Rainbow Architecture of Curacao!

One thing will strike you as you walk the streets of Curacao is its brightly coloured building. Imagine bright pinks, yellows, blues and greens greeting you down almost every street. Chances are, your Curacao accommodation will also be brightly coloured, or at the very least will be surrounded by a range of rainbow coloured buildings.Think Caribbean paint colours with Spanish and African influences, and you will get a picture of what the architecture is like in Aruba. The capital city of Willemstad is the main hub of the rainbow buildings, and is well worth a visit from your Caribbean villa.

The Dutch have been on Curacao since 1634, which is why a lot of the architecture resembles that of Dutch cities like Amsterdam. Fairly recently, the island changed from being part of the Netherland Antilles, and is now actually its own country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The buildings don’t just maintain themselves however, and require a lot of work to keep them as sparkly and bright. It is not an uncommon sight to see a local up a ladder topping up the paintwork of their home.

The entire city of Willemstad has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997 due to the fact that the town showed significant town planning and architecture as well as the organic growth of a multi-cultural community.

The most photographed area of the city is Handelskade Punda, and for good reason. The colourful European style buildings are reflected in the waters of the harbour, and is a great place to witness the exuberant mix of cultures, language, history and beauty of such a small island.

But what is the reason for such colourful buildings? In 1817, Governor-general Albert Kikkert got plagued with recurring headaches, which he blamed on light that was glaring off of the white buildings. He passed a law that all buildings must be painted in pastel colours, leading to the rainbow colour explosion of the city. Be sure to visit the streets of Willemstad on your Aruba holiday.


Cheapside Market!

If you are looking for a truly local shopping experience in Barbados, then look no further than the many town markets that can be found all over the island. No matter where your Barbados villa is located, there is sure to be a market nearby. In these markets you will find locals selling everything from fresh, exotic fruits to homemade, authentic gifts that you will struggle to find anywhere else.

What’s more, it can be great fun talking to and haggling with the stall owners as they try to convince you to purchase some of their wares.

Cheapside market is likely to be one of the most popular markets in Barbados. It is an area that the government has designated to local artisans to display and sell their produce, as well as plenty of fresh local foods. The market is located in a large open building in Bridgetown, and is filled with rows and rows of market vendors selling jewellery, crafts, meat, vegetables and more. It is also a great place to look for your next clothing purchase thanks to the vintage stalls upstairs.

As the name of the market suggests, everything is very reasonably priced, so you are sure to bag a bargain. The majority of the stall owners will be willing to haggle, and are more likely to slash their prices if you want to buy in bulk.

The best time to visit the market is on the Saturday, when the area really seems to come to life with colour and people. This tends to be when the locals come out to do their shopping, so you’ll get a real sense of the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Just opposite the market is an area that is known as Temple Yard, which is dedicated to local artisans who are not only selling their wares, but they also create them. Expect to see leather goods, foods, carvings, art and more, and makes a great spot to grab a bite to eat after a long day shopping.

It is an excellent place for you to witness Barbadian culture at its finest, and is also the ideal spot to find and buy a unique and genuine souvenir to take back to your villa in Barbados.


The Natural Wonder of Shete Boka National Park!

