Show Up!

Show Up.

This theme has been showing up so frequently lately in my life and I’d say sometimes this is the most difficult part in life. Sometimes we don’t want to go to the gym, don’t want to go to work, don’t want to go to a party, don’t want to cook a Whole30 meal, etc. etc.

What I will say is that if you just SHOW UP things will fall into place. For me personally, I found this to be so true on the journey of my Whole30 and Food Freedom. Every time that I “show up” and make the right decisions with my foods, I find myself to feel better and to continue to make those decisions over and over again.

If you saw on Instagram, I have been training for a half marathon. I told you all for the main reason of accountability; but, also because I know it pushes me to get the extra miles in. It may not be tomorrow, but the more work in, the closer to my goal I’ll get.

This is so true with our food, it’s always a work in progress. Show up. Make the decision to eat Whole30 (or whatever works for your Food Freedom). Take it meal by meal. You CAN do this! For those who are currently doing a Whole30 or just working to find your Food Freedom, I’m cheering you on!!

Saving the Best for Last: Viñales

If we’re honest, everything that came after Trinidad just felt like a little bit of a let down. Not to say that it wasn’t enjoyable, but it just wasn’t Trinidad. There was something so special about our time in Trinidad that the final few days of our trip just lack that kind of feeling (minus our print making experience in Havana). That all changed when we made our way to Viñales. Our day spent in Viñales felt like the most authentic Cuban experience we had during our 10 days in Cuba. 

We chose to do the Airbnb experience with Arteaga. At 90 CUC per person, it was the most expensive experience we had during our trip. With that being said, once we broke down all the costs for transportation to and from Viñales (about 6 hours round trip), the admission costs for the cave, Prehistoric Rock, and Las Terrazas, along with the food and drink included, we felt like the cost was more than reasonable. 

Our first stop was the Las Terrazas, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. We learned about the development of this site and the way of life for the 1,000 people who live in the community. We stopped off at a beautiful lake, where we were given an informative introduction to the community and surrounding nature preserve. We also received our first of many beverages here. From the lake, we were driven up the mountain to see long range views.

Mountain top views from Las Terrazas

Our first stop in Viñales was at the Mirador of The Jazmines hotel. The views from here are some of the most beautiful views we had on our trip. The landscape is so distinct and unique that we’re certain we’ll never see anything like it anywhere else in the world. There were also these “statues” that spooked us a bit when they moved. We were taking pictures of these bronze statues when they moved and we realized they were in fact men painted as statues. 

As we drove through town, the charm here made us instantly wish we had more time to explore this area. Up next we stopped at a tobacco farm where we learned about cultivation and production of tobacco. Here we were also taught how to roll a cigar while we smoked cigars and enjoyed a drink. We also purchased more cigars and more coffee beans (I’m telling you the coffee in Cuba is amazing and I wish we could have brought back an endless supply). 

Our next stop on this tour- again so much we got to see on this experience- was the Indian Cave. It was a much shorter tour than I had originally expected. You walk a brief distance in the cave before you board a small little boat to tour the rest of the cave via water. It was beautiful and cool- a much need break from the August heat. When we were finished, Arteaga gave us time to do a little shopping and pick up a couple more souvenirs. 

Now the highlight of our trip was the authentic Cuban meal. Arteaga took us to his favorite country restaurant in the valley, Casa Barbaro. While we were given the option to choose from pork, steak, chicken, beef, etc., once we were given a taste of the fried pork on the grill there really wasn’t an option. We all ordered the pork, which came with a smorgasbord of additional Cuban sides including, a version of green bean salad, yucca, the best dang potatoes we’ve ever had, black beans, black beans and rice mixture, another side of rice, cucumbers, fruit, and god knows what else. IT WAS INCREDIBLE. It’s the kind of meal you hope to have on vacation and it was the kind of meal you salivate about long after your vacation is over. Lunch also included unlimited drinks, including a coconut water and rum concoction that did not skimp on the rum (and they even offered to add more).  Dessert was also included in lunch, but we had to opt out. That’s right…we couldn’t possibly eat anymore at that point and had to opt out of dessert!

Our lunch at Casa Barbaro!

Our Vinales visit concluded at the Prehistoric Mural. This beautiful mural, painted in bold, bright colors directly onto the side of a mountain was a perfect end cap to our trip. From the mural, there’s also more beautiful mountain views and yet another free drink. The pina colada here is seriously one of the best drinks we had. 

Prehistoric Mural

This day was truly a special way to end our time in Cuba. Viñales is a must stop and we definitely plan to return here on our next trip to Cuba.

Trinidad, Cuba

Honestly, I’ve been putting off writing this in some regard because Trinidad stole my heart. When people have asked what I loved about my trip, I don’t hesitate. Without a doubt, Trinidad was my favorite part of Cuba. I cannot explain why but the city was gorgeous.

Trinidad is known for it’s artists. I bought several prints there while we were walking around the city and found some galleries. This is when I wish I had known Spanish, so that I could talk to the artist about their works.

Our first airbnb adventure was a hike to where the radio tower is and there are 360 degree views of the city. These were some spectacular views of what used to be sugar plantations, the city and the ocean. William, our guide, also gave us insight into what wages were in Cuba and we discussed some of the political views of both Americans and Cubans.
After our hike, we walked around the city and we happened upon Dona Clara for dinner. The food here was amazing and the service was great as well.

The next day, we did a horseback riding experience. Mandi was so nervous about this but it ended up being her favorite experience (besides the print making) that we did! We stopped at a sugar plantation and enjoyed sugar cane juice, and then we were able to enjoy some amazing coffee and cigars. You can buy coffee and cigars here as well. I brought back coffee and it was so good! We then took a short walk to a waterfall and swimming hole. This was so nice and there was a bar and music here for enjoyment! I felt absolutely comfortable on a horse since I used to ride when I was younger but Mandi loosened up quickly with our guide who was absolutely wonderful!

That evening, we were looking for a restaurant that someone had told us about that was similar to a brewery but we never found it. Instead, we ended up at La Nueva Era. The views are not to be missed here! There was also live music and drink specials!

Our last day in Trinidad, we did an experience to tour the old Sugar Cane Industries. Mandi and I both found this to be a very interesting tour but we felt pressured for time since we had to be back to meet our collectivo to take us to Mantanzas. The pottery workshop at the end is not to be missed! I got two pieces of pottery that are amazing for 22CUC. The history and views from this experience were not to be missed – you also have the opportunity to go zip lining at the first stop!

Trinidad was absolutely amazing! I cannot say enough good things about it and I truly cannot wait to go back and visit again! Don’t forget to see about our other stops in Cuba as well! And last but not least, Viñales.