January 2, 2014

Eight things I Can Tell You

1. I can see the mountains far off in the distance from where we are, and that is where they grew the coffee beans for the cup of coffee I'm drinking right now.  I'd forgotten that Cuba has wonderful, amazing coffee.  They don't make it the way I do at home either - here every cup is made one by each, a long draw on an espresso machine, and each time with wonderful crema across the top, "Con leche?" they ask me, but I take it black.

2. When we discuss money and what to do with it, Joe and I have always put travel at the top of the list.  Still, here we are, this far in and we haven't done much of it at all. Now that the girls are big and we've established that we don't really care about furniture, maybe this is what we should be doing more of? We're thinking it over, standing here, watching the sun set.

4. Everywhere I go, I see a plant that is either a complete mystery to me, or is something that is a houseplant in Canada - here rewritten as a tree, or a vine that envelopes a building.  Hibiscus and azaleas are everywhere, huge and treated like weeds and hedges.

  The trees are strange shapes, with leaves I can't identify, even if I cast my mind back to the stuff I learned for my arbourist badge in Girl Guides. Oak, Maple, Lombardy... none of the trees I know are here. Instead, trees with round leaves, smooth bark, or fronds as big as me. Every where I go I look at the green things and mumble "What the hell is that?"

(This plant was as tall as me.)

(When I ask it out loud, sometimes a Cuban answers me, although usually their answer is in Spanish, and I still don't get it.  Yesterday though, Katie and I paid a peso to go into a tiny little museum - the ground floor of a house really, and that lady spoke a little English, and was able to identify Mahogany.  It was thrilling.)

5. One of the things on display in the museum was Che Guevera's glass asthma inhaler.

6. Yesterday Sam, Joe and Carlos went scuba diving in the Bay of Pigs.

7. This particular area is full of Canadians - although in the course of a day I hear about nineteen languages. Yesterday Lou dug sand castles with a little girl from France, while Katie and I had our towels next to Russians on one side, and Germans on the other.  We play rousing games of "guess the language" daily.  It is a little bit bizarre to be somewhere that Americans are not.  I'm used to finding them everywhere, and having things to talk about - when we are anywhere in the world, we have a language and a geography in common, and they're usually our fast friends. Here, there are people from all over the world, but no Americans. It's interesting - Americans generally outnumber Canadians ten to one - so all travelling Canadians  are used to being taken for Americans first, as soon as we speak English,  before our accents or a stray "eh?" sets us apart and gives our identity away.  Here? As soon as anyone at all hears North American style English, the total assumption is that you're Canadian, and it's wildly interesting to be a majority anywhere outside of Canada, considering our tiny population.  Here though?  There's three clocks in the lobby, and they tell the time for Havana, Moscow and Ottawa and there's poutine on the buffet.

8. Today I was swimming in the ocean and a pelican flew over me so low it almost touched my hair.

Posted by Stephanie at January 2, 2014 7:23 PM

The huge bushes with the pink flowers are Oleanders and they're deadly poison!!

Posted by: sandyk at January 2, 2014 7:43 PM

I've been to Cuba and loved the people. I decided not to go back until democracy reigns. My husband desperately wants to go again but I'm holding out. The desperate poverty I saw that you don't see in resorts was hard for me to take.

Posted by: Rosetta at January 2, 2014 7:45 PM

Depending where you are staying, the espresso machine could be one my uncle sold them. He's done a lot of business in Cuba over the years.

Posted by: Natalie at January 2, 2014 7:47 PM

I'm dying to find out what number 3 was!!! I'm guessing it either has to do with cigars or music. BTW--as an American I wish it was easier to go to Cuba. My dad dealt black jack there in the pre-Castro American heyday there and I would love to see Havana.

Posted by: Karen at January 2, 2014 7:49 PM

I've never been outside of north america, and not very far outside of Canada, and not to very much of Canada itself, with not much prospect of that changing any time soon. I love living vicariously through your travel posts; this one took my breath away!

Posted by: Pam at January 2, 2014 7:52 PM

I would love to go to Cuba someday. Perhaps I'll have to immigrate to Canada first (being a US Citizen and all... Cuba becomes... tricky)

Posted by: Ann (WG) at January 2, 2014 7:58 PM

Thanks for the post. My husband is Cuban. The country is so beautiful. The people are so loving. I encourage everyone to leave the resorts and see the real Cuba and meet the locals.

Posted by: Andria at January 2, 2014 7:59 PM

Poutine on the buffet?!

Posted by: JL at January 2, 2014 8:00 PM

I'm glad you and Joe took the time off. The strange thing about Cuba was that I was really, really, healthy. No asthma problems, no headaches, no upset stomach. I had to frog all my knitting when I got home though. Can't wait to go back!

