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Rustic Cabins in Las Terrazas, Cuba

Where’s the coolest place you’ve ever stayed? My list is constantly growing, but a new addition last year shot right to the top. When we were planning our Cuba trip, Kyla decided she wanted to stay in a treehouse. (I mean really, who doesn’t?!) She looked it up, and sure enough, it was *sort of* possible!

In Las Terrazas, an ecovillage about an hour west of Havana (or two hours east of Viñales), there’s an eco-hotel called Moka. The building is a mix of Spanish colonial architecture and forest, with a huge tree growing through the lobby! Moka also owns “rustic cabins“, located about 4 kilometres away, by the peaceful Rio San Juan (map).

The wooden cabins are held up by four sturdy posts, and you enter through a heavy trapdoor, via ladder (maybe only heavy cause I’m weak, but it was a struggle). Then voilà, you’re in (a very simple) paradise! The cabañas are equipped with two mattresses, TP, a towel, a light, an outlet (ours didn’t work), windows that can be propped open, and picnic tables below. Bathrooms and showers are outside, so I highly recommend emptying your bladder before going to bed so that you don’t have to navigate the trapdoor/ladder situation in the night!

There’s a small, open-air restaurant by the cabins, overlooking the natural pools in the San Juan. At this point we had very little money because we’d forgotten to change any beforehand, but we were still able to afford two meals. They turned out to be two of the best meals we had in Cuba! Simple, delicious, and with a great view!

We really felt immersed in nature that night – the rain was soothing on the thatch roof, we woke up to the sound of birds in the trees surrounding us, and we even had some visitors. I woke up in the night to the sound of *very very small* footsteps… after freaking out for a moment, I looked up towards the beam below the roof, feeling around in the dark for my glasses and a flashlight. The light revealed the unmistakable silhouette of two gecko friends, taking refuge from the rain! Breathing a sigh of relief (although I did hope that they wouldn’t come down and join me in bed…), I watched them for a while before drifting back to sleep. So yes, the cabin isn’t completely sealed off from the outside, but that’s part of the appeal.

When I woke up, Kyla was already heading out to catch the sunrise. I joined her in a gazebo near the cabins, as did our new BFF, a doggo that had been following us around since we arrived (but then totally betrayed us as we were leaving, latching onto a couple who had just arrived). It was raining lightly, so we watched the clouds get a little less dark and listened to the birds. We even got to see a group of turkey vultures chattering away in the trees (#birdnerd).

We had an early breakfast at the restaurant before catching our taxi back to Hotel Moka, where we’d arrange transportation to Havana. (We grabbed a cab that was dropping someone off, but I’d recommend setting it up beforehand; there’s not an abundance of taxis driving up the dirt road that leads to the cabins.) We were sad to leave, feeling like we hadn’t had time to take advantage of the location by hiking or swimming in the pools, but it’s on the long list of places I’d go back to.

We’d been planning to zipline in Las Terrazas – their canopy tour is one of the main attractions in the town – but it was too rainy. However, Moka’s tree lobby turned out to be the perfect place to enjoy some tea and watch the rain (and use the wifi) while we waited for our taxi to Havana. Maximum hygge!

I highly recommend staying at the rustic cabañas in Las Terrazas! Like most accommodation in Cuba, it’s super affordable for travellers, and it’s a great experience in any weather. If you don’t have much time to venture outside of Havana, this would be an easy overnight trip and nature escape.

