Throwback Travel: Hot Garbage Beach Day

**NOTE to READERS: The following describes a trip which took place in March and early April, 2016.

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Tuesday, March 29th, 2016.

I wake up. And I feel teeeeeerrible.

The first words that come to mind are “hot garbage”.

Jana is also quite wrecked.

We start trying to psyche ourselves up – and each other – to get out of bed and get dressed. But it’s a struggle.

This is our one day to get to the beach. We CANNOT spend it in bed.

We rise, shakily. Once dressed, we gingerly head downstairs to the breakfast table – an hour later than planned.

And this is when I start feeling especially bad.

Julitza has put out this amazing spread – a huge fruit plate. Baby bananas. Bread. Buns. Cheese and meat. Even these little pastries and cupcakes (without frosting, but still). CUPCAKES, FAM.

Jana can barely even look at the food. I make myself eat something (to ease the hangover, but also to ease my guilt), and convince Jana to at least take a couple of bites of something. All this, while our hostesses giggle at us. (If I was in their shoes, I’d do the exact same thing.)

We take a little food to go and meet up with the Belgians and two Tasmanian girls, Em and Alana, and find a taxi that can fit all six of us, for 10 CUCs.

This man’s vehicle is old. Like, ancient. To get the radio to play, he has to take his key OUT of the ignition, use said key to turn on the radio/activate the USB port that plays music, then stick the key BACK in the ignition.

If McGyver (were real and) needed someone to meet his match, he’d need only to come to Cuba and meet one of these guys.

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At Ancón Beach, it’s good – so good – to just stretch out on a long chair under a shady tree and just relax, or wade around in the warm water. I can’t speak for Jana, but my hangover begins to loosen its grip.

We leave the beach around 3:30 p.m. A couple of hours later, we leave our casa to wander around “downtown” Trinidad before meeting the group.

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The town is a UNESCO World Heritage site – designated as such since 1988.

The bright, cheery colours of the Spanish Colonial buildings help bring the town to life, and highlight its pretty architecture.

We all start appearing on the steps outside the music house around 6:30.

But we don’t immediately go to dinner – there are pre-dinner mojitos involved, which drags things out a bit longer.

By this point, Jana’s gone from hung over to hangry.

The group eventually gets moving and – after a couple of wrong turns – we arrive at a rooftop restaurant with a nice view of Trinidad below. Dinner tonight is a nice shrimp dish, and I’ve ordered a daiquiri (yes, I’m also surprised I have the fortitude to do this), but it’s taking a dog’s age to appear at the table.

The house band for the evening starts playing. There’s some good-natured ribbing between Joe, Jana, Em, Alana and I, over which band member’s the most attractive, and whether Joe can charm them. He actually gets up and is grooving/swaying alongside the band, which is hilarious to see. (You have to be there.)

Then Joe grabs my hand to get up and dance. Because the rooftop isn’t very big, and our table is huge, I’m fully wedged in my seat with my shoulder bag across my body, and it takes me a good 30 seconds to disengage from the table.

It is easily the tiniest possible space for dancing. Sue and Ian also decide to get up and try out their dancing skills on the cramped floor. It’s fun, but a bit too cozy. I have nightmares of crashing into the stage and taking out the band. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen.

The group settles their bills, and Jana tells me she’s going back to the casa – the hangover’s taken its toll and she’s not feeling well.

As we descend the steep staircase to ground level, Joe (perhaps half-jokingly) asks if anyone wants to go for drinks.

I say, “Sure!”

Out of the corner of my eye, I can see I’ve stopped him in his tracks. I suppose, considering how bad I said I felt earlier, he’s almost taken aback.

He says, “Really?”

“Yup!” I say, making my way down the steps.

If Australians are known for their ability to drink, then some of us Canadians should be known for our ability to rally. (And when we put our minds to it, boy, can we rally.)

Sue, Ian, Joe and I go to this venue, perhaps hoping to get in a bit of dancing, and catch the tail-end of the performance taking place. While Joe grabs drinks, I finally get a chance to chat with Sue and Ian, who I’ve only seen in passing up until now. They’re from Miami – a suburb on Australia’s Gold Coast, and they chat a little bit about their hometown.

As the musical acts change onstage, it’s clear it’s not a venue where much dancing is going to happen, so after a while, we bounce.

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Sue and Ian turn in for the night, while Joe and I decide to grab one more drink and wander around.

We go back to the music house near the centre of town, only to find out the musical act performing has just finished playing. So we sit on the steps and chat – mainly comparing notes about what we could remember from the night before.

I spot the couple from the salsa club, pointing them out to Joe. We go up to them and Joe talks to them for a moment – turns out he’s pretty proficient in conversational Spanish, which is winning over the locals he’s been talking to – before asking for a photo.

We hang around a bit longer, dancing a little to the music blaring over the sound system, before calling it a night. Joe – beer in hand – kindly walks me back to my casa, where Julitza (like a mom away from home) is waiting up, to let me inside.