Posted by: Karen S at January 2, 2014 8:02 PM

SandyK @ 7:43 beat me to the identification of Oleander, the only one I know other than hibiscus. And I don't know if the plant as a whole is poisonous or just the smoke from burning it. Back in the day, lots of hobos and the likes died when they burned it for warmth. I don't know how far north it grows but we have it here in Jacksonville, FL... Enjoy your visit and all your future travels. I agree, get out of the resorts, unless you are just wanting to relax and recharge!! Then just stay at the beach!

Posted by: Fran at January 2, 2014 8:20 PM

Maybe the pelican thought your hair was seaweed?

Posted by: Mama Urchin at January 2, 2014 8:28 PM

Is there a 3rd item? Is it a secret? Is there now an internet censer to take out secret stuff? Inquiring minds want to know! It is surely beautiful.

Posted by: Jude at January 2, 2014 8:36 PM

That aloe-looking plant looks like it might want to devour an unsuspecting human. I don't trust it.

Posted by: aelscha at January 2, 2014 8:42 PM

Yes to #2. Travel! When our kids were young we took them to most of the English speaking countries. My daughter took French in high school and got us around Paris with no problems. This summer we will go to Sicily (husbands family is from there) and none of us speak Italian. We are studying on-line Italian and I suspect the grandkids will outperform us all. I travel a bit for work and manage to speak critically important phrases and am constantly amazed how much can be communicated via sign language.. I can't eat dairy so with the phrases "no butter, no cheese, no milk" the waiter can select something for me to eat. My kids are confident enough to travel just about anywhere. Travel! And if you haven't yet seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, it will surely make you want to hit the road.

Posted by: Llen at January 2, 2014 8:55 PM

Third photo is oleander, one of the regular landscaping plants down here. And I do have to agree with Sandyk's comment; they are poisonous, but they are easy to grow in the tropical areas.

Whereas the fourth appears to be a snake plant (also known as a mother-in-law's tounge plant), also a tender tropical.

Posted by: Joey B. at January 2, 2014 8:59 PM

Did I miss #3?

Posted by: Joanne at January 2, 2014 9:03 PM

Did I miss #3?

Posted by: Joanne at January 2, 2014 9:04 PM

Joe will leave work committments to travel! I am beyond amazed.

Love your descriptions of your holiday. That coffee/bean-growing story - and I guess freshly-roasted is beyond belief. How wonderful. I have heard oleanders also grow on the streets of Athens. I am waiting for you to see bouganvillea hedges (mind the thorns). I can't seen maple, oak and lombardy poplars cutting it in Cuba, but I am sure someone can suprise me, gardeners always want something that is difficult to grow. The succulents, agaves and palms are something else.

Enjoy the heat/warmth while you can. I think a repeat of this type of holiday may be considered in the future. Woot, woot.

Posted by: StellaMM at January 2, 2014 9:05 PM

As unusual as it is for you as a Canadian to travel internationally without encountering oodles of Americans, the concept of Cuba as a destination--vacation, business, or any other kind--is unusual to me as an American.

Posted by: Amanda at January 2, 2014 9:07 PM

We have also, relatively recently, come to the decision that travel is money well spent over most 'things'. It is an investment in a lifetime, learning, seeing, experiencing. All of those portable as you return home. Keep thinking about more travel for yourselves.

Posted by: Robby at January 2, 2014 9:08 PM

My daughter dated a Scotsman who was in the USA on a work visa. He went to Cuba for a vacation and it never occurred to me that people could go there for fun. As an American, it was never an option so I completely discounted it.

It sounds like you are having a great vacation. Enjoy the warm weather. I live in central NYS. It's supposed to snow for 2 days straight and the temperatures are going to drop into the negative teens. Ah, the joys of living in the Northeast!

Posted by: Suefaye at January 2, 2014 9:09 PM

Just for reference, a US citizen can't even look up travel information to Cuba on the net -- and in trying, I'm sure to have gotten on some list or other :) I hear Cuba is beautiful! Enjoy.

Posted by: kmoya at January 2, 2014 9:28 PM

My husband and I agree that travel is at the top of our list as well. It has also made us glad that we live in Canada.

Posted by: Sheila at January 2, 2014 9:41 PM

Do they have pineapple there? There is nothing as wonderful as pineapple so fresh it was picked that same morning.

Posted by: Nancy at January 2, 2014 9:47 PM

Strangely, I was mistaken for a Canadian at a B&B in Inverness, Scotland! Maybe that's another place where they don't get many American tourists. . . .

Since two of the girls are out of the nest, and the third is nearly so, you and Joe should make plans to travel more. The Blog would love to hear about your adventures, and you might even get another book out of it!

Posted by: Anonymous, too at January 2, 2014 10:02 PM

As a US citizen, I envy you your easy access to Cuba. In a way, I would love to visit before it becomes 'open' to US tourists, who will undoubtedly have a huge commercial impact. It's wonderful that you can travel with your family, and that you can do it without major prior planning. So glad you are getting your sun time after all the ice you escaped!

