Havana, Cuba

12 May

There might be some mixed feelings with people visiting Cuba.

I am well aware of the hardship the Cubans have gone, and still go through.  The pain, the struggle, not able to see family for a long time, not being able to go back to home.  Of course I don’t agree with any of these, and my heart goes out to them.  I completely understand why some do not agree with us going there but, here is the other side…  in no particular order.

* Curiosity – This is a place that was banned for years.  Forbidden, closed, that we only were able to see by what leaked through TV or by what our friends told us about it.  So, of course once we’re allowed to go, we would want to.  It’s human nature.

* History – So much has happened in Cuba, and all has been kept almost untouched.

* Travel in time – Again, since so little from the “outside” world has touched Cuba, it’s like they are stuck in time.  Something I appreciated, since a lot reminded me of my home Puerto Rico, and helped me imagine it as it might have been years ago, maybe during my Grandmother’s time.

* The People – Beautiful, friendly, hospitable, happy.  I loved talking to all I encounter, comparing our islands, our Spanish, our accents, our food…  It was a breath of fresh air to be around people with similar culture to mine.  I would not trade these conversations and smiles for anything.

* The Ocean – just like In PR, the ocean has a distinct smell of Home.

* The Food – This is always an important part in my trips.  We do have similar dishes but the condiments, names and preparation are somewhat different.  It’s great experiencing these and maybe even incorporate in the dishes I already know.

* The Music – Salsa is a must in Cuba.  Listen and dance it!

Instead of staying at a hotel, we opted for an AirBnb. close to El Malecón, we would walk to most places.


After seeing the house, and leaving all our things, we headed out and walked blocks until we found a bar.  The setting was interesting, like a church, with ocean view.

Out first drink, you guessed it, a Cuba Libre.  The breeze and the view were amazing, so we stayed for a second one.


With reservations for dinner that night, we went back to get ready.

The restaurant La Concordia has outside seating on the 3rd floor, giving this a “rooftop” vibe.  LEDs that change color are placed on each table.  Great for a date or any type of gathering.


Saturday was my favorite day.  We started with a city tour in antique cars, which they call “Máquinas”.  Convertible, 1950 – 1960s cars, colorful and absolutely beautiful.



Several stops, plus conversation with the drivers/ tour guides, give you a good amount of information of the island, history, and culture.


Walking tour was next, which took us to “Plaza de Armas”, some Plazas, what would be considered “downtown”.  Also got to see where Hemingway drank “


Rum tour was interesting, and ended with a shot.  And while we waited for our driver, we were at the bar enjoying some live Salsa music and dancing.  What can be better than that?


A quick stop at Sloppy Joes and then off to dinner.

Dinner was a treat!  We went to  where they do Dinner and a Show with members of the Buena Vista Social Club.

The highlight here is the show…  Song after song, with incredible voices and entertaining personalities.  They make you dance, laugh, and even go on stage!  They include everyone in the audience, even singing part of songs from the countries visiting that night.​​

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Still dancing with all the songs stuck in our heads, we found a promoter who guided us to different clubs around the area.  My favorite of the night was Cafe Tin Tin.   Live music, good drinks, dance space.  Real fun!


Next morning, and last day.  We decided to walk around one last time to take in all the beautiful views one last time.


Our AirBnb hosts were there to see us off, not without a hug first and wishing us safe travels and to come back soon.

Cuba is beautiful, so are the people…  So much to see and do… So happy I got the opportunity to experience it.

Disconnect to Reconnect

17 Mar

Last year, I decided to take a break from Facebook.  With all the politics posts, people fighting over each other’s believes, negative posts about this and other aspects of life;  People complaining about insignificant things, or getting mad when you miss or not like their posts, I decided to log off and stay away from it all.

I started by logging off, but still notifications would come to my phone.  Turned that off, but since contacts could still see me, and tag me, some thought I was ignoring them, so I went a step further.  I deactivated my account completely.

It’s been about 6 months already.  Yes, at first I missed it a little, mostly knowing about events, but it didn’t take long for me to feel free.

