From Relaxing in Cuba to Coming Home to the Cold

Wednesday March 22nd

The rest of our time in Cuba passed quickly and restfully. One Wednesday, after our late night, we didn’t get up and moving until after 11am. We headed to see Miguel and book ourselves into the Spa for the next afternoon. He told us how the spa worked. There would be a ride at 1:45 for us in the hotel lobby the next day.

When we were finished the buffet was closed so we headed down to the 24hr bar and had a quick meal. Then I needed sunscreen before I could spend more time in the sun, all the stuff we brought was used up. We went into the little shop at the resort. They had sunscreen, the cheapest bottle was 18CUC or 25 Canadian Dollars. The most expensive sunscreen I would own, but better to pay then to burn.

We headed to the pool and sat in the sun and read for a few hours, until we felt hungry. Then it was off to lunch. After lunch we went to the room to drop off everything we had. Then it was back to the pool. This was the first time I got into the pool, despite it being the 4th day at the hotel. We swam out to the pool bar. That’s where most of the people in the pool hang out.

We met so many other Canadians at the bar. I think out of the few hundred people at the resort 95% or more were Canadian. People mainly came from the East coast because it is closer for them and also significantly less expensive then travelling from the West Coast.

We stayed at the pool bar until it closed at 5pm. After we joined a few others in a game of pass in the pool, they had both a Frisbee and a football. We had a fun time and we were also able to watch a budding Spring Break fling between two of the others.

When the sun went behind the buildings and the night began to cool. Amber and I left the people in the pool and headed for our room to dry off and change for dinner. When we finished dinner we headed back to the room. We decided to have some quiet time and stayed in. We tried the TV but it was bad. The best thing on was the Disney Channel. We played cards, Amber taught me a new card game. I took it home and taught it to my family and we are really enjoying it. I also learned a dice game, something that I have never played before. It was a night relaxing night.

Thursday

We spent all morning at the pool. We had breakfast and then claimed two pool chairs and moved only to flip over. There was something going on for the children that morning. Staff members were dressed as pirates and were taking kids all over the compound following a map. I heard that in the end they were digging for treasure down on the beach.

For lunch we tried the beach restaurant. It fills up fast so we went there right at noon when it opened. By 12:20 or 12:30 the place was full and people were waiting. The place was busy because other then the buffet it is the only restaurant that doesn’t require reservations.

After lunch we went back to our pool chairs until it was time to run to the room and drop off some things and get what we would need for the spa. We waiting in the lobby for our ride, it ended up being about 15 minutes late but other then that the spa was so relaxing.

The spa building is very nice. We walked into a large open area with a garden in the centre. We went to the deck and looked at the packages. We decided to add to the package we chose. We had:

Chocolate wrap

45 minute back massage

15 minute foot massage

30 minute facial with exfoliate, massage and mask

Access to the different salt water pools

We stopped to have a relaxing welcome drink, then we were given looker keys and led to the change rooms. From there we exited to the pool area by the beach. We relaxed in the pool chairs. The only other people were getting a message in a pavilion by the sea. After a short wait we were taken to one of the seaside pavilions and that is where we had our chocolate wraps. It was amazing, a cute guy dipped his hands in chocolate and massaged it all over me. Then I sat and enjoyed the view while he did the same to Amber. Then we were left for a bit while the chocolate did it’s job, exfoliated and drew out toxins (or something like that).

Then came the worst part of the entire thing. Getting of the table. While we had relaxed the sticky chocolate had glued us to the table. It was painful to sit up and hop off the table. Also my thighs suck together so bad that I had bruises later from where my skin pulled as my thighs unstuck. We were taken back to the change room where we could shower off the chocolate.

Then it was back out to the pool. This time there was a new couple in the jacuzzi. The bar was included in the spa trip so we thought about getting a drink but before we could get one we were collected for our massage.

We, unfortunately, did not have a seaside massage, but we had a small double room. We lay on the bed and relaxed as we had our back massage. It was so nice. I felt so boneless. When we were finished we flipped over and had our facial. The guy who was working with me had very gentle hands. He was so soft. Then the mask was applied and while it dried he moved to my feet.

I think I did well, I only twitched once or twice while he was massaging my feet. Then he was a bit firmer and it was no longer ticklish. I never wanted it to end. It made me think of Thailand and the hour long foot massages that you could get for about 10$.

Then it was time for them to remove the face mask and finish their services. We were free to relax in the room for a minute and then move to the pool area and we could leave when we wanted too, they would call our driver.

Amber and I headed out to the bar and had a quick drink looking over the water. Then it was time to change out of our robes and leave the spa. I was sad to go. I wish that it was more affordable at home. I would treat myself more often.

Back at the hotel we sat by the pool getting the last of the sun until it was time to get ready for dinner. We had reservations at the oriental restaurant. I was curious to see what the menu was like. It was westernized and similar to what would be found at a Chinese restaurant in North America.

When we were seated the lady told us that the portions were small and she recommended that we order a starter, rice, main, and a dessert. Okay with me. I had teriyaki meatballs, vegetable rice, beef noodles, and caramel flan for dessert.

