Thursday, 11 May 2017

The blog has a new home!

Hello, Bird's Eye Viewers!

Exciting news! I now have a shiny new home for my blog:

I'm a bit sad to leave my Blogger address as it's been my comfy home for the last year or so, but I've outgrown this little place now and it's time for a swanky upgrade.

I'd like to thank each and every one of you who have been reading my posts; I hope you'll continue to do so. Over at my new self-hosted site all the original posts are there, plus lots of new ones, only now they are all categorised for ease of reference. Get me - organised, huh? 😄

So grab a drink, kick back and relax - come and admire the new view at Life: A Bird's Eye View....

Sam xx

photo credit

Fancy reading my back-story before you go any further? You can find my other blogs at:
  • Follow me:

    Twitter: @SamanthaWalsh76
    Instagram: wanderingblonde76
  • Wednesday, 10 May 2017

    Varadero: Life's A Beach

    Having spent four days embracing all that the enchanting city of Havana has to offer, by the fifth day we are made up of 30% culture and 70% rum. It's time to redress the balance a little: we clearly need more rum.
    The journey time by coach to Varadero, our next destination in Cuba, is around two hours - just long enough to decompress from the hectic pace of Havana and the exhausting business of sightseeing, take a deep breath aaaaaand relaxxxxx in preparation for our luxurious (ahem!) all-inclusive surroundings.
    Varadero is a popular beach resort in the Matanzas province along the coast from the capital, boasting it's own international airport (each of the 15 provinces in Cuba has one), over 60 hotels and 20km of white sandy beaches, which run along the skinny Hicacos peninsulafacing the Gulf Of Mexico. 
    Seeing as the hotels are all-inclusive, which basically gives the green light for gluttony, the peninsula is the only thing that is skinny. I've never been a huge fan of the all-inclusive, for that precise reason: if you weren't huge when you walked in, you will be by the time you leave. The Buffet Mentality encourages ordinary human beings to consume extraordinary amounts. It's the nature of the beast. And by the end of the holiday, you'll be a beast alright.
    "Hotel Bella Costa!" cries the holiday rep as the coach comes to a halt, rousing me from my daydream. I look out the window. Really? Perhaps we've taken a wrong turn somewhere as we appear to have pulled up outside Nelson Mandela House. It's raining hard and the building - which resembles a concrete block of council flats more suited to South East London than a sandy beach resort - is seriously lacking in kerb appeal. Sceptically, we grab our luggage and head inside.
    If you've ever stayed at an all-inclusive resort, you'll understand what I mean when I describe it as large-scale factory farming: upon check-in you're "tagged" with a plastic wristband for identification purposes, in much the same way as a battery chicken. This is to ensure the
    poultry guests aren't tempted to stray into neighbouring farms. Next you're led to your room; an identikit holding pen where you'll sleep and rest between feeds. Those who have been in the compound for a while already will giggle and point at the newbies, commenting on their "chicken-white skin" in stage whispers. Then the fattening up process begins: long periods spent pecking at unlimited buffets, beaks in troughs, interspersed with hours spent slowly rotating on sunbeds, basting at regular intervals with an SPF30 marinade.
    Chicks consume the cheap spirits on offer until adequately slaughtered, followed by roasting until golden in the midday sun. Cocks strut along the beach in too-tight shorts, feathers puffed up in a public display of masculinity. Once the two week period is up the spent carcasses are routinely discarded and plastic wristbands removed, ready for a fresh influx of virgin-skinned chickens, delivered by coach straight onto the all-inclusive conveyor belt. And so it continues...
    When you've just spent several days in the wonderfully chaotic city of Havana, free as a...bird, coming into such a sterile, structured environment can be a shock to the system. Hotels in Cuba are measured on a different scale to their smart European counterparts, so a 4-star in Varadero would probably be a strong two elsewhere. Having got our hopes up on the journey, we're mildly disappointed by our room upon entry, with it's curtains coming off the runners and mould in the bathroom.
    However, after a hearty meal and a good night's sleep, we awake to a glorious day, the rain replaced by wall-to-wall sunshine and the bluest of skies. The view from the balcony is breathtaking: as we're five floors up and in the middle of the peninsula we can see the sea and gorgeous white sandy beaches on either side. Maybe being incarcerated in all-inclusive isn't so bad after all. This is what we came for!
    beautiful beaches of Varadero
    Breakfast is an all-out banquet: you can have anything from omelettes to pancakes to beef casserole or ice cream should the mood take you, then it's time to plot up with your full belly on the beach and catch some rays. As well as chunky Americans and desiccated German sun worshippers with skin like leather, there are a disproportionate amount of Canadians and also plenty of Eastern Europeans and Russians for the men's viewing pleasure. The latter are Andy's eye-candy: he dons dark glasses and casually eyes souped-up young Serbs with bolt-on breasts and butt cheeks that could crack walnuts. All this sunbathing is thirsty work though, and by 10am hot-under-the-collar holidaymakers are glancing restlessly at their watches, wondering who'll be first to kick off the cocktail runs and give everyone else the guilt-free go-ahead.
    The rum is free-flowing and plentiful, with fellow inmates carefully carrying a steady stream of mojitos, daiquiris, Cuba libres and pina coladas in little plastic cups across the hot sand. The Yanks have clearly done this before: no thimble-sized plastic cups for these dudes, oh no - they've bought their own vast plastic drinks receptacles from home, some the size of small barrels, smiling smugly as they supervise the cocktail-making process. "Fill her up, bartender!" they bellow as half a bottle of Havana Club goes into their supersize travel cup. Hmm. Must remember that for next time.
    It's not just Americans and Canadians who flock to Varadero - the beaches are also home to hundreds of pelicans, who dive-bomb into the sea to catch fish, completely unperturbed by the fact it's full of squawking humans. They bob on the waves alongside adults and children, their long grey bills tucked against their bodies, beady eyes watching the proceedings, bemused.

