Cuban Dining…Good Without Excitement

The food in Cuba was good, but void of the heat and spices I enjoy so much.  Actually, I would venture to say that had I stayed there for a few more days, I might have grown a bit bored with the cuisine.  While the Cubans tend to be conservative when it comes to experimenting with ingredients and flavors, the local produce is fresh and usually organic. And the chicken, rice and beans, a national staple, were perfectly prepared each time I had it.

Also, there were days in a row where I had delicious lobster for lunch and dinner, so I am not really complaining.

With the new ripple of paladars and privately-owned restaurants popping up, I look forward to a little more excitement in their culinary growth. 

Dining in Havana

Lamb in Vinales

Lobster in Vinales

Lobster in Havana

Pumpkin Soup in Havana

Chicken Sandwich at a Rest Stop in Pinar del Rio

Ceviche in Varadero

Chicken in Special Sauce at El Aljibe

Flan in Vinales

Dining in Vinales

Weekend Road Trip – Richmond Jazz Festival 2015

 Guest Blogger, Samantha

What a gorgeous day to be outside enjoying great music! We started the day off with some good ol’ soul food at Mama J’s Soul Food restaurant in Richmond, VA. You gotta try the catfish! From there we spent the day at the Richmond Jazz Fest listening to the sultry baritone voice of Will Downing, the smooth sax of Kirk Whalum, and the oh so sexy Joe. And to top the night off, we danced & sang along with the always exciting Ronny, Johnny, Ricky, Mike & Ralph…in other words, we partied with New Edition! I even got a kiss from Ralph & a wink from Ronny!
 
Oh what a day & night in Richmond, VA!
 
 

 

The Old City, Cartagena, Colombia

The people of Cartagena beam with amazing, seemingly contagious, pride for their city, and with one visit you’ll understand why.  The famous liberator, Simon Bolivar, called it The Brave City after 2,200 Spanish troops defended it against a fleet of over 150 ships and 33,000 soldiers. Today’s citizens can be found pleasantly strolling through the Old City, tending to their day-to-day lives, in this UNESCO historic centre, while thousands of visitors wander through in awe of the beautiful, vibrant colored buildings, the breath-taking architecture, the exotic costumes, the sounds of Cumbia, the glistening sun and the year-round tropical heat.

It is this very charm, almost a calling, that has led Travelingwrite and many, many others to stand back and take into serious consideration stepping away from the life of “9-5” and heading to a life on this amazing Caribbean coast.

Just before entering the walled city, you’ll see the modern addition of the Convention Center on the marina. Upon entering the city, you are met with the beauty of the clock tower, a statue of  Pedro de Heredia, who founded the the city in 1533, and the alluring scent of coffee and cocada. There are many sites to take in. Parque de Bolivar and Museo de la Inquisicion, to name a couple. With lots of lovely, high-end jewelry stores selling beautiful emeralds, and many more street vendors and artists peddling their wears, you are bound to find the perfect gift(s) to take along with you. Stop by and check out the water color paintings. This time we got beautiful finds from the artist himself, Wilson Noel.

Clock Tower

Pedro de Heredia

Artist Wilson Noel
  Hmmmmm…we can’t figure out how she does it, can you?

While there are several great dining options to choose from in the Old City, this time, we ended our visit by treating ourselves to dinner and breath-taking views at Cafe del Mar, then a frozen limonada de coco  that we purchased from a street vendor. (To our avid readers, Whit and Erica, we have linked to a recipe that we found!)

Ahhhh….now this is living!

Chic Boutique Hotel in Cartagena

 Hotel Casa San Agustin is pure luxury.  Located within the walled Old City of Cartagena, Colombia, this 24-guestroom, 8-suite boutique hotel is absolutely breathtaking!  While restored to boast a chic, contemporary style, it still manages to exude a colonial-era, 17th century Spanish feel.  With Caribbean Sea-inspired walls, each guestroom exceeds the desires of the modern traveler.  From luxurious Frette linens, to Ortigia bath and shower amenities,  to the chandeliers, sconces and ironwork beds that are works of art commissioned by local artists, no stone is left unturned. Some guestrooms even offer private pools or Jacuzzis. 