Curacao is not all just about the stunning beaches, great shopping and warm weather. There are also some great places to get a true sense of nature’s power. If you have hired a car, then be sure to take the drive from your Aruba accommodation, up to the northern most point of the island to Shete Boka National Park.
If you enjoy escaping off the beaten track and out into the countryside, then Shete Boka is for you. The landscape is sparse and volcanic, and you are likely to hear the roar of the sea before you see it.
The name Shete Boka literally translates as ‘seven inlets’, which is named for a series of coves carved directly out of the limestone cliffs along the 10km coastline. You are able to walk and drive between coves, with the starting point being the impressive Boka Tabla, where unpredictable waves crash into the hidden cave below.
A second inlet worth stopping at is Boka Pistol, which is a very narrow inlet where every time the sea rolls in, you can witness the startling explosion of waves that follow.
Three species of turtle nest in the area, making it a very protected piece of land. Visitors are able to stroll comfortably along the well-marked trial that hugs the coastline and take in the incredible views of the sea. You are also likely to see some of the area’s most common inhabitants, the green iguanas.
Two of the most popular hiking trails include:
Boka Pistol Trail- This is a one hour walk that will lead you through the area of Boka Brown, which is a known area where sea turtles come on land to lay their eggs. Boka Pistol is a landmark where the waves roll through cracks in the rock, causing an explosion like gun fire.
Boka Wandomi Trail- Again, this one hour walk will take you through the rolling lava hills of Curacao, down to Boka Wandomi. The limestone bluffs create a natural bridge which is a real sight to behold.
After a long day of hiking, a cocktail back at you Aruba villa will be very well deserved!


The Cuban Daquiri!

There are a huge range of cocktails that have found their way into the world thanks to the taste of the Cubans. The first cocktail that comes to mind when you think of the country is likely to be the Cuba Libra, simply made using the finest local rum, coke and lime. However, this is not the cocktail that is most associated with the country’s capital, that role falls to the classic daiquiri which can be enjoyed both in your Cuba accommodation, and outside of it.

Cuban rum wasn’t always as popular as it is today, in fact, it wasn’t until 1862 when different production methods were used that people really started to sit up and take note of this drink. It was at this time that Havana became one of the richest counties in the Americas.

History claims that the birth of the daiquiri came about when the American mining engineer named Jennings Cox, migrated to Cuba. Legend says that he was entertaining guests but run out of gin, and as a replacement he decided to use Bacardi, mixing it with lime juice, sugar, water and ice, naming the condition a daquiri.

Although this seems to be the story relating to the birth of the drink, the Royal Navy were drinking a very similar mix way back in 1740. Plus, there were various other similar drinks being made all over the country, all that was needed was something sweet, something sour and of course, the rum.

Although it may have been an American that gave this classic drink its name, it was a Cuban who perfected it. The bartender of ‘La Florida’, named Constantino Ribalaigua, discovered that the best way to serve a daquiri was mixing it with ice before straining it into a cold glass. Hemingway was a regular at this particular bar, and definitely enjoyed a good daquiri or two, so it is definitely worth a venture out of your Cuban vacation rental to visit.

Today, the frozen version of the drink has all but pushed out that of the original, but it can still be found if you ask for a ‘daquiri natural’, perfect to be enjoyed in your Cuban private villa with a pool.


Where to view Havana’s world-famous street art

The city of Havana has been known to give off a slightly old-fashioned vibe with its classic cars, colonial architecture, and remnants of history wherever you look. But these features don’t stop Havana from having many modern elements dotted throughout the city, especially when it comes to the art scene.The street art in Havana is exploding with ingenuity, and you can find some spectacular pieces so long as you know where to look. Let’s take a look at three great examples, all of which are easily accessible from your Cuba accommodation.

Muraleando

This particular piece of street art is located just 10 minutes outside of the city in a community called Lawton. The project started as a workshop for local children who were interested in the art scene, but in 2001 when there was no room for them in the only community hall, they had no choice but to move to the streets. The drab concrete walls seemed like the perfect blank canvas, and it wasn’t long before they were covered in colourful murals that captured many elements of Cuban life.

Fusterlandia

This is likely to be the most well-known project of street art in the city. Funderlandia was created by Jose Fuster in the early 90s. The artist started with his own home in Jaimanitas neighbourhood, decorating the entrance to his house with colourful mosaics. It wasn’t long before others started requesting the same for their own homes. From there the idea spread, and Fuster and numerous other artist friends transformed the once rather drab neighbourhood into a mosaic-covered wonderland. Even if your vacation rental in Havana is the other side of the city, this is something you don’t want to miss.