You see, life is not easy…  we all have our problems, challenges, stress, bad days.  If on top of that you add the constant drama of social media, your day just got so much worst.  Yes, some can tune it out, but sometimes you get emotionally involved in the situation, because it’s someone or something you care about, and having a constant reminder every time you log in just takes a toll.

It’s funny, I love social media.  I’m an online junky just like the next person.  With Facebook you get to see pictures, keep in contact with friends and family that are far, share a funny experience, quotes, etc.  And, as much as I enjoy these things, I have always been aware of the downside of it:  oversharing, jealousy, gossip, negative posts, insecurities, etc.  Also, the fact that people rely on this, instead of actually communicating with each other, affects relationships, friendships and humanity.

With me being away, it has made my friends/ family and I communicate more.  Yes, mainly by text or messenger (I didn’t go all the way “old school” to rely on long phone conversations again) but at least is more than a “click of a like” or scrolling through content without really seeing it.

Now we “talk more”, and our conversations are more meaningful because it’s one on one, instead of having to read through everyone else’s comments and meanings.

The other good thing about being off Facebook is that you have more time to do things other than checking your phone every 10 minutes.  You read, watch a movie, go to the gym, without constantly being interrupted by your phone.  Most importantly, you go out and instead of looking at the phone you’re looking at the person in front of you.  You are not obsessed with looking at everyone else’s life but your own.  You focus on you, without looking or comparing to anyone else.  You live not trying to impress people by your posts but by how you live your life.

Don’t get me wrong, I still use Instagram and share pictures there but, for some reason, and I talk by experience, Facebook just takes a lot more time and energy.  An Instagram post is just a picture, you like it, maybe you’ll get just a few comments but content tends to be more positive, lighter, and prettier.

Maybe Facebook is not what consumes most of your (online) time, maybe it’s a game or app, Instagram, Google…  point is, that you might want to disconnect for a while.  Believe me, it’s an easy process.  One that has made me happier and less stressed.  A freedom that I didn’t think I needed, but now know it’s so necessary, and refreshing.

I will be back on Facebook, not sure when yet, every time I think about it I say “one more month off”, but when I do, I have decided to take a hiatus every so often and reconnect with people, nature, life, and most importantly myself.

I encourage you to give it a try.  It’s like a breath of fresh air from the polluted online air.

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Medellín, Colombia

25 Feb

Medellín, land of beautiful mountains, extensive array of flowers, and happy, hospitable people.

This was a weekend trip, 3 full days.  We loved every single one of them.

Driving or walking there’s always something to see.  Lots of green, and flowers of all sorts adding color to it.  Fruits are another thing in abundance here, you must try Lulo and granadilla.

Artistic graffiti decors almost every wall, that’s not a house of business.  The mountains are a site on its own.  The contrasts of these, with the buildings and blue skies is a breathtaking view.

The people obviously contribute to the magic of Medellín, with their attractive accent, good manners, open to talk and help anyone.  Where ever you go, you will get a “good morning”, “have a nice day”, help locating a place, or just making conversation while you wait for the metro or cable car, etc.  They are not afraid to be friendly, to be hospitable; in a world where people live afraid, so closed in, and knowing their past history, this was amazingly refreshing, and hopefully contagious.

Medellín has a lot to offer, for us to see.  We did a lot in those 3 days, and here’s a little preview:

Stayed at Loyd’s Hotel, at El Poblado.  Location is the highlight of this hotel. Quaint and away from the busy streets, but just walking distance to so many restaurants, parks, and bars.

If you have limited time, tours might be the best way to go. That’s exactly what we did.

Day 1

First day we did a half-day city tour.  This took us to Pueblito Paisa.  A cute little town, with incredible views

From there we went to Comuna 13 where the Electric Stairs are, and my favorite part, beautiful graffiti by one of their very own Chota13.
Although it’s a very humble community, the art on the walls, and even on the tin roofs, gives this place a lively atmosphere.