As we exited Amber thought a different path would be shorter back to the room and I thought not, so we set a walking pace and raced back to the hotel room, I won. We headed from the room up to the lobby and tried to use the internet. It was such a pain that night. Not only that but people were smoking a lot by the bar. We went into the internet cafe to escape the smoke. When we finished with the WiFi we headed back to the room because Amber was feeling sick. We decided to go to bed early and hope Amber felt better in the morning.

Friday

For Friday morning we set an alarm. Not because there was anything important to do but because the sun rose on our beach and we wanted to be up to see it at least once. We learned upon waking that Amber had caught something was still feeling poorly. She powered through though and we headed down to the beach to sit and watch the sun rise.

The weather was windy and there were clouds in the sky. It was a great morning to watch the sky. There were no other people only some birds fighting the wind to find leftovers along the beach.

After a wonderful sunrise we headed to the buffet for a quick breakfast. Then it was back to bed. We napped and lazed around until about 9:30. We went to change our destination and laze around by the pool but before we could there was papers stuck in our door. We left them in the room and headed to people watched and read by the pool. We saw some of the same people that we’d been running into the entire trip. They told us there was a beach party that night. We said we’d think about it.

Around 1 started to get hungry. Amber was so miserably sick she wasn’t hungry at all, I went to eat alone for the first time. I returned to the pool after and we lay around until the heat and sickness drove Amber back to the hotel room. We rested and napped in the room for awhile.

Amber asked me for the time and I told her 5:59pm. She jumped up, we had a dinner reservation at 6pm. I had forgotten, oops. We were up and dressed and out the door in less than 5 minutes. We weren’t to far from the BBQ Grill where we were having dinner, so we weren’t that late.

Our choices for dinner at the restaurant were chicken, fish, or steak. I don’t know if I’ve ever had a steak but if I have it was more than 15 years ago. So I decided to order one (medium-well). It will never be my first choice of meals but I could eat it again if it was offered.

After dinner we headed to the lobby to get some change for the last of our tipping. We stopped at the lobby bar for a short while. Then we headed back to the room and filled in the paper that had been left, they were opinion cards. If you hand them in your entered into a draw for a free stay next year.

When it was time to think about the beach party there were two factors we considered. Amber was still sick and would not like to be out all night at the mercy of the tour bus, it had also started to rain heavily. Not something that would absolutely stop us from going but Amber was already sick. And really I don’t think either of us felt up to it on our last night in Cuba. We stayed in instead.

Saturday

I did not sleep well Friday night. Maybe it was me trying to deny that I to leave. Most trips I take are busy as I try to pack in as much as possible during my time. This trip was a relaxing, slow paced trip that I need to consider doing a little more often.

I woke a few times and just went back to sleep. I checked the clock at 5am and went back to sleep. It wasn’t until 7:30 that I decided to read rather then go back to sleep. Amber was still sleeping and I didn’t want to wake her. She didn’t stir until closer to 9. She was still sick, so much so that she didn’t want to get up and head for breakfast. I went alone, tasked with bringing back toast for Amber.

When I got back it was time to pack our bags and do a final check of the room. We put off leaving as long as possible. So long that reception phoned to ask if we wanted a porter to come and help with our bags. We said no thanks and made sure we had everything before leaving the room at almost noon.

We put our bag in holding and went to go sit by the pool. It wasn’t crowded but every lounger had a towel on it to reserve (even though there are signs asking you not to).

We walked along the stretch of beach in front of our hotel. Many of the beach loungers here were also full. We made it down to the beach in front of the neighbouring hotel. That hotel looked empty compared to ours. There were so many empty sunbeds. We walked until the beach ended and a rocky outcropping started. We turned and walked back to our hotel. We went for our final lunch at the buffet. After a week the food was beginning to feel very familiar but there was still enough choice that we didn’t feel sick of it.

After lunch we went back to the beach and realized that the only bar we hadn’t had a drink from was the beach bar. We remedied that fact and then took in our last bit of Cuban sun while sitting on loungers on the beach. When we left the beach we headed up to get our bags from the storage room. We had put a change of clothes suitable for the cold Canadian weather we expected to face. Amber changed but I held off.

We went down and had our last dinner at the buffet. Then all we had time for was to grab our bags out of the storage room again. I changed into jeans and layers and we waited for the bus to come and take us away. The bus picked us up and had many of the people that it had dropped off a week ago. We were all sad to leave.

The airport at Cayo Coco is small. It only has about 10 desks in total. Some of those desks were for Air Transat and some were for Air Canada. With only 4 desks open and everyone getting off the bus, with more buses arriving we had a little bit of a wait to check in our bags. Both were under weight and no shuffling had to be done. This was good because all the souvenirs were in the hard shelled suitcase.

Customs was some small little closed in paths that had an agent behind a desk. Then it was a quick pass through security to the waiting area upstairs. The airport is one long rectangle with a gate at either end. People mingled in the middle while they waited for their flights.

Around 10:30pm we boarded our Air Canada flight to Toronto. I quickly fell asleep after take-off. We landed just before 2am. We had to go through customs at this time. Thankfully many large Canadian airports, Toronto included, have mostly done away with custom agents and have move to an automated system for Canadian nationals. This meant no long lines. We were quickly through customs and off to collect our bags and check in again.

The departures area is not the easiest place to navigate but we figured it out. We tried to get seats at an automated stand but were unable to. So we went down to the domestic area to drop our bags off for our flight. In our tiredness we tore of the baggage tags in anticipation for new ones but we shouldn’t have done that, they were tagged all the way to Vancouver. We waited in line with other people from our flight and watched as at just before 3am other people joined us in our line. Of course there was only one person working in domestic at the time and his current job was to turn on all the computer and get ready for the day, not help the people waiting.

At about 3am we were able to get new bag tags and drop our bags. We asked about why our boarding pass said GTE. We were informed we were on standby. It wasn’t that guys fault so I had no reason to get mad but I wanted to. I paid for my flight, and I had many hours of travelling still ahead after reaching Vancouver. I was going to do everything in my power to be on that flight. But if you are put on standby and do not get on your flight you will be monetarily compensated. Not that they could pay me enough to miss my flight.

We went to security but it wasn’t open. We heard rumour it opened at 3:30am so we sat inline and waited. It didn’t open at 3:30. At about 3:45 someone came out and saw the line and seemed shocked while disappearing back behind the closed doors. Just before 4am they opened up and we were able to get through security.

We found our gate and found that there were no comfortable places to sleep. All the chairs had armrests. Instead we tucked out things under the chairs and curled up on the floor to try and get more sleep. I drifted in and out.

I think it was around 5:30 that the gate agents arrived. There were a lot of people that flooded over to them because they had also been put on standby. From what I overheard a plane was going to be late and so people were taken off the flight to Vancouver but then made up time en route and were put back on the flight. I have no idea what that has to do with us though, we had checked in long before they would have known this and I still didn’t have a seat.

The poor lady kept giving everyone that same answer, she was working on it. Before I had been hoping we would get bumped up because the plane would be full but after seeing how many people were on standby with us I knew that we wouldn’t get bumped. I waited rather then hassle the poor woman, she was already working on the problem. They began to call people as they put them in seats. Amber and I ended up with seats in the very last row. That sucks a little because they don’t recline as far but at least we were on the plane.

While we waited for the plane to board we talked with other people that had come from Cuba and were flying on the Vancouver and other destinations, many on the island. We were talking about the ferry and one woman said she was taking a seaplane. These are 20 minute little flights that go from the South Terminal to Nanaimo Harbour. We ended up thinking about it. As the lady pointed out our time was valuable and we shouldn’t wait for a 2 hour ferry before making our long drive home, the extra fare on the flight would be worth our time.

Once on the plane I started to watch “Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them” but couldn’t get into the story. I eventually turned it off and got a few more hours of sleep. I wanted one of us to be rested and Amber was still sick and has troubles taking naps. When I woke up we had about an hour left in our flight. I watched a bit of TV. Amber and I also hummed and hawed about taking a flight vs. taking the ferry.

When we landed and were able to use the phone we looked up the times for the flights and found that we could catch the 11:40am flight and land on the island at noon. If we took the ferry we wouldn’t catch it until noon and arrive on the island around 2. We called and booked to flights on Harbour Air. It was a great decision on our part.

Because the flight had been domestic there was no customs or anything to take up our time we headed directly to the luggage carousel and waited for our bags. Once they came we headed upstairs to find somewhere for breakfast. Airlines now a days don’t seem to feed you nearly as much as they used too and by that I mean not at all, or not included anyways. I feel that I already paid hundreds of dollars, the least you could do is give me a snack, or not charge me 15$ for a sandwich. On the airport side we found a restaurant and had a nice sit down breakfast.

Then it was off to the other terminal. There is a shuttle service that takes you there. It is nice to have because we were back in the dreary, drizzling Pacific Northwest, one of the rainiest places on earth. It was raining hard too, with wind for extra fun. This comes to play because Harbour Air flights take off from the river nearby and not the South Terminal its self, so we still had a walk in the rain but it was much shorter.

We check into our flight and they had a little lounge area with free treats and hot beverages. It was a nice little wait for the flight. It doesn’t take them long at all to load the plane and get ready. It also only has 13 seats, so there’s not much to do for baggage and stuff.

I found some earplug in my seat so I popped those in and waited for take off. The flight was a little bumpy because of the wind but it was also pretty great because the plane flies so low you can see everything. There were some ships on the water and you could watch the little islands pass by.

We landed without a problem but because of the wind and the plane landing ahead of us, once we landed we did a few circles on the water to wait for space at the dock to open up. We docked about 20 minutes late, but we had passed they ferry before ours, so we had made great time.

Grandma was waiting for us parked in some unknown location at the terminal. She said where but neither Amber or I were sure about where she meant so we walked around in the wind and rain until she drove up and found us. Then it was back to where we’d left the car so we could begin our drive home.

Amber brought some audio books so we listened to one of those for the drive home. It wasn’t bad, I’d do that again for the long drive, especially because there is a 2+ hour stretch with nothing but AM radio, if that.

As much as I loved my time in Cuba it was great to get home and sleep in my bed.

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