31 Dec 2014

It's not too late to join me in Cuba April 8 - booking extended to Feb. 8

Want to join me at "my second home" in Marea del Portillo Hotels & Resorts CUBA April 8? You have until Feb. 8 to take advantage of this exclusive all-inclusive trip package! 

This is an awesome opportunity that you won't find anywhere else because I arranged a special excursion to Las Coloradas that is included in the price, as well as other perks & activities. Most are noted on the poster but, in addition, our group will have express check-in service, which has been arranged just for us. 

As usual, we'll also have a guided kayak tour in the mangrove to look for manatee, weather permitting, & there will be lots of opportunities for biking, hiking, etc.

19 Dec 2014

Even my American cousins can go to Cuba with me! (as always, actually)

Do you recognize the beach below? 
If not, maybe you need to go to Cuba with me!
Gord & I will be there in April but we won't be wearing knitted caps.




Anyone can go to Cuba with me - even Americans! (as always)

It is incredibly heartening to learn that relations between the U.S. and Cuba are finally being relaxed a little! I hope that this will, in the coming years, improve the lives and opportunities of the Cuban people. And, in case you didn't know, U.S. passport holders have always been able to travel with me from Toronto as part of the JennicaCuba trips - and quite a few have already done so.

Do you want to join my "Jennica 2015" group trip to Club Amigo Marea del Portillo, flying from Toronto to Manzanillo de Cuba? You still can! I will be able to add people at the same great price until Feb. 8, as long as there's space!

I will look forward to seeing you whenever, wherever and, hopefully, hanging out with you in Cuba one of these days! Meanwhile….

Feliz Navidad y Año Nuevo!
Jenny

5 Dec 2014

Join the "Jennica 2015" group trip going to beautiful Cuba on April 8


By Easter (or earlier), I will be ready for a beachy holiday in Cuba!
Want to join me? My "Jennica 2015" group flees Toronto April 8.

Booking deadline has been extended to Feb. 8

I'm excited about this trip because I've been able to organize some great perks & activities for us. Most are noted on the poster but, in addition, our group will have special express check-in service, which has been arranged just for us. As usual, we'll also have a guided kayak tour in the mangrove to look for manatee, weather permitting, & there will be lots of opportunities for biking, hiking, etc.
If you want to go for two weeks of fun in the sun, the prices are as follows:
$1025 (per person) for double or $1235 for single, VIP Cabaña.

I'll be looking forward to hearing from you ~ Jenny

27 Oct 2014

Coming soon to a beach in Cuba – NOW BOOKING FOR APRIL 8 TRIP!

UPDATE: 
I'll be leading my next group to Club Amigo Marea del Portillo, Cuba, on April 8, 2015, and we're going to have a blast! Very soon, the photo at the top of this page will be our morning view. 

And we will see scenes like this...




And eat food like this...



On this beach...



And hang out by this pool...



And sleep in these cabañas...



And see funny skits like this...



And, if we've been there before, sign this wall...



And raise a toast with friends...



And, after too short a time, find the farewell towel origami on our beds...



And we will vow to return!

Hasta pronto, Marea del Portillo,
Jenny

14 Sep 2014

Dec. 3-10 Hemingway-themed tour... IN PAPA'S SPIRIT – book by Oct. 30

Hey folks! 

This will be a very interesting trip, whether you've been to Havana before or not. 
We need to have at least 10 people sign up/pay by Oct. 30, in order for it to fly. 
Send me an email, if you want more information: jennicacuba@gmail.com
If you're ready to book, just call my pals at P&G Travel: 1-877-586-8747
Brian Gordon Sinclair truly evokes the spirit of Ernest Hemingway!


IN PAPA’S SPIRIT, A HOLIDAY EXHIBITION IN CUBA

MEDIA RELEASE:

Alliston, Ontario, resident Brian Gordon Sinclair has a very unusual job – he pretends to be Ernest Hemingway.

Sinclair has an uncanny resemblance to the famous writer and, in fact, that’s what got him started on this unique career path. But, that’s not why he’s been successful and gained international acclaim; he’s also an accomplished playwright and actor, and has become an expert on Hemingway.

