Browse Category by Destinations
Destinations

Montreal and Mont Tremblant 2018

Montreal has a jazz festival in early July for 10 days.  Over 300 acts for free and about 150 for a fee.  We had a ball in downtown Montreal going to 3 days of jazz on the streets.  We did buy one ticket to Ben Harper and Charlie Musslewhite which was well worth the money.

 

 

 

 

 

In Montreal we also were very fortunate to go to the Barbie Expo.  Barbie’s came out in 1959 when I as a young girl.  They were the hot new toy and I loved them. The first outfits were made by Parisian designers.  So this expo had over 1000 Barbie’s all dressed by current designers here are a few.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another must see is  the Notre Dame Basilica.  It was first built-in 1642.  It is very pretty and has a good free tour in English. They have an organ with 7000 pipes.  It takes 5 rooms to hold all the pipes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I like about Canada

  1. The exchange rate is great now.  1 Us dollar buys $1.33 Canadian.
  2. Most everyone speaks English.
  3. The same voltage for electricity.
  4. Same time zones.
  5. Everyone is very kind and accepting of all people.
  6. Canada is very clean.
  7. Canada is very safe.
  8. The 3 day metro pass in Montreal is only $19 Canadian.

 

Mont Tremblant is a little Ski resort town north of Montreal that hosts a 10 day Blues festival.  So we had 3 days of jazz in Montreal and 3 days of blues in Mont Tremblant.  One of my favorite lines from one of the  blues songs was “money talks but it does not speak!

I like the small town feel and closeness of the stages.  What I did not like is that it is a very steep uphill climb to the top,  we did find a nice free lift at the end of our stay but it closed at 8 when all the bands played.

 

 

 

I loved a little cafe called Couleur Cafe.  It was a nice break to get out of the maddening crowds and go to a quiet little sandwich and soup shop that made the best food.  We licked the soup bowl clean!

We also loved the oldest farmers market in north America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Destinations

Buenos Aires, Bariloche and Moreno glacier-Argentina 2018

They have a saying in Argentina -They have a scar on their hearts that never heals.  I know this feeling too.  This painting is very large and I sat and looked at it for a long time.  Each face is a painting on its own.  The sign in the back says bread and work.  I have never known real hunger, but I see it on these faces.  This is a very famous Argentine painter.

There are two-horse racing tracks in Buenos Aires.  The first one is the San Isidro.  This is a very old track and was featured in the movie with Carmen Miranda in the 1940 movie called Way Down Argentine Way.  The second track is the Hipodromo  Palermo and is much more modern and close to the city. To me the most exciting part of the horse racing is when everyone runs outside toward the finish line and starts yelling for their horses.  I have no idea what they are saying but I feel their excitement and passion.    I just love the passion that exudes from the people at the track.

We watched the jockeys come off the track and watch the reruns of the race.  Sometimes you would see a big fat owner grilling his jockey about why he lost.

YOU HAVE TO LOVE MEAT-The food is amazing for carnivores.  Huge slabs of meat for lunch and dinner.  There is something very special about their beef and how they grill it.  They also grill chicken that is so tasty.  They really do not have many vegetables at all.

Not many people speak English.  We have traveled to many countries and usually the young will speak English.  Not here and they really do not even try.  It is up to you to try to communicate.  We got into one taxi and he turned and started driving.  So Mark says “can I tell you where we want to go.”  He says “ no comprende” and keeps driving.  So we get out our google translator and give him the address.  At first I was mad and then Mark says they are like robots and machines and just keep driving.  He is right. Argentine’s work many jobs just to survive.

The Tango started in Buenos Aires!  You walk down the famous Florida street and you will see young and old Tango dancers with their little boom boxes.  They dance for tips.  What is interesting is the way the men ask the women to dance at the tango clubs.  If a man wants to dance with a women he goes to the middle of the dance floor and catches her eye and cocks his head.  If she wants to dance with him she will meet him in the middle of the dance floor.  If she does not she simple looks away.  This seems so much kinder on the man so he is not rejected in front of other women.

