Posts Tagged ‘Caribbean’

This is  your average Joe’s anonymous (WHO KNEW THAT ONE DAY WE WOULD REMIND SOME PPL THAT A NORMAL DINER IS, IN THE FIRST PLACE,  AN ANYNYMOUS PERSON DINING LIKE ANYONE ELSE AND NEEDS NOT TO BE AN EXCUSE TO SEEK FOR  FAME! ) dinner reports at 3* and 2* Michelin tables. SO a NORMAL (lol)  Montrealer diner who is fascinated by travels and dinings.  His last initiative  (The top of Montreal and Eastern Canada upscale finest dinings at http://aromes.xanga.com/) completed, he now wants to share with you his visits at some of his favourite 3*  and 2* Michelin star finest tables. From the kitchen of my grandma to  years of solid  cooking background (traditional and modern French , African , Caribbean, Oriental),  with a long time passion for all things edible (I am also a long time militant pioneer of the ”’One home, One garden …let’s democratize agriculture’ ideal )  and drinkable (long time passion for wines ),  I decided that it was about time I share my experiences of the  finest dinings with you.

It is  while doing my searches on where to go dining that  I realized that  the task would be  painful.  I therefore decided to grab the bull by the horns: the best way would be to discover those tables myself.  I am your next door Joe, paying for his own food, with his hard earned money (I pay for my own meals and earn the right to judge what I am paying for with my hard earned money), friend of no one in the food industry. I believe in the voice of honesty because it is the only way we can move forward, NOT by faking! I’ll say things the way they are: when it is great/exceptional/out of this world,  I’ll say it! When it’s bad,  I’ll say it is bad! No need to take shortcuts here! No need of unecessary heavy scripts, neither. But reporting things the way they are:  anonymously (gone are the friends-eat-at–friends  disrespectful reviews where the diner is allowed privileges that the most won’t experience! What I’ll get is what you’ll get!),  with realistic opinions (Gone are the ”’I like this food because it was intellectual”” BS! All people want to know is how good the meal was!).  Those are reviews by a normal diner for the normal diners.  Enjoy this independant voice on Michelin star fine dinings and more (THIS IS  also a conventional blog with my views on various subjects, both in French, my mother tongue, as well as in English. The 3 and 2 star restaurant reviews are listed on the left of the blog, as well as the various non-restaurant blog posts that I wrote).

In case this matters (to be taken more as a contructive piece of extra information  for you to better interpret my opinions of the  restaurant meals I am reviweing, to also better know your food reviewer in relation to what he is experiencing , and NOT as a deliberate intent to be pretentious; the latter having anything nothing pertinent to offer in my view), you can find my gourmand background here.

Enjoy!

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Cuba is the place I love to go when I feel the need for the beach and sun. It’s affordable and I do not see the need to pay 4,5 times more to go elsewhere for   white sandy beaches and nice water under the sun. The big problem is with their convertible pesos currency: far from being an attractive exchange rate for us, foreigners!
-Varadero, Aug 2001, perfect holidays: My first holidays there were at Paradisus Varadero (the top left picture that you see) in August 2001. At that time, Paradisus Varadero was unarguably the best all-rounder hotel of Varadero (nowadays, Iberostar Varadero is the one). My holidays at Paradisus Varadero in August 2001 was flawless (the hotel was beautifully modern back then, large rooms, full of amenities, clean, great staff. And as far as food in Cuban seaside resorts goes, all their restaurants performed beyond expectations, in line with what you would find  at the restaurants of most high quality  resort hotels).  At the $$$ we paid, it had to be flawless.
Marks over 10
Food:  10
Staff:   10
Room: 10
Beach: 10
(really no reproach on that Aug 2001 visit. I can’t tell how they fare nowadays, since I haven’t gone back since)
Nightlife-
Of all Cuban touristic resorts, Varadero is definitely the most animated in terms of night life activities  (This web site  lists couple of night clubs in Varadero). We are far from the festive ambience you might find in Cancun, or the fun I once enjoyed in Puerto Plata, Dominican Rep (no more as fun as it used to be, nowadays) but that is as far as you will go in terms of night life amazement at a Cuban touristic resort at this moment.
Beach –
Nice quality of water, white sandy beach. One notch below the quality of the beaches of the cayos, but that is understandable: the cayos have been unexploited  for a long time, and have started welcoming tourists only recently.
I recommend – To get a better feel of local Cuba, take the 1.5 hr drive to La Havana (quite a lot to visit: the Old Havana, the harbor, Plaza de la revolucion, ) . I usually complain about big cities being short of charm and interest aside of visiting museums and night clubbing, but I must admit that La Havana has a lot to offer from archeological wonders, nice views, the romantism of their seaside long malecon, amazing well kept old cars, and many more. Just need to inform yourself wisely.  Also visit the close (close to Varadero) city of Cardenas (a relatively big Cuban city, where you can get a closer feel of all aspects of cuban local lifestyle, food and activities).  I personally went to La Havana and Cardenas with an official touristic guide (I personally felt safer that way, but I do not think that going alone would be a major issue neither. Some friends have done it safely).