While visiting in Key West, Florida, about a dozen years ago, Sinclair was encouraged to enter a Hemingway look-alike contest. The following year, he returned to the Hemingway Days Festival and premiered a one-man play entitled Sunrise, which became the keystone for a series of solo shows under the Hemingway On Stage banner and, thus, his dramatic alter ego was born. His portrayals of Hemingway have been highly lauded by the late author’s family and have earned him awards and commendations around the globe, including Cuba. This recognition, on the Caribbean isle where “Papa” Hemingway lived for many years, also led Sinclair along another interesting path, and became the impetus for the trip he will be making to Havana, Dec. 3-10.

Last year, he was invited to be the patron of a revived version of a children’s baseball team Hemingway founded in the 1940’s at the village of San Francisco de Paula, near his beloved farm, Finca Vigía. “Papa” Sinclair will be overseeing the second annual exhibition game by the new Estrellas de Gigi team. He will also be providing ball equipment, uniforms and Christmas gifts for local youngsters, as well as reading them a holiday story, as Hemingway did annually.

This special exhibition is not a business endeavor for Sinclair, however; it is a heart-felt project he has happily taken on, in Papa’s spirit. With his permission, a tour has been shaped around this Dec. 6 game and story presentation, and he welcomes fans of Hemingway to come along and get acquainted with the country and some people who had such an impact on his life. “Everything that’s happened in Cuba,” he says, “has been a process of falling in love with Cuba and its people.”

While wearing the mantle of Hemingway during other activities in Cuba, Sinclair explains further, “an incredible bond” was very quickly formed with the people he encountered. In particular, he became profoundly attached to the community surrounding Finca Vigía, the recreated Estrellas de Gigi ball team and the last surviving member of Hemingway’s original team, Oscar “Cayuco” Blas, 84 – with whom Sinclair is now collaborating to write a book, The Homerun Kid: the True Story of Ernest Hemingway’s Baseball Team.

The “In Papa’s Spirit” tour participants will be able to meet Blas and see Sinclair in action as Papa, as well as touring Havana and the surrounding area. The group will be encamped at Hemingway’s haunt, Hotel Ambos Mundos, where Sinclair will perform his play, Hemingway’s HOT Havana, free of charge.

























IN PAPA’S SPIRIT – DEC. 3-10, HAVANA, CUBA
8-DAY TOUR – HOLIDAY EXHIBITION AT HEMINGWAY’S HOME
BACKGROUNDER:

This Dec. 3-10 tour will be based at Hotel Ambos Mundos, where Ernest Hemingway once lived. Special features will include a children’s all-star baseball game, Christmas story and gift presentation at Finca Vigía by Brian Gordon Sinclair as “Papa” Hemingway.

Cubans love baseball. So did Ernest Hemingway. He even had his own team, made up of children from the San Francisco de Paula neighborhood near his Havana-area estate, Finca Vigía (Lookout Farm).

Established in the 1940s to provide an activity for Hemingway’s boys, when they visited the family home, the “Estrellas de Gigi” (Gigi Stars) was named for his youngest son, Gregory, who was nicknamed Gig or Gigi. A few years ago, this team was revived and an honorary “Papa” was named as its patron – Brian Gordon Sinclair, internationally acclaimed playwright and performer from Alliston, Ontario, who is a Hemingway specialist and renowned look-alike.

In his role as team patron, Sinclair has also revived Hemingway’s tradition of telling a Christmas story to the local children and presenting each with a small gift, as well as supplying them with baseball uniforms and equipment. This year, an exhibition game by the Gigi All-Stars is planned for Dec. 6 at Finca Vigía – Museo Hemingway. Following the game, Papa Sinclair will read a holiday story entitled The Pirate Night Before Christmas, written by Sammie Mays, Honorary Mayor of Key West, and illustrated by Ron Thomas, another Hemingway Look-Alike Society member.

