Sunset on Havana’s Malecon & Cuba Notes

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I’ve just returned from an 11-day trip to Cuba. Like most, I’ve wanted to visit that country for as long as I remember–and when the opportunity and window of time presented themselves this month, I leaped. I visited Havana, Trinidad, Vinales, Santa Clara, and Cienfuegos.

This trip was not for a work assignment. It was for my overall knowledge of the Caribbean–it was a missing piece of the puzzle–and to get insight into a tourism hotspot neighboring the DR, that is about to receive a large and steady influx of Americans starting in September.

In sum, Cuba was not anything I expected. I went through a range of about 100 emotions in 11 days, from happiness to sadness, laughter, frustration, and compassion, to name a few. But more importantly, I learned a lot of history during my visit, and a lot about the way of life, thanks to my local guide. It’s a difficult place to grasp even a little, because it’s hard to infiltrate the local life–I imagine it takes longer than most places. I certainly knew I wouldn’t come remotely close in just 11 days. But it was worth the visit, to see and experience it for myself.

In the coming weeks, I’ll share stories and photos from my cultural trip–which I took with an educational tour company.

For now, you can read the first of my Cuba Notes here–a series of short episodes from my trip–about my first night in Havana. Stay tuned for the next piece.

Hasta pronto!

Hurricane Earl Hits Belize: An Update and How You Can Help

Sea Dreams Hotel after Hurricane Earl

Sea Dreams’ Hotel’s magical Banyan Tree uprooted by Hurricane Earl – August 3, 2016. Photo courtesy of Purple Passion Beauty Studio, Caye Caulker.

On the night of August 3, 2016, a hurricane hit one of my absolute favorite places and homes on earth: Belize.

What was predicted as Tropical Storm Earl–Belize’s National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) did a great job of monitoring and advising people to evacuate–quickly evolved into a category 1 hurricane. And it made its way directly for the Jewel, furiously battering Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye on its way toward Belize City and inland Cayo. With winds of up to 80mph, some long time residents said it was the longest lasting hurricane they’d ever seen and survived in Belize–up to six hours–and that it even had the movements of a tornado at times. A category 1 that felt more like a 2.

Belize City fared the worst with flooding and destroyed homes, while many of my friends and local tourism businesses on Caye Caulker and San Pedro saw their hard work shattered to the ground. No more Palapa Bar, or EZ Boy Tours’ shack (my favorite snorkeling company in Caye Caulker), and a seriously damaged Split. Sea Dreams Hotel, another favorite and great friends of mine, saw their gorgeous, giant banyan tree uprooted. It was the magical centerpiece of this small, lovely seafront property. These couple of post-Earl photos of Caye Caulker are courtesy of >> Continue reading »