    In the evenings there are several à la carte restaurant options (Japanese, Cuban and Italian) if you should fancy a change from the free-for-all buffet, followed by a nightly show, which is actually pretty good. The staff are beyond polite and friendly, smiling sweetly as grasping guests gobble everything in sight in a bid to get their money's worth.
    After a few days, we've completely settled into the pace and routine and are feeling relaxed and happy, if a little bored at times. We decide to pay 135 CuCs each for a two-day excursion to three cities: CienfuegosTrinidad and Santa Clara, leaving at 8am the following morning. There are 10 of us on the trip including an English family and the rest Germans.
    pretty: Cienfuegos
    El Nicho waterfalls
    We visit Cienfuegos town, El Nicho waterfalls and go on a hike through the forest before stopping for a very dubious-looking lunch. We order pina coladas to wash down some grey matter which we're told are potatoes (I'm still not convinced).
    what the...?!
    We arrive in Trinidad several hours later; a quaint province with a village feel, like stepping back in time, with horse and cart instead of cars, uneven cobbled streets and colourful little terraced houses. It emerges that we will be split up and staying with families in their homes, rather than the hotel we were all expecting (and paid for?). Since 1997 the government has permitted Cubans to rent out rooms in their homes like a B&B, which gives them an extra income and provides travellers with cheaper, more authentic options than the big, government-owned hotels.
    We disperse to our various casas particulares (private houses) to deposit our belongings and freshen up, before meeting for cocktails and dinner, which is another interesting experience. We are all served fish and chips, or should I say 'chip' as we are literally given one solitary little sliver of potato each, which has us all roaring with laughter, much to the confusion of the waiter.
    fish and chip
    Trying to find the right front door to our little casa again in the pitch darkness and after several cocktails is, however, no laughing matter and in the morning we're all tired, having spent hours roaming the streets trying to find our respective beds for the night. Our casa owner, Dama, and her mother are very sweet; we communicate in stilted Spanglish and they serve us up omelettes before sending us on our way.
    our casa particular
    The weather refuses to play ball and the city tour is a total washout, resulting in hair plastered to heads and feet skidding out of flip-flops. We pile back onto the bus, which the driver has helpfully frozen to the the temperature of the Arctic Circle and we shiver and shake all the way to Santa Clara, to visit Che Guevara's mausoleum. Satisfied that we've ticked some more culture boxes, it's a relief to be back in the comfort of our hotel where the food is now looking particularly delicious and the bed exceptionally comfy.
    We meet Italian Londoners Alex and his dad Raff, who we enjoy chatting to over a few cocktails. Alex fiddles with my iPhone, mumbling something about security settings and allowing cookies, and suddenly it leaps into life, pinging and dinging as hundreds of Whatsapps pour through. I squeal with delight and start uploading my photos to Insta with abandon. At several CuCs an hour, everyone is tapping furiously at their phones in the hotel lobby, not wanting to waste a moment.
    new friends: Alessandro and his dad Raff
    Cardiff pensioners Jenny and Roger join in the fun the next day and suddenly we have a little crew; the British contingent commandeering the beach with our pumping Bose stereo and boisterous behaviour. I'm surprised there's not a path in the sand from the beach to the bar, such is the number of trips we make.
    Making friends makes all the difference and the best meal of the holiday comes the next day when we take a 1950s Buick to visit La Casa De Al: mobster Al Capone's sumptuous villa right on the beach, now a luxurious restaurant.
    delicious fresh lobster with garlic butter
    As we dine on a lunch of fresh garlic lobster, sipping mojitos, the men puffing fat hand-rolled Cuban cigars as we look out at the perfect pelican-filled beach, we all agree that this is a special moment, one which will linger in our minds long after our tans have faded.
    my cicada creation made by a local from palm leaves
    enjoying our steaks at Barbacoa
    Barbacoa is another great restaurant, where we have delicious steaks (the chateaubriand is lip-smackingly good), as is El Toro. Eating out is top dollar in Cuba at around 25-30CuCs (a Cuc is a pound/dollar/euro) for a main course, which is why most people stick to the confines of their all-inclusive haven. You can take an open-top hop-on hop-off bus around the town for 5 CuCs a day and visit the museums, shopping mall and other tourist attractions, but apart from venturing out to switch up our dining options we don't bother, preferring to remain reassuringly close to the beach and all-inclusive cocktail bars.
    When it finally comes to time for us to leave for the airport, we're not so much battery hens any more as Southern Fried Chicken: plump and juicy from all the food and drink; crispy-skinned from the intense Caribbean sun. We're reluctant to leave as the receptionist snips off our wristbands and we're ushered out of our comfy compound, blinking in the sunlight as our beady eyes adjust to the prospect of being cooped back up at work once more...