Sinclair has invited his fellow “Papas” and their families to join him for this Hemingway-inspired holiday event, and you’re invited too! Both Mays and Thomas will also be on hand for the presentation of their book. In addition to the special Dec. 6 activities, guests will be treated to a full tour of the estate. Now a government-run museum, it houses Hemingway’s prized 38-foot (12 meter) fishing boat Pilar, as well as an incredible selection of art and artifacts, books and trophies from the legendary author’s collection.

The original farmhouse of Finca Vigía was built in 1886 on a hill about 9 miles (14 km) away from downtown Havana, and is now on the World Monument Fund list of endangered historic sites. Hemingway initially rented the property while writing For Whom the Bell Tolls but subsequently bought it with royalties from that book. He lived at the finca throughout the 1940s and ‘50s with sequential wives, Martha Gellhorn and Mary Welsh, and was frequently visited by his three sons. During this period, he wrote The Old Man and the Sea.

In his seven Hemingway On Stage productions, Sinclair explores both the writing and life of Ernest Hemingway. Six of these plays form a series that enact various periods in Hemingway’s lifework – his early years and during times of war, his Spanish bull fighting and African game hunting adventures, his relationships with art and literary luminaries in Paris and, ultimately, his latter days and death. Sinclair has written other acclaimed plays, but it is for his performances about and as Hemingway that he has received the most accolades and awards.

The British Stratford-upon-Avon Herald noted that Sinclair “is considered to be the world’s foremost interpreter of Hemingway,” and the Canadian Stratford Shakespeare Festival gave him the Sir Tyrone Guthrie Award for his acting. Besides Great Britain and Canada, he has also performed in Denmark, Holland, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain and, of course, Cuba and the United States, where he got his feet wet on this dramatic path by participating in a Hemingway Look-Alike contest in Key West. His appetite thus whetted, Sinclair’s first one-man play in the Hemingway On Stage series, Sunrise, premiered the following year during Key West’s 2003 Hemingway Days Festival.

His work has been highly commended by members of the Hemingway family and many others, and he has been given two awards of distinction in Cuba. Beyond this universal praise, however, Sinclair received a profound testament to the spirit with which he imbues his portrayals of Hemingway when he was invited to be “Papa” to the rejuvenated children’s baseball team in the village of San Francisco de Paula.

When Ada Rosa Alfonso Rosales, Director of Museo Hemingway, and Oscar “Cayuco” (the Homerun Kid) Blas, the last surviving member of the original Estrellas de Gigi, were ready to revive the team, they asked Sinclair to be the patron. The man behind the Hemingway persona has declared that, “never in a million years” did he think he would have a baseball team. But, he has taken on the cause and loaded the bases. He is collaborating with Blas, 84, to write a book of memoirs aptly titled The Homerun Kid: The True Story of Ernest Hemingway’s Baseball Team. As well, he invited a film crew to make a documentary about the project and Sinclair’s other work in Cuba; it is expected to be part of the 2015 International Hemingway Colloquium in Havana, and will also be shown at the annual Cuban Film Festival.

And now, you’re invited to join Brian Gordon Sinclair, in the spirit of Ernest Hemingway, and enjoy an exhibition baseball game by the new Estrellas de Gigi, a holiday story presentation at Finca Vigía, a live performance of Hemingway’s HOT Havana, and a truly special travel experience in Cuba!



IN PAPA’S SPIRIT – DEC. 3-10, HAVANA, CUBA
8-DAY TOUR – HOLIDAY EXHIBITION AT HEMINGWAY’S HOME
AGENDA:

Hotel Ambos Mundos, located on intriguing Obispo Street in the heart of Old Havana (Havana Vieja), will be the group’s home base for this 8-day tour. All breakfasts are included, as well as some lunches and dinners.

DEC. 3: Those arriving at the airport today will be met by a tour representative and escorted to Ambos Mundos in Havana. After everyone has gathered at the hotel, there will be a group briefing, followed by an evening walk through the oldest part of the city, Havana Vieja. Dinner is included tonight.

