Trinidad Cuba and my love affair

The drive to Trinidad was long. 9.5 hours to be exact. 

The drive itself is not too diverse in scenery. It reminds me of driving through an Asian country. Tropical, paddocks, little shacks.  Cubans sitting on their verandahs. In their rocking chairs passing time, smoking, drinking coffee or rum. What’s the hurry anyway. Everything manana. Everything can be done tomorrow. 

Enter Trinidad. My head turns right, left, side to side in excitement. Once again I am captivated. 

Our casa is typically Cuban style. Orange walls, gold bedspreads and gold sheer polka dot curtains. It is a feast for the eyes to enjoy. 50s Retro, Art Deco, eclectic all rolled into one. 

The streets remind me of little towns in Spain. Perhaps not as near or tidy, but as quaint and cute all the same. Cobblestone roads with the cobbliest cobbles you have ever seen, look fabulous but are hard to walk on. Colourful houses one after another all offering their houses as casas, for extra income. 

Casa, restaurant, maybe a private home, bar, casa, shop, souvenir shop, followed by another restaurant and so it goes. Shops selling paintings of Fidel and Che. Amazing artists, you will see the sitting at their windows painting and subsequently selling the finished masterpiece, trinkets of this and that, beautiful hand made (by co-operatives(groups)  of local women) crocheted scarves, tops and dresses. Hand made linen shirts, doilies, table clothes, pretty embroidered tops. Not cheap in Cuban terms, but certainly cheap for us westerners. 

Street dogs continue to break my heart. Some seem to fare okay, some are a little worse for wear.  They bark, they chase horses and bikes, they make me laugh. They are having fun. They are friendly if people gave them a chance, always looking for a feed or a pat. People are scared to touch them. This is sad for me to grasp. 

Trinidad has certainly geared itself towards tourism and why not.  There are so many restaurants. You wonder how they fill them, then buses,  full of tourists arrive and the streets are swarming. Walking tours, horse riding tours and so on. Trinidad is reaping the tourism benefits. 

This little town does seem to be a little bit more finically comfortable than what we have seen to date. As you walk past each house you see in to their living quarters. How? They only have shutters over their one front window which is covered by bars, think Spanish architecture late 1800s, they leave their shutters wide open and stand a greet people as they walk past. Hola, com esta, hello how are you?  Again friends congregate at these windows, on footpaths In the town centre. 

We walked the streets until we reached where the real Trinidad begins. Cobblestone roads turned into rocky roads turned into complete rabble. We see the poorer side once again. The people still beautiful, hola, can we please take a photo we ask? Si si, they are so accommodating. Like they are posing for a magazine,they stand, they smile. 

The textures, the colours, the unevenness all add to its appeal. This is the trinidadian life. Men walking around selling garlic and onions strung together, thrown over their shoulders. Yelling out to the locals. Every one is yelling, always yelling. 

Bike ridden carts selling fruits, horses tied up in front of houses, men in cowboy hats. Women wanting to swap clothes with me, children playing soccer in the street or small park, people with their doors wide open, barred in or not,  watching tv, which is so loud. Everything is loud in this what we thought was a quiet town. Old women sitting at their barred windows, that is their tv, never moving, when you look closer, you can see their beds tucked in behind them. This is their life. Watching the modern world develop before their old eyes. A different life to what they once knew. They always say hola. 

They stand at the front doors and smile. We ask again, may we take photo. Some say so si yes yes and pose, some are shy and wave and finger no no no.  Always giving a smile though. 

As I think back to the street dogs around the city square, I take in a whole different perspective here in this more traditional, poorer area. Dogs are house dogs, sitting well fed and protected in doors, at the barred windows. It’s quite contradictory in my thinking. 

We find a gelato store. Yum. We had to eat quickly as it drips down our hands. 

Teenagers stop and watch as we pass, they talk amongst themselves. I wonder what they are saying. 

Trinidad like Havana is a photographers delight. Every way you look. Photo opportunity. Another too good to miss. 

The number one attraction here is a history museum. Not particularly for what it has on show, but for the rickety old spiral stairs that you climb to reach the tower. I climbed them, and it was worth it for the view. Just as I was told. I could see the whole city, the mountains and glimpses of the sea. The sea is about 12km from town. 

The same opportunity was rewarded to us in a convent as in the history museum, climb the rather volatile looking staircase to the bell tower to again look over this magic city. From this view it almost took on a Moroccan feel. The colours of blues, terracotta’s and sand with shattered brick roof tops. I love this little place. 

Old cars still around in the city, probably in more disrepair than those seen in Havana. 

Shut your eyes and just listen. They chat incessantly,  they have real conversations. With passion, they yell, talk over one another, they laugh. It’s wonderful to hear. I wish I knew what they were saying! 