Callejon de Hamel

Located in the very heart of the city, this example of Cuban street art will be the easiest of the three to visit if your Havana holiday rental is more centrally located. The project was started in the 90s by artist Salvador Gonzalez and features not only brightly coloured murals, but also a number of sculptures made from a range of items such as bathtubs, hand pumps, and pinwheels. The artist described his style as a mix of cubism, surrealism, and abstract art.

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Celebrity spotting in the Dominican Republic

There is a valid reason why so many tourists flee to the Dominican Republic every year. In addition to the golden beaches and sunny weather, there is also an abundance of things to do and see. As such, it is hardly surprising that many celebrities are also attracted to the Caribbean shores of the Dominican Republic.

Casa Q in Puerto Plata

The country’s proximity the United States has helped create a constant stream of celebs arriving throughout the years. Being just a short 1.5-hour flight from Florida, and 3.5 hours from New York, it is easily accessible.

The main attraction for celebs seems to be that it offers an ideal escape from their hectic everyday lives. They enjoy a villa with a private pool in the Dominican Republic just as much as the rest of us do.

Stars seem to count on the fact that they won’t be mobbed by reporters and photographers the minute that they step off the plane, and the many ultra-lavish, exclusive hideaways ensure that they will get this sort of privacy. Even real estate has been catching the eyes of many celebs, from seafront villas in the Dominican Republic to country estates, this Caribbean island has become a playground for the rich and famous in recent years.

Luxurious villa views

Singers like Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias, and Shakira have all come to see what the Dominican Republic has to offer. Actors such as Vanessa Williams, Vin Diesel, Angelina Jolie, Matt Dillon, Mimi Rogers, Marcia Gray, and many more have also been spotted walking along the island’s beaches and streets.

Additionally, even politicians and royalty seem to enjoy the Caribbean way of life, with former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush frequently jumping on a plane to the island, and the King of Morocco is known to have thrown a lavish party on the island.

If you want to live a life like the rich and famous, rent a house in the Dominican Republic and enjoy the high life for a few weeks!


Cuban cooking classes

Cuban food is varied, fresh, and plentiful, full of strong flavours and natural produce. Although there is a huge range of restaurants and bars around the country where from you could sample some Cuban delicacies, there is nothing better than being able to cook it yourself in the comfort of your accommodation in Cuba.

In many of the main cities and towns, you will find local markets that stock all the ingredients that you will need for Cuban dishes, the majority of which would have been grown in the immediate area.

One of the best ways to learn how to cook Cuban style is to take a cooking class. Although you will find classes no matter where your Cuba villa rental is located, the hub of cooking class activity seems to be Havana. There are countless tour operators that offer this as an excursion, and it is easy to find one that meets your preferences.

Taking a class is great way to learn about the daily life of a Cuban, that starts first thing in the morning with a trip to the local market. In Havana, these markets are names mercados, and it is where Cuban people purchase their fruit, vegetables, and meat. Once you have purchased everything you need for the dishes that you will be cooking, your tour guide will take you back to the kitchen to begin your culinary adventure.

There are a range of Cuban dishes that you can try your hand at making, the most common of which include:

  • Ropa Vieja – This is a Cuban-style shredded beef dish that is often served with rice and accented with olives and capers.
  • Chicken Stew – This is not chicken stew that most people know; it draws flavours from the alcaparrado and contains a mix of pimento-stuffed olives as well as capers and sweet raisins.
  • Fish with Escabeche Sauce – Made with lots of garlic, sliced yellow onion, bell pepper, and bay leaves, this dish is a Cuban favourite.

Once you know how to cook some of these amazing dishes, you will never have to leave your vacation rental in the Caribbean again!

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Urban farming in Cuba

Many people choose to rent a villa in Cuba so that they can experience how it feels to step back in time. It is not uncommon to see decades-old cars driving down the street and buildings rich in history, dating to the 1950s. Cuban agriculture is another factor that seems to have stood the test of time.