DEC. 4: The exploration of Havana Vieja will continue today, with visits to some of Hemingway’s famously favorite haunts, including the hotel room in Ambos Mundos where he lived and wrote, as well as El Floridita, a bar where you can enjoy a Hemingway daiquiri and some live music during lunch (included). The afternoon and evening will be free. Perhaps you’ll want to watch the sunset from the hotel’s rooftop bar while sipping a mojito!

DEC. 5: This morning, you’re off to visit Finca Vigía, Hemingway’s beloved home, which is now a museum, and then Cojimar, the picturesque fishing village where he kept his boat. You’ll have lunch on your own in the village. This evening, the group will be treated to a performance of Hemingway’s HOT Havana by Brian Gordon Sinclair, also known as Hemingway On Stage.

DEC. 6: Today, the group is invited to attend the Estrellas de Gigi exhibition baseball game and special activities hosted by Papa Sinclair at Finca Vigía. In addition to the game, Sinclair and friends will read the holiday tale, The Pirate Night Before Christmas, and present the local children with small gifts, as Hemingway used to do.

DEC. 7: The entire day is free for sightseeing on your own. If you haven’t done so already, you may want to take a coco-taxi or vintage car ride along the malecón, stroll the tree-lined Paseo del Prado, visit some nearby art galleries and museums, and/or relax by the piano in the Ambos Mundos lobby and watch the lively Obispo streetscape.

DEC. 8: A tour of modern Havana is on the agenda today, including a visit to the marina named for Hemingway and lunch at the fishing village of Baracoa, just west of Havana. The afternoon will be free for more of your own exploration, upon returning to the city. If you’re looking for an interesting place to have dinner this evening, you may want to go to Bodeguita del Medio, just a few blocks from the hotel, which was patronized by Hemingway and other famous folks.

DEC. 9: During this last full day of your tour, you’ll have an opportunity to see Compas, a contemporary dance troupe, in rehearsal. As well, the group will visit two fascinating, artful streets – Fusterlandia, the incredible mosaic creations by José Rodriguez Fuster that shaped the landscape of Jaimanita, and Salvador Gonzalez Escalona’s urban art project, Callejón de Hamel, which celebrates the Afro-Cuban culture and Santería spirituality.

DEC. 10: It’s time to pack your bags, bid Hemingway’s one-time home farewell and take the transfer to the airport for your flight home.

6 Aug 2014

Want to spend Halloween in Cuba?

There's still room but not much! The plane is filling up & so are the resort's cabañas.
If you want to hang out with me & the posse for Halloween, let me know right away!
Send me an email or call: jennicacuba@gmail.com or 647-216-1791.

I'll teach you how to say "Boo!" in Spanish.
~ Jenny

P.S. Costumes are optional...but fun! 


12 Jul 2014

WANTED: 10 bodies for Oct. 29 trip

HOLA AMIGOS! 

I finally have prices for the Oct. 29 group trip to Club Amigo Marea del Portillo, Cuba. You now have one week to book and be part of posse with Jenny & Nicole. (For details, see the flyer & other notes below.)

Ready? Set. Let's go to Cuba!
Jenny



Thanks to my friends at P&G Travel, you can now sign up for the 2014 Posse - & the prices are less than what is currently showing on the Sunwing website! 

If you want to stay longer than the group (Oct. 29-Nov. 5) or would prefer Marea Hotel accommodation instead of the VIP Cabana package, please contact Jenny for prices or other information: jennicacuba@gmail.com. Those who want the "Elite Plus" airline upgrade (increased luggage capacity & leg room on plane) should also contact Jenny - the one-way price is $40 & these seats are very limited.

To book your Oct. 29 trip, you will need to pay a $150 deposit (non-refundable) & supply the following information:
FULL NAME (as it appears on your passport)
PASSPORT #, ISSUING COUNTRY & EXPIRY DATE
DATE OF BIRTH
MAILING ADDRESS
PHONE NUMBER
EMAIL

P& G Travel is based near Toronto (9421 Jane St., Unit 121, Maple, Ontario L6A 4H8, to be precise). You can stop by their office, if you want to pay by cash/cheque/debit but they will accept credit cards or e-transfers. Their toll-free phone # is on the flyer.

