Saturday, May 11, 2024

Fourth Time to Portugal for a Month

 It's not really travel that we do when we head to Quelfes for a month.  More like a cottage experience.  We hang out by the pool, or in our favourite local bar in Olhao or mebbe head to Fuzeta (all are at most a 20 minute drive from the villa) for breakfast on the beach...

We did have a couple of days in Lisbon as a stopover but the weather meant we only had one morning and as that morning was part of the Easter weekend everywhere we went was packed with and by British tourists.

See last year's entry for more details about the place.  Photos of the whole trip HERE.

Best bit?  We are booked again for next April.

Back, finally, to Cuba!!!

 We spent Christmas 2023 at the Melia Cayo Coco.  Our first trip to Cuba since the first lockdown.  Much-needed.

We had stopped going to resorts and were instead spending our time in Cuba at casa particulars (private homes, what we tend to call bed and breakfasts) as we just found it way more interesting and fun to walk around rather than lie around as we did when at work and in need of down time.  But as Geri now occasionally needs a wheelchair we decided to return to resort living whilst on holiday.  Getting around a small town or even many parts of larger cities can be a problem if the wheelchair is needed.  Resorts work a lot better in that regard.

We had been to this resort once before.  At a guess about 15 years ago, perhaps longer.  We chose it for two reasons: proximity to the airport we'd be arriving at (15 minutes) and a close look at reports from current guests on Facebook and to a lesser extent Trip Advisor.

We tend to discount TA posts and reviews a bit as the place is something of a battleground for people with all kinds of often wacky agendas.  And it is harder to pick out the wackjobs.

The Facebook groups were full of positive reviews from people who had a long history on FB and whose other posts seemed reasonable.

This is key I think.  Cuba is going through the kind of terrible time it hasn't seen since the Special Period of the 90's.  The collapse of global tourism really hit their economy hard and that is on top of the US blockade.  So if you really want the pre-2020 experience for the next while this resort and a very few others may be your best bet.

It worked out really well.  

We had thought about other resorts where we know more people on staff that we haven't seen in a while but chatting with them convinced us that we should look elsewhere.  I won't mention those hotels as the plan apparently is to channel resources like food and high-end booze to a selection of resorts and slowly expand that pool as more becomes available.  So by the time you read this those resorts may be just fine.  

In the meantime the resorts that are receiving less by way of such things than they did prior to 2020 are more inexpensive than usual.  But cheap was not what we were looking for so...

There were two days, back-to-back, when the Melia CC didn't have white wine.  Otherwise it was fine, though I guess I should note that neither of us is into high-end scotch etc.  So no feedback from us on that.  We're happy with wine, beer and rum.  And there was lots of all that.

Oh, and one day no french fries.  Truck breakdown or fuel shortage apparently.

We had an accessible room.  It was fine, the roll-in shower nice even if not really needed as stepping over the high tubs they have in the regular rooms might have been a problem for Geri.  And me for that matter.

Friends of ours went there on our recommendation a few weeks later and had a great time.  Same experience as we had only no wine shortage.

Tips?  Take lots of $5 bills, tip less often.  And take a bunch of $20s so that you can swap them for the loonies and toonies the staff will be getting from many guests.  As with banks everywhere the Cuban ones won't exchange coins.  We swapped about $200 worth.  See below too.

We booked Air Transat's upgrade as it got us extra luggage.  So we showed up with four large suitcases.  One with our stuff.  One with menstrual supplies, toothpaste and brushes, soaps and other 'gifts' for staff.  And we, as we always do, had a couple of large suitcases (small available) supplied to us by Not Just Tourists.

Please, please: the medical supplies NJT provides you, along with the bag they come in, are desperately needed.  Not a scary thing, we have been doing it for years and often three times a year.  Never a problem.  They even provide you with a contact for delivering the bags.  

I had an extra bit of fun this year as the taxi driver I went to the hospital with has a car that belonged to his grandfather and which has been in his family since the 1950's.  And I got a photo of (not on Flickr as I don't want to cause him problems at work) and some chit-chat with the world's friendliest speed trap cop.  LOL

I made our drop with the Nursing Director at the hospital in Moron.  Much appreciated, simple and did I mention desperately-needed and much-appreciated?  No?  Desperately-needed and much-appreciated.

More on NJT HERE.  Note this is the Toronto chapter but they have chapters across the country.

Photos of the resort, odds and ends and of the NJT drop can be found HERE.