Cuba Day Two - Exploring the Resort

After a restless, and in some cases a sleepless, night we caught the 5:30 am shuttle bus where we met two ladies from New Brunswick. They were on their way to a Caribbean cruise with only half their luggage. It seems that all their swim suits are still in Moncton. They were fun to talk with and took to Rori right away asking if she was a dancer. Rori, sitting on the bus seat with the heel of one foot wrapped around the back of her head and a big beaming smile, can be a real conversation starter.

We are on the plane and getting here was smooth, no long waits no delays, just a leisurely start to the adventure.




The three ladies sat on one side and I sat in the seat just across the aisle. I had a polite conversation with the mother and son seated next to me. When she found out that my 10 year old granddaughter was coming with us she asked, ‘How is she with flying?’

I replied, ‘She seems to be handling it well,’ and I pointed toward Rori. We were just going down the runway about to take off and Rori had a big smile and was leaning forward with her arms out in front of with her hands on an imaginary steering wheel. The mother nodded and smiled.



On the flight The ladies booked a catamaran day tour and I think I heard something about driving a jeep but I am happy to go along with whatever is planned. I think there is snorkeling and dolphins involved too but it will just be great to spend the time together.

The customs building in Varadero is greatly improved since our last visit to this location several years ago. I remember entering the institutional green airport hanger with green squatty little agent booths where you stood on two footprints painted on the floor while they took your picture. I know they do the same thing in Canada but the soldiers in fatigues shouldering automatic weapons had made me a little nervous. Now there are no armed guards, the customs building is a nice yellow and has stores and booths around the outside. The squatty little agent booth have not changed. Things went smoothly and in no time we were on the bus to the resort.

The air was moist and heavy and the air was hot. When we were looking at the videos of Cuba when we were planning to trip I had forgotten the smell and feel of the air. ‘Ahh, yes, I remember it now.’ It felt great to be back here. I think back to the first couple of vacations here and it was all new to me. I never knew what I was going to see next. Now that we have been here several times I am seeing more than I did the first few times. I recognize more of the plants and trees and I have a feeling of where I am.

I can also see some changes. There are several new hotels the highway to the resorts now by passes the old round castle and the Statue of Don Quixote at restaurant named after him.
When we arrived at the hotel we expected a crush of people registering, maybe a delay in being assigned a room to be followed by one bellhop, out of a line up of bellhops to whisk us off to our rooms. We walked in, went right up to the desk, received our room keys and took our luggage to find rooms 2710 and 2705.

Starfish Varadero consists of nine large blocks of rooms stretched along the beach and a handful of eight plexes (bungalows) near the central lobby and buffet. We were obviously, going by the room numbers, in the second block rooms 710 and 705. The walk to block two included a number of straight, long halls and flights of stairs. When we got there it was clear that there is no seventh floor, we were getting tired and frustrated. We were working on our last nerve when we happened to pass the desk where our Sunwing rep informed us that around here first 'two' actually means 'seven' and we had to go all the way to the end, in the other direction to find block seven. All the time Brenda had been patiently saying, “Let’s find a porter.”

We had to climb...

...quite a few sets of stairs...

...to get to our room...

... so we learned to..

... take everything we would need...

... and stay on the beach and in the buffet...

... instead of...


... walking so much.

Later Brenda was talking to a lady in the pool about knee operations. The woman’s daughter had mentioned that mom had trouble walking and the hotel upgraded them the a bungalow right next the to buffett and main lobby. Good to know for next time.

The rooms are at least as good as the ones we had in the Days Inn the previous night. We have a big balcony that look into an beautiful giant tree and we were certainly far enough from the nightly entertainment stage that we will not be disturbed by it if we don't want to see or hear it. Compared to our previous stays in Cuba this was the best room we ever had. The whole block of rooms had been recently renovated and everything worked! - toilets, a/c, shower, hot water everything!





Rori and I had read TripAdvisor reviews and knew the names of several of the people in the resort. We had rehearse talking to them. We never saw those people. We did make friends with our room maid. She was friendly, spoke a little english with a delightful accent and laughed shyly. She showed us where everything was and how to turn the electricity on in the room. I asked what her name was and she had to repeat it three times. ‘Alicia width,‘ 'Alycca witt’ ‘Alyssa with.’ Finally, I felt sure that she was saying ‘Aylssawith’. It was probably a Cuban or at ;least Spanish name and had a spelling that I wouldn’t be able to figure out and that was unique to the island. She left us a note after cleaning our room the next day thanking her for the clothing items we had left on the bed for her.



The first order of business was to find the buffet and have lunch. In one of the little lounge areas someone had made a heart out of hibiscus flowers. In was Valentine's Day and this was a nice touch. We found out later that it was Elizabeth doing this.



A constant theme was Rori tap dancing on every hard surface she could find. In the airport, going through customs, in the hotel lobby. She could make such satisfying clicking noises in all these places.

She climbed and posed on every rock on the property and tried out the string hammocks that they have strung between the palm trees.