 

 

Bariloche Argentina

A beautiful lakeside city surrounded by the Andes mountains. This lake is 40 miles long and the most beautiful blue you have ever seen! It is the gateway to the Patagonia Lake District. Supposedly one of the top 7 views in the world is at Campanario Hill. You take a chairlift high above the trees and see snow-covered mountains that mirror in the blue blue lake. Breath taking.

 

Cool little shops and musicians that play under the arches for great acoustics.
 I spent probably an hour watching a Guitar player and an interpretative dancer. I heard the music and went looking for it. Then I stayed to watch her dance. As usual most musicians are poor. The dancers shoes were so worn out. She was as thin as a rail but what expressive dancing. One dance made me cry because the story she told was that she was in love with someone who beat her and then she finally walks away. A little audience member joins her and she loans her a little skirt.

Some of my favorite places in Buenos Aires

SIAMO NEL FORNO PIZZA PLACE-  THE BEST PIZZA IN THE WORLD- NO LIE!  

You watch them make it right in the dining room in this brick oven.  McDonald’s, Starbucks and American chain Pizza places moved into Buenos Aires many years ago.  McDonald’s and Starbucks stayed but every American pizza place closed and left .  You taste one Argentine pizza and you could never go back to America pizza.  If I were rich I would fly down here just to get that pizza again.  It was that good!

 

Sunday Flea Market that goes on for 50 blocks!

Recolita market

Don Julios chicken and mashed potatoes

Malba museum

Bocca –A very colorful area in Buenos Aires.  Many beautiful murals and brightly colored homes.  This is a mural of the famous White scarfed grandmothers in Argentina.  They protest every Thursday looking for their missing children and grandchildren .  She has one huge muscle on her arm to show how angry they are over the government not giving them answers about what happened to the kids.

 

 

Recolita graveyard- Well worth seeing how people with way too much money buried their dead.  Ostentatiously vulgar but beautiful.  Eva Peron is buried here and people will line up to see her grave but it is not that impressive.  What is impressive is how long it took to get her body buried there. Some one stole her body and kept it on their dining room table for many years!

The cemetery is free but wear sunscreen as all that marble reflects the sun on your skin.  I loved the girl with the dog the most.  If you rub its nose it will bring you good luck.

GAUCHO GIL SHRINES– a cool folklore about a handsome young man who died a long time ago.  There are shrines all over Argentina on the roads to him. The tackier the better.  You are supposed to pour him a beer  on one of these shrines so he will get you safely to your destination.  

NOTORIOUS -FOR LIVE MUSIC– it is in the back of a record shop but it is a nice intimate little club for live music.  We went there twice in one week.  We saw Ismail the son of the Buenos vista social club founder.  Make reservations as they only have about 34 tables.

DOG WALKERS –  They tend to have 7-10 dogs all around the same height.


Moreno glacier a stunning sight!

 

Argentine people do not put their money in the bank.  They have learned over the years that their money can be devalued overnight.  An example was when the exchange rate was 1 peso to one US Dollar.  All of the sudden it dropped in one day to 1 peso to .25 cents US.  Little children do not have piggy banks.  They learn to either go spend it that day or exchange it for US dollars.  Just recently the Argentine peso dropped by 20% overnight.

 

This was my cheat sheet for February.  Unfortunately I made this spreadsheet up a month ahead of time and it was outdated by the time we got there.

 

 

Destinations

Is a safari in Tanzania on your list?

Selfie in the Serengheti
Early morning hot tea and toast and along comes our Cheetah host to mark her spot on our tree!

The Serengeti is a trip of a lifetime!

Have you been dreaming of going on a safari in Africa? Do you want to see 100’s of animals up close? The Serengeti will not disappoint. We saw 100’s of elephants, zebras, wildebeest, diks diks, hippos, lions, antelopes, baboons and 6 leopards and 10 cheetahs, 10 hyenas, 10 warthogs, 1 sable cat, 1 rhino, 1 huge white owl, 25 secretariat birds, 100s of flamingos and several real ugly huge birds and at least 25 giraffes. This was a trip of a lifetime. It does take some planning and here is what it was like for us in July 2017.

What to wear?
I remember googling what to wear on a safari and this one gal recommended getting cargo pants from Nordstrom’s for $368.
Now you can go by $368 cargo pants and be decked out in designer clothes but with that money you could donate to a school or donate to a safe water maker for 9 families. Our money can do so much good in this poor country.

