“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

sketch of Tilley hat in ink and watercolour

Thinking back to the last twenty years, I am struck by the speed with which the years have gone by.

In 1979, we travelled as a young married couple to Cuba. This was our second trip to the Caribbean and yes, 1979 does seem far away for sure, but it has already been twelve years since our most recent trip to Havana and Varadero...where has time gone?

Once again, we are ready "to throw off the bowlines and sail away". I have my trusted Tilley hat to protect me from the sun and my bottles of sunscreen ready, but not much else as I am writing this post. It has been a busy week and my suitcase is ready to be filled.

As you read this, I will be on a flight to Cuba.

This holiday was decided on a whim, with the impulsive words "why don't we go?" one April night after more than one glass of wine with our close friends.

We were talking about our travels and reminiscing about trips both couples had taken to Cuba and the changes that will occur in that country after relations improve between the USA and Cuba. Obama had visited Havana in March and we had seen some familiar Cuban landmarks on the national news. One thing lead to another and during the week following that spring evening, our trip was booked.

This post will be a bit different as I am taking a trip down that well-known path...memory lane.

on the beach 1979

When my husband and I were university students, we had a bit of extra earnings that allowed us to go to Jamaica in 1978 and then to Cuba in 1979.

We had no expectations back then other than hoping for hot, sunny weather. There were very few Canadian tourists who ventured to Cuba back in those days.

In 1979, Russian soldiers could be seen patrolling the beaches. Cubans detested their presence.

Russian and East German tourists as well as a few brave Canadian tourists soaked in the sun on the mostly deserted stretch of soft sand in front of the Internacional Hotel in Varadero. There were no palapas, no waiters bringing drinks to patrons on the beach, no beach music, and no pools. It was all very ....quiet and enjoyable. Even the beach chairs were borrowed from somewhere in the hotel as you can see in the above photo.

bare necessities hotel room 1979

I don't think I would be exaggerating to say that our hotel room was sparse.

As I remember it, we had two twin beds, a small bathroom with just the bare necessities (no soft, plush bathrobe and slippers as we had in our hotel this past December).

There was a kitchen as pictured above and I was pretending to get us some drinks of water from the gaping maw of our full sized empty fridge. Back then, there were no chips and cola and beer that hotels now offer in most rooms.

But we didn't know about those little niceties and we were quite happy with everything; so happy in fact, that we recommended the trip at that time to friends who are on this vacation with us.

Cuban entertainment 1979

And now I look back and see how young we were. Our whole lives were ahead of us. That same year, we started our family and then we bought our first home. So this was to be our last trip south for many years to come. We wouldn't return to Cuba until 2004, when our children were all grown.

at restaurant in Havana

Here we were, 25 years later, in Havana for a short visit. This was the entertainment at lunch in a small restaurant.

coconut by the pool

The coconut was available as a refreshment by the pool along with mojitos and all types of drinks at the many bars found on the property. We were staying at the Melia Sol Palmeras in Varadero.


No more kitchen chairs on the beach. In fact, hotels had pools and palapas and music and all the entertainment which is now expected by most tourists.

mixed media sketch of sunscreen

So as I get ready to return to Cuba another (last?) time, I am thinking of past trips, of our youth, of time passing by.

sketch of old Cuban car

We have a personalized guided tour on Monday morning with Yosel Vazquez. I expect to see some of the sights I might have seen back in 2004.

This time however, there will be no rush to follow a group and we will be able to linger or return to the places that are of interest as we will be staying in downtown Havana for a few days.

Cuban courtyard
ladies smoking cigar in Havana

I hope to sit in a courtyard such as this one and perhaps get some sketching done. A nice cold beer will surely be appreciated too!

flower vendor in Havana

I am catching the trade winds in my sails one more time.


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