Please note that you MUST have health insurance when traveling to Cuba, according to their tourism laws. Since this trip is being offered through Sunwing, the first 10 people who request health/travel insurance packages will be able to sign up through their program. Alternatively, P&G Travel can arrange insurance coverage for you, or you can do it yourself. Prices will vary according to your age & health.

The prices on the flyer are valid until July 18 - but we need to have 10 people signed up by that date! So, who's ready to go to Cuba with me?!

~ Jenny

7 Apr 2014

Why I’m a “repeater” at Club Amigo Marea del Portillo, Manzanillo de Cuba

This is a TripAdvisor review of Marea del Portillo that I wrote in March 2014; it's posted on their site along with a smattering of photos, different from those below. Here's a link, so you can have a look and give me a "helpful" vote, for what it's worth!

---------------------------------------------------------------

My Feb. 26, 2014, trip to Club Amigo Marea del Portillo and Farallon del Caribe was not my first visit to this charming little Cuban resort.

Returnees have privileges!
I want to be up-front about that because it’s an important point – I am a “repeater.” I will not give a one-off critique of a place I happened to stay at once because it was cheap; I will provide an honest commentary about why I keep going to this resort and what has changed since I began visiting in 2009.

I am a repeat guest at this resort for several reasons. First, as many people note in other reviews, the scenery is phenomenal. Located on the southern sole of Cuba, in the historically significant province of Granma, this resort is on the rim of a peaceful bay, on the cusp of the Sierra Maestra Mountains. Do you prefer the mountains or the ocean? Here, you don’t have to choose – it’s the best of both worlds!

Cayo Blanco is an ever-popular excursion - sail,
kayak, snorkel or just hang out on the lovely beach.
You can go swimming, kayaking or sailing from the back porch of the hotel, so to speak. But, if you’d rather go for a hike, just head out a different door of the hotel and hit the trail. Or, if you want to simply sit and relax, you can watch the sun rise over the mountains and/or set over the ocean. If lazing about isn’t your cup of rum, however, you can take a bike trek, go for a horseback ride, participate in one of the many interesting excursions the resort offers, or just explore on your own.

Artist Ramon Cisnero
in front of one of his
many sculptures in
Manzanillo de Cuba.
I bought this print from Pedro Guillermo
Guerra Tamayo during the Manzanillo
Art Tour - then learned I had purchased
a painting of his at a Toronto exhibit!
There are options available for anyone of any fitness level. That is another reason to like this resort – it has something for everyone. There are the usual sorts of poolside activities, of course, but there are also opportunities to learn about the community and culture. You can take a tour of local villages, visit a farm, go on a “Jeep” excursion (in Suzuki 4X4s) or take the Manzanillo Art Tour – a new day-trip that was launched while I was there in February. And, if you like local art and crafts, be sure take a stroll to the rotary at the resort’s main entrance; you’ll find a nice selection of souvenir booths there almost every day. Crafts are also intermittently available by the pool at each hotel.

The "Titanic" skit is  quite funny!
Not sufficiently entertained yet? Well, don’t miss the evening entertainment that’s offered at both hotels – the Marea and the Farallon (which is open in high season only). These shows are high-energy variety nights that generally include live music, comedy and dancing. As a repeat guest, I can tell you there are some consistent elements and schticks but there are also new skits, new dance routines and new costumes on display every year, as well as new bands that feature some incredibly talented local musicians. As well, for those who want to party into the night, there’s a disco on the beach, where the d.j. will take requests.

I prefer to stay the cabañas (shown here) because
they are level with the beach and generally quieter.
I can also tell you, as someone who has been paying attention over the years, that this little resort has been working hard to make annual physical improvements. This past year, for instance, they did a major overhaul of the Marea Hotel dining room, and it looks great! They’ve created a new a la carte restaurant at the Farallon Hotel, added more outdoor beach showers and patios at the Marea Hotel, upgraded the Marea cabañas and enhanced the grounds in general. It just keeps getting better, each and every year!