They tell you not to wear black or blue colors.  These colors attract the bites of tsetse flies.  So kaki, light green and brown are the colors you are supposed to wear. Some sites tell you no white or bright colors but many of our travelers wore very colorful outfits.

Dress in layers. I had a tank top and a short sleeved top and then a lightweight jacket and usually long pants.
I went to Good Will and got many pair of pants in a kaki, green and light brown colors. I bought tops and jackets to match. Over a 6 month period I probably bought 20 items at about $4 an item. Good will separates clothing by colors. I narrowed it down to just a few items for the trip.  Most of the time I wore my hiking boots or orthotic sandals.

I did bring a couple of nice things to accessorize with them. At the end of my tent camp I folded up ¾ of the clothes I did not want to  take home and left them for the tent attendants who were quite pleased. They were going to take it to their wives or sisters.
The last night we stayed in a coffee lodge where we had a dinner in someone’s home. I packed up most of the rest of my hats and clothes and gave it to that woman who hosted us for dinner. She promised me she would send me a picture of her kids every year. She sent me an African blessing on What’s AP that I really loved. She cooks outside on the ground yet she has What’s AP on her phone?

Definitely a hat. A hat is a must.

Polarized  sunglasses are also a must as well as  a small scarf to wear around your nose and mouth during dusty drive.

The lady on my left is 98 years old and kissed my hand for a blessing!

Try and be respectful and stay somewhat covered. Short shorts and short dresses really are frowned upon. When we visited a home the host asked one of the ladies to cover up her legs with fabric. That she was not properly dressed. Be respectful.
I did go sleeveless at times in the jeep on game drives. I always had a long sleeved shirt to cover up in markets and towns.

You can wear some make up. You get up at 5: 30am and it is dark and you have one little mirror in your tent.
I used the head lamp on a hanger to shine the light on the little mirror so I could get ready every morning. There is no electricity in your tent. You do have a light bulb that works off of solar. You’re not going to get to blow dry your hair or roll it for 4 days. That is why a hat is good and scrunchies too.

As always dress in layers. The mornings were cool and by afternoon you were hot. Mostly I wore my hiking boots just to stay stable and keep bugs off of me. I wore long pants and a couple of times I wore a skort.
Always wear sun repellent and spray your feet and shoes with bug repellent.

Game drives-what really happens

Your jeep for 12 days.

You get up and go by 6 am usually. The roads are awful. I am not saying bumpy, I am saying GOD awful. I held onto the hand rail so tight during these rides that I felt like I was pulling my wires out of my pacemaker.

Honestly my pacemaker started to hurt so I switched sides in the jeep to give that arm a rest. I had bruises on my arms from hitting the sides of the jeep. My husband had little cuts on his head from hitting the top of the van yet, we would not trade a minute of the game time drives. One day my husband announced that this was the best day of his life, even after hitting his head on the top of the jeep.

Selfie with a lady lion!

 

You could reach out an almost touch the elephants as they come so close, but never do it or they will send you home.

 

You are going to eat dust!!!!

I wrapped my outer shirt around my face to block the dust!

Not only are the roads beyond bumpy but there is a drought going on in Tanzania and the dust just rolls in the windows. You can feel it in your teeth. Your face will be covered in dust.

Our dining room for all meals. This is also the place where you charge your phone and keep all your food that your brought so it is not in the tent.  It is in the freezer behind the table.

Just getting to the tent camping with all of our duffle bags and weariness after taking the long road into the Serengeti.

Our guide told us that your memories will last lots longer than the road. He was right. Usually you are back for late lunch and then go out again for a couple hours before dinner. Everyone has to be back in their camps by dusk by Serengeti rules. Then you spend some time around the campfire, take your showers, eat and are escorted back to your bent where you stay until they wake you up in the morning with JAMBO.

The sun rises very quickly and sets very quickly. The stars are amazing and you can see the Milky Way. It was hard for me to recognize any stars because they are upside down from the states.

You can sleep with the windows all the way unzipped for better viewing of your nighttime visitors.

 The inside of your tent.