Posted by: Suzanne at January 2, 2014 10:38 PM

I am not surprised that you end up vacationing in a place where they grow coffee. Providental, no? The coffee must taste fantastic freshly roasted. Wonderfully jealous of you. Do tell, how do you get sand out of the knitting?

Posted by: paisleyapron at January 2, 2014 10:47 PM

I would love to travel to Cuba some day, but the government there must change before that is an option. We leave in a couple of days for cancun, which is just across the gulf from Cuba. We love it there, and feel safe.

Posted by: Karla at January 2, 2014 11:05 PM

Today I learned that, as an American, I can't visit Cuba. Which means now I want to go /really/ bad.

Posted by: Katie at January 2, 2014 11:09 PM

Yeah, we don't have to go to Cuba, they come here! As any Floridian can tell you. *tee hee*

Posted by: Angela at January 2, 2014 11:12 PM

See if you can extend your stay; it's blowing snow and it was -18C this morning in Toronto. Are you getting any knitting done?

Posted by: Mary deB at January 2, 2014 11:13 PM

Americans can go to Cuba, but you have to go via a tour. Google "Cuba tours" and you'll find plenty of options. Most are pretty expensive but completely legal.

Posted by: Naomi at January 2, 2014 11:37 PM

Way to use your Canadian citizenship for something really special! I've been to Cuba twice (an easy drive from Detroit to Toronto and an easy plane ride) and in many ways came of age on that island, it holds a permanent place in my heart and I yearn to return. Be on the lookout for beautiful skies, I began noticing the sky when I was in Cuba and I've never forgotten just what a beautiful canvas Mother Nature paints for us over and over again as the days pass.

Posted by: eliza twist at January 2, 2014 11:48 PM

Varigated Agave is the plant name for the yellow and green long skinny tough leaf plant.

Posted by: Ardis at January 3, 2014 12:03 AM

Next time you come to LA we'll go to Huntington Garden where you'll see a lot of what's on the island. It's huge and beautiful. Bring Joe, you know you have a place to stay.

Posted by: Wen at January 3, 2014 12:11 AM

Yes! Travel more, getting to know different places is my goal in life :-D Come to Uruguay!!! You'll love it here, we have very nice yarn ;-)

Posted by: veriton at January 3, 2014 12:35 AM

Cuba sounds very cool! The coffee is how we drink it in a lot of places in Australia (including my home espresso machine - yum!), oleander is also a street tree in lots of parts of Australia but less and less as yes, all parts of it are poisonous - though the flowers are lovely and they're easy to grow. If you're thinking of more travel I'm thinking you need to come even further South ... Australia is always good :)

Posted by: MissLisa at January 3, 2014 1:30 AM

pink blossoms on shoulder-high shrubs = oleander (comes in several colors). Spiky plant looks like a century plant. That stuff grows here in Louisiana, too. I remember when the company first moved us here in 1975...I couldn't identify most of the plants, either.

Posted by: Barbara Seiver at January 3, 2014 1:38 AM

Oh, I envy you Cuba! We happily hiked up to Vancouver and bought Cuban coffee whenever we could get it a few years back--not much is exported now, so we miss it. And I agree, having experiences beats things (yarn excepted). My Dad loves quote his dad, who always told him, "Put your money in memories...no one can take those from you."

Have fun! Eat wonderful things and revel in the delightful people. Thanks for sharing your magical voyage with us.

Posted by: kt at January 3, 2014 2:12 AM

Others have already identified the oleander, so I'll just say: we came househunting in California in March 27 years ago, and coming from New Hampshire's monochromatic snow/gray dirty snow at the edges landscape, having those green leaves and pink blossoms down the medians on the expressways in early March was just the most amazing thing.

There's not so much of it along the roads here anymore; when they trim it back so it doesn't grow into the lanes, it leaves sharp points pointing at passing cars.

But it's a beautiful plant. And it blooms for a long time and twice a year.

Posted by: AlisonH at January 3, 2014 2:18 AM

It looks just beautiful - look at all those flowers! In December! (Looks very unimpressed at the grey outside). There are so many amazing places in the world to see I hope the travel plans come to fruition.

Posted by: Carie at January 3, 2014 3:43 AM

I am American and my husband and I went to Cuba last year. It was a people to people trip, the one type America sanctions, but it was beautiful and colorful. They people were kind but we were told it is an automatic prison sentence if you harm an American. So when we walked through a plaza people cleared away from us. We spent 10 days there visiting Trinidad and Havana, in churches, museums, gardens, and pretty much whatever the Cuban government wanted us to see.

Posted by: Patti at January 3, 2014 4:53 AM

Well, here I was thinking that we (Americans)are still not allowed to travel to Cuba. Apparently, I am wrong.
But on that travel thing? The kids are grown, move to Hawaii, or some lovely place that has a major airport and travel whenever you want, though I think that if you moved to Hawaii, you'd still be traveling to Canada for the kids....