The Marea Hotel pool is adjacent
to the entertainment centre,
and there are plenty of seats.
Other improvements include more shaded seating at the Marea poolside snackbar, as well as more choices of snacks (although supplies do sometimes run low). The food at the resort, in general, has improved over the years, in my opinion. There’s more variety at the buffets and the new steamer tables at the renovated Marea dining room keep things hotter. My best repeat-guest dining tip is this: be sure to check what they’ve got on the grill before filling your plate at the buffet. The grills at both hotels always have the freshest, hottest meat, and sometimes vegetables too.

The Farallon Hotel pool is larger than Marea's and
has a swim-up bar. Both offer afternoon activities.
Here’s another repeater tip: book the VIP package. It is available with Superior Rooms at the Farallon or Cabañas at the Marea, which are the only two hotels in the main complex – the Punta Piedra Hotel is technically part of the resort but is actually located 5 km down the road. The VIP package includes two trips to an idyllic island called Cayo Blanco, a lobster meal, a Sunset Cruise, free use of the in-room wall safe, etc. You can pay for these options separately after you arrive but, if you do the math, you’re better off being a VIP, which must be booked in advance.

Some produce on the hotels'
buffets is grown locally.
The physical stuff aside, there’s another compelling reason to return to Marea del Portillo time and again: the people. I’m not just talking about the resort staff; I’m also referring to the community surrounding the facility. According to my own observation, reading and conversations with others, the people in this part of Cuba are some of the warmest, most welcoming folks in the entire island.

Excellent towel origami.
Maybe it’s just good, old-fashioned southern hospitality. Perhaps it’s because they aren’t as over-run with tourists as other parts of the country and, therefore, aren’t tainted by the inundation. I don’t know. Whatever it is, I like it. I appreciate the opportunity to chat with the locals and get to know their culture in a more up-close and personal way – not just observing life through a bus window!

A Marea del Portillo toast with
birthday-girl Wendy, one of
my repeat group members.
Why do I keep returning to this obscure resort in a rather remote, rural part of Cuba? I’ve fallen in love with the people, as well as the place itself. I feel at home here – peaceful, happy and safe. Guests are not warned to stay on the grounds; they are encouraged to explore the area and consider Marea del Portillo their second home. For many people who visit this resort regularly, it is a place of healing and rejuvenation, which is why they keep coming back. The rate of repeat clients here is among the highest in Cuba.

Club Amigo Marea del Portillo and Farallon del Caribe may be rated as a three-star resort but I consider that a mere technicality. People say ‘you get what you pay for’ but, here, I truly believe you get more than you pay for!

Gorgeous sunrises and sunsets are always included free of charge at Marea del Portillo, Cuba!



Excellent cuisine & service at Ferlin's

I wrote the following review for TripAdvisor after my Feb. 26, 2014, trip to Marea del Portillo. It's now posted there, along with a couple of photos. If you visit that site, be sure to give me a "helpful" vote!

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is a view of Ferlin's looking from the main road that
runs through the Marea del Portillo village.
When visiting Cuba, it's nice to sample the local cuisine and, while staying at Club Amigo Marea del Portillo and Farallon del Caribe, it's easy to do so! Ferlin's restaurant is located in the village of Marea del Portillo, about 2 km from the resort. You can go by bike, taxi or, for an even more authentic cultural experience, take a horse and buggy ride.

Operated by Ehrlin and Fernando, this little restaurant consistently serves up great food and provides top-notch service at affordable prices. Dining options include lobster, shrimp, fish and other regional entrees – not just seafood, although that's preference! They also have wonderful freshly prepared plantain chips, which I would recommend as a snack or starter for any meal.



Their new fountain was
almost ready for use.
When dining at Ferlin's, you are seated on an open-air patio, covered by a thatched roof, with a good view of the village thoroughfare. It's a great way to absorb some of the local culture without absorbing too much sun! 



Chichi points out the
new fountain at Ferlin's.
They usually have beer and wine available but you are also welcome to bring your own. They also serve other beverages, including water which, in my experience, is perfectly safe to drink here. Both of the owners have worked at the nearby resort for years and understand how to handle food properly, as well as how to serve food appropriately. 



