Saturday, December 29, 2018

Hasta Luego, Cuba!

December 29, 2018
Havana, Cuba

Time to head home, after a quick haircut

Just another random goat leg in the street on the way to the peluqueria...nothing to see here folks, just keep moving along.
Well, the week went by quickly, no doubt due to our busy days on the tour. This morning we'll have just enough time for breakfast, packing, and a final quick lunch-snack before retracing our flight via another tight connection in San Salvador to SFO. 

Breakfast was on the top floor of our hotel, the Hotel Capri, which had some really nice views of Havana in all directions. It was a perfect day, sunny with temperatures in the low 80's, and easily the nicest-weather day we spent in Havana, which made leaving just a little bit harder.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Back to Havana - Tour Day 6

December 28, 2018
Havana, Cuba

Tour Day 6 – Touring Trinidad, a day of driving, and a final night out in Havana

Trinidad, Cuba
Now that we've been in Trinidad for two nights, we finally are actually going to tour the city today. The morning started by checking out of our rooms, loading onto the bus, and heading outside of the touristy town center to a more residential-feeling section to visit a "centuries old" family-run pottery studio.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Truckin' Up the Mountain - Topes de Collantes

December 27, 2018
Trinidad, Cuba

Tour Day 5 – Soviet Army Trucks, Nature Walks, Coffee, Cigars, and Dancing

The barkeep had our welcome-cocktail glasses ready and waiting to be filled upon our arrival!  Possibly my favorite Cuban tradition. ;-) 
An early start deserves a delicious breakfast, which is the opposite of what we got (don't go to the Hotel Las Cuevas for the food). 

Today's primary activity involved a bus ride up into the mountains north of Trinidad, to the Parque Natural Topes de Collantes in the Escambray Mountains. The itinerary seemed a bit unclear. We had heard we'd be driving up the mountain in the back of a Soviet troop transporter, but the morning started with an hour-and-a-half long, slow-going bus trip, and we started wondering if the truck thing wasn't going to happen for some reason or another.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Let's Drive to Trinidad!

December 26, 2018
Trinidad, Cuba

Tour Day 4 – Havana to Cienfuegos to Trinidad

Post-lunch vibes at Villa Lagarte
One last breakfast at the Hotel Victoria, the highlights of which are the extremely friendly server who attends to us with a giant smile each morning (amazing what tips can do), and of course, the all-you-can-eat smoked salmon. Most definitely NOT the coffee. If you're at the Hotel Victoria, go to the bar for your cafe cortados.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas in Havana - Tour Day 3

December 25, 2018
Havana, Cuba

Tour Day 3 – Christmas in Havana

Christmas Day in Havana
It's Christmas, our final full day in Havana, and the lightest tour schedule of our week in Cuba.

Our first, and basically only, stop today was a morning visit to an organic farm in the eastern suburbs of Havana called Alamar, near where our tour guide Linett lives. It's a quick trip via the tunnel under the La Bahia de Habana (Bay of Havana), but considering the state of maintenance of nearly everything else in Havana, I'm glad to not have to commute through it daily. In Alamar, we see many more of the typical concrete block apartments. Linett tells us that Cubans can buy their own home or apartment, but the government owns all of the land. Since citizens can't necessarily build outside the boundaries of their existing buildings, some have taken to digging out un-permitted and dangerously executed basement rooms as their family expands. Easier to be a risk taker when you have little to lose.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Cuba - To the Hills!

December 24, 2018
Havana & Outlying Areas, Cuba

Tour Day 2 – Havana and Las Terrazas
Enjoying the mid-day meal with our tour group at Casa del Campesino

It's Christmas Eve in Cuba, which means... almost nothing to the Cubans. While religion hasn't technically been curtailed since the "triumph of the revolution" (TOTR), it seems to have been de-prioritized. To us, it seemed like the locals had learned to start saying "Merry Christmas" just to appease the tourists. Decorations are pretty much limited to areas with tourist traffic, and holiday shopping isn't a thing (what would they buy?). 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Exploring Havana - Tour Day 1

December 23, 2018
Havana, Cuba

Tour Day 1 - Introduction to Havana
The spirit of Che Guevara is alive and well all over Cuba, as evidenced here in the form of a giant, lit "mural" on the face of a ministry building in Revolution Square
We met our group in the hotel lobby for a 9am start on Sunday morning. Our guide, Linett, was on time and seemed organized. Our tour comrades included Risa from Astoria, a married couple from Seattle (Susan and Carrie), and father-son travelers from Pleasant Hill (Sau-Wing) and LA (Justin).

Saturday, December 22, 2018


December 22, 2018
Havana, Cuba

Our first photo of pre-1959 American "classic" cars!  Many, many more to follow... 
After years of exploring the possibility, we finally made it to Cuba! Why Cuba? Why now?

