Walking Down Memory Lane – The 10 Worst Cocktails Ever

Walking Down Memory Lane – The 10 Worst Cocktails Ever

I’ve been throwing a lot of stuff up on the blog recently, from guest posts called Where Did You Sleep Last Night, to posts about yoga, and the three part series on Nyepi.  You have been hearing me talk about our clean living in the blog since we arrived in Ubud a year ago, about how much weight we have lost, about how happy we have been here (most days).  You have also been reading a little bit of our tell all, with our nineties love story, as I start to get a little more personal on the blog. Now, I get personal in a different way.   A friend from Washington, DC, posted a typical top 10 list on Facebook that caught my eye.  It was a ranking of the 10 Worst Cocktails Ever, from the perspective of the bartender.  I only clicked on it because the graphic showed a cocktail that reminded me of the Singapore Sling at Raffles, which I recently tried at the insistence of a friend in from the States.  I love you Josh, and I am happy we had a moment together at Raffles, but I cannot believe how expensive that syrupy pre-made drink was. The Singapore Sling was not present on this particular top 10 list.  Instead, it was a series of drinks, almost all of which I have drank in the past, and each one reminded me of a story of my forgotten youth, or recent past.  Each one reminded me of a person, or a place, or a time in my life, some of which I would prefer to forget....
A Land of Cuba Propaganda

A Land of Cuba Propaganda

I have seen propaganda before, and in particular, anti-American propaganda.  We traveled through China, and visited the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City.  I am used to seeing a plethora of homages to Chairman Mao in China and Uncle Ho in Vietnam, and reverence to Che Gueverra all over the world.  I am generally prepared for propaganda like that.  Sometimes, though, the propaganda comes from surprising sources, in surprising places, and in surprising quantity.   It is all I thought about when witnessing first hand the Cuba propaganda in Havana. Surprising Sources of Cuba Propaganda We knew heading to Cuba as Americans was a risk, a little bit of an unknown destination.  But, we were willing to take the risk to learn about the country, to engage in exchanges with the people, and for me to report back on what we learned.   Approximately 99% of the people we met in Cuba were excited to meet us and excited to engage with us.  As a result, we told people we were from America, and acted accordingly – answering the questions that came our way, but most importantly, responding to the wide smiles that greeted our nationality.   When visiting Vinales, Cuba, our guide took us to a cultural center, a fancy name for a bar that hosted music in the evenings.  Eric and I had prime seats, in the front row.  Cigar smoking Eric’s blonde hair and blue eyes were practically sitting on the dance floor.  The singer kept dancing over to him, trying to interact.  She put the microphone to him and asked him where we...
Maria la Gorda – Socialist Style Resort in Cuba

Maria la Gorda – Socialist Style Resort in Cuba

We signed up a for a tour in Cuba – something we have never done before. A tour was what brought us to Maria la Gorda. Part of it was because Cuba made us nervous, we did not have a tour book, there would be little or no internet once there to help with planning, and online information was sparse. But, the main thing that concerned us was access to money.  We were in Cuba for 12 days.  During that time we would have no access to US issued credit cards or US issued ATMs.  We had to bring enough US dollars to cover our expenses, and carry that amount of money with us.  If something happened to our stash we would be SOL.    We thought that by booking a tour, we would at least be able to arrange 7 nights of accommodations, transportation, and some meals ahead of time.  We accomplished this task by booking a trip through Intrepid, one of the leading budget, adventure tour companies.  I chose the tour I did because it took us from Havana to Vinales, to the beach, and then back to Havana, giving us a decent tour of the west part of Cuba, without too many days of pure travel.  And, that was how we found ourselves in Maria la Gorda, Cuba. The Promises of Maria la Gorda The tour itinerary described Maria la Gorda as “[r]enowned for its diving, idyllic beaches, untouched nature, and laidback vibe, Maria la Gorda is the perfect spot to wile away some time under the Cuban sun.”  It was also described by Intrepid as...
Visiting The Valley of Vinales Cuba

