Which destination would you revisit?

I stumbled across a list of travel-related questions on Nicolette Orlemans’ blog, and I think I’m going to play with some of them here for a while.

I tried to answer the first one – what and where was your most memorable travel experience – and realized I don’t have just one answer. And that the answers I do have, I’m already writing about.

So, on to number two. Which destination would you revisit and why? At the moment, my answer is Cuba.

My sister ran a yoga retreat in Cuba in February, and begged my mother and I to join her. And, given how brutally cold this past February was, she didn’t have to beg very hard. My sister has been to Cuba many times, but I hadn’t ever been before. My decision to go was spur-of-the-moment, and I didn’t do any reading or research before I left. And, to be frank, I was really only in it for the sun.

My first impression of the country… was not great. The airport in Varadero was painfully disorganized – it took our small group of eight people three hours to get through customs and into the country. By the time we boarded the bus to drive to our resort, it was nearly midnight, so I couldn’t see any of the countryside out the window.

Really, though, the airport (both arriving and leaving) was the only sour spot of the trip. We stayed at a three star resort, which was just fine. All I wanted was the sun and the beach, so I was very easy to please. For the first couple of days the wind came in over the ocean, so jellyfish were a big problem. Halfway through the week, though, the wind shifted, the temperature went even further up (yay!) and the jellyfish were blown out to sea, which meant I got a chance to swim in the ocean.

The very best part of the trip, though, were the chances I got to leave the resort. We took a guided walk up into the hills to see some local plant life and get a lovely view back down over the resort and the beach. We also got a chance to meet some local farmers and sample their fruits. Guava, sugar cane, coconuts, all freshly cut. One man gave us a tour of his house, and another one showed off his beautiful vintage yellow jeep.

On our last full day in Cuba, my sister organized a trip to Havana. Five of us piled into two of Cuba’s beautiful vintage cars (I rode in a green 1952 Chevy with a maroon interior) to drive the hour along the coast. I loved everything about this day. Our guide, Leo, was a school teacher who gave tours in his spare time because it paid better. He was friendly and patient and knowledgeable. And I followed him through the city, just delighted by the chaos and the exuberance and the life of it all.

And I want to go back. I want to read about the history and the politics and Hemingway, do my research, and then go back and see more of the country. Meet more of the people. The people in Cuba were so wonderful, so friendly. Intrepid Travel – a tour company I’ve travelled with before – does a 15-day tour of Cuba that intrigues me. So that trip is on my list! Maybe even for this coming winter…

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How do you choose?

I wonder sometimes how other people choose the places they want to visit. For me, I generally travel to places I’ve formed an emotional connection to, often via some kind of media. Is that weird?

One of the trips on my current to do list is sailing around the British Virgin Islands with Intrepid Travel. I’ve travelled with Intrepid twice before – once in Morocco and once in Thailand – and had a wonderful experience both times. For me, it’s the perfect compromise between adventure and an organized tour. It takes away all the stress of planning and keeping a schedule, but I don’t end up just shuffling on and off a bus. I would have toured Greece with them, too, but they didn’t run late enough into the year.

I’ve wanted to learn to sail for a few years now. I fell in love with the idea the summer I worked in Prince Edward Island, but never had the opportunity to follow through. The trip notes for the sailing adventure indicate it’s up to the individual how involved they want to get in the actual sailing of the ship, and I love that they provide that option.

The reason I chose the Caribbean as a destination, though, is largely due to a cheeseball television show I fell in love with over the winter called Death in Paradise. It’s a BBC show about a detective who gets transferred from London to the Caribbean and ends up stuck there. Which would be great, except that he hates the sun, and the sea, and the sand. It’s a simple little detective show, with a little hint of romance, and it was exactly what I wanted over the winter. The past two winters in Canada (in fact, much of North America) have been particularly cold and harsh. And even just getting to see the sun and the sea on television was a relief.

The show gave me a bit of an emotional connection to the area, and inspired my curiosity to learn more. And when I came across the Intrepid trip, it seemed an ideal combination. I wonder, though, if maybe I’m not supposed to admit this kind of thing out loud.

Finally…

I love the summertime.

I love the warm cross-breeze through my apartment when all the windows are open.

I love bare feet indoors and sandals outdoors.

I love not having to wear socks.

I love linen capri trousers and shoulders bare to the sun.

I love sunshine through dappled, leafy shade.

I love the sharp smell of rain on hot pavement.

I love the soft smell of growing things on the wind.

I love the freedom from layers and mittens and boots.

I love not having to brace myself to step outside.

I love the feeling of a summer breeze on sweat-damp skin.

I love sprawling across the bed in nothing but a bra and boxer shorts on a lazy afternoon.

I love walking down the beach with my feet in the water and the sun on my back.

I love the rumble of distant thunder and the rush of cool air ahead of a storm on a sweaty, sticky evening.

I love being able to sleep with the windows open.

After a long, brutal, exhausting winter, summer is finally on the way.