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.

Curing The New York Hangover

November 16th.

It’s cold, overcast and rainy. Again. 

And I feel like death warmed over.

I feel like I’ve gotten a full night’s sleep. But I’ve only actually passed out for about five hours.

I stumble into the bedroom and mumble my thanks to my friends for taking care of me, as well as an apology for being the twit who couldn’t hold her liquor. No worries, they said. Besides, I think to myself, I have, after all, provided them with comic entertainment at my expense.

I’m as slow as molasses getting into the shower. But I feel incrementally better afterwards.

We head out into the wind and sporadic rain to the Tick Tock Diner at W 34th and 8th streets for breakfast before we get down to some serious business of the retail variety.

In the past, the sight of a diner breakfast usually erased all thoughts of hungover queasiness, and I was a new woman by the end of the meal. Of course, the past was when I was in my twenties and had a gastrointestinal system that was practically bionic.

Today is another story. The thought of toast comforts me. The thought of eggs and bacon, however, does not. I make the mistake of ordering scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon (which, by the way, I regret wholeheartedly) and potatoes … and I feel myself turn green when the waitress puts it in front of me.

Shortly after I start picking away at my plate, a wave of nausea hits me and I get up from my table, fast. I make a beeline for the back of the restaurant, only to come across what could only be a HUGE lineup for the bathroom.

This can’t be right, I think. I ask the nearest waitress – who happens to be our server – where the bathroom is. She tells me it’s in the corner … where the lineup is.

“Oh crap,” I mutter aloud, looking around for an alternative. The only thing I can do is go back to my seat, and silently resolve to myself to upchuck outside the restaurant (out of view of my friends) if things REALLY get bad.

But as quickly as it comes, the queasiness passes. Just like that. I start to chew on what I can. Somehow I manage to muster up enough of an appetite to eat most of the eggs and bacon on my plate, along with a second order of toast. (Ah, toast. Sweet buttery saviour …)

new-york-november-2008-078After breakfast, it’s on to the Rockerfeller Center – and shopping. We stop to check out the Rockerfeller Plaza skating rink.

(Can I just say it’s WAY smaller than it looks in pictures? How deceiving. I still dig the Prometheus statue, though.)

Our shopping extravanganza starts at J. Crew, where I manage to pick up a nice cable-knit sweater. Next, it’s to Anthropologie, which is a main point of interest for my friend C (who visits the Web site fairly regularly). I think we cover every square inch of that store. Neither of my friends really luck out, but I splurge on a pair of jeans (which, because of the price tag, I will be taking VERY good care of – like they’re the Crown Jewels).

Before we leave the area, we go into the main lobby of the Rockerfeller Center, where we gaze up at the ceiling mural. We’re actually noting out loud about the number of crotches seemingly painted in our direction when I hear a voice say, “Excuse me? Hello?”

It’s the security guard at the front desk, motioning us to come over.

I’m wondering what could we possibly have done wrong, and get C and P’s attention.

As it turns out, the guard gives us an impromptu history lesson, both about the mural painted behind him – Man’s Conquests by Jose Maria Sert – and the story on the ceiling mural (by artist Diego Rivera) , which “moves”, when we follow his instructions. Well … I kinda see what the guard’s talking about as I walk from side to side, but since I still feel hollowed out from the night before, I’m not really getting the full effect.

We leave the area and return to the apartment for a wardrobe change for the next activity on our list: Our big, fancy New York dinner.

We go to Buddakan, this upscale Asian fusion restaurant at 9th anew-york-november-2008-084nd W 15th. The outside doesn’t really give too much away, but the inside is fabulous. As I find out the next day, it’s one of a chain of different frou-frou restaurants run by this guy from Philadelphia, and was one of the restaurants used in the Sex and the City movie.

But forget the hype behind the restaurant – we’re there for the food. And – cool, aloof wait staff aside – it’s ridiculously good.

There was this salad … and sea bass wrapped in cabbage which was so good … and this edemame that blew my tastebuds away … and a sweet-and-sour chicken entree I order, which actually resembles a breaded loaf more so than actual chicken. It’s almost too much.

Then the waitress asks us if we want dessert. We’re stuffed, but decide to look at it anyway. I end up going the whole hog and ordering a small chocolate ganache cake, with a dollop of coffee ice cream perched atop some unsweetened cocoa.

new-york-november-2008-080The presentation of the plate is so perfect, I actually feel bad that we’re going to demolish it in a matter of minutes. But it was so warm and so rich, I probably would have left my body, had I not been weighed down with so much food.  

Following dinner, we look around for a bit longer, checking out the dining area below and snapping a few pictures before calling it a night.

It’s hard to believe but tomorrow is our last morning and afternoon in town before boarding a plane for home. It’s sad to realize that our four-day adventure is almost over.

D’s Holiday Tally, Take Two

This one’s in honour of my friend who just returned from a week in the balmy Dominican Republic to the cold North American misery we’re dealing with right now.

Here’s what happened last week in my Christmas-season-related life, in numbers: 

16: number of Christmas cards written and mailed (yours is in the mail)

2: number of Christmas cards already received

0: number of presents bought

1: number of possible ideas for family-related gifts

$51: approximate amount of money spent on alcohol

3: number of parties attended

1: number of those parties being Christmas-related

1: number of times ill and hungover as a result of said parties

1: number of backsides I’ve grabbed, on behalf of other people, in the name of Christmas

$77: amount of money spent on cab fare home from aforementioned parties.

And I’m just getting warmed up for this week’s onslaught, which starts later on today.

Hoo boy. That’s scary.