Fun with Ann in London :-)

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Last weekend me & Louise went to London to visit our friend Ann who we met in Portugal last summer. What brought us together initially is the love for Kizomba dancing. Ann came over to visit in November last year when the famous Kizomba artist Nelson Freitas performed at a party here in Gothenburg. And now it was time for me & Louise to visit Ann in London. The main purpose was dancing which we did Friday (Festac), Saturday (Vicio) & Sunday (Seebos). All nights different places, out of central London. And all nights different vibes! All in all we had a blast. In Vicio I experienced the best dance evening ever! Londoners are more into “tradtional/original” Kizomba which for me is the type of Kizomba that gives me most joy. Urban Kizomba, which is the preferred style for many European dancers, is fun too but the challenging footwork and the spins sometimes comes at the expense of lost connection.

Despite the hectic night schedule we did have some time for sightseeing too on Saturday & Sunday afternoon😀

On Saturday afternoon me & Louise started of with some amazing fish & chips. With a view! After that we took a walk along the South bank of the Thames for a while before deciding to hop on the tube for Camden and some people watching. It was a nice day and when we got back to Ann´s house, lasagna & wine was waiting before a small nap & some Redbul to get going for the evening.😉

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On Sunday we woke up to a lovely English breakfast. Ann was such a perfect & sweet host to us and on top of that the view from her central London apartment was unbeatable. The sun was shining and we decided to start with a walk along the docks and towards London Tower Bridge & Tower of London. Ann joined us and it felt very luxurious to just follow our local guide😉 The area where Ann lives, Wapping, is so beautiful!

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After the Thames walk Ann wanted to show one of her favorite weekend spots. The Old Spitalfields market. Since my back had become a bit sore from all dancing & walking I insisted we start with a beer break😉 After that we walked around the market which was absolutely lovely. A handicraft market and with a food stall section with delicious treats from all around the world. I loved it!

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After a cupcake treat we moved on to St Paul´s. From the rooftop of the shopping mall “One New Change” we had a lovely view over the St Paul´s Cathedral. There we took a rest in the sun, feeling grateful for having such a nice weekend, before it was time to head back to Wapping and to get ready for a last night of dance before our morning flight back home. We had such an amazing weekend that we just felt like re-doing it all again straight away after coming home😉 Thank´s Ann!

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Fantastic days in Belgrade

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For the third time 2015 I booked an Airbnb apartment, this time in Serbia’s capital Belgrade where me & Louise spent a few amazing days last fall. Scroll to the end if you want to see the extraordinary apartment we rented!!! It was in a perfect location, in the area Skadarlija.

Both me and Louise loved Belgrade. It positively surprised us in all ways. There was actually only one thing we disliked and that was that people still smoke inside cafes and restaurants and Serbians smoke A LOT. But apart from that Belgrade is so cozy. It is green, picturesque, friendly and both traditional & trendy. It has great eateries & nightlife and many very affordable beauty salons. And there are plenty of great areas for walking along the Danube and just relax. Belgrade is famous for its many restaurant & bar boats lined up along the rivers. Most had closed for the season when we were there but I can imagine Belgrade is fantastic during summertime for this reason.

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Belgrade has a lot of cafes with delicious pastries. We found our favorite where we lived😛 They also sold small animal cakes that were so adorable it was hard to eat😉

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The great thing with Belgrade is that there are not so many “must see attractions” which is just what I wanted. That left plenty of time to just stroll around in the great autumn weather and enjoy the cozy Belgrade streets. One day we went hunting for street art. There are a lot in Belgrade and some are really great!

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Belgrade also has a lot of nice restaurants, both traditional but also many alternative & arty places that you will not stumble upon but through some pre-research we managed to find some local gems. One was really special. It had no sign and was based in an apartment. Very tricky to find but well worth the effort since they served absolutely amazing vego food in an intimate and beautifully decorated space which felt more like dining in someones private home.

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Even though we had an apartment we went out for breakfast every day. One nice thing for us was of course that we could splurge rather much in Serbia since everything was about 60% of Swedish prices. And Belgrade has so many cozy cafés that makes delicious omelettes that it was always a great start of the day to have breakfast out.

After a sturdy breakfast our last day in Belgrade started with a visit to the beautiful Kalemegdan park with nice views over the fort and the river Sava & Danube.

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Our last afternoon was spent at a spa called “Bali Detox Center”, just around the corner from where we lived. After a nice massage & facial we did a detox treatment which started with a foot bath with some kind of electrical thing connected that was supposed to eliminate toxic in the body. Depending on your problem areas the water took a different color. Very interesting😉 After we had the final treatment, which was a foot massage, we headed out to have some nice Serbian dinner before spending a last night at our amazing apartment “Yugodom”.