Nighttime I would awake to munching outside my window. I could not see who it was but grass eaters are always welcome. When I shined my flashlight it was just little dik diks. Then I could see eyes of the hyenas. I also was awakened by the roar of the antelope right next to my tent. A whole family of baboons was crawling over the tree next to me.
I felt like a little prairie dog because I am a light sleeper and I would wake up and pop my head up and look both ways at any noise. We kept our windows unzipped all the way so we could experience all the sounds.
No food in the tents. Really no food in the tents. Unless you want visitors.
The two twin beds were really very comfortable.
They clean up your tent every day and give you fresh towels but no wash clothes.
If you take your shoes off and walk around the tent your feet are going to be black.

Balloon rides

Yes you should do it. 16 people in each basket. You will be surprised how therapeutic it is to see the morning this way. Stunning views!

Hippo view from above in the river.

Your start and end on your side of the balloon. It was surprisingly very smooth.

What I found helpful
– Oil of Olay wash clothes, Little hydrating masks at night
– Head lamp, Scarf for face to cover your nose and mouth
– Wet wipes, Toast in a baggie every morning  to help motion sickness.
– Little oatmeal and chocolate cookies that they sell in most markets in Tanzania.
– Pepcid ACS and Tons of Advil
– Tylenol PM
– Cell phone for pictures
– My hat
– Vaseline for lips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– My cloth foldup bag for game drives to hold cameras, jackets, wet ones, cookies, toast, pills, fan toilet paper and scarf or mask for face. Keeps your purse clean and can be washed and used for a second carry on bag.
– Ear plugs for fellow travelers who are in your jeep and think they need to talk continually.
– Ginger ale when you could find it.
– Duct tape when my suitcase ripped at the airport coming home.
– Extra straps to hold suitcase together, Suitcase locks
– A good light weight binoculars  such as Nikon 8 x 25 travelight. I used them a lot.
– Packing cubes,  2 gallon baggies for clothes and organization.
– Nose spray and eye drops.

 Sunrise over the Serengeti.

 

What is a tent camp like?

Nicer than I expected but you are going to get dirty. Let me just say it is impossible to get squeaky clean.
My husband kept teasing me before we got there that we were going to have a talking shower. Well he was right in one way.
You tell one of the tent attendants that you want a shower and then he loads up a hot 5 gallon bucket and heists it up in the air. Then you shower under water flow that is a little better than a heavy trickle.

They tell you to soap up and turn the water on and then turn it off and soap up your hair then turn the water back on to rinse. Meanwhile you are standing on a wood pallet thing in your tent. They do zipper up so you can have privacy.
You would be surprised at how long a 5 gal bucket will lasts. Really it could do 2 people if needed. At our camp they would do it right before dinner but not after dinner. All water has to be put up before dark. I missed the first night shower because I thought I could do it after dinner.

They also had two little tent baskets in the front that you could wash in one and rinse in the other and then a clothes line to hang up to dry. Everything including chairs had to be put up out of sight at nighttime. Even clothes had to be put up in your zippered tent.

Why you ask?

Because the animals are all around you at night. Our tents had only been up for two weeks so many animals lived in the area and pretty much were unafraid of us. At nighttime we could see the eyes of the hyenas. After watching them crack bones and eat the leftovers of lions during the day you knew to be afraid of these guys. One even tried to push a zipper open on one of our tents. They ended up eating the soap for washing clothes that was left outside.
Another woman got a rat in her tent. They give you a whistle and tell you to blow if there is a problem but that you are never to leave the tent without an escort. Just whistle. So this gal whistles and whistles and one of the tent attendants comes and he steps on the rat and kills it and picks it up and takes it out of the tent. She then made him clean up the blood.
The next morning I see this tent attendant and say I hear you are the best rat killer around. So he tells me no I just step on the rat and lift him by his tail and throw him outside. I say really because that not what the gal told me. So he says” you report me” I say report you for what? He says that it is against the law to kill any animal in the Serengeti even a rat. I say so what if a lion is in my tent you’re going to say go away little lion?
The tour leader told us how they handle encounters with animals. One time a whole heard of elephants surrounded this one guy’s tent. So all the 5 helpers and 3 tour guides got into their jeeps and surrounded the tent and told him to stay in the tent , stay in the tent, the elephants are just drinking your bucket of water. The elephants moved away. Another time a lion was going in front of each tent and drinking the washing water from in front of every tent. Again they drove their cars down and said stay in your tent stay in your tent. After that they made it a policy to always put up every bit of water before bed.
The food was fabulous in the tented camp, even though hyenas were constantly around. I don’t know if it was the thrill of seeing animals all day or just how camping food always tastes better, but our food was the best we had the whole trip! Every night was a feast.