In 1991, the country’s economy seemed to collapse overnight due to the collapse of its trade partner, the Soviet Union. During this period, Cuba lost its source of affordable agricultural tools and machinery. Lacking this modern equipment, Cuba suddenly had to abandon their former industrial agriculture and make the switch to urban farming. No longer were farmers using chemicals and machinery that required fuel; instead they were forced to transition back to traditional methods such as using machetes, composting worms, and oxen-drawn plows. If you have a Cuba holiday rental in the countryside, you will see some of these methods at work.

Along with farmers, individuals have also begun to utilise any land that they own to grow their own produce and raise animals. During the worst years of the financial crisis, residents could even purchase baby chicks from the government, take them home, and raise them in their backyards.

Although much of the country’s economy has bounced back, it seems like the farming sector has changed for the better, and now there are thousands of urban farms across Cuba.

No matter where you rent a house in Cuba, It is likely that you will see many local homes with windowsills lined with crops, and livestock wondering around in front yards. Local markets burst with fresh, organic produce that you can purchase to cook your own delicious Cuban meals in the comfort of your Cuba accommodation.

If you are interested in this aspect of the country’s history and want to learn more about urban agriculture, there are specially arranged tours available wherein visitors can interact with local farmers to gain a unique insight into their individual histories and methods, a side to Cuban that many people miss out on.

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Havana’s ‘Golden Mile’

While there are many wonderful locations to rent a house in Havana, many long to stay as close as possible to the Golden Mile, right in the heart of the city’s historic centre. The Golden Mile is located at the Paseo del Prado end of the Obispo, a busy pedestrianised street that’s a true hub of activity. 

The Golden Mile is where you’ll find some of Havana’s best restaurants, most lively bars, and even the Tourist Information Office, which can be useful if you can’t remember how to get back to your Havana accommodation. It’s arguably one of the best preserved parts of the Old Town.

When you picture Havana in your head, you picture the Golden Mile. This is a place of old, cobbled streets that feel uneven underfoot, it’s a place of colonial architecture of days gone by, and it’s a place where the  Havana holiday home waits to welcome visitors to Cuba.

Street musicians fill the Golden Mile with soft music, and flower sellers add a touch of colour and vibrancy. Cuba is very much a country where old meets new, and that’s exactly what you get when you stroll along the Golden Mile.

But the Old Town isn’t just about the Golden Mile. In fact, there are many reasons to rent a villa in Cuba in this part of Havana. Not only are you near the city’s cultural district by the Paseo del Prado, which features a number of museums, but you’re also just a stone’s throw from the grand El Capitolio building.

Although there are some travellers who enjoy staying close to The Malecón, others prefer being close to the Obispo, and the Golden Mile. However, whatever location in Havana you choose, it’s hard to go wrong. The city is such a fascinating place, with something new to see around every corner!

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Cuba’s long history of baseball

Baseball is the national sport of Cuba (even though many young Cubans would now say it’s football!), and if you’re on holiday in Cuba during the high baseball season between November and May, then it’s well worth catching a game and cheering on the local team.

A Long History

There is a very long history of baseball in Cuba, and interestingly it’s one of the only major aspects of Americana that survived the revolution. There was, however, a very noticeable and dramatic shift from a professional to an amateur system to remove monetary incentive, with revolutionists firmly believing that money was corrupting the sporting world. Baseball remains an amateur system in Cuba to this day.

The Industriales

If you’re relaxing at your Havana villa on a game day, you’ll undoubtedly hear the cheers for the local team: the Havana-based Industriales, or the ‘Blue Lions’ (so named for their blue uniforms). The Industriales are said to be the city’s most successful baseball team, having won the Cuban National Series 12 times between 1963 and 2010. The team’s home turf is the Latinoamericano Stadium, which holds 55,000 people. It’s located in Central Havana, close to many Havana holiday rentals for quick and easy access.

Seeing a Game

If you’re keen to see the Industriales in action, then aim to rent a villa in Havana during the peak season. Bear in mind that schedules can — and do — change regularly.Tickets can be purchased in Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) from the stadium.

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