Dinners and drinks in roof top restaurants, offering food so cheap it seems unfair. You pay for a main meal and for example you get, bread and dips, fried plantain (banana) that is so good, soup, salad, white and black rice, black beans, croquette made from rice and vegetables, then your main meal, whatever you order and fruits to finish. Yes we eat every last bite! All for about 8-12 Australian dollars. My mojito or daiquiri around 3-4 dollars. 

Walking the dark streets at 10.30pm, it’s hard to see. Arriving at our casa just in time, the heavens opened like tomorrow was never coming. We made it. Then the electricity went off. Total blackness, feeling our way around unfamiliar surroundings. We find our room. It rained all night. Loud rain pelting, dogs crying, cats meowing, sounds I’ve never heard before. So so hot. Pillows that felt like bricks. Not much sleep was had, but I am in Cuba and that is the best thing. 

Morning, overcast, rain has stopped, still humid, the streets are slowly drying up

Everyone sits in one of the two city squares to get there internet access which you pay around 1-2 dollars per hour. 

Simple needs = simple life. 

Around 1pm daily the streets quieten down, its siesta time for those who are happy with their lot, for those still wanting to reap those touristic benefits,  you will still hear taxi? You want best cigars in town? Drink? Eat? Coffee? 

Dinner at the most amazing, you must visit restaurant called La Redaccion. The building, the food, the service, out of this world. Look out for Yardier, the best waiter, who will make you happy with just his personality. Give him a big tip. A must do is please visit the toilets in this place. Grand does not describe it. 

The last 3 nights we noticed the streets quiet early at night. A contradiction to what we have been told about the music scene and dancing. 10.30pm everything has been quiet, no dancing, just quiet. Speaking to a local this evening, we were educated to the whys of the lack of music and dancing. The country had been mourning in the loss of 119 lives in the devastating airplane accident recently. A nation united.  These people continue to warm my heart. They are probably some of the nicest, kindest, compassionate people I have met in a foreign country. 

I cried for a long time that day

Leaving Vinales

I step out on to the balcony and take in the view one last time. It is breathtaking as the sun rises over the mogotes (mountains). Feeling a little melancholy as I know it really will be the last time. I silently say thank you for the experience as I breathe in one more breath and turn and walk away. I leave my room to be greeted by my cats. “I’m sorry I have to leave you” I pat them, say goodbye and wish for them, that another tourist will come and give them food and love soon. 

I board our little bus heading for Trinidad armed with food for whoever, dog or cat I meet on the way. It does not take long. Our first stop. One nursing mum approaches me, I feed her, then another comes, and another. 3 mums, all hungry, all recently given birth, where are their babies? I feed them all I have. I pat and talk to them. My soul is literally crying. The first one in particular looked at me with such appreciation. Through her infected eyes, a sadness beyond what I was able to cope with. I saw appreciation and thanks not for only the food I just gave her but for some tenderness and affection. I patted her, tickled behind her ears, under her chin for as long as I could, I didn’t want to leave her. I had to leave. I said goodbye with so much sadness in my heart and wished her a better next life. Looking back from our bus watching her for as long as I could see her, I cried. I cried for a long time this day.  F735C578-B44F-481A-9608-E29C203925D4

Havava with love

 

 

Havana 

Will this aeroplane actually leave the ground? 

Concerning thoughts are growing as I look at the other customers boarding flight AA1447 from Miami to La Habana (local lingo) 

Everyone appears to be carrying anywhere between 50 & 100kg. Just an average. The bags are plastic wrapped in enough layers to cover the state of Miami.

The Cubans seem to come to the US to buy up big on anything and everything.  Electronics, toiletries, clothing, air conditioning units.  It is obviously worth it for the additional baggage fees they pay, not to mention taxes and fines which we find out about in a few hours. 

 

Hola. 

First tip never bring a drone in to Cuba

Wow this place. Enter. Sniffer dogs running around playing, don’t be fooled though, they do there job too. One disaster after another. Only one luggage belt working for 4 international flights, every Cuban having their imports checked. Thoroughly one by one. A drone, oh no, we wait and wait to have it confiscated until our departure. See my first top! 4 hours later. Exchange money. No can do, we don’t have enough money! What?

Leave the airport, pouring rain, actually I won’t even use the word pouring, it’s not descriptive enough, torrential, flooding streets rain. Yep welcome to Cooba, Habana. Woo hoo we are here! 

Arriving at our casa ( Cuban owned house they rent out to tourists ). We wait out the rain. As we were leaving to explore, we were warned. Be careful of walking under balconies. They can fall down. Craig laughed. No serious the lady said. 

The start to Cuba is somewhat crazy but we are still smiling and positive as are all the Cubans we have met so far. 

Think the 1950s/60s, it is like time has stood still. Nothing has moved on 

La Habana is a photographers delight. Turn left photo opportunity, turn right, look up, look down, photo opportunity after photo opportunity. Even the novice would take delight in Havana. Gorgeous people smile, yell hola, where you from? Australia, ahhh skippy. 