-Holguin, May 2005, mixed appreciations – In Holguin, we booked the Hotel Playa Pesquero. We had mixed appreciations over Playa Pesquero: having your small daughter of 4 years old being deliberately and  insistently ignored by the team in charge of children animation is something that simply should never happen at any respectable hotel, especially one that encourages  families. We managed to find out about the problem: some of their staff thought that our daughter was Cuban. But that would have perhaps pass  as an  excuse at a low key mediocre hotel, but not at a hotel selling itself  as 4,5 star lodging facility. With that said, this happens years ago and have, I hope for them, been addressed. Aside of that unpleasant event, the rest was fine:


Our room was sparsely but beautifully decorated with care and eye candy tropical touches , clean, and fully equipped with all expected amenities. A 10 for the room, back then on that visit in May 2005.

Plenty of space at Playa Pesquero as you can tell from just this relatively spacious swimming pool area (this is just part of it, btw)

Nice little huts.

The beach was  in great condition on that May 2005 visit there, with clear waters.

The lobby is vast and attractive looking.
Overall, it’s a  nice hotel with restaurants that performed just fine (to my taste), lots of walking in between their facilities (it is not a tiny resort!).
Marks over 10
Food:  8
Staff:   5 (really the children animation team killed the mood here, on our visit there. But the rest of the staff was fine)
Room: 8 (pretty, roomy. I would give it a 10 if I had known better in Cuba like Paradisus, etc)
Beach: 8 (Good. But I wish the stretch of beach in front of Playa Pesquero was longer. Mind you, it is plenty of beach for the hotel clientele. You do not feel like fighting to get a spot on the beach. It never got packed whilst we were there).
Outside of the hotel, there is not that much to do. Even the nightlife was virtually off. We did try couple of the attractions, bars, events mentionned on this site, but nothing to write home about. Given the forest surroundings, this is a location that can appeal to those seeking for related excursions. We picked the tour of  Holguin city, but that was just for the excuse of going out of the hotel (just the usual cigar factory, and not much to do in Holguin as part of the tour’s offerings).


-Cayo Largo, May 2008, exactly what I was seeking for – We stayed at what was back then known as Barcelo Cayo Largo. The hotel was small, but pretty looking with tiny but functional rooms. The staff was mostly friendly.  The stretch of beach in front of the hotels, although attractive with its immaculate white sand,  is unfortunately getting smaller and the waters are not always calm. This is due to coastal erosion and previous damages from previous cyclones. But I loved this place for many other reasons: 1. they have two postal card looking beaches at approximately 5-7 minutes drive from the hotels section. Namely Playa Paraiso and Playa Sirena. If you love gorgeous looking beaches, you need not to miss both. There is a little natural lagoon on the far left side of  Playa Sirena and this is the place I recommend for romance (peaceful, beautiful). 2. They had a little marina where we kept going back for the amazing grill lobster of a small dark stone-built restaurant called Taberna del Pirata (the lobster cost 20 cuc at that time). CL on our visit in May 2008 was all about what we like: small place, but packed with character and lots of natural beauty. Up to now, my personal top #1 cuban holidays.
Check out my review on CL: http://aromes.xanga.com/734487099/cayo-largo-cuba-may-18th—may-25th-2008/

-Cayo Santa Maria, May 2009, everything I wish Playa Pesquero would be (albeit with little imperfections) – Ironically this was a direct call to rectification aimed at the  vacations I liked the least (the 2005 visit  at Playa Pesquero, Holguin): the hotel we chose is the twin sister (similar settings, architecture)   of Playa Pesquero. But here, everything was better: the beach bigger, the overall service usually better and even the food was superior.

The room was modern looking, had style and touches of relative basic luxury as in the bathroom:

Beach of excellent quality:

It was fun to have the basic sea activities easily accessible:

Vast lobby bar area (pick your coffee, in the morning, at this bar! Way better than the cafe at the buffet):

Tropical luxury with marble floor in the bright spaceous

and airy lobby area:

It is, unarguably, a hotel with beautiful settings:

with lots of elegant touches

beautiful sitting areas:

Lots of efforts were put in the night entertainment:

The hotel on its own was almost perfect (nice room, nice service, nice ambience) on all counts. Largely the best value of all my vacations to Cuba. The little imperfections (average service at the snack bars + my wife found the service at the lobby bar to be motivated by tips) were swiftly forgotten and forgiven.

Outside the hotel, at approx 1.5 hrs to 2 hrs from CSM, we went visiting Santa Clara:

A big Cuban city with the usual iberian tropical colorful architectures.
We did visit the Che Guevara mausoleum in Santa Clara:

Still in Santa Clara, you can see the grounds of some of the Che’s  most daring battles:

In SC, I enjoyed watching the old cars and walking around: