Exercise and excursions

Well, look at me! Blogging twice in the same month! Let’s hope this becomes a habit. First of all, I have to add a post script to the previous blog. I started doing my pre/post surgery physio and, well, I overdid it. Knowing I may have an 80% bend on my bad knee, I pushed too hard, and for the past week, I’ve had probably closer to a 25% bend. Yeah, I pulled the muscle at the top of my calf, and behind my knee. Even walking was extremely painful and this has all put a delay on my personal preparation for the surgery. But, not much keeps me down. I’ve been doing my own home recovery and have been putting heat on the muscle, and while it’s warm, been doing deep massage on it. I’m very happy to say that in the last two days I’ve gone from not sleeping at night, and being barely able to walk; to sleeping almost normally and walking with a lot less pain. The knee still won’t bend, so stairs are a challenge, but I’m getting there and I know I need to do the physio, just not so exuberantly. Unfortunately, my doctor took some time off during the holidays, and there is now a wait to get in to see him. I have an appointment in another week to get a prescription for a real deep tissue massage, but my method seems to be working for now.

OK, enough of that. I just wanted to do a quick blog about my trip to Cuba. I know many of you have been to tropical locations, but until this past November, the most tropical place I’d been was Southwestern Ontario in the heat of summer. I traveled with my sister and her husband, who have been to Cuba numerous times. We stayed at a little 3-star resort, Villa Tropico Jibacoa, which is halfway between Varadero and Havana. The majority of the rooms at this resort are in small bungalows, with an additional three storey building near the entrance to the complex. A large number of the staff have worked at this resort for 20+ years, and they really do treat you like family. We were very lucky in that our bungalows were pretty much in the middle of the resort. I didn’t actually measure it out, but we appeared to walk the same distance to go from our bungalow to the pool, the lobby and the buffet. Because I was still dealing with my bad knee, it was nice to be in a location that had few steps and where I didn’t have to walk long distances to get where I needed to be. Before I went on this vacation, everyone made comments about what the food might be like. For me personally, I found nothing wrong with the food. No, there wasn’t the variety I’m use to at home. Yes, there was a lot of fish and , but you know what? It’s what I expected. If I wanted french fries and hamburgers, I could have stayed home. My version of traveling is going to other countries and experiencing the country, it’s not going to another country and seeing how they change things to accommodate me. I’m someone who likes to try to things and new cultures. When something new appeared on the buffet, I tried it. I didn’t always like it, but I gave it a chance. 

I had a great chat late one evening, OK, it was early one morning, with Daniel Sanchez Rodriguez, who is the Director de Relaciones Públicas (Director of Public Relations), and we had a wonderful discussion on the expectations and realities of those traveling to a country like Cuba. I told him I heard people had complained because the food was too “Cuban”….folks, you’re in Cuba. I heard people had complained because there wasn’t much of a night life….you chose a 3-star resort midway between Varadero and Havana that, if you read any previous visitor’s comments, is loved by repeat clients because it’s quiet and it’s a place they go to relax, reconnect with friends and not have to deal with crowds and noise. From what I’ve read, they continue to make improvements to this particular resort, including delivering new mini fridges to every room on our last day.

I guess my thoughts on all of this are, if you are taking a vacation, anywhere, do your research. If you want to be pampered and have 4 or 5-star meals, then find the resort that fits your needs. If you are more interested in relaxing, getting to know the people working in the resort and living in the nearby communities, experiencing local food and not having to deal with crowds, then choose your location wisely. I was very happy with the location we chose, and I have no doubt I’ll be going back to Cuba, to this resort, and I’m sure to others as well, because I have so much more of this beautiful country to explore and experience.  

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The roads we travel

My best friend and her sister came to visit a couple of weeks ago and, as I was telling them about my website and blog, I got onto a totally different tangent regarding a trip I took to Mississippi a few years ago. After I told them about the trip, my friend asked, “What don’t you do some travel writing?”

My response, “Um…because I don’t travel.” I really don’t travel. I go on adventures and take small trips, but to me travelling implies a visit to a foreign country or an extended time away. My trip to Mississippi was for about 10 days, driving to and from included, and was something I consider an adventure. Sure, I guess with me living in Canada and driving to Mississippi in the US, some would consider this traveling….not me. However, it did give me something to add to my travel globe.

OK, so it’s not so much a globe, as it is a glass display for a tealight. I’ve chosen to fill the base with things I pick up on these adventures of mine. It contains shells, small pieces of driftwood and an old rusty key found on the beach when my kids and I drove Travel globeout East and visited Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. It also contains a small plastic bottle of the red soil from PEI. We headed out knowing we wanted to see Old Montreal, the Bay of Fundy, and go either whale or seal watching. Other than that, no hotel reservations were made and we stopped when and where we felt like it. I still say that is one of the best vacations I’ve ever had.

My adventure to Mississippi found me bringing back cotton that I picked myself while there. I droveIMG_0038 past fields and fields of cotton, and wanted so much to stop and wander into the fields. When I went on a tour around Oxford Mississippi with my cousin, I told her I wanted to have this experience and she took me to a private field so that I could do it. Had I stopped to fulfill this wish on my drive there, I may have spent some time in a holding cell as many fields are state owned and I could have gotten arrested! But, that would have been one of those unexpected side trips I guess.

When I left to head home, I stopped at an old plantation. I guess a part of me felt that if I was going to be in the South, I should see the Old South as well. When I got to the plantation I was told I’d have to buy a ticket to tour the manor house in order to get onto the property. I love old homes, I must since my home is 80-years old, but I personally didn’t want to take a tour of a big old mansion and hear how wonderful this rich white man was to let his slaves go free when he no longer had a choice; so, I paid my fee and detoured to roam the property on my own. I spent at least an hour sitting on the grass with my back against the huge stone wall those same slaves would have built. I looked up at the manor house from that vantage point and could see and hear the people of a bygone era. I watched as the stable boys brought the race horses out for the men to view while the women, in the hooped skirts gossiped and sipped mint julep while sitting in old white rocking chairs on the front veranda.

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In reality, it was other tourists like myself; kids screaming and running across the lawn, men and women in their travel gear sitting on new white rocking chairs, exactly like those I found for sale later that day at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant. But for me, I traveled back in time to what was and that’s what I wanted to do when I stopped there.

I guess this particular trip, and possibly others, will become more detailed posts here as they help express who I am. I have no fear of traveling alone; I don’t like staying on the beaten path; I like to spend my time with the locals rather than at the tourist traps; and I prefer not to follow a detailed map. I figure out the major highways of where I’m going, check once in a while to make sure I’m still headed in the right direction, and I hit the road. I know that frightens some people, not having clear plans, but to me it’s how I live my life. Plans change all the time. As long as you know where you’re going, or what you want your final destination to be, the side trips along the way just make it that more enjoyable.