Jake Gourley

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Jake Gourley


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Former TravelPod Member: tfsnews


Joined: December 20th, 2005



North America » United States » Florida » Miami June 19th 2017

Today we are waiting at Miami International Airport and sit to reflect on the experience of the trip we have just completed. Last night we had a preliminary discussion and all slept on what we wished to share. So, here goes. As our guide, Ralph, told us last Sunday, we would leave Cuba with more questions than we entered and was he right! The words contradiction, paradox, and confusion all come to mind. The Cuba we visited was not the Cuba we expected to find. The living conditions we witnessed, though not in any way near the standards we are used to, did not represent the poverty and oppression we initially expected to find and, honestly felt we were witnessing at first. In just a week, we learned to look beyond first impressions into the interior ... read more

North America » United States » Florida » Miami June 19th 2017

June 19, 2017 Picking up where we left off... Last night, we enjoyed our last supper in Cuba at a paladar in Cienfuegos. The host has plans to expand in order to accommodate cruise ship passengers in the future. It was a fitting near farewell to our new friends Ralph and Jorge as we enjoyed a tasty meal and fellowship. We should that before supper, we enjoyed cocktails on the rooftop of the Union Hotel, dating from 1869. There, we discussed the issues of the day and broke the Facebook embargo with Jorge. He thought it would be easy for us to find him and was shocked to see how many people of the same name exist in the Chicago area alone. We enjoyed a great view of Cienfuegos, including the energy infrastructure--a Soviet nuclear power ... read more

Central America Caribbean » Cuba June 18th 2017

Our Final Cuban Sunset June 17, 2017 We started of our day following breakfast with a great conversation with Ralph and Jorge about the reaction of Cubans to the recent Trump announcement. Basically, the Cubans were happy that the embargo was not brought back to pre-Obama status. Careful analysis of Trump’s proposal (not an executive order; he signed a memo) seems to indicate that the net result of his ideas, should they be enacted, will really only negatively impact American solo travelers. Group travel may continue as long as it is with a licensed operator, but the “I’m going to check out Trip Advisor and plan my Cuban adventure” travelers will be impacted. And those of us on trips such as ours will be required to document each day’s activities and be subject to IRS audit. ... read more

Central America Caribbean » Cuba » Cienfuegos June 17th 2017

From Casa Verde to Trinidad to Casa Musica June 16, 2017 We began our morning with breakfast across the street from Casa Verde at Hotel Jagua. It was built in the 1950s with casino space and likely under mob influence, but apparently the casino never became a reality. After eating, it was off toward Trinidad, a community settled by the Spanish in the early 1500s, but later replaced by the French who brought the newest sugar cane technology to Cienfeugos following the Haitian slave revolt. So, we stepped back into time once again. On the way to Trinidad, we stopped for a moment to catch a photo of a cactus fence. These were built by plantation owners to prevent slaves from escaping. Cuba has a disturbing history relative to slavery, but has moved forward from it ... read more

Central America Caribbean » Cuba June 16th 2017

June 15, 2017 Today marked our final day in Havana, but not without a few last goodbyes to the capital city. Our first stop took us to an alley decorated by an eccentric artist known as Salvador. He began illegally painting walls in 1990 and for some reason the government turned a blind eye. After all, not much had been painted at all in Havana since 1959. Over the years, his project turned into a multi-media alley-long installation. Different sections of the installation paid homage to various gods in the Santeria faith, which has thoughtfully melded many aspects into Catholic saints, so much so that the religion is recognized by the Catholic Church. Various artistic elements included car transmissions, bathtubs turned into seating, sinks and toilets turned into planters, piano frames turned into walls and windows, ... read more

Central America Caribbean » Cuba June 15th 2017

June 15, 2017 This morning we began by trying out the breakfast buffet on the first floor. It was a lot of stuff but only a little stuff we recognized. In retrospect, we ate too much for what was ahead. We were one pilgrim down as Barb wasn't feeling the best. The other three headed off to a backyard organic garden where we met Julio and Jesus, a team of brothers who by day are an accountant and an auto mechanic, but who moonlight as gardeners. The produce from their garden is given to an area hospital as well as to the restaurant we were about to visit. Soon, we were at a paladar in the same fishing village that inspired Hemingway's "Old Man and the Sea." There, we sat for a few lessons. The first ... read more

Central America Caribbean » Cuba June 14th 2017

Apologies in advance for typos... These have been composed in haste offline for these few times we are able to upload... Wifi access is limited and spotty at best here. Greetings from the Pilgrims--we are safe and well. June 12, 2014 Up bright and early, we rose at 5:45 a.m. to grab breakfast and meet our guide for our flight to Havana, Cuba. Getting through the airport was worrisome to us, but a breeze because our guide new all the secrets to quickly navigating the visa process and security. We were at the gate and filling out customs forms well ahead of our boarding time. The flight took about 40 minutes and we exited the plane into a different world. The heat and humidity hit like a wet blanket, but we were out of the airport ... read more

North America » United States » Florida » Miami June 12th 2017

Our main activity for today was going on a culinary tour of Little Havana. We were able to sleep in and then navigated our way to Domino Park to find the one available free parking space. Soon, we met up with our guide Marie and 12 other guests. As we walked through little Havana, Marie shared historical concepts and her explanation of Cuban cuisine including fruits and vegetables. Our first stop was to enjoy an empanada and a Cuban coffee. Both were very good. Following that, we visited a cigar store and were able to see the process of rolling a Cuban style cigar. We were shocked at how expensive they were but learned about various grades of tobacco and how cigar smokers progress from mild to more strong blends. As we continued on the tour, ... read more

North America » United States » Florida » Miami June 10th 2017

June 9, 2017 - Continued When we last wrote, we were preparing to begin our evening on a sunset cruise. By the time we got to the check-in station, it was raining cats and dogs... the six toed kind. It turned out our cruise had already been cancelled, but they called back to Lansing to let us know. So, it was time for plan B. We walked through some nearly flooded streets to a highly-recommended restaurant called "Two Friends." We had a great dinner including seafood and conch fritters and, because we were somewhat early, our drinks and appetizers were half price due to happy hour. So we took that as two for one. After dinner, we decided to check out Captain Tony's, the original site of Hemingway haunt Sloppy Joe's. The walls were covered with ... read more
Full Moon over Ocean Waters
Sloppy Joe's
Sloppy Joe's

North America » United States » Florida » Keys » Key West June 9th 2017

Hello! For some reason our blog site was blocked as they suspected us to be spammers. After an email back and forth, the site has now been restored. Below are posts from our first two days pasted from Word. --- June 8, 2016 This morning, we began with a pick-up at 5:30 a.m. Though traffic was heavy, we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare and enjoyed a sit down breakfast at an Italian restaurant. Our flight didn’t take off quite on time. When the pilot said we would be taking off within the next two minutes, there were still 20 people in the aisle waiting to get to their seats. After the “flight attendants, please prepare for takeoff” announcement we sat for roughly half an hour listening to a 14 month ... read more




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