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Appendix | Our beautiful apartment “Yugodom”

Cold winds, hot dance & a lot of Port :)

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I have been dancing Kizomba for some time now. A sensual couple dance, with African origin, that is now danced in various styles and increasing in popularity rapidly. Within the dancing community it has become very popular to travel to festivals to explore Kizomba & other Afro Latin dances through workshops with global teachers from all over. The schedules are always very thorough, not to forget to mention the evening/night schedules that most of the time follows special themes or per-decided color scales.

Last summer I managed to convince Louise to come a long to Porto where they have a annual 10 days Latin festival every year called “DMAES summer boot camp”. So after a week in Lisbon we took the bus to beautiful Porto to settle down for some days in Vila Nova de Gaia, adjacent to Porto.

Porto has a different beauty & feel from Lisbon, more mysterious! And Porto has plenty of amazing wines & great Port wine from the Douro Valley which both tasted wonderful & kept us warm😉

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Louise & me chose to not join in on every part of the dancing schedule but spent a lot of time to walk around and explore the beautiful surroundings.

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One nice part with festivals is of course to make new acquaintances. We spent some nice moments with Franz from Hamburg & Ann from London. Ann later came to visit me in Göteborg for a Kizomba event and in a few weeks me & Louise will travel to London to spend a weekend dancing Kizomba in the regular venues where Ann goes🙂 To be honest, I have figured out that is probably more my thing, to enjoy local regular Kizomba life.

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One evening we had dinner in central Porto followed by a night walk. As many cities, Porto shines at night! And it also had a bit of a spooky feel🙂

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We went into Porto a few times to just stroll around. One day we also did some Port wine tasting. Several wine lodges offers tours & tasting for free. Considering the constantly present chilly wind it was even more pleasant to warm up with some good Port😉

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No trip to Porto would be complete without a Douro river trip. Unfortunately we had picked a rather cloudy and cold day. The only thing that could warm me up was, again… some Port wine and odd layers of clothes (not actually meant to be combined). At the end of the tour however it both became warmer and even a bit sunny. A very relaxing day on a boat, enjoying nice views and doing nothing. And passing two sluices🙂

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Close by to the hotel we found our all time favorite restaurant. I do not remember the name but they had the most delicious seafood casserole. And since it was not a tourist area the prices were too good to be truth😛

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Finally, some workshop pictures below. At the end of a workshop the instructors always demonstrates the full sequence so that everyone can record for home practicing. The Porto week was great and I enjoyed the city strolls evenly much as the workshops. Festival parties are usually not the dance evenings I enjoy the most since I feel more relaxed when I can dress in the clothes and colors that fits me rather than according to special themes. But it was for sure an interesting and instructive week🙂

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Back to cozy Lisbon

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Last summer I went back to beautiful Lisbon, this time with my friend Louise. (Find my previous Lisbon posts here>> ) Since I had great experience with Airbnb from Budapest, trying the same concept in Lisbon seemed like the best option. Especially since we were going to spend almost a full week in this amazing city. Rather late at night we checked in to our little apartment in the sweet, local area Sao Bento. Even if the apartment was a bit dark and had a slight smell of mold, the area was perfect. Louise and I had one bedroom each and the beds were super comfy.

After a wonderful night´s sleep we enjoyed a great day exploring the coziness of Lisbon. At night I took Louise to a favorite restaurant called “Sinal Vermelho” which I had found on my previous visit. After dinner we went on to the Rua Nova do Carvalho, also referred to as the “Pink Street“, since it is actually painted all pink. It turns in to one big outdoor pub area at night. We ended the evening with great dancing at the Afro Beat dance club “Music Box”. Oh I loved it!! What a day!

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After a perfect start of our vacation I woke up after a second night and soon realized the small bites I had discovered on my arms and legs the previous day, was not mosquito bites. I felt in my gut that I had been the victim of bedbugs for the third time in my life. And here the not so nice day started….

I´ll try to make a long long story short. Apart from all the mental suffering that bedbugs means (the fear of getting the creatures or their eggs with you in clothing and bags) this is when we strongly discovered the backside of Airbnb. In a hotel or hostel we would simply have gone to the reception and gotten a new room. Now we spent a full day having to make expensive calls to US (no Swedish customer service in the weekends). Our hosts unfortunately turned out to not be understanding and supportive at all, but just wanted us out of the apartment so that they could get started with the extermination process. We had nowhere to go and it was tears, sweat and anxiety! At the end we decided to book a hotel in a different area, where we had found a good deal on Booking.com.