They want to show or tell you something amazing about their country, maybe sell you a service, like a ride around town in an old vintage cabs, a ford convertible, chevys and Buick’s, in their bold and bright colours or a maybe you prefer the bike cab. Young Cuban men cycle you around showing you the sights for 10 cucs. ($10) we did this, our man, Massile chatted to everyone as we rode, the men welcome each other with a hand shake and a kiss on the cheek, girls hold hands, when did we grow so unaffected and lose that intimacy in Australia?  Massile tried his luck chatting up girls. He was thoroughly

entertaining. He taught me a few salsa steps to prepare me for the clubs. There are little Cuban tuk tuks and bubble (that’s what they look like) cabs. But, by no means are they pushy. You say no, they smile and tell you to enjoy your day. 

A neglected city that is poor but it is still so beautiful at the heart and soul of it. It has a personality of its own. We are captivated. Love at first sight. 

We sat at the hotel inglaterra to taste my first Cuban mojito. Taking in the ambience as the band played. This is the first hotel built in Havana dating back to 1890.  Winston Churchill was even a customer here in 1895. God I live history. 

Cigar smoke twirls through the air as men and for that matter women smoke big fat cigarillos. Older men dressed like Fidel himself look totally hip and cool in this city. Murals of Fidel, Che and Camilla are painted or drawn on many walls around the city. Street corners and parks come alive with small bands, locals dance sexily, smoking cigarettes and drinking Cuban coffee.  People rest any where and everywhere, on a step, a bench, a cart carrying there fruits. Holes in the walls with locals selling 50cent pizzas. 

The colours of everything everywhere are vibrant and exciting. Old men sit on steps chatting about life. A bride and groom are being chauffeur driven through the small Havana streets in s convertible. Honking the horn constantly. Everyone including us cheers as they drive past. A group dressed up sing, dance and twirl their way through the streets, the people part to let them through. Life is to be enjoyed here in Cuba. 

We are staying at a casa in Habana Street. It’s simple. A lounge with a couch and 2 chairs. A bed room with 2 small double beds and a bathroom. Nothing else. Simple. What drew us to this place was the little roof top terrace that looked colourful and pleasant to sit for an afternoon mojito. Hahhaha the reality was vastly different. Check out the photos. We still loved it nonetheless. Next door lives an old lady, when we come home at night she is sitting in a wooden rocking chair, behind the big iron gate, in the morning when we leave the casa she is still sitting, unmoved in the same spot. I say hola with a smile, she nods and says hola back. So content with life, this lady is, as are all the locals. 

No internet, value adds to the life of the Cubans in my eyes. They live. They congregate in parks, on corners, at front doors, in the streets. They talk, they laugh, they play music, drink coffee, they live. I am envious of the simplicity. 

On the other side of our Casa,  lives a man, he plays Cuban/Latin music, all day, every day, it’s playing in the morning when we get up and it is still playing when we go to bed. Somehow it is just fabulous and does not disturb or prevent you sleeping. We are steeping ourselves into Cuban life and I like it.  

As I said earlier, there is no internet in Cuba, but occasionally someone will have paid for internet which creates a hot spot. You know when you have found one of those hot spots as there are groups of people, especially young ones sitting in the street using their phones for 5 minutes of internet. A young local will be selling the password to the street users for a small fee.  

Mojitos delicious beyond words. I had to have a mojito in memory of the legend Ernest Hemingway. We visited his favourite bar here in Havana, where I signed the wall along with thousand of other signatures. The Mojitos here are as strong as they are tasty. 

Wedges ? Sugared cornchips, sound awful, no it’s not. Quite delish actually, as are the chips they sell. The Cuban version of potato crisps. Thinly sliced potatoes fried. Both are sold around the streets in paper cones for 1 or 2 cucs. Close to the Australia equivalent. ($1or 2)

Food is cheap here, everything is cheap here. For bread, starter, main course and a few drinks 40 cucs. That is what we have been paying for 2 drinks lately in other destinations. The meals are big, fresh and they are very accommodating to dietary needs, if they understand what you mean! 

Our casa provided the most scrumptious breakfasts. Fresh, in season fruits and juices. Toasts, anything you desire. Nothing to much trouble. 

Dogs run through the streets at their will and play. They are happy, just like the people and mostly seem somewhat well cared for.

A bubble cab to the north side of town where we walked an alleyway. Painted by an artist, sculptures made from iron and bathtubs, if one word could be used, spectacular would be it. Every Sunday locals play the drums and another party has started, walk 10 minutes to the food that was truly scrumptious . A Cuban with insight to a European/Cuban mix.  Cocktails are again delicious and cheap.This part of Habana is even cheaper. 30cucs for cocktails, beers, starters and mains. So much food. Hello another 3 kg. 