Visiting The Valley of Vinales Cuba

Vinales Cuba, a few hours west of Havana, is a former agricultural center cum tourist town – with buses arriving throughout the day to drop tourists looking for an “authentic” Cuban countryside experience. Vinales Cuba – the Tourist Town The main industry in Vinales, aside from agriculture, is tourism, which was apparent when pulling into town and being dropped at the “bus station” – a stop across from the main square where dozens of women with signs and pictures offered rooms for rent.  Tour guides also hung around the main square offering walks, driving tours, taxis, and horseback riding. It really seemed to be the only thing going on in town. The town was also surrounded by some fairly touristy sights, including a cave in which you can walk and then take a Pirates of the Caribbean style boat ride, a giant painted mural on the side of a cliff, a farm in which you can see tobacco grown and cigars rolled, and taste locally grown coffee.   The influence that tourism has taken on the town was crystal clear.  There were plenty of tourist driven restaurants, which were a little more expensive than Havana and of varying quality.  The only “local” eats available were some pizza stands, or places selling cheap ham sandwiches.  At night, a churro stand on the main street always had a long line – with churros selling for both a local price and a tourist price.   The ValleyThere was only one main road in town, so it was hard to get lost.  The one story houses were painted bright shades of pastel colors...
Post-Apocalyptic Miami: Architecture in Havana Cuba

Post-Apocalyptic Miami: Architecture in Havana Cuba

The architecture in Havana makes you say ah, and brings tears to your eyes, all in the same moment. It is said that Havana is a city that is stuck in time.  The architecture in Havana is there to prove it.  Walking through Old Havana, there is a unique blend of centuries of architecture – colonial Spanish buildings from the 1600s, baroque influences in the 1700s, Neo-Classical in the 1800s, and Art Deco in the early 1900s.   They all have one thing in common – they are stuck in time, generally in a state of disrepair since mid-century.  Although some private enterprise and joint ventures have started to creep through the hard exterior of the architecture in Havana, providing a fresh coat of paint and more safe interiors, most of the city just feels derelict. In general, the city exudes a level of decrepitness that is not seen in most places.  In Sarajevo, and more so in Mostar, Bosnia, we saw cities destroyed by a modern war.  In Havana, there was no war – just a society that was unable to improve and maintain its surroundings due to the political circumstances.  The architecture in Havana suffered, as well as the population as a whole. When walking down the Malecon, the picturesque sea front drive, I imagined what the city would look like with more investment.  Now, it looks like a post-apocalyptic Miami.  A city with beautiful architecture with water front property, which is decrepit, crumbling, and often abandoned.  Many of the buildings show no sign of life – at least no one should be living in them.  But, they...
Interacting With The Locals In Havana Cuba

Interacting With The Locals In Havana Cuba

Often times we are jaded as tourists.  We are defensive.  We are used to being attacked by aggressive touts, and are always worried about being suckers – getting robbed, being the victim of a scam.  In Havana, we noticed immediately how “nice” people were.  It confused us.  Were these nice people genuinely nice, or were they trying to sell us something, or were they trying to scam us?  At first, we could not figure it out. What were the locals in Havana really like Kickbacks? Our first afternoon traveling in Cuba we wanted to head into the old part of Havana, Habana Vieja, close to the central train station.  We hoped in a Coco Taxi with a specific destination, Puerto de Sague, but the driver, in Spanish, was trying to suggest another restaurant, El Guajirito. When we arrived at Puerto, the driver tried to come into the restaurant with us, I think so that after we had our drink he could escort us to El Guajirito.  We politely declined the request.  We could tell he would get a kick back for suggesting the restaurant, but really did not want to follow a driver to a tourist trap on our first day.  At Puerto, a Cuban couple was at the bar, they offered a suggestion for another place, that was better and cheaper than Puerto.  Surprise surprise, it was El Guajirto.  We started to notice a trend.  But, other than that, the other trend was that people were, often, just trying to be nice, or recommend a restaurant.  Being Friendly? By our second night, we started to realize that, perhaps,...
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