Ferlin's is an increasingly popular eatery, so you may sometimes have to wait for a table. However, there will likely be music to keep you entertained and a craft table to peruse while you wait. 



Every time I visit, they seem to have something new. This time, they were in the process of adding a decorative fountain near the entrance gate. I'll be looking forward to seeing it in action on my next visit!

My pal Alina and I love dining at Ferlin's whenever possible and,
since she's a professional chef, you can be assured that their
food is awesome - especially the shrimp, lobster and stuffed fish.




28 Mar 2014

My review of Casa de Noelia in Pilón


REVIEW: Casa de Noelia, Pilón, Granma, Cuba


Casa de Noelia entrance
gate, from the highway.
In March of 2014, I stayed for two weeks in a casa particular in a small town called Pilón, deep within the province of Granma, a rather rural region in southern Cuba.

This was the first time I had the opportunity to stay in a private home that is the Cuban equivalent of a “bed and breakfast” type of accommodation, so I was very curious to see what it would be like. It was lovely! The house itself was very nice and so were the hosts – Noelia, her husband Noel and her ex-husband David, who lived in a room at the back of the home.

Noelia and Noel, charming casa particular proprietors.
That’s the way it is sometimes, in Cuba; housing is at a premium and households are complicated. Even though Noelia and David had split up years ago, he still needed a place to live, and he continued to contribute to the workings of their shared home. When, for instance, on my first night there, I got locked in the bathroom because the doorknob was not working properly, he was the one who showed up in the morning with a screwdriver and attempted to fix it. He couldn’t, but it was not a big deal. Since I was not sharing the baño with anyone, I simply didn’t latch the door after that – no problem.

My part of the house was to the
left of the main entrance.
The home's main entrance and welcoming front porch.
The part of the house that I occupied, for 25 CUC (CUban Convertible pesos, which are very close to the rate of the US$) per night, included a private bathroom with a large shower, a big bedroom with an air conditioner and a fan, a living room with a television and multiple sofas, and a kitchen with a fridge, sink and table (but no other appliances or dishes). I also had my own patio at the front and an open invitation to join the proprietors on their larger veranda, or to make myself at home anywhere on the grounds. I often had lunch at a shaded table in the front courtyard and, in the cool and breezy evenings, sometimes climbed the steel stairs to the roof to admire the moon.

This private living room was included
in the section of the house I rented.
My bedroom - other rooms can be
rented in the main part of the casa.
Casa de Noelia is located on the main highway running through Pilón, about an hour and a half from Manzanillo de Cuba. It’s very near the town’s only gas station, the Cupet, which also has a small convenience store. The house itself is a charming yellow stucco and stone with decorative white pillars, marked only with a small sign at the gate that states: Room for Rent/Casa de Renta. 

It is set back from the road, partially hidden by trees and shrubbery, so quite peaceful and private.  The property is surrounded by chain-link fencing and protected by a friendly dog that knows his job and signals “Intruder alert!” at appropriate moments.
The adorable guard dog!

Noelia La O Machado is a good hostess and cook. Even though I did not eat many meals there, due to friends in the neighborhood who insisted on feeding me, I did sample some of her cuisine and can give it two thumbs up. She would have been delighted to provide food for me more often, at a reasonable rate.

I had been a bit concerned, at first, that we would have difficulty communicating because my Spanish is limited and my hosts’ English was non-existent but, ultimately, it was not an insurmountable obstacle. We did not have sparkling conversations about the world affairs, of course, but we got along just fine. And, on the day before I was due to leave, Noelia presented me with a beautiful floral arrangement she had purchased. Wow!

Before I left, we shared more than one big hug – abrazo grande – and I promised to visit the next time I was in the area. I also promised myself to learn more Spanish before then!

I enjoyed sitting at this shaded table for lunch or dinner.
If you want a pleasant, quiet place to stay in Pilón, I can recommend Casa de Noelia, at Carretera Granma #12. The phone number is (011 – 53) 23594959. Or, you can just show up at the front gate and call out, “Noelia! Noelia!” She will greet you, at almost any time of day, and do whatever she can to provide warm, friendly accommodation.