Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

I’m back! I’m covered in mosquito bites. Itchy. I’m sunburned. Also itchy. I’m feeling much more alive and functional than I was before I left, although my brain is also super scrambled from the complexity of this trip.

What a trip! I went in with certain expectations based on our previous trip and a certain familiarity with the area around the hotel we chose. But when we got off the plane we were informed that something was busted at our hotel and there was no water so we were being sent to a “fancy” resort 3 hours from our hotel and to a region (Guama) I knew literally nothing about. This new hotel was considered an upgrade, one we would be happy with if we could stand the idea of spending a week at a resort, but we decided right away that when you go to Cuba you have to expect the unexpected. So we just accepted that whatever happened would be what it was and we would go with it.

It turned out to be much better than I expected. I could do without the dynamics of the resort, but boy was the landscape beautiful. The buildings were situated on the side of a mountain so we were right there with stunning views and amazing plants all around. I found it difficult to reconcile the beauty of the landscape and the complexity of being where I was, in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by poverty, with the ugliness of resort life. But again, we just decided to chalk it all up to experience and soak it all in.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

Anyways… the plants. Bromeliads and tillandsia everywhere! Some flowering. Palms of every kind. I hugged a lot of palms. This region, more than the area closer to Santiago was covered in the majestic Cuban Palm (Roystonea regia), the national plant of Cuba. What a gorgeous, regal plant! I’m so glad I got the chance to get up close to them this time around.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

To my surprise and delight the hotel had a stunning botanical garden as well as a productive food garden. I was also able on this trip to see more agriculture and gardens. So while I missed a second chance to visit the Cactus Garden, I got a lot of unexpected and equally amazing botanical experiences in exchange.

I have lots to write about but I also have a ton to accomplish on my first day back. More soon.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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12 thoughts on “CUBA!

  1. Hi Gayla,
    My eldest son Clayton missed a direct flight to Cuba last year, so he had to take a second indirect flight to the other side of the island. He had the good fortune of traveling across Cuba using the generosity of the locals. So impressed was he of the Cuban people, he decided to start transporting donated clothing and bicycles to Cuba. I told him to save his energy, not re-invent the wheel, and talk to an old friend of mine Harold Hosein (Ex-weatherman for Citytv). Check out his site at recycleyourbicycle dot com.
    (YGGer Alphatango)

  2. What a lovely post, wonderful pictures. I like the bit about going with the flow. I think I need to do more of that at the moment. So thanks for sharing this. Please write more about the food garden!

  3. Yet another reason it’s cooler to be Canadian. I can’t go to Cuba because the US forbids it. You are so lucky! Nice that you gave the palms some love. Look forward to reading more when you have time.

  4. I went to Cuba a few years ago and remember being fascinated by those palm trees that appear to be “pregnant”…I wish I could remember what they’re called.

  5. Greg: Yes, people need bikes and clothing. Clothing is expensive and since most people only make $10 a month the cost of a shirt is astronomical in comparison.

    Meighan: It was this place.

    Karen: It is good that we get to go but many people don’t really look at what things are like there. It’s just a cheap vacation in a warm place. I’m still trying to resolve what it means to travel to a third world country because there are so many levels but I also feel fortunate to have been able to go for lots of reasons.

    KT: I’ll have to dig through my pics and see what I have. I only have the digital shots right now… I took hundreds of film pics but it will be months before I develop all of the film.

  6. Karen – the US government forbids commerce – but it doesn’t forbid you from actually going. You can get there through other countries and Cuban authorities will not stamp your passport. Just bring cash, don’t bring back cigars and other obvious souvenirs and you should be fine while we have a Democrat in the whitehouse.

  7. Hi Gayla,

    I have been visiting your blog for quite a while already, yet this is the first time I leave a comment.

    Thank you for sharing and I am looking forward to hear more about your Cuba trip (I love traveling n my next trip will be Cambodia + Vietnam. Can’t wait! :). Too bad you missed the Cactus Garden for I would love to hear more about a garden of my favorite plants :)

  8. Hey Gayla,

    Are you still in Cuba? My son 1 of 4, Clayton, is arriving in Cuba again as of today, January 15. He told me it is for scuba diving and for some peace and quiet to write some business proposals. Clayton looks like Mark Wahlberg, so if you see him, slap him upside the head and tell him that his Dad says “Get a job.” ;-)


  9. What a wonderful post! My partner and I just got back from Cuba a week ago (we’re Americans and traveled there on the sly. It was nerve-wracking coming back into the states, but everything went fine and the trip was amazing and so worth the risk). I’d recommend anyone who goes (especially viewers of this site) to visit the Jardin Botanico Nacional de Cuba about 18km outside of Havana (near Parque Lennin). It is over 600 hectors of 6 continents worth of tree species (and a bonus Japanese garden and Cuba’s first–and one of the few– vegetarian restaurants). It was mind-blowing in its scope and the number of species they have. Also includes green-houses, etc.

    KT: the “pregnant palm” you are thinking of is the “barrigona,” though it’s sometimes called the “palma puta,” (politely translated the “whore palm”) because of its pregnant look. It’s got to be my favorite palm because it’s so goofy-looking.

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