And with that, our short time in Trinidad has come to a close. Next stop: Cienfuegos.

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Photos posted above are mine. Please don’t re-post without my permission.

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A Couple Hours in Negril

Monday, July 27th.

IMAG0399“D, get up.”

It’s 6:34 a.m. Guess we’re leaving fairly early for Negril. Although, it would’ve been nice to have known that the night before.

K kindly fixes me breakfast (scrambled egg, sardines and dumplings), and we’re out the door just before 8 a.m.

We pick up Uncle Eucline on the way at a nearby gas station, and off we go, reaching Negril by about 9:30 a.m.

K and Eucline want to take me to Rick’s Cafe (which I vaguely remember visiting back in 1993), but when we arrive, we discover it’s closed. Turns out they open the bar until 12 p.m. and close at 10 p.m.

That’s unfortunate for us, but good for the dozens and dozens of smaller bars in that area that rely on the visitor and tourist traffic for their business. Oh well. Another time.

Next stop: one of the aforementioned bars, owned by one of K’s friends. We have a bit of trouble finding it – it’s so small, it’s wedged between another bar (whose exterior sort of resembles a boat), and another building that’s boarded up.

Beer and liquor bottles of all shapes and sizes line the shelf above the bar. Overhead, a TV plays an American daytime talk show.

The open rear door reveals a view of the rocks, and the water just beyond. Walking out to the back, there’s gravel and wooden beams — the bare outline of an addition K’s friend has plans to build.

IMAG0397Looking out across the water, I can see the various bars and other buildings lining the shore. Even over here, the water is relatively clear and a greenish-blue. The sun is beating down on my neck and shoulders, so I head back inside for a bit.

We eventually leave and – on our uncle’s suggestion – try a resort just down the road. When we drive up the driveway and reach the front gate, we’re faced with something we didn’t anticipate: having to pay $15 US apiece to enter resort property, sit on the beach, and for me to go into the water.

The cost of leisure, I suppose.

My uncle – who has worked in the hospitality business – tries to negotiate with the man at the front gate, but the guy holds firm. After some momentary waffling, we decide to pay and go inside. We’ll get a nice view of the beach, have some lunch and leave.

While in the main lobby, K asks me to inquire about a towel. I approach the reception desk and ask.

“You can buy one at the gift shop,” the desk clerk says in a half-sing-song, completely unhelpful, tone of voice, referring to the building just next door.

Good thing I packed my own.

I go to one of the changing rooms and don my swimsuit (to the nearby soundtrack of a woman severely scolding her misbehaving child).

IMAG0416While K and Uncle Eucline recline on chairs under the shade of a small gazebo, I wade into the warm, clear water. The sky’s an impossible shade of blue.

About 10 minutes in, I spot a dark object gliding through the water. A sting-ray. I stand upright, watching it pass by.

We have a delicious beach-side lunch of jerk chicken, rice and peas and salad.

Then, it’s out of my swimsuit, and back on the road to Montego Bay — K has to go to her mother (my aunt)’s house so she can let in a local welder to repair the security gate pried open by thieves almost a week and a half before …

But not before we make a couple of stops along the way. First, a local school in Sandy Bay, where I believe K taught at some point. Then, we stop in to see one of Uncle Eucline’s younger brothers.

Over glasses of lemonade, we learn his brother (whose name I never learn) is recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumour. Looking at him now, seemingly robust and in great spirits, you wouldn’t have known it. And —  understandably — he gives Eucline a lecture about giving up drinking and smoking. I know he’s doing it out of love, but I’m not sure Eucline’s having much of it.

Before we know it, we’re at my aunt’s house, picking mangoes and waiting for the welder to arrive. But it won’t be a completely tedious visit.

(Photos taken are mine. Please do not use without permission.)

Sand, Sun, and a Smorgasboard

(Note: The following post describes details from a previous trip, NOT a current trip.)


Tuesday, September 4th.

Sleeping on Monday night/Tuesday morning is a challenge.

Not only because of the heat and humidity. But because of those nearby church bells at St. Mark’s.

They ring. EVERY. FIFTEEN. MINUTES.

UGH.

Europe, Croatia 085Later in the morning, a bunch of us (Rob, Richard, Livia, Sanj and myself) decide to rent some bicycles and hit a beach – Vela Przina beach in the village of Lumbarda, to be precise.

I literally haven’t been on a bike in years. Even at the bike rental shop, when I initially attempt to sit on a bike, I nearly lose my balance and narrowly miss taking out a postcard carousel.

Slightly embarrassed, I work on getting my “bike legs” back, as quickly as I can.

It’s a slightly hilly seven-kilometre bike ride to Lumbarda, so I find some of the inclines challenging. The gears are also a bit wonky. But the views are nice, as is having the freedom to ride without a helmet – much like I did when I was a kid.

And then finally – the beach!

Rob and Richard take off for the water. Sanj, Livia and I spend the first part of our beach day taking some welcome shade at the nearby bar/restaurant, drinking and chatting.