Executive Chef Cristhian Rusinque’s passion and creativity is showcased at the sophisticated, full-service Alma Restaurant!  You can enjoy everything from Colombian-style bouillabaisse, to freshly-caught seafood, to dry-aged beef, all full of robust, tantalizing Latin flavor!

Whether traveling for business or pleasure, for a romantic dinner, or a group event, Hotel Casa San Agustin and Alma Restaurant should be at the top of your list when in Cartagena, Colombia.

Finally…It Looks Like Spring Has Sprung in the Washington, DC Metro Area

The TravelingWrite Adventure Team was among the many that set out this past weekend to see it for ourselves. It was rumored that Spring was really here!  With so many tourist still patiently waiting out the blossoms of those beloved trees along The Washington Tidal Basin, we decided to go someplace a little less congested, and no less beautiful.   We headed to Sligo Creek Trail.

Sligo Creek trail is a paved hiker/biker trail that runs along Sligo Creek in the suburbs of Washington, DC.  Heading upstream from southeast (closest to Washington, DC),  to northwest (farthest from Washington, DC), the trail covers its Prince George’s County Maryland side for about 1.6 miles. The trail begins at the intersection of the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia Tributary Trail System, crossing Riggs Road, East-West Highway, ending Carole Highlands.

The Montgomery County Maryland section is about 7.3 miles long and begins at Carole Highlands, passes New Hampshire Ave, passes underneath Carroll Ave, passes Maple Avenue, Piney Branch Road, Wayne Avenue, Colesville Road, underneath the Capital Beltway, passing Forest Glen Road, Dennis Avenue, University Boulevard, then crossing Arcola Avenue.

The trail and its surrounding parks are very popular with local walkers, hikers, joggers, bikers, and roller-skaters.   It is also very family-friendly with playgrounds and 15 picnic areas along the trail.

So, get up early, go out and enjoy this treasure. We suggest bug repellant, sunblock and a bottle, or two of water.

Happy trails to you!

Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida

Our guest travel blogger, Celeste, visited the lovely Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida in the weeks leading up to the impending hurricane and the RNC Convention. 

Where to Stay: Tradewinds Island Grand Resort at St Pete’s Beach, FL – http://www.tradewindsresort.com/properties/island-grand.aspx

Tradewinds tag line: “Just let go.” An appropriate theme as this was our first overnight trip without Maura (20 months old).

Resort features separate family and adults only pools… lots of activities for kids if you’re looking for a family destination. For me, it was great to watch other mom’s chase their toddlers on the beach while I just sat and relaxed. We of course did the resort’s Pub Crawl – hitting all 5 bars on the resort. Happy hour prices at Beef O’Brady’s were a great deal, karaoke at RedBeard’s Sharktooth Tavern was quite entertaining!

One evening we walked to Blue Fugu – Japanese Steakhouse restaurant. The Hibachi Chef was entertaining, the Sushi was excellent, and the Sake was tasty.

Another night we went to Sea Hag’s Bar & Grill – casual indoor and outdoor marina waterfront dining. I wasn’t super impressed but it was good. We didn’t realize until we were leaving but it’s actually a Notre Dame bar… ND Flag hanging above the entrance.

One day we took a trip to St Petersburg… visited The Dali Museum – The Dali Museum Collection is rich in works from artist Salvador Dali’s entire career (1904-1989), with key works from every moment and in every medium of his artistic activity. We spent some time walking near Old Bayside Marina and then headed down Central Avenue to see the National Historic Site – Open Air Post Office. We then returned to the Grand Central District which boasts many bars and restaurants. We had a pint before heading to dinner at Primi Urban Café – excellent Italian food and fantastic Tiramisu!