Posted by: Cynthia at January 3, 2014 6:51 AM

The coffee sounds delicious! :) The plants, flowers, and trees sound and look gorgeous!

Posted by: knittyknatty at January 3, 2014 7:09 AM

I'm so jealous of the warm temperatures, but I'm so glad that you are having a great time. In my neck of the woods it's supposed to get up to a whopping 3 degrees for tomorrow's high and tomorrow night be -14. Yuck!!! I totally agree with you on the whole travel experience. I've traveled more than some, but not as much as I'd like. You really cracked me up with the whole language thing. About 13 years ago my family and I visited Montreal and got lost looking for our hotel. When we finally gave up and stopped to ask directions, the woman we found who was willing to try to help us only spoke French. Since I only spoke English and high school Spanish it was a hysterical conversation with a lot of laughing and gesturing. Thank God French and Spanish are Romance Languages because they had enough in common that we finally figured it out and found our hotel. The conversation was in French and Spanish and was just hysterical! I'm sure that if my high school Spanish teachers could have heard me they would have just cried LOL! Have a great vacation!

Posted by: Dyepotgirl at January 3, 2014 7:10 AM

In Bermuda, a shopkeeper asked my husband if we were Canadian. He said "No, American." She said, "Really? But you're so nice!"

Posted by: Mary at January 3, 2014 7:24 AM

How I envy you being able to travel to Cuba. I wonder how long it will be before America realizes that this ban is crazy.

Posted by: Barbara at January 3, 2014 7:25 AM

Your description makes me want to go to Cuba! I'm glad you are having a great trip. I'm envious of all of it, especially the coffee. Enjoy!

Posted by: amy g at January 3, 2014 7:34 AM

Thank you for the wonderful warm looking photos. It really helps on cold day like today.

Enjoy your time there, but I have a feeling you already are.

Posted by: Barbara S. at January 3, 2014 7:38 AM

How does poutine fare sitting on a buffet? Or do you create it yourself from the components?

I've never had it, but it sounds like the ultimate college student late night snack. I'll have to tell daughter to keep an eye out for it. Maybe she can find a Canadian (U of Illinois) to help out.

Posted by: Iris at January 3, 2014 7:41 AM

The plant in the third photo down is one I have on the top of my bookshelf, called a snake plant. It's astounding to see it growing to that size. You might not want to come back yet - down to minus 36C here today.

Posted by: Jo-Anne at January 3, 2014 8:11 AM

I have heard legend of these 'warm places'. Must investigate further. Here in the GTA it is -25 with wind chill at a shocking -40.

Posted by: Melissa at January 3, 2014 8:25 AM

This sounds like a fabulous vacation! Enjoy it, soak up the warmth of the sun... and please bring it back to Canada with you! Happy New Year!

Posted by: Leigh at January 3, 2014 8:34 AM

So... am I missing number 3? I went back and checked, still did not see it. Kind of interesting.

Posted by: Sarah at January 3, 2014 9:12 AM

I live in the US and people I know have gone to Cuba to do research. Hemingway, a good friend of Fidel Castro had a house there and about ten years ago a small group of people went to Cuba to research papers that were in the Hemingway house. That research expanded and a friend went to advise in the conservation of Hemingway's boat "Pilar". The Freedom Schooner "Amistad" (reproduction of original) also sailed into Havana on goodwill trip within the past 5-6 years. Slowly doors are opening.

Posted by: Just me at January 3, 2014 9:32 AM

Trying to plot our next Cuban adventure so I'm reading your post with great interest, Stephanie. Bay of Pigs, Che's inhaler....

Always enchanting. I absolutely loved staying right in old Havana in 2012. But this time my partner wants more beach.

Posted by: Susan D at January 3, 2014 9:37 AM

Oh on a fibery note. Some member of the Agave plant group is where the fiber sisal comes from. That's the twine used for tying hay bales. I have done knotting with it not knitting.
Had oleander in AZ and it makes a great hedge, you can prune it severely and it comes back nice and tight. Very poisonous. What you would see in June would be frangi pangi (sp?)(so fragrant) and royal poinciana trees. (A low tree with a a crown of flowers, they come in different brilliant shades of orange.) I saw them in Key West. AAAAH that was a trip.

Posted by: Just me at January 3, 2014 9:41 AM

I envy you! Someday I'll go back to Cuba. I went when I was 13 months old so I have absolutely no memory of it. My father was Cuban and lived in Havana. He emigrated to the US in 1948 and remaining family members arrived around 1959. We have beautiful photos of country and its beaches, and he always hoped to return. Enjoy!

Posted by: Deb at January 3, 2014 9:46 AM

The fourth plant is actually a type of Century Plant (agave americana).