The toilet

Yes you have a toilet on a wood pedestal that worked but it was very hard to flush anything down. It has its own little zippered compartment too but you are in a tent. If you are short like me then it is a little difficult to get up on the pedestal but I was glad it was there.

Malaria Pills OMG they have side effects
Our tour guide told us that Malaria pills cause problems on the 4-6 day of taking them. I had this problem with diarrhea and so did 4 people out of 15. It is over quickly. Usually just one full day and you are better.
One great tip is every morning before you go on a game dry they will serve breakfast. Toast is always on the menu. Pack up 4 pieces of toast and put them in a zip lock bag with your back pack. That way if you start to feel queasy the toast will help.
Of course you do not want to get Malaria so you take the pills 2 days before your trip and 7 days after you get home.
You will be thrilled once you stop them as they give you WILD DREAMS, STOMACH ACHES AND BAD HEADACHES.
Make sure you bring plenty of your favorite stomach pain medicine because you will not be able to get it there.
We went to a pharmacy in Arusha and they did not have any Tums or anything like it for the stomach except one pill. When we read the instructions it was for ulcers. No pain medication available even at the pharmacy. Really just a little room with very few pills to choose from.
I did see women in the market selling lumps of clay that they said was for stomach aches but really are you going to chew on some block of clay?
Headaches were almost round the clock. Yes you can get rid of them with even just one aspirin or Advil. But you will do this all day almost every day.
Wild dreams oh yea! Crazy and wild is all I can say.

The schools

All young girls shave their heads. It is part of the uniform.

 

 Bring maps that show the world for schools.

They need everything. The kids did not even know where the USA was on a map. Our guide even asked them have you not heard of Obama land. No one in the class knew about the world or geography. Bring maps for each classroom. Bring any school supplies. They need everything.

Take picture of the kids on your phone or iPad and show the kids. They don’t see pictures of themselves very often.

Weird customs

Albinos -Witch doctors in Africa say that if you want to be wealthy or have good luck you should cut off a body part from a live albino. Little albino kids cannot go to school because of fear of someone coming and chopping off a hand. The woman on my left started this place called Albino Peacemakers in Arusha Tanzania. Albino sewing is a safe place for these women to work and make money.

 

                                    Tanzanian young men with white painted faces.

A boy is circumcised at 13- 16 years old in front of his tribe. He cannot make a sound or even grimace. Once this is done he wears white paint of his face to let everyone know he is now a man.

Female Genital Circumcises is against the law for 7 years; this was normally preformed on girls about 12 years of age. Many women have trouble delivering babies later on in life from that surgery.

The Market place– here is where you shop for food. Your trip of a lifetime is right around the corner. Have a great time!

 

Destinations

Hilton Head Island 2016 Valentines

I bought this winter rain coat with double zippers in Croatia at a second hand store. It is perfect for cold rainy days on the ocean.

We love Hilton Head Island. It is unique in the fact that they outlaw any big signage and billboards. The beauty is astonishing.  The Spanish moss waves at you as it drapes  over the large old oak trees.  Let the katydids, frogs and the ocean sing you to sleep each night. Marvel at the sunrise each morning.

HHI is a paradise for animals, insects, fish, sharks, alligators and birds. I even like the fiddler crabs. The boy fiddler crabs have one big hand and one little hand. They wave the big hand at the girls to entice them to fool around together.

We took a little dinner cruise on the ocean on Valentines night. We saw a young man propose to his girlfriend at a table next to us. He had just a diamond spec for a ring yet she was very happy and beamed all night.

List our top ten things to do in HHI.

1. Go to the beach-Hilton Head Island beaches are flat.  They do not have many seashells at all.  They are excellent for walking, bike riding and wheel chairs.

2. Go eat great food!   Thousands of restaurants to choose from in HHI.  We can never get in all of our favorite restaurants when we visit.

