Contents

Tuesday, April 5, 2005, 6:00 pm, Hotel Havana LibreThanks to a severe case of the Revenge of Montezuma (or Ricky Ricardo?..,) I am sitting here in the Hotel Havana Libre and I finally get around to create updates from my first 4.5 days here in Cuba. The Internet connection is definitely the slowest I have ever seen in my entire life, (15 minutes to access my messages at Yahoo..), but I am giving it a shot anyways.Friday morning I arrived at the airport in Toronto at 5...

Hello From Cuba - Part 1 - First Impressions

Hello From Cuba - Part 1 - First ImpressionsTuesday, April 5, 2005, 6:00 pm, Hotel Havana LibreThanks to a severe case of the Revenge of Montezuma (or Ricky Ricardo?..,) I am sitting here in the Hotel Havana Libre and I finally get around to create updates from my first 4.5 days here in Cuba. The Internet connection is definitely the slowest I have ever seen in my entire life, (15 minutes to access my messages at Yahoo..), but I am giving it a shot anyways.Friday morning I arrived at the airport in Toronto at 5:30 am since my husband gave me a ride before work. The plane was scheduled to leave at 10:30 and several transfers with public transport would have taken me 2.5 hours anyway, so I decided to head there early and read a book.Air Canada was delayed after all (due to a problem with the water supply on the plane) and we had to wait for a substitute plane from Winnipeg and finally got off the ground at about noon. 3.5 hours later we arrived at the airport Jose Marti in Havana - a reasonably modern airport. However, it took me and the other travellers almost 2 hours to collect our luggage and finally hop into a taxi.On the way in from the airport I noticed that there was a mixture of industrial developments and agricultural areas, right up until the centre of the city, which is strange compared to Toronto, where there is no significant agriculture until way outside the city. The older gentleman driving the taxi was very friendly and explained a few basic things to me, e.g. that most of the area is industrial and agricultural. He also showed the National Sports Centre to me. Of course you see old cars from the 50s and earlier as well as beat-up Russian Ladas everywhere. Old sidecar motorcycles are also a popular way to get around.I finally arrived at my hotel at about 6 pm where my brand-new friend Pedro (a connection through a friend in Canada) was waiting for me. I had told my friend that I wanted to really spend some time with locals to learn about Cuba, its customs, its way of life etc.Pedro is a brown-skinned black man in his late thirties with a common-law wife and a young daughter. An extremely nice person and hes been very gracious in taking me around and explaining things to me.After I dropped off my suitcase and refreshed myself a little, we hopped into a private individual's car (a practice extremely common in Cuba), he paid a few local pesos and we were whisked downtown in a very old beat-up Lada which ended up picking up various other locals along the way.Habana Vieja is a fascinating colonial city and the age and beauty of the building is astounding. Of course I saw the Capitolio (very similar to the Capital in Washington), several of the big museums, the Hotel Inglaterra and some of the bars that Hemingway frequented.I also saw the big spider exhibit of 2 metallic spiders that are located right in the heart of downtown, an exhibit by a French sculptress that will stay in Havana until April 28 and then apparently move on to New York.We walked around and chatted about life in Cuba and I started to learn a few things, about some of the practical consequences of the revolution (e.g. blacks have it much better today than before, and there is relatively little racism according to Pedro), and the double economy, where locals receive their salary in Pesos Cubanos, (around US$8 to $30 a month), which is not even close to enough for living, so everybody participates in the underground economy in some way.We had a reasonably expensive meal in a downtown "Paladar", a private restaurant in a private home with a maximum of 12 seats, one of the few official private enterprises allowed. When asked about the future of Cuba after Fidel, both my new-found friend and the old man running the Paladar indicated that they thought not much would change after a future passing of Fidel. (Actually the mention of Fidels passing often makes people pull up their hands in front of their mouths and start to speak very quietly...).After the meal, Pedro again flagged down a private vehicle, we hopped in and I got dropped off at the hotel, dropping into bed like a tired sack of potatoes. But I definitely had a great introduction to life in Cuba on my first evening....