    that sky though...
    beautiful Varadero
    Bel Air: not just any old taxis
    not a cloud in sight
    getting friendly with the locals
    as the sun sets on our holiday, we both agree that Cuba has been pretty special

    Fancy reading my back-story before you go any further? You can find my other blogs at:

  • Follow me:

    Twitter: @SamanthaWalsh76
    Instagram: wanderingblonde76
  • Wednesday, 3 May 2017

    Havana Good Time

    Arriving in Cuba (Andy's case - mine's WAY bigger)

    Our trip to Cuba kicks off with a two-hour delay at Gatwick; as soon as I clock the uber-glam trolley dollies on our Virgin Atlantic flight I've sussed out why: it must've taken them at least that long to get their make-up on. And that's just the fellas. That's not a criticism - I have nothing but admiration for any gal (or guy) who can convincingly contour their face without looking like a deranged zebra. That's skills right there.

    The nine-hour flight is a breeze - great service (by which I mean free-flowing booze with no judgemental frowns), great food (including delicious Gu desserts, packets of Skittles and an abundance of Love Hearts, which send sweet-toothed Andy into raptures). We even make up almost an hour of the delay.

    Stepping onto Cuban soil - super-excited, sunnies at the ready - we're greeted with...rain. Of biblical proportions. Have a word! We didn't sign up for this. April is Cuba's winter, but still boasts average temperatures of 30 degrees; the rainy season doesn't start until May. We pray this is just a blip (it isn't - more on that in part 2).

    Within 24 hours we've renamed the island Queue-ba, since standing in line seems to be a national pastime. And I thought it was just us Brits who were partial to a queue. Not a bit of it! These guys take it to a whole other level. First we queue for aaages to get through customs, where sour-faced officials painstakingly inspect everyone's visas and photograph us as though we've already committed a crime: serious-faced mugshots allowed only. (By the way, visas are simple to obtain - if booking through an agent they add them for £15pp and post them to you - just fill it in yourself and take inside your passport).

    random: a three CuC note. Who makes a three quid note?!

    Next comes the task of obtaining currency. You can't buy Cuban pesos outside the country - for the best deal take sterling and change on arrival. This involves queueing outside a bank or foreign exchange for around two hours in blistering heat, since they operate a strict one-in, one-out policy. You could change money at the hotel for simplicity, but the rate is poor and Cuba is already expensive. The country has two active currencies: the Cuban Peso (CuP, pronounced 'cup') and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CuC, 'cook'). The CuP is for locals; the CuC used purely for skanking us tourists. One CuC is one pound/dollar/euro. How convenient. (The dollar is dirt here - pay with that and you'll be slapped with an extra 10-20% penalty on top. Avoid!).