Cable cars is a fun thing to do. This is every day transportation to a lot of people.  To us, was a fun ride to see more of the city and its infrastructure.

Plaza Botero is good for pictures, with his oversized bronze statues, and if you have time, go to the museum to see his paintings too.

After our tour was done, we walked around to do a little tour of our own.  This would be a food and drink tour.

First we had lunch.  Soup, salad, rice, patacones, meat and juice. All for about $7 each.  Yes, delicious and cheap!

We found La Tiendita del Vino.  As soon as we saw their beautiful patio seating, we knew we had to just sit and relax there.

Walked around Parque la Presidenta, where a lot of artisans are to sell jewelry, art, and food.  Obleas are a must try, and regardless of what else you add to them, always have them with Dulce de Leche.

On the tour they told us of a brewery, so we searched and found it.

3 Cordilleras – after the 3 mountain chains that cross Colombia.  5 different beers available, and live music.

A couble of other bars and what would go better with that than a “perro”.  I’m not a fan of hot dogs but Colombians do know how to make them.

Day 2

Full day tour to Guatape, and La Piedra del Peñol

It’s about 2 hours from where we were staying but the ride is totally worth it.  So much to see.

We even stopped to see some farm animals.

La Piedra del Peñol is over 700 steps up.  Breath, take breaks, drink water, but finish it!  Believe me, you DO NOT want to miss that view from the top. Absolutely incredible.
Going down is not so bad so make sure you take as many pictures as you can, not sure how often you will want to go up there again  :p

We toured the city of Guatape and my favorite part was El Zócalo.

A very picturesque small town, with cobble stone, and colorful houses.  All decorated with zócalos (almost like tiles) at the bottom of them, some telling a story, others of what their professions are, or some of their favorite things.
Walking down the streets you can see the water.  This town really makes you feel relaxed and on vacation.

Time to go back and eat!

We made reservations at El Cielo.  One of Medellin’s top restaurants.

The restaurant is beautiful.  Filled with plants, wood high ceilings, with fans, making you almost feel that you are dining outside.

They have 2 menu options, we chose “The Experience” which consist of 13 courses.

This dinner was exactly that, and experience.  They not only work on taste but on all your other senses too.  Vision, smell, touch, and hearing when they describe each plate being presented.

Plating is clean and artistic.   Each plate has been thoughtfully selected to complimented what’s being served on it.

The chef plays with flavors, textures and colors.  Not to mention liquid nitrogen.

This menu also includes table- prepared coffee, and of course dessert.
Highly recommend this restaurant to anyone traveling there.  This experience is absolutely unique.

 

Day 3

Pablo Escobar Tour

I know there’s many people who are against these tours, and I can understand why.  There was a lot of suffering during that time.

But I’ve always believed that History is there to teach us and hopefully not repeat it.

And also think that, because they don’t want to repeat the fear and chaos of that time, is why the paisas are as friendly and lovely as they are.  They decided to make a difference.

The tour is very interesting.  You get to learn a lot of “both sides of the coin” – Pablo/ and the Government.

The views are wonderful in this tour, especially if you go to La Catedral.

There’s so much more to see in Medellín, to the point we already want to go back.

But, for now, I return home, and share with you my wonderful trip, as always hoping it moves you to plan yours as well, and helps you when you do go.

“Who were you before they broke your heart”

8 Feb

I came across this quote today “Who were you before they broke your heart”.

That’s an interesting question, I thought…

Fresh after a breakup, it’s really hard to answer it.  The pain, the memories, the “us” does not allow us to be just “you”.  Plus it’s hard because every person you meet, every situation, relationship and experience affects us, and can change us.

So, how do you go back to who you were?  What if you have had your heart broken more than once?   Not only by an ended relationship but, it might be that you didn’t get what you thought was your “dream job”, or you didn’t get into the school you wanted.  Or maybe a friend wasn’t who you thought they were.

What if you never asked yourself that question, after your first one, and allowed things to affect you so much, you think you can’t go back or remember?