3. Go to the second hand shops.  Bargain box, Litter box, St Francis are all great second hand shops with designer clothing and unique home décor.  I always hit Bargain Box as they seem to have the best items.  They even sold an airplane one time.

4. Go to the outlet malls.

5. Get up and watch the sunrise and make sure to walk the beach at night to see all the stars.

6. Get out on the water whether it is a dinner cruise or a lesson on what is under the ocean or our favorite is to rent a fishing boat and go out for a few hours.  Lots of sharks, cobia, red fish and many more to catch.

7.  HHI has a wonderful tradition on Thanksgiving.  The restaurant called Hudson’s along with a few churches puts out an incredible Thanksgiving dinner for free.  They believe that no one should eat alone on Thanksgiving.  Over 1000 people come to it.  You will be at a table with 18 people and you share a really wonderful turkey dinner and all the fixings.  You would think it was just poor people that come but that is not true.  Many wealthy families come that are on vacation and many older people come rather than cook a big dinner for just two.  All they ask is that you make a donation to their charity that helps people in that region.  We have been going for almost 20 years.  We have dined with the poor, the rich and little kids and people into their 90’s.  You will feel like one of the original pilgrims when they ate with the Indians.  A magical experience.

8. Do you like classic cars?  Concourse de Elegance is held the first week in November.

9.  Yacht hop is a wonderful experience for food tasting and seeing yachts.

10.  HHI has one of the best Veteran’s memorial parks around.  My father was military so I bought him a brick there and go by every year to see it.  A very peaceful place to honor all soldiers of all wars.  It overlooks a beautiful marsh and is a wonderful  peaceful place to walk around with your dog .

 

Destinations

Greece 2016

 

                                                   The iconic photo from Santorini

Santorini, Greece 2016
Greece is begging for tourists right now and there are many deals to be had. Speaking of begging it is bad in Athens, Greece. I hate seeing children beg as young as 5 years old. They say do not give children money as then their parents will continue to make them beg but it is hard to say no to a kid.

I was told by a John’s taxi driver ( a fabulous all day price and guide) that the average income for Greeks used to be $2500 a month. Now it is $1000 a month and yet their bills are the same. Athens has graffiti everywhere. Every sq. inch of buildings from the street to 6 ft. tall are covered with graffiti. Beggars are constant. The shopkeepers are also all over you. The owner of this one shop chased me out of the store because she had to keep telling me over and over again why her prices were more than the shop next door. She said all of his merchandise comes from China and hers is handmade in Greece. I told her three times I just wanted to look. I can’t think when someone is constantly talking in my ear and I told her this about me and she kept talking. I left. I do not want to be badgered by a shop keeper, nor do I want them following me around the store.
Ok now the good.

             Boots with a view!

Wow what history! I recommend going to the Parthenon museum before you go up to the Parthenon. It helps explain what you will be looking at and its history. The Parthenon is very uneven rocky terrain and you need really good shoes and no heels.

Great food here near the Parthenon

 

The food is wonderful and the people are fun. The Greeks will tell you that all of civilization started in their country, they list that they were the first to invent money, Lesbians, architecture and so on.

Their linens are well made and beautiful! The history is so rich!               If you are a history buff this is a wonderful vacation for you.

Church service on Greek Easter night

If you are lucky enough to get to Greece during the Greek Easter you will be in for a treat.                                              

Greek Easter is different than American Easter.  It is on a different date.

Even if you are not religious this is a festival for all your senses.  It is so fun to watch and be with the Greek people  on this day, especially around midnight. This is when all the people are on the streets with religious parades and ceremonies.  All the kids are still up and people even bring their dogs into town square for this celebration.  Everyone puts a lamb on a spit and invites total stranger to help them eat it.   Greek Easter should be on everyone’s bucket list.

I enjoyed riding a donkey up the road in Santorini.  Just do not do the one with has tons of steps coming down.

 

Greece has many beautiful islands that will take your breath away.

 

Destinations

Cuban Jazz Festival 2015

cuban-street-sceneHow fortunate we were to attend the 31st annual Jazz festival in Havana Cuba which is usually held in December or January. For seven nights in as many as seven different venues, there will be music. Not all of it will be Jazz as was evident when we saw Billie Gibson of ZZ Top sing at the 2015 Jazz festival.