    Relieved to finally have some pesos in our pockets, our next mission is to get online. Well, there's no point capturing awesome shots of the city if you can't share them on Instagram, eh? This is where we get another taste of the Cuban way of life. The cheapest way to get online is to queue at the government-owned Etecsa telecommunications building to purchase a wifi scratchcard for 2 CuCs (£2) per hour. Then you have to find a wifi hotspot (e.g in a hotel lobby) and, if you're lucky, get a half-arsed attempt at a dial-up-strength signal.

    You've got about as much chance of winning the lottery as you have
    getting online with these scratchcards

    After beefing up with b.o-drenched men in the bank queue for hours, we obediently get in line at Etecsa to buy scratchcards before giving up and abandoning our efforts. We eventually settle for the more expensive but thankfully queue-less option at the hotel (4.50CuCs per hour) and quickly discover that we can't connect anyway. Gah! I force down the panic that rises in my throat at the prospect of being offline for fifteen days and we start to explore Havana's Old Town....

    Florida hotel: The view of the lobby from outside our room

    Our hotel, the Florida, is a beautiful old colonial palace built in 1836, situated right in the heart of Old Havana (La Habana Vieja), just a few minutes' walk from the main attractions of the city, such as the Capitol Building, Museum of the Revolution, Parque Central Hotel and the bars famously frequented by American author Ernest Hemingway: Floridita and La Bodeguita Del Medio.

    proper mojitos, Havana-style

    Naturally, we start with the bars. Judging by the hordes of (mostly American and Canadian) tourists clutching identical bright yellow Lonely Planet guides, everyone else has had the same idea. Oh. We discover to our delight that mojitos taste even better when accompanied by traditional live Cuban music, salsa dancing and sun-drenched cobbled streets lined with brightly-coloured old buildings. We have a couple more, just to be sure. Yep, definitely and infinitely more enjoyable than a grey-skied London pub charging three times the price (cocktails here range from 1.50-6 CuCs each, depending on the popularity of the bar).

    Floridita, located in Old Havana

    obligatory daiquiris at Floridita

    Sufficiently relaxed and refreshed, we wander around the Old Town, a Unesco World Heritage Site, which is a series of parallel blocks around four main squares: the Plaza de la Cathedral, Plaza Vieja, Plaza San Francisco and Plaza de Armas. It's relatively simple to navigate, even for someone like me with zero sense of direction.

    We stroll leisurely around town, taking in the art-deco architecture, charming yet run-down buildings and the general buzz of Cuban life. The atmosphere is electric, due to the lively music everywhere you turn and the smiling faces of the locals, who are warm and welcoming. We're reliably informed that Cuba is the safest Latin American country, and having travelled extensively across Central and South America and the Caribbean, it certainly feels that way to me. To cool off, we nip up to the rooftop pool at the stunning 5-star Parque Central Hotel for a dip. And another cocktail, of course.

    Avail yourself of the facilities at Parque Central to take a break
    from schlepping around the city

    another refreshing cocktail? Why not!

    In order to break up what could otherwise easily become a five-day bar crawl, we book some excursions: a city bus and walking tour; an evening show at the Buena Vista Social Club; a cabaret show at the Parisian nightclub situated within the Hotel Nacional which was a favourite haunt of Hollywood film stars such as Errol Flynn, Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, plus the mafia and gangsters of the era such as Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky.

    Americans flocked to Cuba in the 1920s and '30s in order to swerve strict U.S prohibition laws. Havana became famous for it's casinos, cabarets and cocktails, with money flooding into Havana and glamourous mob-funded hotels popping up all over the place - that is until Castro, Che Guevara and co marched into the capital in January 1959 and the revolution began. Visiting the city today, it's as though time has stood still ever since, thanks to over half a century of neglect. Tributes to Fidel Castro (who died last September aged 91, surviving over 600 assassination plots) and Argentinian-born Guevara (killed by the CIA aged 39 in 1967) are everywhere you turn, as well as statues of José Marti, who was a poet, philosopher, activist and all-round Cuban national hero. The strength of feeling towards Marti is evident when we take a breather sitting on some steps in front of one such statue and are sternly reprimanded.