We found a club. Latin music, mojitos, dancing. Locals and tourists mixing together. We strolled our at midnight. Took a taxi, with no handles on the inside and barely a seat, but 10 cucs took us back to our casa and that 10 cucs will buy the driver and his friend  a days worth of food, drinks, cigarettes etc. 

Whilst we have our daily downpour of torrential madness. We make the most of indoors. A visit to the very educational  and moving Museum of Revolution 

I learnt, I cried, I have even more respect for these strong people and their country. Viva La Cuba. 

I am further intrigued and am now on a mission to learn more. 

Second Tip ( for the girls )byo toilet paper. It is not readily available in toilets, which are few and far between unless you pop in for a drink, use the toilet, then as you have had more liquid intake, you will need another stop ( phew)  you can buy one square in some places for 50cents. Hold on girls!  

I could chat for hours about this place. So much to tell but for Facebook, this is it. 

Hasta Luego

See you later 

To the Bahamas and back

On board Royal Carribean  enchantment of the seas

 

Sail away @ 4.15

From a port I have never before been

 

The party starts straight away 

Cocktails, beers, nachos,

It’s only the first day

 

Bahama mama the waiter yells

Another new cocktail

With all the whistles and bells

 

800 staff are working on board

2700 extras plus us add to the hoard

 

How this boat fails to sink

Causes my poor brain

To over think 

Day one, getting to know the ship. Restaurant 1, 2,3, 4,and so on. Check, bars, how many ? Too

Many to count 

In all seriousness a cruise is a cruise wherever you may be.  Why is it that it always seems to rain when you are on a cruise ?

Cruises are basically a frenzy of over consuming. Food and alcohol. The more the better.  So there is a saying a 3 day cruise is a 3kg cruise etc. so does that mean we gain 3 kg over the next 3 days. Feeling thankful in more ways than one that this is not a 30 day cruise. 

Day 2 Coco Cay, it rained.  

Craig and I did have a beautiful experience. We went and swam with the sting rays. When you enter the water, if you stay calm, move slowly they apparently sense your vibration and swim around you, even rubbing up against you.  Which happened. Obviously a calm soul, they swam around me. Their smooth skin rubbing against my legs and their tails rough like a cats tongue. 

Dumpling a rescue stingray, poor darling was a shark attack survivor, and cannot go put into the open water now. I was very fortunate and that I had an amazing interaction with her, she was very beautiful and calm, I held her and even gave her a little kiss on her head. Who knew they were so gentle. 

An Aussie with a stingray brings up the subject of Steve Irwin, who they fondly refer to as the crocodile hunter. RIP Steve. 

What else did we do? EAT, shows, cocktails and EAT!

Day 3 Nassau. This is more like the Bahamas that comes to my mind. Colorful conch style houses, scatter through the big beautiful houses built by the affluent and wealthy, again scattered through the many high rises, resorts that block out a lot of the beaches. We hired a bike and ride around the island. A funny thing happened in the Bahamas. 

Craig and I had been riding our little moped along, for about an hour, god only knows where because we had no idea and no map. We just go with, wherever the wind takes us. Then beep beep, a car horn honks, we just kept moving. Again, so I waved for them to go past. No, they honked again. This happened numerous times until, they pulled up beside us. 2 women in a car, “pull over police” pardon? Police pullover and she flashes a peak cap with the police embroidered in the cap. Hmmmm I thought. Are you lost? Maybe!!! Do you have a map? No! Are you really police?  we ask. Yes! Follow us please. Gulp 

Okay crazy thoughts are rattling through my head, are they legit? Are they taking us somewhere where a gang are going to rob us. Empty our bank accounts? I memorized the car and number plate. I’m not sure why but figured that we can catch them later when we escape from this situation. We can do a quick U turn or right turn and make a run for it. On our moped 😜. Sure!!!! They wouldn’t catch us in their hotted up car. If  they were police, we would have been in even  more hot water. We went with it,following them with each turn. We got to a right turn, the passenger hopped out of the car, approached us and with a very friendly face and sweetness gave us directions to find our way back to the more tourist area. Police I am not sure, or a couple of locals playing a prank, they did a good deed. 

We found our way back, did NOT get a map but went venturing off to the other side of the island where we found beautiful beaches. Swam in beautiful Bahamian clear blue waters. Dehydration set in whilst lying  on the beautiful Cable beach, despite many cute little beach boxes and retro looking caravans serving drinks and eats, I had to go thirsty. Why? That was my question. May I please have a water, my parched mouth voiced with my money in hand. No cash, no credit card, only room charged. Really? Yes! So I can’t have a drink? No! 30 minutes later I may have been in a desert. I saw a boy riding up and down the beach on his ATV with drinks in hand. I ran after him. Please stop, can I buy a drink off you?  No cash, no credit card, only room charged. Really? Yes! So I can’t have a drink? No!. I did notice a a semblance a pity on his face, and on he drove anyway. Back on our moped, we rode on and found a local area,  with the islanders, it was Mother’s Day celebrations and we sampled local cuisine and yes finally water. I live on to tell another story after our attempted kidnapping and my almost dehydration  🤣