The main theater is the Teatro Mella and it can hold 1500 people. Probably more as many were standing. The inside was nice with just a couple of rows were the seats were broken. The first 5-10 rows of the Teatro Mella were supposed to be for people that paid more to sit up front and come in at the last minute. Well they had two women monitoring that area and no tape to block it off. Everyone started sitting in that area and would not move when the women asked them to move. So, here come the high dollar folks, (which I am sure, were family of the some of the groups) at the very last minute and all their seats were taken. They did not want to go sit up top so they all sat on the stage and finally most moved upstairs. This happened 2 nights in a row. My advice is do not buy the better tickets and just get there at least an hour early to find your seats. Do not sit in the front 10 rows and you should be good.teatro-mella

Also, bring your own toilet paper but tip the poor woman that works there. There are no toilet seats, no toilet paper, no soap and no flushing. She comes behind you with her son and pours a bucket of water down your toilet. Can you imagine doing this all day? Especially as one out of every five tourist gets diarrhea. This whole toilet thing is all throughout Cuba. All restaurants, all clubs all theatres and even at the airport. Most nice hotels do have flushing toilets and will give you very limited toilet paper. Each day we would pack up our toilet paper from our room and take it with us. Then the house cleaner would replace it. It would only be replaced if it was gone.

You do not know who will be playing at the jazz concert either until about one month before. Then it can change again. As long as you are, open to all kinds of music and dancing. As long as you do not have to the exact same things as you have at home, you will have fun.

We saw the Preservation Hall Band from New Orleans. They brought 125 people with them and those people all helped to buy the Tetra Melia a marquis sign. I loved it. Musicians are not paid nor do they get any rooms free. Yet this group gave back. Not only that but they played at other venues the rest of the week. My favorite part was when they asked six older Cuban couples to come dance to their music on stage. They had met them earlier that week and oh, these 80 year olds could cut a rug.  They were wearing their best clothes, and having the time of their lives. I can see why the Preservation Hall Band has been around for 50 years. They give back and they give happiness in their music.

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Yes, this was a wonderful way to see Cuba. We had seven venues to go to with our all-inclusive Jazz pass. If you show your pass at the F.A.C then you get to cut in front of the very long line. Make sure to go to this venue. A very young crowd but a cool combination of art, music and people watching. All drinks are $2, water, mojitos, margarita, colas, beers all two dollars.

cuba-57-chevyWe also rented a red 57 Chevy for 6 hours in Havana and he took us to Jose Fusters house. This was the highlight or our trip for three of us. A mad man who loves to mosaic tile everything. Not only his house and his neighbor’s houses but also the whole neighborhood and even the bus stop.

Get your fortune told.

Make sure and go to the cultural center across from his house as they have some artwork in there that will grab you.

Other good artwork is also at the San Jose arts and crafts mall. Tons of fabulous art. Just make sure to get the $3 letter of authentication that it is required to take art out of the country. They want to make sure you are not taking a rare treasure out of Cuba. All rolled artwork will be looked at when you depart from Cuba.

He also took us to Hemingway home, which is decorated the same way as it was in 1961. Hemmingway’s boat is also there. A fabulous home with a view.
This guide with his fully restored 57 Chevy with the Toyota engine smiled and delighted us for 6 hours and it cost us about $120 total. He agreed to pick us up the next day at 6 am to take us to the airport. He had to get another driver too as we had too much luggage. They both were there at 6 am.

In addition, that night before we went out to dinner and wanted a taxi ride home. We told our hostess who made the call and then said there were no more taxis that night. We had her call Guillermo, he asked her for the restaurant address and told her to tell us to walk two blocks this way, and two blocks that way and we would be a t a hotel that would have taxis. He was on the other side of town and was busy, and could not pick us up. Yes, there were 10 taxis waiting just four blocks away.

