Raised Vegetable Garden

It's been a joy and truly a labor of love piecing our raised bed garden together. We learnt a lot from our last/first attempt at gardening and this time we were better planned.

The Best Pizza Dough

We got a bit tired of our whole wheat pizza dough I think we got too accustomed to it and decided it needed some tweaking.

US Road trips

We've made a few road trips around the US. There's a lot to see here and a lot of distance to cover. Here are some of our trips on the east coast.

Panama

Panama's carnival celebration in Panama City are supposed to be the second largest in the world. Enjoyed this big party with fantastic street food, dozens of stages and loud music blaring at every corner.

Canada

Canada has some of the most beautiful sceneries and landscapes. I hope to drive across to the West coast some day but till then here's a glimpse of Toronto and beyond.

Classic American cars in Cuba

Antique American cars of the 1950s dominate the island roads. These old American automobiles are refitted with diesel motors to take advantage of the lower cost of diesel. There are quite a few of these cars that have been restored to their former glory. They  add a load of charm to this beautiful country.

Classic American cars in Cuba are everywhere




Cuban Food | A seafood feast in Cuba

If you like seafood, you will love Cuba! Cuban cuisine has Spanish, French, African, Arabic, Chinese, and Portuguese influences. Sounds rather confusing doesn't it.

Cóctel de Langosta Lobster cocktail
Cubans rely on a few basic spices, such as garlic, cumin, oregano, and bay leaves. Many dishes use a sofrito as their basis. The sofrito consists of onion, green pepper, garlic, oregano, and ground pepper quick-fried in olive oil.

Root vegetables such as yuca, malanga, and boniato are a cuban staple food. These vegetables are flavored with a marinade called mojo. Mojo comprises of lemon juice, hot olive oil,  sliced raw onions, cumin,  garlic and water.

For dessert, I highly recommend the Tres Leches Three milks cake and Cafe con leche which is a combination of strong, espresso coffee with warm milk.

Pica Pica  Cuban Tapas

Langosta y Camarones Sofrito with Cuban roots in Mojo

Camarones al Ajillo Shrimps in garlic 
Langosta y Camarones Lobster and shrimps
Filete De Pescado Grilled fish fillet
Tres Leches Three milks cake

Centro Habana and Prado

Centro Habana has some of the most imposing buildings in Havana. The beautiful Capitolio is a close replica of the Washington DC Capitol but taller.

Grand Teatro de La Habana is among the world's largest opera houses, designed by Belgian architect Paul Belau for the affluent Spanish community.

Paseo del Prado is a picturesque boulevard ideal for a stroll in the evening.

Do not miss out on Casa de la Musica, the one place you are guaranteed to meet every Cuban/Foreigner you met on the street. We bumped into a Cuban that we'd traveled with from Varadero. He was happy to see us and got us in through the VIP line.

Capitolio


Gran Teatro de La Habana
Paseo del Prado
Great live music at Casa de la Musica

Christmas in Varadero

There is no sign of Christmas in Varadero. Being peak season we could not get two nights in a row so had to spend Christmas morning moving to our next casa.

The beaches in Varadero are beautiful! We had excellent weather and as soon as we had checked into the next casa, we head for the beach. The water was a bit cold, but not too cold for us

For lunch we picked the best restaurant but the food was just OK. If you stick to fish you will be fine. Who cares about the food anyway when Havana rum flows like water!

A typical Cuban breakfast; Guava juice, Fresh fruit, Ham, Cheese and an Omelette
The beautiful beach of Varadero
Our first meal in Cuba. Lobster, Fish filet and Shrimps with Sweet potato and rice, and Paella.

Getting local

Christmas Eve in Varadero

It was about 10pm at Varadero airport. Most of the tour buses and taxis had departed with their bulk-load of vacationers. We were among the last at the Money Exchange counter outside the airport entrance.