Posted by: Dee at January 3, 2014 10:00 AM

I'm not the first to recognize Oleander in picture #4. Had it in a large pot blooming in my LR in upstate NY until my son was born and crawling. Then someone told me it was poisonous so we got rid of it. According to my Success with Houseplants book...."all parts of the plant are poisonous. If a child picks the flowers and licks his/her fingers immediately afterwards, headaches, nausea and vomiting may result."
Have seen this plant blooming along roadsides in California.
Really glad you are having such a great time. My country, USA, is so full of itself we are shooting ourselves in the feet left, right and center in more ways than one.

Posted by: SusanS at January 3, 2014 10:03 AM

it sounds like you are having a perfectly wonderful time!!
enjoy and have a coffee for me!

it is -22 here today (ottawa)

Posted by: donna at January 3, 2014 10:09 AM

Was the pelican white or brown ? I've seen brown ones off, Jekyll
Island , fishing . And unbelieveably , white ones on a lake in

Iowa !

Posted by: Barbara at January 3, 2014 10:12 AM

Under a foot of light snow here in Rochester, NY with a high expected of 8F/-13C today. Stay away! and Enjoy!!

Posted by: pattiblaine at January 3, 2014 10:23 AM

Funny about the Americans comment. When I first read that you were in Cuba- my first thought was "They lifted the travel ban to Cuba?" then I remembered that of course you were Canadian and Canada must not have the same ban. :)

Posted by: brenda at January 3, 2014 10:31 AM

I used to live in Tampa Bay where there are lots of Cubans who came over to work in the cigar factories. They opened a bunch of restaurants, where I learned to love Cuban food. Do try the cafe con leche - it's one of my favorite treats. It's especially fine with a desert. Have you tried plantanos yet? Yum!

Posted by: Amanda at January 3, 2014 10:34 AM

Someone said that she wouldn't go back to Cuba until the government changed and that she found the extreme poverty hard to take. You do not have to go to Cuba to find oppressive governments, nor do you have to travel outside the USA and Canada to find grinding poverty. Perhaps not as extreme as in Cuba but if we are talking going hungry for extended periods, I can witness that there are places in our much-vaunted so-called "civilized" democracies where in fact families do go hungry a lot of the time.

Not only that, but where I live, in Manitoba, in the summer we have white pelicans. You can see them on the Red River at Lockport, in flotillas of hundreds, or on Lake Winnipeg at Gimli where they are nicknamed "The Icelandic Air Force". Brown Pelicans, however, stick to the tropics and are mostly found in the Caribbean or in the coastal areas of the southern States.

I'm glad you are having a wonderful time; and I'm still boggled that even in 2014 it is difficult for Americans to go to Cuba. It seems like almost everyone I know goes there for at least a week every year.

Posted by: StrongCat at January 3, 2014 11:03 AM

I am the lucky daughter of a man who had an itchy foot (love of travel) all his life, and I inherited the gene! It is a wonderful investment in your point of view and your mental health, showing you the world and also yourself. And so many perspectives. It can be humbling and ennobling, exciting and incredibly dull. I learned to play cribbage during looooong layovers in the old days when prop planes had hours-long problems, and I learned to crochet when stuck in a remote hotel because the trains had stopped. Just always pack your sense of humor and you will have the joy of the road.

Posted by: Kristina at January 3, 2014 11:09 AM

PS The oleander is planted along a lot of California highways for beauty and color and because it is very tough and seems to thrive in spite of air pollution, blowing dirt and dust, and wayward cars. It is only poisonous if you eat it, causes rashes for adults who handle it a lot. There may be several varieties with different levels of potential harm.

Posted by: Kristina at January 3, 2014 11:14 AM

Yes, travel is so much better than things. SO much better! You guys should be traveling more for fun.

I'm fascinated with your Cuba trip because, as you say, it isn't something Americans can do. As an American though, usually when I've traveled overseas, I'm the minority. Germans seem to get around the most.

Maybe it is the places I go?

Posted by: Laurie at January 3, 2014 11:16 AM

Always taken aback that in Guys and Dolls Sky Masterson lures the Salvation Army lassie down for an evening in Havana -- from NY. Autres temps, autres travel possibilities.

By the way, take a step on the beach. That squeaking sound you didn't hear? That's the sound the snow here is making today. Bask.

Posted by: rams at January 3, 2014 11:26 AM

Any yarn shops in the area? Any knitting happening on the beach? You must have taken some knitting even if just for the flight.

Posted by: Lois at January 3, 2014 11:37 AM

I agree with the travel thing - I keep telling my fiancee that we need to do more of it...And we're going to...But we have a big trip planned to Japan, and it's going to take awhile to save for it. And I'm totally looking forward to it! - I've been before as an exchange student, but I'm looking forward to going back as a tourist. :)

Enjoy it - Calgary has lost it's chinook, and we've already had 3 inches of snow overnight! :(

Katie =^..^=

Posted by: Katie =^..^= at January 3, 2014 11:49 AM

I share your travel lust and tho as an American I can't easily go to Cuba, I found that Costa Rica has many similar charms to recommend it. Y'know, just in case you want to venture out again sometime soon. (My smartphone is filled with photos of plants and flowers I'd never seen before.)
Thanks for the vicarious vacation!

