Visitors and Visiting
13 April 2011 | Varadero
Beth - 90's
With Debbie as our guide, Chris, Tom, Jim and I walked over to the delightful town of Santa Marta on Tuesday. One of the lovely things about being at Marina Darsenas is that it is just a short walk to this little town where we can shop at the local market, the bakery, eat at a fine little restaurant - all with pesos. (Remember roughly 24 pesos to the dollar!) The market (every day except Monday) is much smaller than the Santa Lucia one, but it has all the produce we need - and some very fine pork. We bought squash, peppers and potatoes, 100 pesos worth of smoked pork chops (about 6) and then stopped at a little bakery for a loaf of that crusty white bread that shows up regularly.
It is the perfect place to watch the 1950’s cars, to see bicycles of every description, to wave to the immaculately uniformed school children - to see more than the hotel strip along the beach. And so, we determined that this is what we wanted to show the visitors who came on Wednesday.
Friends from Ottawa, Caroline and Brian, Francine and Rick, were vacationing up the way at Jibacoa and they hired a car to bring them down to Varadero for a day. We wished we could have taken them out for a sail, but that is one of the difficulties in this country. We cannot go out for a day sail unless we get the paperwork done by Customs, Immigration etc. both departing and returning. It wasn’t worth the effort for an afternoon. And because we could not use our dinghy either, there was no opportunity to cruise up and down the canal. So - we entertained in the cockpit and gave them a tour of our grand home on the water, and they just had to imagine what it is like to go sailing on Madcap. After picture taking opportunities, we walked over to Santa Marta - across the road, across the old runway, around a couple of corners. I forgot one of those corners so we did a little detour, but eventually made our way to the little restaurant especially recommended by Gail. For about 30 pesos each, we dined on chicken or fish or shrimp along with rice and salad all served by the smiling Michael. He has a job waiting for him in Saskatchewan if he can get a visa from the Canadian government. His English is excellent; his smile is wide; his personality is charming; his ambition is clear - and we all hope he is able to come to Canada.
The six of us walked across the bridge to Varadero and hopped on a horse drawn carriage for a drive to the centre of the town. Rick was anxious to see the Hotel International where he and Francine stayed a number of years ago, so from there, we walked along the beach, splashing our feet through the crystal clear water, and enjoying the sight of families enjoying themselves. It seems odd that in all the time we were at Varadero, we never once went to the beach to swim. I guess we had done lots of that in the Bahamas - and we were here to do other things. Some of the other cruisers took advantage of the bus that runs up and down the strip and the daily rates to enjoy the services of some of the hotels.
From the Hotel Varadero Internacional, (opened in 1950 and while not as big and fancy as the newer ones, still maintaining an elegant retro look) we took a taxi back to the marina. It seemed only fitting that it be in a 1954 Buick that the driver was clearly pleased to see us enjoying. The windows were down, the radio was blaring and the six of us were crammed in there as if we were teenagers back in the day (but none of us is old enough to have done it then!!)
After a full day of enjoying each others company in Cuba, the others headed back to Jibacoa (where they were very pleased with their resort - the snorkelling opportunities - the entertainment - the facilities) and we joined our fellow cruisers for dinner - back at that same little restaurant near the market in Santa Marta.
Gail and Peter (Jabiru) were leaving the next day to head south, so it was a farewell dinner for them, along with Debbie (La Vida Dulce), Rick and Donna (Lorbas), and Chris and Tom (Polar Pacer). Once again, we dined well for little money, and enjoyed practicing our Spanish with Michael.
It was a fine day - of visiting with the folks from Ottawa, and of celebrating the connections with cruising friends. We were thankful - for about the hundredth time this year - for our good fortune.