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Here are some suggestions, if you go:

  • Know where you’re going so that you can plan your transportation! The website was a bit confusing, and we didn’t realize the cabins were so far from the hotel. If you arrive by taxi, ask the driver to drop you off at the cabins. If you come by bus, plan for a short hike or hire a taxi to get to the cabins.
  • We had an issue with our reservation and had to pay twice (luckily only about 25 CAD), so make sure you get email confirmation. I actually can’t find a place to book online at the moment, so it might be best to try to contact Moka for availability, and pay when you arrive.
  • Bring cash. We only had 24 CUC to play with, but that got us dinner with beer, and a taxi ride back to Moka. Breakfast was included at the cabins (egg, toast, coffee, a juice box)!
  • Take advantage of the location! There are lots of hikes around the Rio de San Juan.
  • Embrace the experience – if you’re not a fan of camping, you probably won’t enjoy the cabins. If it’s not for you and your budget is a little bigger, consider beautiful Hotel Moka.
  • Bring lots of bug spray, a flashlight, and books, cards, etc. The restaurant closes at 6pm and there’s nowhere else to get food, so plan ahead if you think you’ll want snacks.
  • If you really want to zipline, give yourself at least 2 days as options, in case the weather’s bad.

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Cayo Levisa, Cuba: Bedbugs and Bare Bums

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Aaah Cuba. Where we rode horses through the Viñales valley, open-air salsa danced in Trinidad, played in the waves on the Havana Malecón… oh and where we went to dinner basically in the buff on the romantic island of Cayo Levisa!?!

How did we manage that? Long story short, it had a little to do with some uninvited roomies in Viñales (bedbugs, baby), and a lot to do with a tropical storm that set in RIGHT after we’d stripped down to wash all of our clothes and get rid of the icky buggy feeling. But you can read the long story long, because Kyla and I joined forces for the first time to write allll about it in a guest post for comedy writer Jenna Wimshurst: Nearly Naked on Cayo Levisa

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2 Days in Havana

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We only had a day and a half in Havana, so we squished a lot in! I found that it was completely possible to have a great time on a short trip to Havana, without it seeming stressful!

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Photos of me taken by Kyla.

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Five Things to Do on Hornby Island

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Last month I got invited to join Kyla and her family for a long weekend of camping on Hornby Island (I’ll ‘b’ careful not to misspell it). We spent five days there, so I was prepared for lots of lazing around, which – don’t get me wrong! – is a fantastic way to spend a vacation. What I didn’t realize was that there’s tons to do and see there! So while the island’s laid-back vibe meant plenty of recharge time, it was balanced out with lots of time exploring cute spots in town, gorgeous beaches and coastal bluffs, and checking out the bottom of many glasses of mead! Here are 5 suggestions for things to see and do while on Hornby Island:

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Camping Like a BAMF on Mayne Island

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Kyla and I spent a long weekend camping on Mayne Island last month and it was badass! Mayne is one of the Southern Gulf Islands, which sit in the Georgia Strait between Vancouver Island and Vancouver/mainland BC, and are home primarily to hippies, artists, and retirees (based on a mix of casual observation, anecdotal evidence, and census data). These quiet little islands can’t really be the site of much badassery, right? WRONG! (No, you’re right, but I lead a pretty tame life, so humour me with this one!)

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Being a badass.

Here are some reasons why our weekend rocked, and tips so that you can have a badass-as-you-can-get-in-the-Gulf-Islands weekend too:

Continue reading “Camping Like a BAMF on Mayne Island”

Vegas: 5 Things to Love That Aren’t Gambling

20170402_004547     In March, I met my sister and three friends in Las Vegas. Monica (sis) is getting married this fall, and for a while she’d joked about how much fun it would be to do a Vegas bachelorette. It turned out that the plan made a lot of sense! We were coming from different cities in eastern and western Canada, and it was a good excuse for us to travel.

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This was my first trip to Vegas, and I’d conjured up this weird, wonderful land in my mind, where my senses would be overloaded by sounds and lights day and night. When I saw the slot machines in the airport, I knew I hadn’t been far off!