Louise was lucky to not have bedbugs in her room and after yet some tears & sweat we got a refund. But the story unfortunately followed us during the vacation since I had to deal with a claim process etc. Despite this we continued to enjoy a great vacation in Lisbon and also in Porto (next post). And our new hotel Sana Rex had an amazing view and great location too. The evening after the exhausting bed bug adventures we went to relax and listen to soothing Fado in Alfama. Something which should not be missed on a visit to Lisbon! On our way back we passed several cozy street kiosk areas. (Read more about Lisbon Kisoks here>>) At one of them people were dancing the Brazilian dance “Forro”on the street. We stayed and watched for a while and I remember feeling so in love with Lisbon! ♥

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Lisbon is all about indulging in food, drinks, views, atmospheres, cozy streets, friendly people and, if time allows, the beautiful surrounding areas. Apart from just cruising Lisbon we also spend two days visiting two different beach areas called Estrela & Cascais. After one week in Lisbon we moved on to the city Porto which I will write about in next post.

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On our last day in Lisbon, after Porto, we found the “Mercado da Ribeira” which is a big indoor food market with high quality food stalls lined up all around a big open space. You by what you want and eat & drink it at the common tables. This was a big highlight which I can´t wait to repeat in October this year when we´ll be back!! Lisbon delivers!

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Appendix 1 | A beach day at Estrela

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Appendix 2 | A bedbug full of blood, my bites & how my beds look like after “bed bug check”😉

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A relaxing week in Budapest

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Last summer me & Robert decided to go to a European city for a full week to really be able to explore in a relaxed way. Budapest was a place that I long had been wanting to visit. In fact I was there as part of an inter-rail journey in my early twenties but I had very little memories from that visit. For this stay we tried Airbnb for the first time. I had chosen a place on the Buda side, which is the less commercial side, since I figured that would be a more peaceful experience. The cute apartment was up on a hill with a balcony looking over to Buda. The host was wonderful and one of our best memories from Budapest is actually this little Airbnb apartment.

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A few days I went for a morning walk before Robert woke up. The best part about Budapest is to walk along Danube and I really enjoyed to do some early morning sightseeing on my own at the same time as I got some exercise🙂

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Budapest is famous for the many thermal baths. We visited three of them during our stay. The first one we tried was the one displayed below, called Szechenyi. It is the most famous one that everyone visits. We really disliked it since it was too commercial & crowded and we felt the hygiene was bad as well. We also tried the more upscale Gellert which was nice. Also very touristic but with a beautiful outside area for sunny days. Our favorite was for sure Rudas which had one old and one modern part. I really recommend to visit both (they can be purchased as combo or either of them alone). The modern section has an outside hot pool on the roof with Danube views. The old part has many different pools and saunas. I loved it! It was both tourists and locals there and not as busy as the others. I am sure there are many more local baths that are even quieter to be found.

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Apart from bathing we mostly walked around, had coffee & cake, visited the markets and discovered nice eateries. Our favorite area to hang out was the Jewish quarter that is mostly famous for the so called ruin bars. Many streets in Budapest are rather wide but the Jewish quarter is a cozy area with nice small streets full of stores, bars & restaurants. Read more about Budapest ruin bars here>>

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One evening we had Langos in the Jewish quarter followed by an evening visit to some ruin bars. The ruin bars are both nice during day & night. Many of them are like multi purpose venues that might be a flee market and café during daytime and partyplace or restaurant at night. Below images might illustrate why the bars are called ruin bars😉

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On our last evening we went for dinner in a buffet style place almost opposite the beautiful Budapest palace. The place was called “Trofea Grill Etterem”. For a very affordable price one could eat and drink unlimited. After dinner we took a nice evening walk to see all the extraordinary buildings & bridges that Budapest has to offer, lit up in the dark.

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To conclude on Budapest I can say that I very much enjoyed to explore the city. I loved the Danube views & the thermal baths. And I really enjoyed the Gallert hill and our sweet apartment on top of it. But I did not connect to the soul of the city. My three European city favorites remains to be Amsterdam, Lisbon & Istanbul! They were all instant love that is still lasting😀

 

An All Inclusive week in Cape Verde

DSC_0188 smallThe island Sal in Cape Verde is not so much more than sea and desert. It is said that Cape Verde has an average och 350 sunny days a year and after some dark winter months me & Louise were eager to feel the warmth of this sun.

