Charlie and I traveled to Cuba for 6 days (including travel days).
We stayed two days in Havana, then overnight in Viñales, then back to Havana for 2 more days.
I arranged for our living accommodations through AirBnB months before we left. One advantage of using AirBnB is that I could pay in advance using American currency via credit cards which are not accepted in Cuba.
Our first casa particulare was a lovely old colonial house with private room and full bathroom located in the heart of “El Vedado” just a few steps from “John Lennon” Park. We stayed for 2 nights at the cost of $33.44 per night.
For an additional 5 CUC person ($5) we were served a beautiful breakfast featuring fresh fruit, fresh juice, eggs, coffee, bread, etc. On day two we opted for breakfast sandwiches that we took with us on our trip to Viñales . We also purchased bottled water from the casa both for convenience and to help them out.
Our host spoke great English and our hostess was very helpful arranging transportation within the city and to Viñales 111 miles away. She would also have made accommodations for us in Viñales if we needed it.
Although we had accommodations for later in the week in the old part of Havana we knew we could come back to Casa Marta if things didn’t work out and that she would help us out with transportation if we called her.
That was her offer to us when we left for Viñales in a taxi collectivo that held nine adults stuffed into an old station wagon for the price of 20 CUC each.
One tradition often observed on this day is the chalking of the door. The front door of the house is marked with chalk either on the door or over the door with the year and three initials in this format: 20+C+M+B+18.
The letters above the door stand for the initials of the Magi – Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar, and also stands for Christus Mansionem Benedicat, Latin for “May Christ bless this house.”
I made tags with the Publisher program — 10 to a sheet — printed back and front. The tags tell the meaning of the initials on the door and have a blessing on the reverse to recite while marking the door.
I purchased some simple white chalk — 16 pieces for 99 cents — and tied on the tags with black and white string.
I hope to have a few left over to give to some special friends who are unable to attend the party.
Do you have any special rituals that you follow at your home?
It actually was a very private show in a private farmhouse up a remote half-mile-long driveway .
There was quite a variety of items with a heavy emphasis on sheep-related articles: sheepskins, skeins of dyed wool, felted pillows, knitted items, etc.
We felt one of the deals of show was a dish of decorated Pysanky eggs of which we purchased 4. Pysanky eggs are decorated with traditional Ukrainian folk designs using a wax-resist method. These have chains so they can be used as ornaments.
The shepherd whose farm housed the craft show is also a blacksmith. We had a nice choice of wrought-iron hooks one of which we purchased to replace the mermaid hook in our conservatory bathroom. We bought a few more things but I can’t put them on the blog yet.
This time of year TJ’s has all sorts of great gifts. One of my favorite to give is a box of Baci, kisses in Italian.
I always get my boss’ wife a couple loaves of panettone. One of our cooks at work asked me how to serve panettone which I thought was strange because she is Italian. Apparently in Italy they pour milk or cream over a wedge. I suggested cutting the loaf in slices, toasting it and serving it with butter. It was a hit!
Recently I have purchased 20 roses for $10. Enough to spread around.
Do you have a convenient Trader Joe’s? What’s your favorite TJ product?
I’ve decided to enhance my Christmas theme by adding more polar bears. Last year my research led me to report that a group of polar bears is called a celebration. This year I find that an aurora is the preferred moniker.
I am inspired by the tree in the picture above so I did a quick Google search and found stuffed polar bear at AliExpress.com. (Ali Express sells in small quantities what Alibaba sells in bulk units. I had been wanting to give this service a try.)
They came packaged in one bag and were delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
It takes longer to get the items than buying from something based in the US but the price was reasonable enough that I could buy 10. The cost was $3.28 each times 10 plus $1.46 shipping so $34.26 for 10 adorable 7.8-inch polar bears.
While we’re waiting to decorate for Christmas our bear Casper is keeping an eye on the little ones. I might have to make little scarves for them.