Leaving behind cold Canadian days in the Christmas holiday for Cuba’s sunny shores felt invigorating. My family voted for a Caribbean break, Varadero, in southern Cuba, seemed perfect for what we wanted. Off we went, armed with our strollers, sunscreen lotions, books, shorts, sunglasses, Sudoku (for my husband) – and excitement. At Pearson airport, we had a moment of panic when the chap weighing our luggage frowned. We realized quickly, though, it was only his Santa spirit brought on by the thousands leaving. He did wave us on with a smile.
Landing at Varadero International Airport at 10:00 p.m. wasn’t such a big deal in the Caribbean. Our resort had not forgotten to tether a giant multi-coloured bus outside. The night was too dark to see anything of the countryside. Our guide, Ramos, a communications would-be graduate at the local university, kept us entertained during the 45-minute ride to the Tryp Peninsula Varadero Resort.
“What’s the national hobby for Cubans?” he asked.
“US-bashing?” someone called out from the back.
“Close, but not true.” Ramos said with a smile, “It’s actually hitching rides. You see, our public transport system is so bad, we only can get from one place to the other by hitching rides in the few private cars, buses or even cycles.”
Mystified, we looked outside the windows. At a toll booth, we did see some people waiting patiently under the street lamps, with their thumbs sticking out – at 10.30 p.m.
The Resort – A Landscaper's Dream Project
Our bus curved into a strip of land, into the gates of our destination. We were charmed, instantly. The resort was a landscaper’s dream project – graceful palms, tropical abundance of bougainvillea, bending footpaths, kidney-shaped pools, white bungalows and in the jewelled sky, a slice of moon.
The morning was even better as we made our way to the resort beach. Truly the waters of the Caribbean are bluer than Di Caprio's eyes. We spent our days there, in huts made of palm fronds, sipping coconut water or rum.
My favourite memory – me on a hammock in a grove of palms – the sound of the wind in the trees, the rush of waves and Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire.