Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Staging an intervention

Hi my name is Liz and I am a travel addict.

Adrian and I have had a moratorium in place on travel while we save for our planned round the world adventure (from this point forward known as the Big One). However, we are addicts and we had a relapse. 

It's been 6 months since we've been anywhere and over 13 months since we've been on a real trip and it's another 9 months until we leave on the Big One. So we looked at some prices did some math and chose Cuba. I know, I know, what's a melanin-challenged girl doing chasing the sun? Well, sunburns are my childbirth - the hurt like hell but as time passes I forget the pain and just remember the good times. Plus, it's minus one bazillion in Toronto so a sunburn seems more desirable than frostbite. 

We checked the usual suspects on the net - itravel2000, redtag, selloffvacations, exit - finally finding a $600 all inclusive just outside of Havana, far away from the tourist hell, i mean mecca of Varadero. 

So on January 22 we left for a week. Yes, that also happens to be Adrian's birthday. Good thing, since I'd forgotten to buy a card but could tell him that this trip was my present to him. (phew, that was quick thinking). Here's our day-by-day. Oh and this is going to take forever, so be patient. 

January 22, 2008 - Toronto to Playas del Este
I haven't flown on a charter in probably 10 years. And the last time I stayed at a resort was 5 years ago in West Africa. Not because I'm a snob but because I'm cheap. I've found regular airlines to be just as cheap and with better flight times than charters and resorts often more expensive than going on your own. However time was also a factor so here we were about to fly a charter to an all-inclusive resort. 

I'm not sure what I was expecting in Cuba. Bread line-ups, miserable people, poverty, pushy folks who'd do anything for a bit of money. Guess what, it wasn't like I expected, except of course for our hotel. After 7 hours of travel time (1 hour to the airport, 3.5 hour uneventful flight, 1.5 hours on a bus), we arrived at the Concrete Monstrocity™, known in tourist brochures as Hotel Tropicoco. 

In the unflattering midnight light, it was less tropical paradise and more soviet hospital (most fitting since it was used as a convalescent centre for Venezuelan eye surgery patients last year) - completely devoid of all personality. I wish I could say it looked better in the daylight but that would be a lie - we weren't surprised by it's lack of style. But who cares - we were only 20 minutes outside of Havana which was what we came for not the resort. 

And when you're trying to cure a travel addiction, it helps if the relapse isn't comfortable. 

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