Europe Travel Made Easy Schengen Visa

Europe Travel Made Easy Schengen Visa

What is Schengen Visa?If you plan to travel to European countries that implement Schengen agreement, a Schengen Visa simplifies your travel between those countries.With Schengen Visa you can travel between Schengen coutries like travelling inter-state in USA. So all internal air, road and train travel are handled as domestic trips between those countries.What is Schengen?If you are curious about what "Schengen" is, Schengen is a wine-growing village in south-eastern Luxembourg near the point where the borders of Germany, France and Luxembourg meet together.Which Countries Can I Travel With Schengen Visa?At present, there are 15 Schengen countries in Europe. The 15 Schengen countries are;1. Austria2. Belgium3. Denmark4. Finland5. France6. Germany7. Iceland8. Italy9. Greece10. Luxembourg11. Netherlands12. Norway13. Portugal14. Spain and15. Sweden.All these countries except Norway and Iceland are European Union members.What are the Benefits Of Schengen Visa?Before Schengen people from some countries were required to have separate visas for every country in Europe they wished to visit. A vast network of border posts existed around the continent which disrupted traffic and trade, causing delays and costs to both businesses and visitors.With the Schengen Agreement, border posts have been closed between participating countries. Road traffic is no longer delayed; road, rail and air passengers no longer have their identity checked when crossing borders.How to Apply for Schengen Visa?People from Non-EU(European Union), Non-EEA(European Economic Area) countries who wish to visit Europe as tourists, and who require a visa to enter the Schengen area, are simply required to get a common Schengen Visa from the Embassy/Consulate ofthe Schengen country they intend to visit first.First determine which Schengen country you are planning to visit. Then to get your visa, you have to submit required documents to the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting in the Schengen area. If you plan to visit more than one country in the Schengen area, the visa will be issued by the country through which you enter the Schengen area.After this, they may visit any or all of the Schengen countries as tourists or for business without hindrance. They are not required to get separate visas for all the (Schengen) European countries they wish to visit.Required DocumentsFollowing are some of the required documents when submitting your application. Check with the embassay or consulate for more detail.Your Schengen visa formYou must use the standard document supplied by an embassy or consulate and submit the required number of copies.PassportA passport, valid for at least three months longer than the requested visa.Some other useful documents1) Have some documents that describe your purpose of visit.2) Proof for your means of existence (finacial proof) for the duration of your stay3) Proof of Stay. (Hotel Reservation etc)4) In some cases proof of medical insurance.Important Information.Eventhough you can travel with one visa between Schengen countries, it is always safe to carry your passport and any other identification with you. Some countries like Sweden and Finland still maintain customs control at their borders. Non-EU members Norway and Iceland are not a part of the EU customs union and therefore enforce the same level of custom control towards any traveller regardless of whether they come from within the Schengen area or not.For more information visit Mark Robert's Blog at http://schengenvisas.blogspot.com

