Log Cabin Chronicles


A Canuck in the land of Castro

Posted 01.16.06

It had just snowed.

I looked outside and contemplated another long winter punctuated with cold walks on the streets of Montreal. And being December 17, it was almost a full week before the season of my discontent officially began.

My wife was in Ghana visiting her family, and I had just finished handing in my marks for the fall semester at Concordia University where I teach journalism. Classes would start up again on January 4, 2006, so there wasn't enough time for me to join her and flights to the Dark Continent are mighty pricey at Christmastime.

As my spirits dropped with the mercury, I initiated my daily ritual of reading the paper. Saturday's edition of The Gazette is the fattest of the week, chock full of stuff but not nearly enough of anything to cheer up the frozen masses, or at least this freezing part of the frozen masses.

After an hour of pouring over the regular diet of suicide bombings and sports news, I came across a full-page ad for selloff.com. They advertised dozens of cheap fares all across the Caribbean and South America - Puerto Plata, $1,299… Margarita Island, $875… that type of thing. All-inclusive, including taxes. Doing some quick math, I realized I could afford a one-week trip down south.

Having had the good fortune of already traveled several times to the West Indies (Barbados, Antigua) the prospect of above-zero weather and a beach quickly became enticing. I began to scrutinize the prices and locations more carefully… Venezuela… Dominican Republic… Florida… almost everything was in the $800 to $1,500 price range, but it might take hours to really check out some of the locations on the web via tourist sites.

Perhaps a quick decision was in order. Like the saying goes, sometimes you just have to say "What the hell…"

I kept looking… Veradero, Cuba. Hmmm, Cuba. I had never been to a communist country before. Rum, cigars, the Buena Vista Social Club, Havana… this was starting to become a plan.

My friends Lauren and Pat had been to Cuba before, and I vaguely remembered them saying how much they enjoyed it. I also remembered someone else saying they had not enjoyed the Dominican Republic.

Venezuela was a bit far, and my friend Paul had gone to nearby Margarita Island recently to give trumpet lessons (he plays with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra) and mentioned it was okay, not fantastic.

It's funny how, in this age of instant information, the referral from someone you trust can still mean the difference between choosing one thing or another. I was in full holiday mode now, and Cuba it would be. I began narrowing down my choices… then I saw Marea del Portillo.

It was $1,299, and my thinking was this was probably a little better than say the $875 all-inclusives. I discovered later you can check out all the locations on the website for ratings, etc., but I still believe a recommendation is the best information.

I called the toll-free number and inquired about Marea Del Portillo. Amazingly, the price had dropped down to $900 (hey, it's selloff.com, remember) and I was getting beach fever in a hurry. With the single supplement (since my better half Hetty wouldn't be going) the total damage was $999, taxes in.

I shot the plastic right quick and booked a flight to Manzanillo, Cuba, and the resort of Marea del Portillo.

Hasta la vista (or, until next time, eh?)…
To Part Two


Copyright © 2006 Leo Gervais/Log Cabin Chronicles/01.06