We had lunch in the main buffet and it was excellent. Not at all Like the first resort we stayed at about eight years ago. I almost want to drop into the old resort just to see if it was still the same. Nah, I like this new look.

We always found great things to eat.

Our first day at the resort was Valentine's Day and they pulled out all the stops with the desserts.


They had fish, beef, chicken (with meat on it), fresh salads and wonderful desserts. For supper they had a special Valentine's day supper featuring baked salmon. Again excellent. I was pleased to see that there were a number of choices that Rori would eat even though she is favoring the fancy desserts.

After lunch I got converted pesos and arranged for the safe in our room to work. Brenda and Rori went swimming. The water in the pools was cold but, like the river in Bracebridge, it felt okay after a minute or two. They went to check out the ocean but a storm had blown through before we arrived. All through the resort water was pooled on the patios, leaves and branches had blown down and today there was a red flag at the beach. The ocean waves were large enough to surf on. There will be lots of time for the ocean.

After supper we checked out the souvenir/convenience store in the hotel. Rori looked at a number of items and was mildly interested in a number of colourful cloth wraps. A Cuban sales lady asked to show Rori how it works and when she wrapped it here and tied it there Rori fell in love with the sarong. Rori held a fashion show for us in the walkway in front of the store.








It isn't even 8:30pm and Brenda is lying on the bed and I am writing up my notes from today. It is still the first day, not even a full day, and it feels like we have been here a couple of days, at least. It has been busy but I think it has affected me less that the others. probably because I was the only one who really able to slept last night. It doesn’t seem to bother Rori too much because she has an enormous amount of energy.

Heather and Brenda were both tired because someone kept them awake last night snoring and another person kept them busy all of today with activities. Heather and Brenda could go to bed early while Rori and I took in the late show. Rori and I went to the buffet again and snacked on bread, cheese and desserts. The letters for ‘Appy San Valentyn’ were made of pastry and I had to stop Rori from trying to snap off a piece of the ‘V’ as a treat.







The crowd was gathered around the swimming pool(s) and we danced to a couple of DJ songs before the show started. There was magician who was trying to do tricks where the colours of feathers on sticks changed but the the lighting came from behind and we could only see him in silhouette. Then the main show started. It was a good dance troupe but they danced at ground level and the all the lighting was back lighting so you could not really see the dancers. I was thinking that it may have been for the best because a couple of the presentations were burlesque and there was a lot of skin showing. One thing that impressed me was that during one performance Rori put two thumbs up, turned around to me and said, 'I really like that.' It was a male and female dancer doing a rather traditional dance that was mostly ballet. He did lifts and she did spins and Rori seemed to like it.

A little later the full troupe was on stage doing moves to a catchy modern song and Rori turns to me and says, ‘That’s almost the routine we do in dance class!’

At the end of the show the loud disco music started and I explained to her that if she stayed she could dance with the dancers because they would be relaxing and dancing informally at the disco after the show. She said, 'No.' She had enough wanted to see Mom. I took her back to our rooms, checked in with Brenda and went back and danced with the dancers. They were OMG better dancers than me but  they were very understanding. I sat with Wayne and Karoline from Miami (The next day they told Brenda they were from Winnipeg so I don’t know who they were lying to.) . They had been here for a couple of weeks and we talked about the place, They liked it. They pointed out that Friday (tomorrow) was Cuba day and there would be a pig roast on the beach and many vendors on location. We talked about excursions and they said that they take the catamaran / dolphin trip every time. Wayne said that most people line up in a group of 20 or so and touch the dolphins as it swims by but Karoline was taken out with one dolphin and spend some time with it. He had given the guy at the dolphin place $20 and said, 'I want her to have an experience that she will remember,' Hmm, got to remember that.

ps - Brenda just informed me that Karoline is really Caroline. The spelling with a 'K' came from  a snippet of a conversation I had overheard by the pool. Caroline was showing Brenda a purse she had personalized by the Cuban vendor and he engraved it with her name the way he sounded it out, 'Karoline.'

Comments

  1. What a delightful encounter of your trip! I look forward to more.

    I had an eerie chill when I read 'The three ladies sat on one side..." as I wondered if it was a reference to your wish to find the "Three Ladies In The Canoe" that you mentioned in Part One of this series. But I suspect now it was not and I still look forward to reading about that.

    I loved the contrast of your views of Cuba now vs your initial views of Cuba when you first visited. Your mention of the "smell and feel of the air" made me long to be back in Cuba as that is always the first thing I notice when disembarking from the plane. In fact your entire encounter made me regret we hadn't tried a little harder to be there with you this time.

    I also loved experiencing your trip through Rori's eyes. How much sweeter can life be than when experienced through the eyes of a child?

    The pictures and videos that have been included helped so much to truly "feel" your experience.

    I literally laughed out loud when I read the resort had "chicken (with meat on it)" as I can't help but think this was a reference to our dinner at Pepe's in Santa Lucia. At least those of us who chose the lobster had a good meal. Ha Ha!

    I look forward to the next installment.


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