Posted by: Su1282 at January 3, 2014 12:09 PM

I'm fairly sure the plant as tall as you is an agave plant (what is used to make taquila)? I could be wrong. I'm from the states and there's a weird association here that Cuba = war zone, no matter what. I think it has to do with the few things we know about it being cartels and Fidel Castro. Terrible, I know, but probably why there aren't a lot of Americans there.

Posted by: marikajean at January 3, 2014 12:36 PM

Actually, Americans can go to Cuba, but you have to be part of a humanitarian or other kind of educational group. I wish relations were better. I'd love to go.

Posted by: tejasmom at January 3, 2014 12:58 PM

I hope to head out on my third trip to Cuba in February. A beautiful and interesting country. Learning a bit of the history will help you understand more about Cuba. Education (to university level) and health care are free to all in Cuba. BTW I am Canadian and live in a border city in Canada and when I go to the airport here there are plenty of Americans flying to Cuba out of Canada. Easy for them to do as Cuba does not stamp your passport, so no evidence of your trip to Cuba.

Posted by: valerie at January 3, 2014 12:58 PM

4th plant looks more like a Dracaena to me, rather than Agave.

Posted by: valerie at January 3, 2014 1:00 PM

If you like coffee and travel, may I suggest Italy? Anywhere in Italy. I found no bad coffee, bad food, or bad wine in Italy. The scenery, both urban and rural, is fabulous. People are friendly. There is some AMAZING yarn, if you know where to look, for dangerously good prices. You can easily travel by bus and by train. And waking up in Florence to the sound of the bells ringing at the cathedral -- glorious.

Posted by: Amanda at January 3, 2014 1:06 PM

We were always mistaken for Canadians when we lived in Belfast in the late 1980s. Same assumption - Americans weren't usually in the parts where we lived and shopped.

Posted by: Diane H at January 3, 2014 1:11 PM

The big stripy guy is definitely variegated agave, not dracaena or sansevieria. They're all over in California, which is where I first learned about unfamiliar warm-climate plants.

Mmm Cuban coffee. As a deprived American, I've only had it in Florida. Enjoy the sunshine!

Posted by: Alex at January 3, 2014 1:12 PM

Just as an FYI to all Americans, the recent AAA brochure has a trip to Cuba. I too am a bit confused on the status of US citizens being able to travel to Cuba, but since AAA is offering tours I'm thinking it must be legal now? all I know is my husband would LOVE to see all those old cars!

Posted by: Patti at January 3, 2014 1:19 PM

I have always wanted to go to Cuba for my entire life!!! And I'm an American, so if anyone can resolve that goofy can we-or-can't we status, please share!

Posted by: Lisa at January 3, 2014 1:26 PM

As others have said, US citizens can travel to Cuba legally, if they go for certain purposes (such as educational, job-related, or person-to-person trips) and use designated travel agencies. Several of my U.S. friends toured the island in recent years -- and one even led a trip for college students. Reuters recently reported that 98,000 Americans traveled to Cuba in 2012 (not counting 350,000 Cuban-Americans who also visited). But because of the nature of their travel, you probably wouldn't see them at resorts.

Posted by: vpurl at January 3, 2014 1:46 PM

Your pictures are wonderful. Thank you. Yes, I think everyone should travel, and do it as young as you can. You'll have the memories when the furniture & other stuff is history.

Posted by: Rose at January 3, 2014 1:47 PM

oh... a pelican up close?! Remarkable! How delightful it all looks. While I'm not overly fond of flying, I cannot imagine losing the desire to see the world. One of my favourite quotes is this, "The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only one page." I wish to devour whole chapters at a time!

Posted by: Christine M east of Toronto at January 3, 2014 1:54 PM

Hard to tell, but the green plant with the pink flowers might be oleander. I love that word!

Now I want to go to Cuba!

Posted by: Ann Hunt at January 3, 2014 2:05 PM

Hard to tell, but the green plant with the pink flowers might be oleander. I love that word!

Now I want to go to Cuba!

Posted by: Ann Hunt at January 3, 2014 2:05 PM

Love live poutine!

Posted by: stashmuffin at January 3, 2014 2:18 PM

Pretty pink oleanders in that picture - they grow in California, too. Very tough plants, but poisonous to eat or use for marshmallow-toasting sticks or decorative flowers on cakes. They probably won't kill an adult, but they'd certainly make you sick.

Posted by: P J Evans at January 3, 2014 3:00 PM

The second plant is Agave americana, or century plant. It can get quite large before it blooms, and the flower stalks can be twenty or thirty feet tall.

