SAN CRISTOBAL

When we finally got through Cuban immigration (apparently EVERYONE from the African continent has Ebola, according to all the non African countries we have visited in the last year) , we immediately set about organising a taxi to our casa (which we had not yet booked...). A couple of friendly Kiwis (also known as New Zealanders) overheard us and asked to split the cab.

We ended up staying at the same casa and making friends with the rest of the residents there - more Kiwis and a French/Moroccan couple. The second night in Havana we all went out to dinner together. Our casa hosts booked us a table at San Cristobal Paladar. A paladar "is a term used in Cuba to refer to privately owned restaurants, mostly family-run. About 2 years ago the state started allowing privately run businesses and these paladars are a great, more authentic, alternative to the rather touristy (and expensive) state run restaurants. 

This paladar is on the higher end of the local scale (they only accept CUC for example, the tourist only currency) and when we arrived we were ushered into our own cosy private dining room.

The owner/chef prepared delicious food (again, no photos because it was so good and we were too busy licking our plates clean) and the service was truly fantastic. After dinner the men were served cigars (which obviously annoyed the women at the table)and we all got shots of locally made rum (the men's shots were larger than the women's... coincidence?) - all on the house.

The building used to be a private residence and now the ground floor houses the restaurant, All the walls in the high ceilinged rooms are covered in vintage photos, paintings and prints from Cuba's heyday, when it was still the "Jewel of the Caribbean". In between all the artwork is an extensive collection of vintage clocks, from across the globe, which we found out later is the biggest private collection in the world.

Rufus and I are not known for our heavy drinking, partying and late nights - 9pm is'nt called "cruiser's midnight" for nothing. This evening however we were the last guests to leave, walking home at about 2am. The best part for me was, and this is how you know you are in good company, conversation was so good and so natural that we hardly realised how fast the time passed, none of us were tired and no one had more than 2 drinks the whole evening!

Good food, good people, good memories.

the entrance to the restaurant

outdoor dining area & some of the clocks from the owner's collection

vintage posters

original crystal chandeliers

our private dining room - on the left: Charlette, Ben, me, Chloe. on the right: Louis, Hannah, Rufus & Sami. 

our private dining room - on the left: Charlette, Ben, me, Chloe. on the right: Louis, Hannah, Rufus & Sami. 

Louis (also known as Fidel) and his wife Hannah - the crazierst of the Kiwis (in the best way possible!)

desert: leche frito

desert: leche frito

rum & coffee - great way to end a meal

Ben (pronounced "bin" ) & Charlette - the (slightly) more normal "airport" Kiwis

the boys getting lit up

complimentary cigar service after dinner

feeling ridiculous with my first real cuban

feeling ridiculous with my first real cuban

Chloe and I trying to look elegant with our cigars - it's a lot easier for French women I discovered

Chloe and I trying to look elegant with our cigars - it's a lot easier for French women I discovered

boys and their cigars...

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we were so special that we had two waiters ;)

we were so special that we had two waiters ;)

 

 

CUBA LIBRE!

Over the December holidays we were planning on returning to South Africa for my best friend's wedding. It turns out that flights across the Atlantic, to and from Belize, are astronomically expensive over the December holiday peak season. 

We had already paid for a flight from NYC to Cape Town, but the return and connecting flight from Belize to New York were so expensive we had to give up on our trip home. We had already scheduled with our company that we would be taking those two weeks off, before we even started this job, so we didn't have any work booked during that time. We had to make a plan to do something with ourselves since we don't have a place to stay in Belize, other than the boats that we work on.

Belize is rated as the most expensive country in Central America so we decided to save some money on accommodation etc and visit a more cost effective destination. Cuba has been in my top 5 list of destinations for years and when we found out that Havana is only a short plane ride from Mexico (Belize's neighbour) we decided on the spur of the moment to visit Cuba!

The day after our final charter we hopped on a bus to Mexico, straight to Cancun International Airport. We hadn't had enough time to book a flight in advance so we took a chance and waited 8hrs  at the airline desk to try our luck. Fortunately we managed to secure two of the last four tickets to Havana that day!

Words do not do this island justice. All the photos on the internet cannot capture the energy and charisma of this country, and it's people. It is not at all what you would think it is but, at the same time, it is also everything you hear and read about.

