more than what we in the West view it as. I was thrilled to have the opportunity. Sitting in the backyard eating lobster (fresh from Cardenas Bay) cooked in a thin tomato sauce, plantain, rice and salad I realized it was almost like home, except for the chicken in the backyard. When the three year old boy left supper without being excused to catch the latest episode of Dora I realized it was exactly the same. It’s when we actually ‘go local’ that we realize that people are pretty much the same anywhere you go. We all enjoy the same things more or less.

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Cuba is a place of myths mostly because of what we see on TV. It is a country of friendly people, great food (off the resort), history and natural beauty. It is also a country going through massive changes and these changes will eventually lead to a monumental shift in the economy and thus the way of life. I dread the day I see a McDonald’s in Old Havana but it will happen. In the past four years huge changes have occurred such as citizens actually being allowed to purchase their own home. The home I ate at was purchased only a few months earlier. The only people who owned homes were people who had their own place when Castro took over in 1959, if these people managed to pass the property on to family when they died then the home ownership continued. The government has also eased restrictions on some businesses to operate privately as opposed to government controlled, it started with barber shops a few years back. These sorts of things will be the building blocks to an eventual middle class which I believe will be the beginning of the end for the Communist political/economic system. Combine this with social media and an overall smaller global community and change will be inevitable. This may be what some would call a developing country but it is by no means primitive. The people of this country have good healthcare, they are well educated and they are tech savvy. The world outside their border is no longer a fictional thing that can’t be reached, its at the click of the mouse. An all out change will take years, maybe decades, but it will come sooner or later.

This trip was pretty laid back. Lying on the beach reading, hanging by the pool reading and sampling local rums. I went into Varadero three times during the week to eat, shop and just check things out but mostly this trip was just to relax and get away. I’ll get some reviews on the hotel and a couple restaurants up on Trip Advisor and do a post with links to the reviews ASAP.

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Happy Travels!