We were delighted the first day when we saw the white sand and the turquoise water. Luckily I took some pictures that first day because that weather never returned during our week in Sal. We did have another half day of good weather and that was the hours when we went on an island excursion. Therefore it looks on my pictures like we had a sunny week but actually there were dark sky the rest of the days. Since Sal is a very windy island it was almost too cold to lie on the beach most days. And guess what? Still we enjoyed ourselves so much that we are returning in October😉

DSC_0164 smallDSC_0053 smallDSC_0098 smallDSC_0134 smallDSC_0204 smallWe had chosen an all-inclusive concept in a resort by the sea, called Belorizonte. No high rise buildings but just cute little bungalows spread out all over the complex. There were three pool areas. The size of the hotel made it possible to always find some peace and quietness. The guests were a good mix of nationalities and types. Lots of Kite Surfers, couples, friends and just a few families with kids (rough sea makes Sal not optimal for children, lucky us ;-)) There was a buffet for breakfast, lunch & dinner. Unfortunately the food was rather tasteless and over cooked. But that helped us keeping weight since one plate was enough😉

At night the animation team gave different shows. I have to state that the animation in the hotel was very moderate and laid back, something we were very thankful for. It was both possible to be entertained in case you wanted that but also possible for a peaceful moment at the sea with just the sound of the waves or at one of the swimming pools.

DSC_0040 smallDSC_0043 smallWe stayed close to the town Santa Maria. A small little village with a few shops with souvenirs, mainly from Guinea Bissau, some cafés and a handful of dance bars. We took a stroll through the residential area one afternoon but mostly stuck to a few more lively streets and the beach area.

P1000346 smallP1000394 smallP1000397 smallP1000413 smallP1000446 smallP1000462 smallP1000463 smallOne day we took a half a day island exploration tour. There is really not that much to see in the island Sal but it was a fun get away in Jeeps and three girls from our city, that we had become acquainted with, were in the same tour🙂 And floating in a salt crater was a fun experience!

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Apart from the dance & the music we liked the wind & the rough sea and the endless beach. And the laid back and stress free atmosphere. In October every year a Portuguese travel agency arranges a week of dance in Sal, actually in the same hotel where we stayed. The event is called “Sabor a Cabo Verde”. We will travel back to join this week and after we will continue to explore two more of the totally 9 inhabited islands in Cape Verde, Sao Vicente & Santo Antao. And an extra plus for me with Cape Verde is also that I am studying Portuguese and I love to listen to this amazing language, both spoken and sung.

Already looking forward to next adventure!! Cabo Verde, no stress😉

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A beautiful winter day in Göteborg

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It was a long time ago since I made a blog post. It s not that I stopped traveling or completed my past travel history. I guess you could say I got a blog burn out which started with me not finding enough time to do both my weekly weekend blog post and have time for my Portuguese studies. But as I love the result of a documented trip I would like to give it a new try🙂 And to start with I actually would like to document a wonderful winter day that I was blessed to witness earlier this year in my hometown Göteborg. Snowy winters in the southern part of Sweden is not a guarantee and when we do get snow it tend to melt away evenly fast as it appeared which usually results in nothing but a mess of slush. But one day this winter, Göteborg woke up to an extraordinary landscape that lasted for almost a week. There was no wind and the temperature stayed minus degrees which resulted in an untouched amazing landscape reminding of a real life painting. That week was mostly sunny and the energy I got from the combination of sun and the snow that week made me reconsider if maybe a winter holiday in a guaranteed snowy place, like the Alps or similar, would  do me good now and then.

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Havana streetlife

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In my first post about Havana I shared some images mainly from Old Havana & the area Vedado where me & Louise had our “Casa”. When we returned to Havana for our last days we discovered the area called Centro Havana a bit more. An area that is excellent for photographing street life. We really loved our late afternoon stroll there that ended down at the Malecón.

Malecón is a 8 km long road that runs along the sea. Depending on the time of the month the waves can splash really high and often spills over on the roads. Malecón is a popular place for young & old to hang out, either in groups or as a romantic couple. We also saw many persons sitting on the wall alone, looking out over the big Ocean and dreaming them self away.

Me & Louise spent our last nights in Havana salsa dancing at famous spots like “La Gruta”, “Jardines del 1830” and “Casa de la Musica”. And during the day we just strolled around and felt rather sad that such an amazing vacation had come to an end. Cuba does something to all visitors. For us it took longer than normal to emotionally process the impressions we gained. Cuba left us wanting more!

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Miserable in paradise…

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How is it possible to be miserable in a Cuban paradise called Cayo Coco? Well, sometimes back at home when planning a vacation, one option might seem like the optimal idea at that time. But when on vacation that same option might turn out to be a bad choice.