Final night on board, well as the Americans do, they put on a big farewell parade. It was fabulous. All the staff carrying all the flags from their countries. Some putting on a national dance or song. There was 4 Aussie crew. They did nothing, but wave our flag. We whooped and cheered being the only 2 Aussies on board.  The one and only Fijian crew member was the hit of the parade with his tattooed face, costume and similar to a haka dance with the long 👅 tongue happening. The crowd roared. The Indians also won a screaming applause with their tradition dance and fabulous sense of humour. 135 Indian staff on board, but the winners, from down near home, the Philippinies with 230 staff. Wow

The Norwegian captain ended the night with statistics of how much food was consumed over 3 days. You do not want to hear, nor do I want to write or acknowledge as I lower my eyes to the possible 3 kg, could be 6 for Craig. He ate for 3 people. 😜 

Au Revour

Hasta Luego

Adios

Catch you later

Cuba here we come 

Miami Heat

Miami

Bentley’s, rollers and lambos. Spanish music and g strings

Welcome to Miami

Pure entertainment

South Beach offers the best people watching. A hub of activity. This Art Deco area is trendy, chic, avant- grade and expensive. Reminiscent of an old time movie. Retro style buildings are a photographers delight. Just ask Craig.

With its large cuban population the first language spoken here is Spanish. I encountered a few times when I wasn’t understood at all. Now my question is, was that because they didn’t understand English or was it the Aussie accent? I was asked by one man to say shark. He thought it funny

See thru clothing, fishnet, lace, tight and short seems to be a common uniform for many females

Big, small. It doesn’t matter. Flesh and more flesh. Every body is beautiful and they wear their bodies with confidence and pride that we don’t know in Australia

Lamborghinis and Rolls Royce’s drive by on a regular basis. Actually there are more rollers here than there was at the Grand Prix in Monte Carlo.

Cafe and restaurants one after another, beckoning you in with 2 for 1 cocktail offers

Hookahs are displayed on tables

Cuban cigars

Strippers

Tattooed men and women

Girls with red, blue, yellow, pink hair and of course matching bikinis

Men wearing their pants around their thighs. A fashion statement I still fail to understand

Roller bladers fly by with ease along the water front

Bright retro beach boxes, beach umbrellas, beach chairs, towels, cabanas and beautiful bodies are spotted as far as the eye can see on beautiful South Beach

People doing selfies

Models being photographed

Men doing backflips and handstands

A beach front gym that is fantastic with muscled up men sparring, doing chin ups, bench presses, push ups, muscle ups and to my surprise it has not been vandalized

Once again marijuana permeates through the air, everywhere

Push bikes and walking were our mode of transport with many stops to photograph yet another amazing old Art Deco building. Even when they are building new properties, they are built in that same architectural retro style side. This is an amazing place to see and stay. This place is glamour, glitz, hustle and bustle all day long and night.

Customers ordering fishbowl cocktails, beers, cuban rums in the mornings. I stopped for brunch one morning, around midday, after a juice and some healthy food, my lovely waitress thought me rather weird that I ordered green tea, she responded with absolute surprise, with really? No alcohol

The restaurants and cafes serve a delicious array of delicacies to delight any taste buds. I have not yet been disappointed with any meal ordered and trust me I do a lot of eating.

This buzzing piece of the world attracts the rich and famous, the youthful, the more mature (yes I am in that category) basically it is worthy of a visit from anyone and everyone.

Speaking of famous, we encountered fame first hand whilst enjoying our little tête-à-tête this morning.

There was a lot of activity as a Rolls-Royce full of people. Followed by a four-wheel-drive full of more people pulled up directly in front of the cafe. People were dancing and pumping their arms in the air and music was blaring. They stopped mid road, got out, yes, they got out the car leaving their cars in the middle of the road, with traffic banking up behind them. No one bats an eyelid at anything here. Basically anything goes. A waiter went up and asked “sir may I help you”? Don’t you know who I am? The lovely young waiter, a foreigner and there are many here, said no I’m sorry I do not. He was in good company because nor did we or any of the tables surrounding us.

Are you waiting with bated breath? Who did they meet? We were quickly educated, this was Casanova, a famous rapper with his entourage. Have you heard of him? If not google him.

A table was very quickly organized for our famous friend,

a valet parking attendant took care of the cars and what you would call normality in Miami took place once again.

Different bars playing different music, some play salsa, some rap, some rock, all are very loud. With each new bar we visited, we sampled a new cocktail, all delicious.

As loud as the music is by night, the next morning is another day. It’s quieter, I’m listening to Frank Sinatra croon, fly me to the moon, to me this is very fitting for this 50s inspired environment, it certainly suits My mood and I can actually hear Craig talking.