Then I started thinking that the question is not necessarily literal.

Yes, I think it’s possible to remind ourselves of who we really were, our true self, but I think the quote means for us to start over.  To see the heartbreak as the end of that chapter, and start a new one.  Maybe even a new book.  To learn to stand up, rebuild up our self-esteem, be hopeful, and look forward, like we did before whatever it was didn’t work out.

“Who were you before they broke your heart”

I bet you were happy and optimistic.  You were making plans, confident, loving life, and fantasizing about the future.  Go back to that.  Find that confidence again, and move on.

A broken heart is the end of a part of your life, but not the end of it entirely.

Find a new story, a new purpose, another thing or someone that makes you want to dive in, and makes you smile again.  Life is full of stories.  Live each one and enjoy it, learn from it.  But don’t end one and give up.

Go ahead, write your life, own it.  No matter how many “Chapter One” we have, I’m sure each one will be well worth it.

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Adjust your Attitude

18 Jan

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s Resolutions.  Have always believed that if you really want to achieve something, or change something, you don’t have to wait for a specific date to do it.  But, this past year, one of my friends sent a “challenge” on our group text.  She asked us to “think of one word that you want to guide you or achieve in 2017”.

I liked the word “guide”, to me it entails thought, consciousness, a process.  To me it’s something you work on and allow it to transform you.  A helpful companion.

I thought a bit and the word “attitude” was the one that came to mind.  The definition of attitude is:  a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.

It’s a constant fight, in a lot of us, to adjust the way we see things.  The way we perceive things is shaped by what we believe.  Sometimes, those believes are based on things we hear, or things we think we know or saw; things that we assume but have no facts of.

Our way of seeing things is also shaped by past experiences.  We allow those things to shape our world, to hold us hostage, in a sense, and are not able to see things in a different light.

This is why I chose this word to guide my new year, “attitude/ perception”.  I want to work on how I see things, how I let them affect me.  Work on understanding that I am the one who allows what hurts me, how long it hurts me, or if I just let it go, and leave it in the past.  Work on seeing things in a positive light, believe that things “happen for you, not to you”.   See that sometimes we allow our thoughts, imagination, or other people’s words/ experiences affect how we see things, but aren’t necessarily true.  That if we allow time to pass, or see things without a biased mind, we could be surprised and see a different outcome.

Sometimes by us closing ourselves, or allowing our “wrong” perception of things dictate our attitude, we miss on opportunities, and just create more misunderstandings, disillusions, and heartaches for ourselves and the ones around us.

I’ve always found writing is a great therapy.  This is one of the methods I’ve employed in the past and started again to help me with my 2017 challenge.

Writing helps you release all those thoughts and feelings.  It allows us to read them at a later time, analyze and better understand what we were going through.  Sometimes even realize that, we might have overreacted, that things weren’t as we thought at the moment, or they can validate what we felt and still feel.

Yes, we need people to talk to, to vent, but I’ve learned that, when we know ourselves, and are true to our feelings, we are our best listener and counsellor.

Make yourself open up, to yourself and life.  Allow yourself to see different sides of a thought, or situation.  Choose to pick the best case scenario, to be positive.

Adjust your attitude to benefit you, to see life in an optimistic light.  You are free to change how you react to things, and keep moving forward towards a happier you.

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New Year’s Resolution 

30 Dec

As we approach the New Year, and all are making resolutions and thinking how to improve themselves, I came across a quote today that immediately spoke to me…

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be better, to welcome change, to move forward, but none of this is possible if we don’t know and are comfortable with ourselves, with who we really are.

We might get lost, in so many different ways, if we are not truly ourselves and those resolutions and improvements are made for others instead of us.

The quote is in Spanish, my native language, translated it says:

“This that you see, is me, no more no less.  A being, a piece of humanity, a handful of laughs, and a bit of crazy, a chunk of sweetness, with all my honesty.  A woman, but sometimes a girl, sometimes space and sometimes infinity, sometimes passion, sometimes freedom.   This is all I have, all I am; it’s not much but it’s everything”

Accept your quirks, your contradictions, your hopes and dreams, everything that makes you unique and who you really are.