Posted by: P J Evans at January 3, 2014 3:02 PM

I am so freaking jealous! I just dug out from 20 inches of snow and expecting below zero temps tonight. I'm craving a beach that doesn't have freezing waves crashing over it! Brrr!

Posted by: Barbara at January 3, 2014 3:20 PM

That third photo, the plant as tall as you, looks like the plant in our living room we call "mother-in-law tongue". This name has always made me giggle a little. Also, was there supposed to be a third thing you know??

Posted by: Lissa at January 3, 2014 3:20 PM

Yes, travel. Go until there is no "go" left in you and then take a cruise. That is the philosophy my husband and I have, and it enriches our lives tremendously. It makes all the scrimping through-out the years, and hearing that our children were the last persons on the planet to get cell phones worth every moment.

And, those are oleander bushes. Known as freeway plants in California as they are used in the medians.

Posted by: PJ at January 3, 2014 3:45 PM

Too broke. Too many of us our of work or have badly downsized work hours. There are things to care for first. Trips to Cuba...or anywhere for that matter are hard for most of us right now. Maybe...later.


Posted by: B. Rickman at January 3, 2014 4:30 PM

(winter whimper) -- it's great that you've all decided to fly south. you def. picked the right week. and that coffee looks so creamy and delicious.

Posted by: kelli ann at January 3, 2014 4:35 PM

I loved, loved Cuba. My husband and I had a wonderful time visiting the island. It also got us away from those cold Saskatchewan winters.

God bless.

Posted by: Jackie Phillips at January 3, 2014 4:55 PM

I dated a Canadian a few years back, and he used to joke that the only place Canadians could go where there was no one from the US was Cuba, and that as soon as we could go to Cuba too, on a regular basis, then Canadians would start setting up tours to North Korea. I think he was joking about that last.

Posted by: Ken at January 3, 2014 5:05 PM

Just for the record--a single oleander leaf can kill an adult. Even honey made from oleander blossoms is poisonous. [Check on line for full information.] The shrub is beautiful and serves wonderfully for freeway midline plantings. Personally--I wouldn't want it in my yard or anyplace where children or pets might get at it.

Posted by: Jean at January 3, 2014 5:26 PM

What you are doing...taking a spontaneous trip...to Cuba, no less. ALL KINDS OF AWESOME! Traveling Mercies.

Posted by: Linda at January 3, 2014 7:30 PM

4 - same thing happened to me in Guatemala - there were my houseplants, growing in wild profusion. weird!
5 - my son would pay money to see anything that belong to che guavera.
6 - wow! the words "bay of pigs" still sets up a visceral reaction in my guts - didn't know that till just now.
7 - i'm an american. i might go there to experience the feeling of being mistaken for a Canadian - i like that idea!
Keep having fun and thanks for sharing!

Posted by: vicki at January 3, 2014 7:32 PM

The Bay of Pigs has a less than sunny connotation for most Americans who can remember the Kennedy administration.

Posted by: NoraGee at January 3, 2014 7:50 PM

I'm a US citizen and I am adding Cuba to my bucket list. I mean Obama spoke with Raul.. good things could happen... thanks for the great pictures

Posted by: Sheila at January 3, 2014 8:05 PM

Dear Harlot - don't come home! It was -37 with the windchill in T.O. this A.M.

Posted by: Sharon in Surrey at January 3, 2014 8:51 PM

What was #3?
Thank you for sharing. ..I get to travel vicariously (and I don't have to live at the gym for a month in advance to get swimsuit ready)

Posted by: Snow at January 3, 2014 9:08 PM

i haven't read every comment but Americans are allowed to travel to Cuba but there are a number of stipulations and restrictions. We just got back mid November and I found it to be one of the most fascinating trips I have ever taken (and i have travelled a lot)

Posted by: Ellen at January 3, 2014 10:50 PM

I haven't read all the comments but Americans are allowed to travel to Cuba but there are stipulations and restrictions. We just returned from our first trip there in November and it was one of the most fascinating trips i have ever taken and we have travelled a lot!

Posted by: Ellen Bornstein at January 3, 2014 10:53 PM

Travel! Travel! Travel! You can NEVER do enough and the experiences you have cannot be recreated any other way! I did most of my travelling when I was younger but still want to do more. We live in South Africa now so why not make this country your next port-of-call???? We have wildlife to die for, amazing people, jaw dropping mountains and awesome beaches! Would love to see ya..... x

Posted by: Laura at January 4, 2014 1:50 AM

I find your insights into traveling as a Canadian fascinating. I am from the U.S. and I have claimed to be Canadian when traveling overseas to save myself trouble (I have also claimed to be Venezuelan, Swiss, Swedish and probably other nationalities too). I am from Minnesota so I am almost Canadian...

Many years ago when I was young and naive some French Canadians saved me when I was lost in the Paris Metro. I will never forget those kind people :-)

Posted by: soxanne at January 4, 2014 10:25 AM

The large sprawling pointy plant is some version of agave. Though not the version that they make tequila from.