This place is pure fun and excitement, a few nights may be enough for this more mature gal. I loved the experience Miami. Thank you 🙏

Key West and the journey continues

Key west

It seems I fall in love with every new city I go to. This place, Florida Keys, Key West, down south, is something special. The lifestyle, the weather, the people. Everything, I want to stay, can I stay please?

5.30am flight from Nu-or-Lins to Fort Lauderdale. One Mustang hired. Follow us as we take you for a drive from Here to Eternity, or Key West. The journey begins driving around a 6 storey carpark looking for an exit. Surely the exit was on the ground floor? No, it was on level 4.

Stress levels rising for Craig.

A slow coastal drive to Miami for a planned breakfast, then straight to Key West (in an estimated one hour) for the next few days. This was the plan.

Breakfast in Miami, hmmm we went hungry. Parking was impossible and in the end with rumbling tummys we drove on. I shed a little tear but stayed brave. It was worth the wait, let me tell you. So what we thought was about 100km (approx 1 hour drive) was in actual fact, approximately 6 hours with speed limits, one lane roads and realisation 100km was on actually 155 miles.

Exit mainland

Do you know the song Key Largo? Remember ? Bertie Higgins? it was an 80s hit.

We had it all

Just like Bogie and Bacall

Starring in our old late, late show

Sailing away to Key Largo

Come on don’t tell me that you weren’t born then…

I had a romantic notion about this place due to that song. When you cross the bridge from the mainland you can turn left which would have taken us to a national park or you can turn right. We took right due to the fact we were heading to Key West, sticking to the highway, we saw nothing. So if you’re heading in this direction, perhaps you can check it out and then let us know too.

We were feeling really hangry now, (so hungry you are angry) these 2 starving Aussie’s were on the lookout for food preferably healthy. Desperation was setting in, that was UNTIL we both saw MRS MACS. At the time we did not know that trip advisor highly recommends this place. For that fact, so do we now.

Simultaneously we said THERE, that is the place we are stopping. This is a must visit Diner. The menu is vast and they will do anything for you. We had the most scrumptious well worth waiting for meal. You must GO GO GO!

Roof off the Mustang we drove on. Arrival to the charming Chelsea House Hotel. So gorgeous, clean and welcoming. As usual, drop bags and out the door we go.

The conch houses ( Bahama style) are beautiful. Predominantly white weatherboard, a few are pastel colored, 2 storey with big verandas and shutters on the windows. They were all built in the 1800s and many appear to be heritage listed.

We stayed on Truman Street. Which brings me to the Truman Annex, which is a small neighborhood filled with big beautiful houses and a naval base. It is picture perfect where nothing is out of place. It certainly pays to be part of the naval forces here. Harry S Truman had his mini holiday Whitehouse is within the Truman Annex. The small Whitehouse was also a holiday home to Dwight Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter and Clinton.

Do you remember the movie The Truman show? Personally that movie seems loosely based on the Truman Annex. Possibly correct, probably incorrect, but my opinion. “Good morning, in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, good night”

We walked the beautiful streets. Chickens and roosters crow loudly, clucking around these perfect streets taking precedence at all times. You see, this is my kind of town. I even witnessed 5 gorgeous chooks crossing the road at their clucky leisure as the cars sat patiently waiting.

The main drag, Duval Street, is the energetic happening street of the Keys. Bars, music, restaurants and shops, the western end of Duval is the street is most happening and perhaps more for the younger generation. Younger than us that is. We visited a bar called Willie Ts. The roof and the walls were coated in one dollars bills, signed by the donors. There would have been thousands of dollars on those walls. Music starts at 11am and finishes around 11pm.

The food quality is right up there with home. I always say Australia, namely Melbourne has the best and freshest food in the world, but I have to say we were served fabulous meals. Off the hook, situated in a little side street serves up the most mouth watering dishes. Definitely worth a visit.

Walking past the VIP Gentlemen’s club, I got an invite in. Come and play. You can bring him, referring to Craig. We do couples. Let me shout you a drink. For a small town, there sure is a lot of gentlemen’s clubs, a more polite name for strip club, three, well, that we know of and an erotic dessert restaurant.

The mode of transport around here is typically push bikes, mopeds, buggies, convertible cars, all ideal for this most beautiful climate.

We spent a perfect day riding around this little island on push bikes. From the Marina to Fort Zachary Taylor park (Fort Zach to the locals) where we swam in the warm Bahamian beach. To the southernmost point in USA, if you dared, you could swim to Cuba. It’s only 90 miles. It did have us wondering why there is no ferry from Key West to Cuba.

Onward to an absolute legends house. I was very excited about this little visit. Ernest Hemingway’s house and museum. What a man, we learnt so much more with our very knowledgeable guide Steve and his enchanting story telling and southern accent.