His name is Guillermo his email guillechevrolet57@gmail.com. His phone is 7 831 64 48 or cell is 5 368 2575. I highly recommend this professional driver for his knowledge, his 57 red Chevy car, his smile and always willing to help us with any information. He felt like a true friend in Havana.cuban-hat

Cuba is for a seasoned traveler. Things go wrong, hotels change, music changes, toilets do not work, and hotels run out of food. You must bring your own soap, toilet paper and all medicines. You will not be able to buy any of that in Cuba. Air conditioning can be non-existent in some places and even in December their winter season, it still was in the high 80’s.

Make sure to bring a fan or buy a lovely wooden one while you are there. Also, buy a hat when you are there. Baseball caps were too hot. Their hats breathe for some reason better than our hats. I paid about $8 for my hat from an old man on the street. It kept me cool the entire time I was there.

I asked for a Coca Cola and I was told they do not have Coca Colas in Cuba. There is only Tucola or Cola. There are no McDonalds. You cannot use any American credit card. You need to carry cash. You can exchange American money but they tax us another 10%.

hand rolling cigars

I was expecting the old cars but I did not know that 75% of all the cars are the old cars. Sometimes you only have one window crank in the car that you have to pass around to open the windows. Sometimes they break down right in the middle of traffic and you have to jump out quickly. Immediately four men on the curb jump over and help push our old belvedere car out of the road. I was not expecting the heavy smell of diesel gasoline that feels like it chokes the oxygen out of the air.

I was not expecting the grandeur of all the buildings and homes in Cuba. How beautiful the decaying facades of 60 years of neglect and mildew would look to me. How captivating it was to me with the lingering ghosts of another time. Cuba must have been so European and beautiful 60 years ago, because it is still beautiful. What an exotic place to visit, one I will never forget.
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cuba-buildings

cuba-cool-building
The decay is beautiful too.

Destinations

Toronto 2016

You will absolutely love Toronto!
It is the 5th largest and most friendly city in North America.

This is an art exhibit of the death of the sun in downtown Toronto!

It has a huge lake, a wonderful arts scene, cool museums and castles and many great restaurants. It has some of the happiest people I have ever seen in my life. There are over 140 languages spoken there and everyone gets along. Gay people walk freely down the street holding hands and dance cheek to cheek in the bars and no one bats an eye. Muslims walk freely without stares. Old people are treated like gold.

In the 5 days we were there we never saw one grumpy person.  Not one! Everyone has smiles on their faces. Everyone holds the door for you. Even on a packed train a young man gets up and offers me his seat. I thank him and tell my husband ” I guess I am officially an old lady now. The young man corrects me and says no, I gave you my seat because you are a lady!  Wow. I love this place.

Niagara Falls- yes you do get wet!

We stop and ask directions outside a restaurant and the owner says come on in here. It is

Rooftops downtown
Toronto Rooftops

Canadian Thanksgiving, which is the second Monday in October and we want to give you a free turkey and dressing dinner. It was fabulous.

My husband goes to the bathroom and I am sitting alone and two young couples come up and wish me a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Niagara Falls Canada is only an hour away and should be a must see on everyone’s bucket list. Two days and one night is all you need at Niagara Falls.  The town has turned into a tacky bunch of tourists attractions.  Make sure to go up the Skylon tower at night to see the falls and make sure you google information about the 7 year old boy who fell off the falls with a life jacket on and survived unhurt.  This was in 1960.  An unbelievable story.  You have to believe in angels after you hear this story. We also enjoyed the bird kingdom and of course the Niagara Falls boat tours.  The Canadian side is much better than the American side for viewing.

Honestly I have traveled to many places and never felt so safe(no guns), so valued and so accepted by young and old. No need for a car as the subways and trains and trolleys and Uber get you everywhere.

Things we loved!

  1. Casa Loma- a wonderful castle built by a very rich man who lost it all and moved into his butler’s home in old age.  A very good lesson about too much house.
  2. Royal Ontario Museum-  very cool dinosaur exhibit, check and see if they have a Friday night party for music and touring.
  3. St Lawrence Market.
  4. Guided tour of the Elgin and Winter garden Theatre- a double decker theatre.
  5. Queen street murals and Kensington market.
  6. Loblaw’s grocery store. Eat fresh food in their food court!
  7. Niagara Falls is just a couple hours away.

I love Toronto!

Also everything is 25% off right now because of the exchange rate!   This is a wonderful time to go to Toronto. A beautiful happy place and very inclusive society.