We exchanged our Dollars for Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) and as I tucked my wallet back in, I stared into the darkness ahead of us. I knew this was going to be one Christmas Eve we weren't going to forget.

Christmas Eve in Varadero





I notice a car parked in the almost empty parking lot. Let's hope that's a taxi.

We had just got back from a week long vacation in Florida and had made little or no preparation for this trip! I was equipped with a hand scribbled address of our accommodation for the night.

In my haste I had only glanced at Google maps and presumed Santa Marta Airport was Varadero airport. Worst case we'd walk I though to myself. From the map it seemed like about 2 km.

The taxi driver spoke little English and agreed to take us for 35 CUC. I wasn't planning on haggling with him but politely asked him why the exuberant amount for a 2 km ride. He smiled and replied " It's 30-40 km my friend. "

You can imagine the thoughts that ran through my mind in those split seconds. We were quite tired from the busy day of unpacking from Florida and repacking and not to mention the long trip from home to the airport. Have I got my facts right? Or does he?

" Oh OK.  I must have my details wrong. Let's go. " I replied.

And so we set out into the darkness that is Varadero at night with the last taxi and without a clue where we were headed.

About 20 minutes later, we pulled into the driveway of our apartment. I was relieved when I recognized the sign board. We were greeted by our hosts, two pretty Cubans who were headed for a party. Had we not been so tired we might have just joined them :)

Merry Christmas!

Enjoying a Piña Colada.

Palm Beach Island

It was our last day in Florida. We were driving back from Miami South Beach to Orlando. We'd fly back home the following morning. We made a stop for lunch at Palm Beach.

You have to see Palm Beach to understand American wealth! Henry Flagler, a renowned South Florida developer created this winter playground for the rich. A walk down the stylish Worth Avenue is an eye opener where every second car is an exotic. There are some sprawling Spanish mansions built by Addison Mizner which are truly breathtaking. What started off as a lunch detour turned out to be half day. A fantastic end to our week long Florida and Bahamas getaway. Next stop Cuba!

The stylish Worth Avenue

Flagler Museum formerly Flagler's winter residence

The beautiful houses on Palm Beach

South Beach Miami

We spent a day at South Beach also known as the American Riviera. This place is just fantastic with the perfect weather, great food and a selection of bars and clubs!

After a long swim and a light lunch we strolled down Ocean Drive lined with several stylish Art Deco preserved buildings. This is a sight to see during the day and night with the beautiful neon lights and live music!

For dinner we had one of the best Paellas at Gloria Estefan's Cardozo Hotel. They play some excellent music and have great cocktails. Mango's Tropical cafe is the most happening club on the strip with their  live performers and fantastic music!

The best of South Beach's Art Deco stylish hotels on Ocean Drive
South Beach
Dinner at Gloria Estefan's Cardozo Hotel 
Henry Hohauser's Art Deco Colony Hotel with Ocean Drive's most famous neon sign
The best club on the strip!

Calle Ocho in Little Havana

Little Havana is a bustling vibrant neighborhood  home to the Cubans since the 1960s when they first started fleeing Cuba.

The heart of Little Havana is Calle Ocho or 8th street.  On Calle Ocho, there's salsa music in the streets, the smell of cigars at every corner and bodegas selling Cuban specialties. I got my Cuban hat out here in preparation for our oncoming trip to Cuba.

We caught a glimpse of some Cubans playing Dominoes in Máximo Gómez Park. They were surprisingly calm and at first I thought they were playing chess. Turns out you can be banned from the park for spitting shouting or foul language.

Cubans enjoying a game of dominoes in Maximo Gomez Park

On Calle Ocho

Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables

We drove through Coral Gables, one of the richest neighborhoods of Miami with a lot of Spanish influence.

Coral Gables is beautiful with it's elegant homes, winding streets, oak trees and canals.

Due to our time constraint we were only able to drive through the Miracle Mile and make a stop at the famous Biltmore Hotel, one of the most stunning hotels.