               Hasta la victoria siempre: until victory, always
    This Marti memorial is the tallest building in Havana
    and must always remain so according to their rules

    The city tour is excellent, and at 20 CuCs each for four hours, good value for money. We'd fallen instantly in lust with Havana, but by the end of the enchanting tour this had deepened to love. Despite the hype, we find the Buena Vista Social Club performance (30CuC pp) so-so - to be honest we enjoyed some of the street bands more. There's so much great music everywhere you turn in this city that there really is no need to visit a formal show to see it - the raw talent and enthusiasm of the live bands in practically every bar means you're spoilt for choice. Just tip them a few CuCs when they come around to the tables and they'll happily entertain the crowds for hours.

    traditional Cuban music fills the streets

    Having said that, the cabaret at the Hotel National's Parisian nightclub cabaret (35CuC pp with one cocktail) is a definite Havana highlight and gives the much pricier Tropicana (79-109 CuC pp) a run for its money. A high-octane riot of energetic dancing, colourful costumes and chintzy glitz accompanied by vibrant Cuban music, the show has barely changed since it started; sipping mojitos at little round tables in the packed-out dimly-lit red velvet boutique nightclub it's easy to envisage the fat-cat gangsters doing the same, puffing on huge cigars, glamorous young molls by their sides.

    1950s taxis are the best way to travel (10Cuc)

    We dine at El Gato Tuerto (The One-Eyed Cat) beforehand, arriving in an old electric blue 1950s Cadillac. These old motors, in a technicolour rainbow of shades, are seen cruising all over the city, interspersed with cute little yellow Coco taxis - basically a coconut-shaped motorised bike.

    Coco taxi
    cruising the city in a convertible Buick - pink, naturally...

    A sunset drive in a '50s car of your choice along the Malecon is a must; seek out your preferred ride (a hot-pink Buick in my case) and climb in the back at around 7pm for an hour's city cruise (around 40 CuC) taking in the Plaza de la Revolucion, Capitol building, swanky Saratoga hotelJohn Lennon Park and other hotspots, finishing up with the Malecon: a 7km-long seawall known as 'Havana's longest bench' since it's a popular spot for families, friends and lovers to convene. On these balmy evenings you can barely see the wall for people sitting along it as our old car and a multitude of others cruise past, the wind in our hair, taking in every aspect of the breathtaking hazy views as the waves occasionally splash over the wall and the blazing orange sun slowly slips down into the ocean.

    sunset on the Malecon
    posing in the plaza de la revolution

    Rather less romantic than the sights and sounds of the city is the food. Breakfast at the 4-star Florida is a real mish-mash of misshapen objects we often struggle to identify: deep-fried crab's claws, hunks of crumbly Stilton and cold pizza alongside pancakes, burgers and salad. It's like the Mad Hatter's Tea Party with extra helpings of hallucinogenics, as random strangers speaking indecipherable languages line up at long tables pouring tea and eating cakes and crab for breakfast. Andy described it as "tucking into the leftover wedding buffet from the night before" and I think that's a pretty fair description. By day four we decide to give it the swerve and go out for breakfast instead, but the dishwater tea and warm squishy spam with the texture of Blu-Tack we're presented with are unappealing and we give up with a sigh. 

    We're told the random assortment on offer is due to the Cuban government controlling imports of food, so locals are adept at improvising with whatever's available on the day. We do manage to find some decent food at various paladares (privately-owned restaurants), our favourite being the balcony table at the Paladar Los Mercaderes (book ahead as there are only two balcony tables). Sloppy Joes does some great food and cocktails too - opt for their signature dish.

    I'm genuinely outraged though when there's an apparent national shortage of teabags (bring your own if you come here!) and my attempts to drink coffee instead are short-lived: I can't stand it at the best of times and Cuban coffee is like hot tar. Combined with no internet I'm seriously out of my comfort zone. It's a good job this place is so beautiful, otherwise I might be in danger of falling out of love with Havana at this point.

    Food frustrations aside, this city and it's inhabitants have really won our hearts, and when it's time to transfer to Varadero, our all-inclusive resort a few hours' drive along the coast, our hearts are heavy - even though by now our wallets certainly aren't...

    To be continued....

    Fancy reading my back-story before you go any further? You can find my other blogs at:

    Follow me:

    Twitter: @SamanthaWalsh76
    Instagram: wanderingblonde76

    Monday, 10 April 2017

    Vacation Anticipation

    The smile that says a trip is imminent...