Normally when traveling around I always make sure to have the flexibility to cancel any pre-booked accommodation. But in this specific case that was not possible. So what what so bad about Cayo Coco? Nothing really, it was just wrong timing.

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In Sweden when making our Cuba rout me & Louise were rather tired and felt the need for rest, peace and quietness. We thought the perfect ending of our vacation would be to spend a few days in a nice resort by the turquoise sea with nothing else around us. That the location was said to be away from the regular Cuban life did not bother us at that time because we knew we would get a lot of Cuban life our 2 1/2 first weeks. But what happened was that we had 2 1/2 amazing weeks before landing in Cayo Coco. We had been resting out through dancing and interacting with many great acquaintances along the way. Coming from Trinidad where we had danced to salsa on the square every night and fallen in love with the great vibe of the place, ending up in this beautiful resort became rather a prison. There was absolutely nothing around our hotel area and watching the tourist friendly shows at night in the lobby made us even more miserable. We tried to play around with our cigars, watch small creatures and appreciate the surrounding but felt sad. Our only interaction was a sweet retired English couple. And the food was the tastiest we had had in Cuba but after the first evening I got an upset stomach and was ill the day after.

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We reviewed our options. We had a flight booked back to Havana from Cayo Coco which could not be canceled. So it was not so easy. Finally we decided to “escape” one day earlier than planned so after four days we where on a seven hours bus journey back to Havana. This gave us an extra day there before going back to Sweden and a chance to gain back that wonderful energy that we had accumulated during our first weeks.

Looking back I have no hard feelings. Just another learning about myself and about life🙂

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Joyfulness in Trinidad…

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It is a challenge to find blog time in my busy schedule. But to catch up where I left it is time to share some images from Trinidad in Cuba. A colonial colorful city that despite its very present tourist feel captivates and seduces anyone that passes by. Me and Louise spent a few wonderful days in Trinidad and have very warm feeling when looking back.

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Some of the best memories took place in the evenings at the open air “Casa de la Musica” live music venue on the stairs of Plaza Mayor. There we socialized and danced salsa and enjoyed the great atmosphere. Since we prioritized being “handbag free” at night to be able to dance freely I don´t have any evening pictures at all. Everything is kept purely as a memory. Below is a selfie of me & Louise before one of our salsa nights😉

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Trinidad is mostly about strolling around the picturesque and colorful streets and taking in the atmosphere. The little girls on below pictures got ball pens from Louise. Something, along with many other items, that we were told people lack in Cuba.

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A great part about staying in a “Casa Particular” is to have dinner at the casa at night. For a nice price most casas offers a three course meal which is much tastier than what the restaurants offers. In the first image below our hosts are delivering our main dish. Usually the casas have a table or two at their roof top for this purpose. It is also a great way to socialize with the other guest in the casa.

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Not too far from Trinidad lays Ancon beach. A beautiful stretch with just a few hotels surrounding. We took a taxi there every day to relax and to watch the cute lizards with the curly tails🙂 Upon return to Trinidad it was nice to have an ice-crem and a refreshing drink. Cubans like ice cream and they are pretty OK in taste.

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On the afternoon of 31 December 2014 we took a walk up the hill to get a better view over Trinidad. Funnily enough we past the nightclub Ayala were we had been ending our evening two nights before. It is a very unique venue since it is in a cave. But the even more odd thing is that to get there you walk up a long hill which is partially nothing else than a garbage dump. The club itself is really cool. The guard offered us a free daytime tour as we passed by. Despite my claustrophobia this cave was OK for me. Maybe because it was so spacious.

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After seeing the beautiful sunset on the way back from our walk, we went back to our casa and had dinner with a bunch of Belgians. Two of them stayed in our casa and another four in other casas. But since they traveled together our casa “Hostal Valmaseda” had offered to arrange the meal for all of them + us. Afterwards our hosts invited us to join their family New Years Eve party which meant dancing like crazy with all generations in their livingroom until the clock struck twelve. It was probably one of my most fun and memorable New Years Eve´s ever! In my last post there are some Youtube clips from the New Years Eve with the family and the Belgians.

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On our last day in Trinidad I finally saw to elderly men with cigars that I got to photograph. But it is all for the show. As you can see the man´s cigar is not even lit. In fact I saw very few Cubans smoking cigar. Apart from the tobacco farmers in Vinales.

The day ended with yet another colorful stroll and a sunset drink at the stairs of Casa de la Musica. The live bands started playing around 16:00 every day and went on until after midnight. If there is one place we need to re-visit it will be Trinidad. It is not a question about “if” but only about “when”😀

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