Europe, Croatia 084Livia and I finally get the courage to wade into the water, while Sanj keeps out of the sun. It’s cool at first, but warms up after a few moments, and I take a moment to fully submerge my head.

While in the water, we run into four of the Aussies – Natalie and Paul (the siblings), Marian and Josie. They opted to rent a car and drove the seven kilometres.

I actually haven’t had the chance to really speak to them up until this point, so it’s good to finally see them for more than about 10 minutes and chat about how they’re finding the trip so far.

I opt to leave a bit earlier than expected, with Sanj, as we want to stop a few times on the way back to snap some pictures.

I haven’t yet been to Italy. But what we see before us is what I would imagine part of the Tuscan countryside to look like – rows of grapevines, red clay roofs and hilly backdrops.

There is much more traffic to navigate on our way back. Between the blazing sun and exerting more energy to make room for cars, scooters and trucks, my body has become quite the sweat factory.

I’m finally glad when – t-shirts clinging to our backs – we return to Korčula town in one piece!

Europe, Croatia 100After we drop off our bikes, Sanj and I continue poking around town, checking out side streets here and there, then head up to St. Mark’s Cathedral to check out the bell tower. Looks like Richard and Rob have the same idea, as that’s where we run into them.

The views of Korčula town – and the nearby water – from here are absolutely lovely. A couple of the bells ring while we’re up there.

With the evening comes another change of scenery: the group hops onto a bus headed to the village of Pupnat, for dinner at a local restaurant (called Konoba Mate) – where the ingredients for all the dishes served are locally grown or sourced.

As the air thickens with humidity and the skies grow dark with a possible threat of rain, we’re seated in the corner of the outdoor dining room, underneath a romantic overhang of vines.

Europe, Croatia 116We’re served an array of items – meats, fish, cheeses, strong, sharp-tasting liquor that tastes like walnuts and berries, pasta, and so on. The meal itself has around 4 or 5 courses, but luckily all the portions are meant for sharing. Each course is even more delicious than the last and doesn’t leave me stuffed.

Even more than the savoury meal, it’s nice to finally have the group together – laughing, trading stories and finding out more about each other.

Upon our return to Korčula, a bunch of us take a short stroll about, but then return to our quarters for the evening.

Tomorrow, we head for the island of Hvar.

Hellooooo, Hermosa!

Saturday, February 18.

Some ill-timed lady business has thwarted my hopes for a daylight dip.

While Jenn and Zoe go swimming at the nearby pool, I jump in the shower.

Partway through, I hear a knock on a door somewhere nearby.

I figure it’s probably someone knocking on the room next door, so I ignore it.

Then I hear a woman’s voice yell, “Hellooo!?”

I scramble out of the shower, thinking it’s maybe Jenn or Zoe wanting to enter the room.

Blind as a bat, I exit the bathroom, sopping wet, with a towel around me … and make out a blurry blob at the door that is neither Jenn nor Zoe.

It’s housekeeping.

I ask them to wait so I can get my glasses and see who exactly I’m dealing with.

(At this hotel, all the rooms have signs stuck to the doors with velcro strips with one message on either side: “Do Not Disturb” and “Please Clean”. Most people who have been to hotels have seen these signs hanging from their hotel room doorknobs, and know how to use these signs. One would also believe that hotel workers would trust that hotel patrons have an idea of how to use these signs. In our case, the sign is not hanging on the outer doorknob, because I’m still inside the room.)

I re-emerge, still sopping wet (and probably visibly annoyed).

“Limpiar?” she asks.

I don’t understand right away – plus I’m mildly frustrated – so I say that I don’t understand.

“Cleaning?!” she asks.

“No,” I say tersely (and probably louder than I should). “Tomorrow. Mañana.”

Not my best moment.

After the other two return, we set our agenda for the day: Hang out on Playa Hermosa.

The beach is a short walk away. And when we get there, it’s teeming with people.

Jenn and I grab a couple of chairs in the shade amongst other tourists and hotel guests, while Zoe goes in search of a patch of sand in the son, to get a little colour.

We alternate between staring out at the water, people-watching, and reading, as trinket-peddlars and guys hawking ceviche-in-a-cup, pass by.

I get up and join Zoe for a walk along the beach, picking up pieces of shell and letting the water rush over my toes.

By the time we return to the hotel, I’m overheated, and I take a couple of minutes to myself, while sweating uncontrollably, in our room.

We venture out again and spend some time at the other smaller pool on the hotel premises, for the remainder for the afternoon – reading, and watching neighbourhood cats pass through.

By the time early evening hits, Zoe’s feeling a bit off and tired, so she opts to combat it with sleep, in hopes of avoiding the same fate she’s suffered in La Fortuna.

Jenn and I go down the street to eat dinner and get some food for Zoe. By the time we return, she’s feeling much better – and ready for pizza with anchovies!

We spend the rest of the night drinking supermarket booze, and amusing ourselves with games, until drowsiness overtakes us.

Only one day in the hot, tropical sun remains.