    I. Love. Travelling.

    No surprises there - who doesn't, eh? A boost of vitamin sea is usually just what the doctor ordered; a reminder of the rich tapestry of Mother Nature's creative artwork that lies beyond the short-sighted humdrum of the nine-to-five. Travelling the world is one of the most enlightening and enriching lessons you can give yourself, more educational than any geography lecture or history class; providing a better understanding and appreciation for Planet Earth than any nature documentary. But if there's one thing I love even more than stepping off a Boeing 747, savouring the moment my freshly-manicured trotters touch foreign tarmac, squinting in the sunlight before flipping down my shades to protect against a blazing sun that always seems that much brighter than back home - it's the build-up to a trip. The vacation anticipation.

    Don't get me wrong, I love a last-minute bargain; snapping up a deal and heading off within days on an unplanned jolly is always a bonus - but you can't beat the shivers of excitement that arise from carefully plotting a long-anticipated adventure. If I'm going to fork out the lion's share of my salary on a trip then I want all the feels. I've paid through the nose for that excitement, so give it to me by the bucketload. I want to revel in glorious sun-drenched daydreams as I ride the 07.56 commuter train to Bromley surrounded by grey-faced grumbling gargoyles. I want to let my mind wander, conjuring up images of crystal-clear seascapes and swanky city-breaks as a glorious diversion from reading about the latest horrors in the newspapers.

    Some people haphazardly pack their suitcase in a few minutes, slinging it all in willy-nilly an hour before they're due to leave for the airport. Not me. I'll have my case out of the loft and splayed open in the spare room at least a week before I fly. As a sunworshipper (with the telltale wrinkles and sunspots to prove it) my wardrobe consists of mostly summer garb. Oh I'm a fair-weather friend alright. Stick my face under a UV lamp and it'll show more pigmentation patches than a Dalmatian, but boy do I have some nice summer dresses - and what's a few freckles between friends, eh?

    As I prepare for my next trip, I'll lovingly take them out of the wardrobe, where they've no doubt been lurking in the darkness feeling neglected and unloved since my last trip due to our miserable British climate. I hold up the brightly-coloured wisps of skimpy fabric to my body as I turn this way and that in front of the mirror, allowing memories of tipsy moonlit walks on the beach and frenetic dancing at sunrise to come flooding back. If you look carefully you can see a scuff on my favourite sandals from scaling that cliff face in Thailand...or the catch in that top from getting caught on a branch in the Costa Rican rainforest. I won't part with them, despite their imperfections, as my beloved memories are woven tightly into the fabric.

    Those clothes make me happy; to me they symbolise freedom, fun, and adventures past and future. Away from the monotony of the daily grind, we're free to indulge all our senses: tasting new foods; inhaling the aroma of exotic spices; experiencing unusual wildlife, cultures and architecture for the first time. Everything seems so fresh, it's like being reborn; brain buzzing with electrical impulses as  neurons are fired up to process all this new information.

    It's when I'm travelling that I truly feel most alive, so anything that prolongs a trip is fine by me - be it planning, blogging or photography. Having forked out thousands on a six-month round-the-world trip in 2008, it was that sense of wanting to capture the memories that inspired me to start blogging in the first place. If ever something jogs my memory about a particular country, I can go to my blog and every detail is right there; I relive the moments in my head all over again.

    As well as the wistful romanticising, I also love the practical pre-holiday prep: buying the travel guide from Amazon; plotting my route around a country. Routine trips to Superdrug suddenly become exciting when I'm in the market for mini travel toiletries. I know they're not economical, but they're just so goddamn cute! I add my next destination to my weather app so that I can flip between it's blue skies and London's bland ones on chilly grey days and remind myself why I go to work at all. I've even downloaded a countdown app so I can happily tick off the days from booking until trip time, excitement building as triple digits quickly become single ones and it's time to check in online.

    As each final item goes into the suitcase so does another sprinkle of fairy dust, until it's time to zip up my luggage and head off on another memory-filled voyage into the unknown...

    Next stop? Cuba, baby!

    Not long now! Counting down the minutes...
    My trusty Lonely Planet guide

    No doubt I'll be Havana good time here in my next post 😛

    Fancy reading my back-story before you go any further? You can find my other blogs at:

    Follow me:

    Twitter: @SamanthaWalsh76

    Instagram: wanderingblonde76