Posted by: Deb Roby at January 4, 2014 11:46 AM

I'm so envious. I've been intrigued by Cuba for years. Found out when my Mom got in her 80's an a bit more free with personal information that I was conceived in Havana, Cuba while my parents where having a second honeymoon right before the revolution!

Posted by: Lucie at January 4, 2014 12:27 PM

The first time I went to California I was astonished to see hedges of fuschias. And croton bushes. Both of those are tough to grow indoors in the American Midwest.

Posted by: kmkat at January 4, 2014 4:09 PM

When she was quite young, my daughter asked me if we were poor (we didn't have lot of big things like boats and snowmachines). My answer was that no, we were not poor, but we chose to spend our money differently--on tickets. Tickets to faraway places, and tickets to plays and concerts.

Posted by: Gail in Fairbanks at January 4, 2014 4:17 PM

Spiky dude might be an agave?! ;)

Posted by: Idiosyncratic Eye at January 4, 2014 5:28 PM

My brother has lived in the Kitchener, Ontario, area for about thirty years. One time while visiting him we had to drive to Toronto to pick up his wife at the airport. As we turned onto the access road, I saw a billboard that left me feeling somehow surprised...it took a few minutes for me to realize that it was the first time I'd ever seen a billboard advertising Cuba as a vacation destination!
It sounds like you're having a wonderful vacation. Travel is very important to my husband and I, too, but we do most of it on our motorcycle.

Posted by: Becky at January 4, 2014 7:58 PM

Envious! The green plant with pink flowers might be an oleander.

Posted by: Ann Bedell Hunt at January 4, 2014 8:37 PM

My father is a Scot. When we lived in Colorado in the 70s he was often mistaken for a Canadian. Go figure.

Posted by: FionaDP at January 5, 2014 10:32 AM

Haha, We just got home from Jamaica. Our first time there. We are in Washington state and have made friends with Orchard workers that come here from there. No motels or resorts for us, we stayed in peoples homes and ate local and really got to know the people and culture. Every day was a new adventure in plants and cuisine and daily living. I knit a pair of orange socks while there. No yarn shops, though. It was 90 degrees and now we are home with mosquito bites and freezing in 20 degrees. Our friends go to Cuba often and we hope to go one day as well. Happy New Year!

Posted by: Patt at January 5, 2014 12:31 PM

Glad you got to go somewhere warm! It's comfortable and sunny in my part of the desert Southwest, but I keep hearing the words "Artic vortex" in reference to parts North and it gives me a vicarious shudder.

Oleanders always make me think of the old movie where Vincent Price's character poisons his wife with tea made from its blossoms....

Posted by: Christine at January 5, 2014 2:13 PM

That pink blossomed hedge looks like it may be oleander…maybe...

Posted by: Heather at January 6, 2014 12:54 AM

Enjoy! Try some breadfruit, roasted or made into chips, if you get a chance. It's a Caribbean staple--they also grow on beautiful trees. I love it!

Posted by: mary at January 6, 2014 1:12 PM

I'm not sure when you're coming back to Toronto, but judging from the weather reports I saw over the weekend, you should stay in Cuba longer. Just sayin'...!!!!

Posted by: Helen SF at January 6, 2014 1:15 PM

The brown pelicans you see there are an endangered bird, although where they mostly live they look quite common. They are my favorite bird, so prehistoric looking. Beware the droppings - hot and powerfully fishy.

Posted by: Ellen at January 6, 2014 2:28 PM

I as a citizen of the US, have sincere hope to one day visit Cuba. It will be fun to have people assume I'm Canadian.

I promise to do my best in not embarrassing your fine nation.

Posted by: Ann at January 7, 2014 12:00 AM

Oleander grows like a weed in Portugal, all along the motorways, the verges and in most gardens. It seems to flower most of the year. Very useful and pretty, but poisonous.
I was stunned to see pelicans flying in California as I had never realised you got them in the States. A wonderful sight. Enjoy

You will not want to go back to Toronto! We are hearing of 'a polar vortex', unbelievable polar temperatures in North America. -35C (-31F).....what does that even feel like? Luckily that is beyond our experience in the UK, although we are being battered by repeated storms and now tidal surges, since before Christmas, with whole town seafronts disappearing in Wales.

Posted by: Jenny in UK at January 7, 2014 4:01 AM

OK, I must admit that I had to look Poutine up in the dictionary. All my great grandparents came to the US from french speaking Canadian provinces and I still did not know what it was!

Posted by: Angel at January 7, 2014 5:39 AM

Stay in Cuba as long as you can. This is no kind of weather to come back to.

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Posted by: stunning seo guys at January 7, 2014 3:04 PM

The most recent posting from Trip Advisor lists Cuba as the #1 "Trip of a Lifetime."


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