Thanksgiving In Hilton Head Island

Thanksgiving In Hilton Head Island

Its nothing like New York, but its all about family! There is no question about it: for the biggest Thanksgiving event in the country, head to New York City for its annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. If you can't make it to the city, Mom used to say, sit down and you will see the arrival of Santa Claus on TV.That still hasn't changed. The old turkey day gets off to a traditional start watching thousands of Macy employees and volunteers begin their march down Broadway. It's a fantastical procession filled with colorful floats, marching bands, and at least a dozen giant helium balloonsto the delight of the millions of spectators that turn out or tune in to watch. Every race, color, ethic nationality celebrates this American traditional Thanksgiving. Mom keeps basting the turkey but stays attentive to the spectacle on television. This is one Americas pure moments to share year in and year out, either live or by television, with family and friends alike who come to visit.That was there and here is now. While we still visit the TV on Thanksgiving mornings, were in South Carolina and there are plenty of other things to do on a beautiful fall day, especially on Hilton Head.How would you like to be fishing, golfing, taking in a spa treatment before filling up on the big Thanksgiving feast or strolling down the beach? A Thanksgiving getaway to Hilton Head sure beats the usual family tradition (once in a while). The island is located about 30 miles from Savannah and about 100 miles south of Charleston, with first class resorts and spas, world-class dining, and miles of sandy beaches to walk and maybe get a late fall tan. Fishing and golf in Hilton Head are major draws, and a multitude of championship courses including the world renowned Harbour Town golf links will easily tempt you away from watching holiday football.If you want to stay in a vacation house for this special family event, there are some of the most beautiful homes available right on the beach. So if you're hoping to spend Thanksgiving somewhere a little more low-key, where you can sit back and relax, Hilton Head Island is your place to be for an easy-paced yet memorable Thanksgiving.Hilton Head Island has a timeless feel; it didn't even have electricity until 1951, and its second golf club wasn't opened until 1967. Now, with more than 30 golf courses and countless tennis courts, it's a vacation destination for the sports nut.All in all, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina is one of the most beautiful places in the world to visit and explore. A stressless time getting here will assure you the best vacation for the entire family to enjoy. So get prepared, then relax and get into the vacation mode.But whether you gather in New York, South Carolina, or wherever in America, Thanksgiving promises a feast prominently featuring turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and plenty to drink and share in good holiday cheer and thank one another for being family and thats what life is truly all about.

How Do The Reward Travel Credit Cards Work For Your Benefit?

How Do The Reward Travel Credit Cards Work For Your Benefit?

You must have heard at least once about reward travel points and benefits either on a television commercial or, if you are a frequent traveler yourself, from your travel agent or airline personal.How Do Reward Travel Programs Work?Reward travel is like an incentive or, better said, a reward given to you by the airline because you gave them your business and choose their airline to fly to your destination of choice. Most airlines will issue a frequent flyer a card, which looks similar to a credit card and through which you can add points every time you fly with that particular airline or the one they are partners with.Travel points are usually calculated by the amount of miles you covered in one flight and are added to your account accordingly. Another way to gather reward travel points is through your credit card, as sometimes the same incentives are applied by your bank or Credit Card Company as well.What Can You Get From Your Accumulated Reward Travel PointsOnce you have accumulated a considerable number of points, you can use them to either purchase duty free items, hotel reservations, car rentals and so on; the list is endless, especially if the reward travel points are accredited to you by your bank and not the airline, as they usually have many more partners affiliated in this program at any one time.With the accumulated points on an airline frequent flyer card you can usually get flight upgrades, which are a blessing if you have a long flight and are looking forward to relaxing and maybe get a little sleep as well; also, you may be allowed heavier bags than normal without having to pay for the extra weight.Sometimes, airlines offer free flight for their frequent flyers with an upgraded membership with them; it does not happen often but it does happen and when it does it could very well be you if you start collecting your reward travel points from today.ConclusionYou can accumulate reward travel points if you travel for business or pleasure and, thus, have the opportunity to shop, stay in a hotel or even fly for free from time to time, depending on the amount of points you gathered and/or the available programs from the airline.You can start today as the membership and card are free. The only thing you have to remember is to always travel with the airlines that are included in the reward travel program and thus keep accumulating reward points.