The "why Cuba" question is easy. Because it’s there, and where don’t we want to go? But really, also because it’s so unique. A Caribbean island, just about 100 miles from Florida, with a longstanding aura of mystery and all but forbidden for the American traveler. The buildings and cars of Havana, that glamorous American playground of the 1940’s and 1950’s, which can now be seen as archaeological relics that happen to be still in use, crumbling and patched together to bleed every last drop of use from them. Then there’s the Cuban culture. The music, dancing, rum, cigars, coffee, guayaberas.  And the chance to see a socialist dictatorship in person. Of course, visiting a Caribbean island in December is always appealing for the weather alone, but there are easier places to go for a beach vacation.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Happy Holidays from the Brookses!

December 8, 2018
Santa Rosa, CA

Happy holidays from our homestead to yours!
Scott & Caroline

Monday, September 3, 2018

Tales from a Wine Country Homestead: Things Spotted, Some Better Than Others

September 3, 2018
Santa Rosa, CA

Scott made a visit to the property today, Labor Day, upon our return from our overnight jaunt up to Redwood National Park over the weekend.  He wanted to take a closer look at the grapevines growing there and perhaps harvest a few of the season's remaining blackberries.  Some of the things he saw were more pleasant than others...

Gorgeous grapes, straight from Brooks Vineyard ;-)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Tales from a Wine Country Homestead: More Blackberries

August 12, 2018
Santa Rosa, CA

New Millennium Homesteaders 
Not one to be deterred by such a trifling thing as poison oak, Scott was itching (no pun intended) to get back at it and pick more blackberries on the property while they are in season.  On our last visit a couple of weeks ago, Scott had estimated that a significant quantity of berries would be ripe for the picking right about now and he wasn't wrong.  This time, we brought our friend Debbie with us to join in the fun.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Tales from a Wine Country Homestead: Touring a Bluhomes Breezehouse (Again)

August 4, 2018
Alameda, CA

The Bluhomes Breezehouse
Our favorite modern factory-built homes company, Bluhomes, held an open-house at their model home in Alameda today.  As I mentioned in a previous post, we have been following them for the past decade, having toured their homes in the past, and we really love the aesthetic, quality and design features of their homes.  So we went to check out their Breezehouse model.  They have updated the design of this particular plan this year so the model does not have the same floorplan as what they are currently offering, but the basic design with the large decking on front and back is the same and it is still the home we really want. But, sadly for us, it seems unlikely that we can fit it into our budget.  Today, at least we managed to take some photos.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Tales from a Wine Country Homestead: We Have Blackberries!

July 29, 2018
Santa Rosa, CA

The sweet taste of summer: blackberries, fresh from the bramble!
Scott's first... and possibly last...harvest from the wild blackberry bushes on our new property. Hard-won, but simply divine - like no blackberries I've ever tasted!! And I think he may even have managed to avoid the poison oak this time!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Tales from a Wine Country Homestead: Touring a Connect Home

July 21, 2018
Orinda, CA

Interior of the Connect 8 model in Orinda (photo borrowed from
Today we visited a model of a home by a modern pre-fab home company that we are interested in, Connect Homes.  The home, located in the East Bay town of Orinda, is actually a private dwelling, owned by an employee of Connect Homes, which is a primary factory-built homes company of interest to us.  The owner and his family live in the ultra-modern, two-story home but periodically, they offer tours in the name of marketing, I guess.  

Monday, July 9, 2018

Say Hello to Sonoma County's Newest Landowners!

July 9, 2018
Santa Rosa, CA

Our cashier's check for the downpayment on our land.  Feeling broke.
Remember that piece of land we put an offer on last year? Well, as of today it's ours.

Let's pick up the story where we left off. I was freshly recovered from my poison oak and unsuccessfully negotiating for an eight-acre parcel on the Santa Rosa Plains just west of the city, at the corner of Piner Road and Willowside. We had bid $100k below asking, they countered at $50k below, we stood firm, they walked away.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

An Early-Spring San Francisco City Jaunt

March 10, 2018
San Francisco, CA

Relaxing at our favorite North Beach cafe, Caffe Greco
Last Saturday, we happily realized that we had nothing of import to attend to around the house (an amazing benefit of being child-free apartment dwellers!), so we decided to make a trek into the city for the afternoon and evening.  If you actually know us, you know that we've moved around over the years. A lot.  I don’t typically think of San Francisco as home. I mean, we haven't lived in the city proper in well over a decade and left our most recent California residence in Oakland over three years ago.  But on our most recent expedition into the city from our new hometown in the heart of California’s wine country, it suddenly dawned on me; Scott and I have spent more of our married life together in the Bay Area than anywhere we've ever lived!