Note: all of these photos were taken by myself and Rufus in Central Havana

Habana Centro: this sweet lady was stoked to get her photo taken

Habana Centro: bicycle taxis waiting for their next passangers

Habana Centro: one of the streets near our firts casa

Habana Centro: colour coordination

on our way to book bus tickets to Vinjales

banana car

images of Che Guevara can be found everywhere in Havana

Habana Centro: view from a Coco taxi

Habana Centro: classic car line up

Habana Centro: 34 seconds left till the green light

Coco taxi

morning traffic in Central Havana

so many motorbikes with side cars in Havana

bicycle taxi on the move

Plaza de la Revolucion - Che Gevara & Camilo Cienfuegos

"Hasta la Victoria Siempre". Che Guevara

Jose Marti Memorial

inside a Coco taxi

looking out the back "window" of a Coco taxi

LOBSTER LOVE

As mentioned in the previous post, we are currently based in Belize, running catamaran charters up and down the islands. On every charter I prepare a lobster dinner for our guests. We normally get our seafood from the local fishing co-op in Belize City. I usually serve the lobster tails with coconut rice and rum flambéd plantain for dinner, on the first night of most charters.

This time however we weren't able to source good sized tails from the local suppliers (we never buy undersized) so we left port without it. Fortunately we came across a couple of friendly fishermen, in a new (to us) snorkel spot, near Bluefield range.

The fishermen gave us 6 just caught, whole, live ones and Rufus got the opportunity to butcher his first lobsters! It turns out that murdering lobster is rather simple: decapitation.

We barbecued them  on the beach today, at Goff's Caye.  (no photos of the finished product because we were too busy eating it). Simple and delicious.

before...

lobster butcher

de...

...capi...

...tation!

lobster head back into the ocean

after!

HAPPY NEW YEAR

We are working in Belize at the moment, running all inclusive catamaran charters. Belize is an idyllic sailing ground, with the second longest barrier reef in the world, after Australia. 

For this New Year's charter we have a brilliant 30-something couple onboard from San Fransisco. They have a great sense of humour and are a blast to be around. So far we have snorkelled with sharks, turtles, rays and a myriad of fish. We have spear fished and made fresh sashimi and ceviche from the catches. We swim in warm chrystal clear waters every day and we have dolphins escorting our catamaran as we sail from one island to the next.

For New Year's Eve, we anchored off Ambergis Caye, in front of the town of San Pedro. We took the dinghy to land, after dinner, to check out the festivities. Unfortunately it was so crowded and there wasn't much of a festive atmosphere, apart from the hundreds of kids playing in the town square... 

After a drink at a local bar, with some live music, we decided to return to our boat to watch the midnight fireworks. What we didn't realize was that the barge which was carrying all the pyrotechnics was anchored 100m from the bow of our catamaran! 

We layed out some towels on the trampolines and used fenders for pillows. Cocktails in hand and music in the background, lying under the stars, we stretched out front row centre for a spectacular show of lights. What an awesome way to ring in the new year. 

How did your 2015 start?


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our view of San Pedro - night shots are not easy from a boat, even a stable catamaran!

our view of San Pedro - night shots are not easy from a boat, even a stable catamaran!

A GOOD YEAR

2014 has been a busy (hence the limited, sporadic blog posting :/ ) blessed year: We left our "real" life of expat work in Zambia for our "dream" life of circumnavigating the globe with our sailboat. We travelled across 3 different continents, more than 20 islands and over 10 countries in total. 

We pushed ourselves harder than we thought we would ever be able to handle; physically, mentally and emotionally. We did another 3 month mini refit on our boat. We had the opportunity to work with 2 great companies in the Caribbean and begin our careers in the luxury yacht charter industry. We had the opportunity to participate in some inspirational creative projects. We celebrated our 6yr wedding anniversary by renewing our vows at the place we first met 13yrs ago. We lost some precious people in our lives but we also gained some exceptional friends from all around the world. The further we have travelled away from home the tighter our bond with our families has become.

This year's constant changes and challenges have given us the opportunity to clearly define our goals and plans for our lives together. We are focused. We are determined. Most of all we are thankful.

We hope that our families and friends have a phenomenal new year and that 2015 brings you all the good things in life: love, laughter, challenges and growth.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

 

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on the roof of the Camera Obscura, overlooking Old Havana, Cuba. Dec 2014.

on the roof of the Camera Obscura, overlooking Old Havana, Cuba. Dec 2014.