Biltmore Hotel

Biltmore Hotel


Fort Lauderdale | A Day at the beach

We spent a day by the beach in Fort Lauderdale. The city waterways of Ft Lauderdale make it truly unique.  the weather and sea was just perfect! We managed to walk down Las Olas Boulevard which is the most picturesque and busiest street. There are parts of Fort Lauderdale that are just beautiful, with homes and their boats parked just outside.

Ocean Boulevard is lined with nice restaurants, live music and pubs. A perfect option for dinner and drinks.

Fish made out of plastic water bottles

A day at the beach

Dinner on Ocean Boulevard

Cruising the Bahamas

We took a two night cruise to the Bahamas  from Palm Beach on our week long holiday in Florida.

This was our first cruise and were were quite excited. We set sail from Palm beach around 6pm. The entertainment and amenities on this ship were excellent. There was quite a lively bunch on board as well which made it fun. We caught a beautiful  sunrise just as the ship docked at the Freeport Harbour on Grand Bahama Island.

Arriving at Freeport Harbour on the Grand Bahama Island.
We hopped on a snorkeling tour. I thought the beaches of Mexico were amazing, but those of Florida and the Bahamas are even better! There were huge shoals of fish that swam around us.

I really liked the beach at Port Lucaya. One of the most beautiful beaches ever. And the infinity pool at our lunch stop was just perfect to chug down a few beers before heading back.

By dusk we set sail back to Palm beach.

Going snorkeling in the Bahamas
Cooling off  in an infinity pool near Port Lucaya
Leaving Bahama Island at sunset


Headed for drinks

Kennedy Space Center | Space Coast

We drove eastward from Kissimmee to Kennedy Space Center. It was from here that President Kennedy's dream of landing on the moon was achieved with the launch of Apollo 11 in July 1969.

The drive was a good 90 minutes if not more thanks to the endless quarter-mile signals getting out of Kissimmee. You need to keep a whole day to cover all the tours at Kennedy Space Center. We turned up around noon and just managed to cover half unfortunately. The IMAX documentaries here are just astounding and worth the trip.

The Rocket Garden at Kennedy Space Center

Giant Rocket at Kennedy Space Center

Sunset at Kennedy Space Center

Gatorland Alligator farm | Orlando


Gatorland, a giant farm raising alligators since the 1950s makes an excellent half day excursion in Orlando. They have hundreds of alligators, an aviary and some huge turtles and snakes.

At Gatorland

Staring into the eyes of a snake through my lens

Hundreds of Alligators

The Aviary at Gatorland

A week in Florida and the Bahamas

We decided to make a quick escape to sunny Florida for a week before Christmas. Over the week we covered Orlando Gatorland and the Space Coast, A cruise to the Bahamas (Grand Bahama island), Fort Lauderdale, Miami South Beach and Palm Beach Island

Hundreds of Alligators at Gatorland

We flew down to Orlando and would have just over a day before heading down to palm beach for our cruise the following day. Since time was a constraint we decided to skip the big parks Disney, Universal etc and cover the smaller attractions. The smaller attractions turned out to be almost full day excursions.

Our first stop was Gatorland, a giant farm raising alligators since the 1950s. Click image for more...

That evening we head to the Kissimmee's Old Town for dinner. Kissimmee was a cattle booming town in the past and now holds the bi-annual Rodeo at the Silver Spurs Arena.  There is a small scale entertainment park too which was a nice haunt for the evening after all the travel.

Kissimmee Old Town
The next day we drove eastward to Kennedy Space Center. It was from here that President Kennedy's dream of landing on the moon was achieved with the launch of Apollo 11 in July 1969.
The rocket garden at Kennedy Space Center

The drive was a good hour and a half if not more thanks to the quarter-mile signals getting out of Kissimmee. You need to keep a whole day to cover all the tours at Kennedy Space Center. We turned up around noon and just managed to cover half unfortunately.Click image for more...