We were introduced to Betty Grable and Ingrid Bergman whilst there. What? I can hear you say, they are cats. Ernest who was also known affectionately as Papa, owned a cat called Snow White, the interesting thing about Snow White was it had six toes. Today there are 54 cats living in that house, all descendants of Snow White and many of them still courting a 6th toe.

Next on our peddling itinerary was Sloppy Joes, this was one of papas favourite bars and Joe was one of his best friends. A large pub with live music and all the walls wearing memorabilia of Papa. I have a, big but, this was not the original Sloppy Joes, but is very place was very dedicated to his memory. The original Sloppy Joes is now He was well loved and respected in these parts.

We have filled our time with fun and adventures in this quaint, very cool coastal island. So as I said why do I fall in love with every new place I visit. Ah this one is truly worthy. Picturesque, adorable houses, clean, good food, beaches, quiet but still,plenty happening and people who are friendly, and polite and have plenty of patience. Especially on the roads. The most courteous drivers you will ever meet. This was proven when they stopped, waited, never abused once, the crazy Australian lady on her push bike driving down a one way street the wrong way, on the wrong side of the road, stopping for no reason, pulling out at the wrong time. As I screamed out my apologies I was always met with a smile and a wave, or your alright darlin.

Funny thing happened when we returned our bikes. Craig parked hid bike a little to close to the row of about 10 other bikes. Yes, You guessed it. Bike domino. The workers weren’t laughing, but they were still polite, however, we 2 Aussie’s in paradise were cracking up.

What better way to end my affair with paradise? Yoga rhythm on the beach at Fort Zach Park ( have you noticed I referred to it as Fort Zach?) . Dan the yoga instructor and his wife have extended an invitation to us to join them in Portugal next year for yoga? Should we stay or should We go?

Here’s looking at you kid.

Better Than Sex

What is “Better than Sex”?

Dessert and luscious or should I say lushfull drinks.

Do I have your attention now? An adults only dessert restaurant right here in Key West. Did we go? Of course? A dark little restaurant, taking you back to the 20s era, bordello style, where you are led to your own private little booth. The menu is given to you modern day style, on an iPad. It is vast and fabulous, tickling your tastebuds.

Delectable desserts such as Cookie Nookie, Fork you fondue, Kinky key lime pie, Missionary crisp ( I had that one) to tantalise your taste buds and drinks with a twist, champagne, beers, one with a white chocolate and coconut rim ( called a rim job), I had a vodka wine with chocolate drizzled through the glass and rimmed in caramel. Coffees oozing mouth watering decadence. This is not the place to count calories. I just died and went to sugar heaven. You leave this establishment feeling quite naughty, with a look of sheer delight and satisfaction on your face.

Our punishment this evening for this ultimate decadence was received and served, leaving the heavenly venue we were hit with torrential rains that resulted in us having to run. Some one up there encouraging us to burn some calories.

Janette Bendle 8th May 2018

Touch down NEW ORLEANS

Touch down. Bucket list tick. 

We are here. Enter 2 Aussies into New Orleans, Louisiana. Now before I go any further, we must do the pronounciation test, please say it correctly.

Nu-Or-Lins

The city where you feed your belly and feed your  soul 

The hotel to Bourbon Street transition was fast. Hotel pit stop, literally to throw our belongings in the room and whoosh we are out. 

Step outside and the party has started. Festivals everywhere have taken place over the past week. New Orleans don’t you try to kid me, this city is one long festival, all day every day. Julia street festival first, walk out hotel and look left to an overdramatised mock wrestling match  in the street. Backflips, throat holds, people yelling and cheering, yes & drinking. Let’s keep going. Next! Bourbon Street here we come. 

Okay hang on, I have another box to tick. As we headed to Bourbon Street, we went via the Mississippi River. Yes sir I’m on the banks of the Mississippi River. A paddle steamer is pulling out from the banks. Thoughts of showboat come into my mind. It’s all a bit surreal right now. We stood, we watched.  Walking on, walking through Jackson Square. I will revisit Jackson Square again, more than once.

So the infamous Bourbon Street, im here, I’m going to call it, everyone is smiling street, oh yes there are many other names we could call it but let’s leave it there.   

Exciting as a word to describe New Orleans, is an understatement, maybe electric, wild, yes definitely wild, vibrant, intoxicating and intoxicated, as it appears everyone is. One big crazy party. A Mardi Gras every day. Bands are playing, people are walking with a skip in their step and dancing, a lot of dancing. 

Take away food shops are selling cocktails the size of fish bowls. People are dressed up, people are dressed down. Girls in bras, yes, I know, really? Am I getting old, is this the latest trend? Shops selling cigarettes, cigars and hookahs. The smell of cigars and marijuana permeates through the air. No one bats an eye lid. 

Vooodoo shops selling skulls, masks and paraphernalia to curse, stick a pin in you or make a dream come true, are common and everywhere. 

Advertising for haunted tours, swamp tours, cemetery tours and vampire tours on every block. Tarot card readers, palm readers and physics tell of good fortunes on every corner. Street artists and performers are in wonderful abundance. 

