Monday, April 29, 2013

The Obligatory Vacation Post


As I alluded to at the end of my last post, I spent the last week on vacation, and went down to Cuba for a week. I'd been planning on going for months, but I waited until the last minute to book (literally a few days) in order to get a really cheap deal. With taxes and fees, it only cost me $580 for a week, all-inclusive. It was my third time down in Cuba, and it was a very different experience from the past two. I stayed at Club Amigo Atlantico Guardalavaca, a three star resort in Holguin. My first trip to Cuba was years ago, and I stayed at Blue Bay, a four star in Cayo Coco, and last year I spent a week at Paradisus Rio d'Oro, a five star also in Holguin.

As you would expect, the three star was nowhere near as nice as the past two resorts. In some ways that did not matter in the slightest, and in others it made a huge difference. The resort is also the oldest in Holguin, and it showed in some ways. The rooms were tiny, dorm room sized really, but that did not bother me at all, even compared to the palatial sized rooms of Paradisus. If you're down there for a week and you're spending more than the absolute minimal amount of time possible in your room, then something's wrong. They had beds, a bathroom, and a working air conditioner, and that was enough for me. An openable window with a screen would have been nice, but I literally could have paid a few dollars per night more for that, and it still wasn't worth it to me.

The rest of the resort's grounds were also older, but still very nice and absolutely competitive with other resorts. The resort is in the town of Guardalavaca, though I didn't stray from the resort much. The area next door is under construction as they are apparently building a new resort, and as a result some of the roads seemed to be blocked off. My resort didn't have their own private beach, but they were right next to the Guardalavaca public beach on the one side, and the Brisas Guardalavaca beach on the other. The public beach had the best swimming, but I spent more time at the Brisas beach as it was quieter. Being in Guardalavaca there were a lot of locals wandering around. It seemed every five minutes someone was offering to sell me cheap (read: fake) Cuban cigars. I also had a few offer to sell me weed, which was the first I'd ever heard of that happening.

The biggest drop off, and the one which I felt the most, was the food. The food at this resort was absolutely atrocious. To be fair, my most recent experience was Paradisus, which represents an unfair measuring line as the food there was outstanding, even by Canadian standards. Still, even though the food in Cuba is almost always bad, this was just terrible. The last couple of nights I literally brought a jar of peanut butter (brought from home) to the buffet and made myself peanut butter sandwiches for dinner. As a vegetarian, I'll always have a harder time finding decent meals than everyone else, especially in a place like Cuba where they make no effort to accommodate vegetarians, but even the non-vegetarians I spoke with said the same thing.

I actually got food poisoning one night, though I'm not sure that was necessarily a reflection on the food. I don't have a particularly weak stomach, but I always seem to get sick in Cuba. The last time I got such a bad infection that I needed three different antibiotics and there was much fear that I wouldn't be able to fly home. This time I only lost a day, during which I was too weak to get out of bed, but after that I was fine again. After last time, one day didn't seem bad at all.

I was travelling with a friend of mine, which was also a different experience. The last couple of times that I've gone I've been travelling with (now ex) girlfriends. Both have their advantages, and I definitely think travelling with a friend is more relaxing, as I wasn't always worrying about what he wanted or keeping him happy, but I still think I'd prefer to travel with a girlfriend. I had one really strange experience; when first visiting the Guardalavaca market, where I had come the past year with my girlfriend at the time, I had this brief sense of visceral panic, as though if I could only find the right cab I could go right back to my old life. It passed quickly, but I've never felt anything like that before, and it was incredibly disconcerting.

The interesting thing is, I'm not sure that I even want to go back to my old life. I miss that relationship sometimes, but life moves on and I've moved with it. I think that really what I miss is just being in a relationship. While I don't hate being single, I've always been happier in relationships than out of them. Still, nothing I can do about that for the time being; I'm not going to rush into a relationship for the sake of it.

Anyway, I only did one significant excursion this time: a catamaran trip that took us for some snorkeling in a reef. I did a very similar trip in Cayo Coco, and it's an amazing experience. They take you out on the boat and then a guide will swim around the reef, and while they suggest you follow him, they don't make you. I'm a fairly strong swimmer, especially in fins, and even though it was the day after I had food poisoning and I hadn't eaten anything in 36 hours, I could still swim laps around most of those people. I tried to stay with the group, but I immediately grew frustrated with the slow pace and being bumped by people incapable of keeping themselves afloat and simultaneously watching around them, so I quickly spun off on my own. It's an excursion that I recommend to anyone who's not afraid of the ocean, as there are so many amazing things to see. Also, though it wasn't during the excursion, I saw a small shark while snorkeling off the beach. It was about four feet long, and I think it was a reef shark. It was really awesome to see.

The rest of the trip I mostly just drank, swam, read, and relaxed, which was fine with me. I'm several shades darker and my hair is several shades lighter. I really enjoyed myself, and I feel recharged in a lot of ways. It seems like I might need it too, since everything has been happening while I was gone. My parents bought a new car (more on that later), the Leafs made the playoffs for the first time since I was in high school, and in the massive pile of emails awaiting my return, I have a number of interesting work opportunities. I also got into all of my summer classes, which should hopefully mean that I can graduate in December. And of course, I turn 25 later this week (ugh). Exciting times.

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