Gossip For Tourists In Japan Toto Toilets And The Sound Princess

In a country known for innovative technology, are we really justified in being surprised that they have the most advanced public toilets as well? Concentrating on comfort, cleanliness and even attempting to ease embarrassment, Japanese toilets are far beyond what most expect, though for anyone living there, these should be fast becoming the norm.Of course we wont go into the health befits of the squat toilets from yesteryears that are still common here, but are really not as innovative as youd hope from the Japanese. Those youd find in other Asian countries as well, mostly in villages though.When it comes to a bit of innovation, it starts here by eliminating embarrassment. Talk about the discomfort of knowing someone is in a stall next to you and can actually hear you making some funny sounds; funny to them but embarrassing for you. Japanese tech people have remedied this by creating a device commonly referred to as a Sound Princess. Found in almost all of the newer public restrooms, the device, when turned on, literally sounds like a flushing toilet, drowning out any other sound that might be made when using the facilities. This ensures that even the shyest of people can relax, knowing no one can hear them.What Japan really has to offer in modern toilets industry, if you want to call it that, are the washlets that have a variety of features to please everyone (yes, we are still talking toilets). The control panel for the Washlet might remind you of something you might see in a spaceship; these toilets may look ordinary, but are anything but normal.A common feature on each is a bidet, which can be combined with toilet paper, or used on its own to wash anything and everything. Most have two nozzles, with adjustable water pressure to each area, gently cleansing without being uncomfortable. Many Washlets have built in dryers, making toilet paper unnecessary. Comfort doesn't stop here though, with heaters attached, cold seats are a thing of the past. Some models even have automated lid opening, closing and flushing, catering to males and females with the push of a button.Making those unavoidable trips to the loo is never welcomed by anyone, but Japanese have made the whole thing an experience worth trying. The only main problem that most tourists face in these toilets is the language barrier. The control panels have Japanese instructions and once seated getting up can become tricky. There is no question though that these toilets are catching up in the rest of the world as well, even the hi-tech man in black, Will Smith, when building his house got the Japanese to supply his toilets.

Alfajiri Villa Resort Mombasa Kenya

Alfajiri Villas was once described to me as decadence bordering on insanity, and they are probably right.Just imagine three villas, one sleeps four, the next one six, and the third one eight, and the last one is totally private!!In fact you can rent the whole place if you have the funds and the desire for complete absolute and utter privacy.Obviously it doesnt come cheap, so what do you get for your money.Apart from one of the finest villas in the world, there are private butlers, and two nannies for your children!!Alfajiri is a very child friendly place, and children just love being spoiltAs you might imagine everything you could possibly want is included in the price, so whatever you want to do, be it swimming, snorkelling, golf, ngalawa sailing, and lots more.The largest villa has its own pool, and the other two share an infinity pool, and we found the smaller two perfect as we were on our vacation with family friends, and had come from a superb, but tiring safari, so all we wanted was to relax, swim, drink, eat, catch up on lost sleep.The children loved the pool, and having never seen an infinity pool I couldnt believe how the horizon, and the pool seemed to merge. In fact what with the clear blue skies, the small cliff could almost have been dangerous to the unwary!! What it did give us was added privacy, as no-one could see us, or even know we were there from the beautiful beach below.I have to write and tell you about the food, which is out of this world at Alfajiri.It seems the fresh seafood comes off the beach every day, almost at random, when in fact it is very much to order.This means you can eat crab, prawns[huge], lobster, octopus, plus all the fish you want, and that means if you want to eat lobster every day at every meal you can!!It is amazing to eat so well, and know that it is healthy, all the menus are very Meditteraean style with lots of oils, and I believe things like parma ham and cheeses are flown in every week from Europe.All the vegetables and fruit are sourced locally, and you neednt worry if you are a bit picky, because from experience I know the chef can effectively give you what you want if you dont like what is on offer, but quite honestly Id be very surprised if you needed to.It is great to be able to play golf, turning up in your chauffeured car to the local golf club where you can play without apparently paying, all green fees, caddies and clubs having been included in the price you have paid already.This whole Alfajiri thing is a long way from cheap, but if you can afford it, and you value your privacy, you want to be waited on literally hand and foot, and best of all if you have family friends who feel the same way, then this is just the perfect place post safari.

Summary

Tuesday, April 5, 2005, 6:00 pm, Hotel Havana LibreThanks to a severe case of the Revenge of Montezuma (or Ricky Ricardo?..,) I am sitting here in the Hotel Havana Libre and I finally get around to create updates from my first 4.5 days here in Cuba. The Internet connection is definitely the slowest I have ever seen in my entire life, (15 minutes to access my messages at Yahoo..), but I am giving it a shot anyways.Friday morning I arrived at the airport in Toronto at 5...