On the adjacent streets buskers are performing, their performances rival “the voice” contestants or established singers and even superstars . Music, magical music is at the heart of this upbeat city.  We watch marching bands parading up Bourbon Street. Everyone on the street joins the moment. That one moment where everyone around, is part of it. People everywhere, are drunk, happy or both. 

Big bottomed girls shake there booty like they are the sexiest women alive. You know what? They are god damn sexy. Dress ups is big on the agenda. Marie Antionette was visiting from a time gone by, a pirate, pussy cats, girls wearing fabulous fascinators, people posing as gold statues giving attitude, costumes I just don’t know how to describe except colourful. 

Tap dancers, kids playing ice cream containers as drums, one man just lay on the ground with his finger up and his collection tin in front of him. 

Everyone trying to make a buck anyway they can. 

Games of chess between old and young, mostly men, was a vision already in my head, put into reality. 

Jacksons square again today, we watched a band. A group of boys and young men each toting a brass instrument. The home of Jazz gets them young and they seem to have an inbuilt talent. 

The crowd mesmerized, fixated. We watched, we took photos, everyone danced. The young, the old, the workers, the tourists. A young mother with her two small children shimmied her way up to the band and danced like no one was watching. No one is unaffected. A chef from a nearby restaurant struts his stuff into the dance space. A homeless man has the crowd in the palm of his hand with his moves, flirty eyes, winking and giving that come hither look, crazy antics, what antics? Um only putting his cigarette into his mouth the wrong way. He had me laughing. He earned himself a few dollars on the side. Why not. 

Kids, the shoe shine man, we were all part of this magic moment in time. The music, the atmosphere, it grabs you, it pulls you in and fills you with, I’m going to say good vibes. This is an infectious place. It’s makes you happy.  I have had a permanent ear to ear smile since I arrived. 

Terraced houses with a French influence line the streets, literally. No front yards. Just a step or two and you are at their front door. Balconies, potentially flimsy balconies, where you climb out of a window to sit and watch the wonderful world go by. However, inspecting a little closer,  the structural component may appear inadequate, you have to wonder what holds them in place. But, they look absolutely fabulous darlings,  with flags adorning each balcony. Always the American flag, but you may also see a Mardi gras flag, the state flag of Louisiana or a French flag. Pot plants, mannequins and strings of beads also decorating these quaint little balconettes. 

Next stop, poles apart, running adjacent to Bourbon Street is Royal street. Arty and chic with top class restaurants, designer shops and small markets filled with local artists works. If only I had a bigger suitcase. 

Back to crazy, we hit Frenchman street, hmmm, think bourbon street with an added dash of debauchery.  We entered a bar called the spotted cat. Once in, I’m surprised we survived and found our way out. A jazz band played in one small corner whilst the man on the door oblivious to a head count continued his spiel as if automated $5 please,  $5, as everyone was pushed through the small door of the very small bar. My visual here was boobs and shoulder blades. Being on the smaller side does come at a disadvantage sometimes, like right now,  at this crowded moment in this very crowded hour. We did escape, how? I’m still asking myself. 

So breakfast here runs from 3am to 11am.  Enter a new dawn and people are drinking. Are they still going or restarting? The party streets are now putrid. Now the smell of urine permeates through the air in place of marijuana. 

By midday the city is clean and alive again. Colourful personalities, politeness which is unsurpassed. Pardon me ma’am, a young man says when I accidently bump him. I mean I bumped him and he apologizes. Ma’am when did I become a ma’am. 

The homeless and there are many, congregate on park benches as a new day begins. They are polite, kind and friendly as everyone is in Nu-Or-Lins. A country of contrast, sadly, which we tried to capture on camera, and missed.  Picture this, a neon billboard advertising a lottery win of $233 million dollars where just below, 3 men are scavenging the remnants of last nights half empty bottles on the ground. 

Dinner on our last night was in a place called Tommy’s. It reminded me of the prohibition. A huge elaborate hall. Many tables and many patrons. Low hanging lights and fans and an Italian owner who makes his way to chat to every table. An eggplant mouse was served and it was an amazing last meal is amazing New Orleans

I do love this place. 

This ma’am will be back 

Red Wine

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Sitting at an airport bar

Heading to a destination abroad 

a new land afar

Sipping on an airport drink

Cheers to our next adventure 

I say with a wink

Red wine for me 

A beer for you

No duty free shopping

We needed something to do

It’s tastes so fine

This red wine o mine 

Now a situation arises

An Unlikely event 

My flight is called

Finish my wine, they will not prevent 

That I do not finish this wine o mine

I will, I’ll finish it, it tastes so divine

This glass of wine I will most likely finish 

The level of the wine in this glass

Will most definitely diminish 

Cheers to me

For when it comes tomorrow 

A brand new place I will be 

Janette Bendle may 4 2018

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