Category Archives: Family vacations

Vaya Con Dios

Just a few days ago I was nestled down in sun and sand to enjoy a week of Cayo Largo.

This small island to the south of Cuba is only 28 km long and 3-4 km wide and hosts all natural beaches and warm Caribbean surf.  A thousand years ago the island was inhabited by a nomadic tribe, the Guayabo Blanco, who lived on wild root vegetables and fruits, as well as fishing and hunting.  Christopher Columbus visited the island on his second trip to Cuba.  Hmm now that is something he and I have in common as this was my second trip.  who knew?  Chris Columbus, Chris King….sort of has a nice ring doesn’t it?

The island was also a popular destination of pirates and privateers and included John Hawkins, Sir Francis Drake (although he was not a Sir at the time), and Henry Morgan who apparently buried all his treasure somewhere in the key in 1666.

The island is inhabited by many large and small birds including parakeets and parrots and gulls cranes and pelicans, none of which I came across.  However there was one not so wee critter I crossed paths with that quite took me by surprise because of his camouflage which blended him right into the rocks I decided to lean against.  He didn’t seem to mind and stirred not a muscle but you can be sure I did and quickly.

The iguana is indigenous to the island and come in all sizes.  This fellow from nose to tail tip was about 3 feet.

Palm trees, palapas and warm Caribbean waters are all kept in as natural state as possible.  There are no permanent residents of this Cayo (Island).  The staff reside in temporary quarters for 20 days at a stretch and then are flown or boated home for a 10 day leave.  All employees work very long hours during their work term being on site in the wee hours of the morning and present til the late evening hours.  They do get a mid afternoon break but their time on the island is work and sleep.  There is an international airport on the island and it was quite pleasant to have only a ten minute commute from the airport to the hotel.

This is not a wild ‘let’s party hardy’ island and travel agents make it quite clear that if you are looking for night life and lots of varied activity you should look at another place.  There are some local trips to the marina and catamaran tours, swimming with the dolphins and turtles and huge starfish, but by and large the destination is designed for peace and quiet, something that meets my requirements.  It is interesting that the age groups ranged from small children to young adults to the uh more mature set.

When I travel I love those little airports where you embark and disembark from the ground itself.  Somehow it feels so adventurous.

Our destination on the island was Playa Blanco meaning white beach and it was the whitest sand I think I have encountered to date.

The Cuban people are amazing hosts and they consistently provide a safe hospitable environment.  Vacationers cannot purchase their currency prior to arriving in the country.  The CUC is a tourist peso which currently reflects the US dollar I think.  For one hundred dollars Canadian I got almost ninety-four pesos which isn’t too bad a deal.

It was a delightful week and it was with fond memories that I bade the island adios and Vaya Con Dios until next time.

First Failed Flush of Love – Actually

Ah First Love

First Failed Flush of Love Actually
These slightly overcast hot humid July mornings sometimes serve up, in addition to a light sprinkling of temporary rain, a particular memory from a land far away, a time long ago. Actually a time long ago not so much on the land faraway, except it does seem in my mind to have been a million miles away. A land distanced by time I guess.
We were going on vacation to a cottage probably somewhere in the Haliburton or Muskoka region of Ontario where lakes meet forest meet city dudes for a limited week or two each year. It had to have been the late fifties, a time before, air conditioning, seat belts, road service and car radios that could receive signals outside a city limits.
Cars broke down all the time, or at least threatened to, but were easily fixed with a patch, hot air, or a good smack along it’s frame. I remember one trip where the engine kept overheating and the only solution was to drive with the heat blowing on max on the hottest day of the year.
There were seven of us that year, two parents and five kids and I cannot remember what kind of car it was but it easily accommodated four or five wee bodies. I’m thinking we were between twelve and six years old. I was the oldest and considered myself a diva of sorts without knowing that word existed, and for sure possessed that false prepubescent sophistication where really, nothing associated with family was good enough for this princess and Mom and Dad became Mother and Father and really, what kind of car we drove and where we went was below my level of interest..sigh.
I don’t remember much about the cottage except it must have had walls, enough bedrooms and probably and indoor loo as that is one memory that would have caught my royal attention.
One day on the beach, no, not white sand, probably a stony beach with large rocks lining the shore, I found myself talking to a boy. There was none of the discomfort or awkwardness that preteens often start to feel, just nice pleasant conversation. It turned out that he lived very close to my house and knew my brother. Then the conversation took a turn that screamed, ‘hormones at work here!’ but of course I would not recognize that message for a few years.
“How old are you?” he asked.
Not sure what to say here as all of a sudden it occurred to me that I did not want him to know I was just a silly kid (it seems the diva devil flees in the face of true love). After a pause I countered brilliantly with, “How old are you?” feeling much like Baby must have felt when she uttered the words, “I carried a watermelon.”
“Fifteen,” he replied, head down, hands in his pockets and kicking dirt with his right foot.
Whew, I knew it was safe to lie since he obviously was not fifteen.
“Well I’m fourteen,” and he nodded. He said that his family was going home the next day, (and mine still had a week to go), and asked if he could call me for a date sometime.
Our week passed and I soon forgot about the encounter but a few days after returning home I got a phone call. Now phone calls back then were rare. No one actually phoned unless there was a specific purpose to said call. And there were party lines so every conversation could be heard by most of the neighborhood.
Anyway, the call came on a Saturday morning and he asked if I could go to the matinee that afternoon with him?
I asked my Mom, and explained who this fellow was, and my brother corroborated his decent character, and Mom said yes.
I was a bit in awe at the potential of a first date but was pretty cool and calm about it, while my mother made me put on an actual dress and comb my hair (I was pretty much a tomboy like Trixie Belden then so gave no thought to ‘dressing up.’
Then I waited. And waited. And waited. I was not particularly upset, just a little confused maybe but I had not invested any hopes and dreams in this guy so it was no biggie, although looking back; it probably was for my mother.
Later that day a hurried whispered call came from my suitor who apologized for not showing up because his Mom had gotten mad at him and grounded him. He sounded totally humiliated and embarrassed.
“No problem,” said I, quite sincerely and meaning it. And then I promptly forgot about it, except every now and then on a hot humid overcast, July morning, my mind does that little time travel thing, where I find myself standing on a stony beach.

*The ‘Actually’ series are stories of childhood and family and memories.

Thanks to Photobucket for providing photos.