Being true to ourselves is what will help us welcome the new year happy and with the right foot forward.

May your resolution be to be happy with yourself!   To make these words your own:   “This that you see is me…  it’s everything”

Travel – Austin, TX

22 Dec

Traveling can be so many things to so many people.

I can’t imagine someone not liking to travel.

You see traveling to me can be:

  1. An escape. I think we all feel the need to get away.  To see something new, to get out of the routine, to feel alive, to leave the problems and voices, that sometimes hunt us, behind.  To pretend you have a new life even if it’s for a few days.
  1. An Education – everywhere you go you learn something new. Culture, history, the people, traditions… all these can teach us so much and expand our world.
  1. A bonding experience – be it with friends, family, significant other. Traveling brings people together.  Traveling can be a meeting place for those who live far, it can be a great way to get to know that other person better, it builds memories we’ll remember for the rest of our lives and will keep us united even if in those memories.
  1. A Health booster – I’m not an exercise person but LOVE cities where I can walk everywhere. Fresh air, cardio, clear mind, this revives anyone’s spirits.
  1. A Networking opportunity – when you travel for business this is obvious, but even when for leisure we encounter so many people that is hard not to talk about our work. Sometimes from these conversations opportunities arise, either to build your own network or help others do so, and/ or grow in their business.
  1. A Feast – Food, New flavors, Music, Local Craft Beer, signature drinks.  All these enhance your travel experience and might even influence your kitchen when you are back home.
  1. Relaxing – you can just travel and do absolutely nothing. Sleep in, lay on the beach, stroll your way around without a schedule.

Most of my trips are a combination of all of the above.  Take my last trip for example… Austin, TX

My friends and I have very different lives.  Distance, work, others have kids, school, an active social life…  We not always have the time to get together, much less travel together.

Thankfully this past week 2 of my friends and I were able to.  To this day we don’t know how we decided on Austin – maybe because it was a place neither of us had been… point was we all were ready for a trip.  End of the year – done with school, work, and routine, this would be our very well deserved break.

We got to see Capital State, plus got to see beautiful architecture both modern and old.

We found a great location to stay where we could walk almost everywhere.  Take in the air of the city, scenery, and gave us a chance to talk even more, laugh, share stories, and create memories together.

Food was absolutely amazing.  There was not one meal we did not enjoy fully in Austin.  Every one we talked to and said this to, their reply was “that’s what you do here, eat and drink”, and that we did.

The absolute MUSTS for me were:

Odd duck – very interesting menu, with incredible variety of flavors

Gordough’s Public House – everything donuts.  Burger, sandwiches, dessert, and beer towers, all coming out of a tin food truck parked on their patio outside.  How fun is that?!?

Eberly – absolutely beautiful place with exquisite food and décor.

Lick Honest Ice Cream – flavors that you might not think off all blend together perfectly in this ice cream heaven.

A glass of wine overlooking the Lake, at Alta’s might be the perfect way to relax here.

Another great way to relax is visiting some of their local breweries – some, like Jester King are designed to spend a day there drinking, eating, playing games, or just enjoying the beautiful sight.

Not sure why they say “Keep Austin Weird”.  Didn’t ask anyone but, maybe it’s for their street art – They have the Hope Outdoor Gallery but everywhere you go you might see beautiful street art that speaks to you.  

Maybe it’s all the guitars you find throughout the city, starting at the airport, all painted in different themes.

Maybe it’s their artists and it’s music.  Sure came across a very interesting and entertaining one at The Continental Club.​

Or maybe it’s their mix of old and new buildings meshed together.  Or maybe the fact that one of their attractions are bats, or, if you ask me, the crazy weather – we had temps of 56 degrees to 73 degrees, then dropped to 29 degrees – yes, I would say that is weird.

Weird or not, Austin was definitely fun, delicious, out of the ordinary, and a trip with friends we’ll never forget.