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As the hotel shuttle weaved on and off the strip, I craned my neck to see the oversized landmarks and famous hotels and casinos, smiling like crazy about how I was actually physically in this place that had always sounded like fiction. Here are five things I learned and loved about Vegas, the city that seems simultaneously so real and so fantastical: Continue reading “Vegas: 5 Things to Love That Aren’t Gambling”

Queer Travel: Victoria

 

The thing about Victoria is that regardless of whether you hit up any gay events while you’re in town, it’s a beautiful, safe city* to explore with your same-sex partner, or to meet up with a group of queer locals. It’s also a great jumping off point for exploring this magical island, and a short ferry ride to both Seattle and Vancouver. There’s a lot to be proud of in Victoria! Victoria’s public school board recently passed a thorough new gender identity policy, the city explodes with rainbows during Pride, and hey – our wonderful mayor is an openly gay woman! Tourism Victoria even created an awesome map of all genders washrooms in the city and surrounding area.

      Hold on, you might be thinking, I heard that Victoria is a small city with a disproportionately high retiree population?!? You heard right! But there are way more people living here who are below retirement age! It might seem quiet at first, but have no fear if you’re young and queer: there’s lots to do in this city, if you know where to look!

Lez Go to Victoria:

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Weird and Wonderful Portland

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The day after the US election was a strange time to head down to Portland. The trip had been planned for months, but it still felt like we were going the wrong way at the border. My girlfriend and I tried to fend off the post-election haze with hugs and talks on the ferry over to Port Angeles, but had given in by the time we set off in our rental car, and decided to make a game out of the dark reality of President Voldemort and keep a tally of T***p signs we passed on the 101. Coincidentally, this was the exact number of times we flipped the bird out the window! We also passed a lot of (legal) pot shops, so that provided some balance!

The reality sunk in in other ways, too.* So it was a weird vacation, but what better place for weirdness than PORTLAND! I had an amazing time, and loved so much about the city. You really can’t go wrong. Here are some of the things we did, ate, and drank that we loved:

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Vancouver Island Camping: How Did I End up Here?

Note: this story takes place on First Nations traditional territory. It’s a fun one about a recent overnight trip, written in response to the prompt: “How did I end up here?”

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“What should I name my pee-zee?”

We were a group of mostly lesbians, gathered around a campfire at our campsite on Vancouver Island’s southwest coast. My friend was obsessed with her new toy: a device that allowed her to pee standing up. Every so often she’d gleefully shout: “Be right back!”, and frolic off into the woods. We were excited about it too; a little jealous, even. We were also a little buzzed. Naming it only seemed natural.

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Mexico: Playa del Carmen Favourites

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Last month I joined a group of friends for a week-long trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico! The 12 of us rented an AMAZING Airbnb house and spent a week in the sun exploring, relaxing, eating, drinking, and perfecting our burns!

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I really liked my friend Katrina’s post about the trip, so in the spirit of imitation as flattery (we had similar highlights!), here are my favourite things about the trip.

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4 Reasons Why Japan is an Introverted Traveller’s Paradise

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Mt. Misen, Miyajima

I’m a major introvert. I like meeting new people and hanging out with friends, but need a good dose of alone time afterwards to curl up in the fetal position re-energize. When travelling solo, I will almost always choose to spend time touring around on my own, rather than with a “new friend” (i.e. person I just met who I have to make small talk with).

When I visited Japan, I was feeling particularly introverted. I hadn’t travelled across the Pacific to get there; I’d come over on an hour-long flight from Seoul, where I was living at the time. I really just wanted to see all the cool things during the day, and read or Skype my then-girlfriend in the evenings. I was a little worried about whether I would be missing out, but it turns out Japan is a great destination for solo-travelling introverts!

Here are 4 reasons why Japan might appeal to other solitary souls:

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Cool Places to Stay: Beijing – Mao’er Hutong Courtyard House B&B

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What & Where? Mao’er Hutong Courtyard House B&B, Beijing; check it out on a map

What makes it wonderful?

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Mao’er has only four rooms (it’s nice and quiet!!), and they’re laid out around a courtyard. The staff is incredibly warm and friendly, and they’re happy to help out with anything you need.

Continue reading “Cool Places to Stay: Beijing – Mao’er Hutong Courtyard House B&B”

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