When Paths Cross with Cuba

Recently, my mom and I took an all inclusive trip to Cuba. Like roughly 1 million Canadians yearly, we were looking to escape to a beautiful place we could lay beachside. It was a big change for me to be on an all inclusive after 8 months of wandering Asia, but the time with my mom was very special. With all the moving we have done and travelling I have done, it was really our first ‘vacation’ together.

Varadero is a tourist town nestled on 22KM of beautiful white sand beaches. After travelling Asia for 8 months, this long stretch of Cuban beach still held its place high (in my opinion) for most beautiful beaches in the world. The water starts as a crystal clear sea-foam green, and as you look to the horizon your eyes are met with a variety of different blues that eventually reach a gorgeous skyline of many more natural colours. Even more impressive is how clean the beaches are. To someone who has not travelled much beyond an all inclusive resort, this may seem like a no-brainer but unfortuantely plastic litters many of the worlds beaches. My mom and I spent about half an hour picking up plastic off the beach in Varadero because we wanted to do some good that day, but overall, the beaches are very well taken care of.

Beyond the beaches a trip to Cuba can be accompanied by driving in old classic cars, a trip to Havana (Havana oh na na), snorkelling, diving and lots of Spanish dancing. I took my mom snorkelling and it was her first underwater adventure (we are still waiting on our pictures, so pictures to come). That is right, 49 years old and I still got to take her on a ‘first’. This was pretty exciting for me and brought back the excitement to an activity that I have done quite a few times.

I have been to Cuba 3 times and didn’t always stick to the all inclusive, so here are some of my suggestions to make your trip a little extra: Eat food off the resort! Many people complain about Cuban food but Cubans certainly know how to cook. I am a big fan of the fried plaintain and camarones! I was invited to eat with a local family in Cardenas, wow! the food and company were fantastic. I also ate at a couple local restaurants and was never let down. The food was inexpensive and delicious. My understanding (i hope it is right) is that some shops/restaurants are locally owned while others are owned by the government. Take note of this, as you will see quite a difference in terms of price. I suggest trying the locally owned shops.

Which brings me to suggestion 2: Talk to the locals. I met a local Cuban at a gas station in Cardenas and he spoke amazing English. He explained that he was educated in languages but dropped out of school because if he finished he would of had to become an English professor. He decided that he would make more money working at a resort with his english speaking skills. This sounded crazy to me, but definitely gave me a bit more of an understanding of this man and perhaps some of the decisions Cubans have to make. He, and his family were lovely and welcoming!

Suggestion 3: Rent a scooter or car and go beyond the tourism. It can be a bit pricey but this is a sure way to see more of Cuba without a filter. The country is absolutley gorgeous and the people are very sweet. However, a drive into a town like Cardinez or even Havana without a tour guide will surely let you see some of the poverty and living conditions. While the home I visited in Cardenas was well furnished (lots of Canadian products, brought down to my friend from Canadian), this is not always the case. I was invited into an apartment in Havana from someone trying to sell me cigars and this building was difficult for me to walk through emotionally. There were no ceilings in the hallways or doors on most apartment, the building was littered with people sleeping all over the place and made of all cement. A whole other side of Cuba that we as tourists do not normally see.

Here are some photos from my most recent travels to Cuba with my mom. Enjoy!


Wander With Love,



When Paths Cross with Hobbiton

In my opinion, no visit to New Zealand is complete without a little Lord of the Rings (LOTR) adventure. I am happy to report that there are literally millions of LOTR nerds just like my other half and I. Yes, I said millions! The Hobbiton movie set sees around 1500 visitors a day, and is only closed on Christmas. The baseline tour is 2 hours long, and ends with a drink at the Green Dragon Inn, complete with optional costumes. Please don’t be shy, put on a costume!

This set is not the original from the LOTR trilogy but the second, erected a second time for the filming of The Hobbit Trilogy. Unlike an ordinary movie set which is built to be temporary, this set was made to last so that fans like you and I could visit. Awesome, I know! During your tour you will learn about leaves being flown in from Taiwan, frogs being transferred out of a pond and much much more. The details put into this set, as well as the beautiful farmland it sits on are a huge part of what makes the Hobbit scenery in the trilogies astounding. More details on the tour can be found on their website: hobbitontours.com.

Set in the beautiful farmlands of Northern New Zealand even the drive to the tour is breathtaking. If you are picturing rolling hills of green, with loads of sheep on the hillsides then you will not be let down. The Shire is stunning and Hobbiton is complete with 44 hobbit-holes, clothing lines full or little Hobbit laundry, and the rolling greens of the Shire all around. All allowing you to feel like you are now in LOTR. Enjoy some of my experience below!


Welcome to Hobbiton!

Entrance to Hobbiton
One of the first hobbit-holes you will see!
Hobbit-hole 1. Let the photos begin!


Check out all hobbit-holes and look out on the Shire!

Another adorable hobbit-hole!
Awww, The Shire!
Hobbit laundry!
The hobbits that live higher up are wealthier. Can you see what hobbit-hole is at the top right of this photo?


Famous Hobbit-Holes

Surely you recognize this famous hobbit-hole. Home of Bilbo Baggins and Frodo! Their fake tree made for the Hobbit trilogy rests behind.
Loyal Sam’s hobbit-hole!


Time for Drinks at The Green Dragon Inn

Beautiful river outside of the Green Dagons Inn.
Drinks by the fire.
Don’t pass on dressing up!

A few more just for fun!




Wander With Love.