When I was growing up the most exotic and exclusive place you could go on your holidays was the Caribbean. The weather was awesome compared to the UK, there are beaches galore and a relaxing chilled way of life. The long flight and expensive resorts made it a pricey holiday and which I struggled to justify paying for.
However, late in my twenties, I got to experience two Caribbean islands. And the first one I didn’t have to pay for. Yes, I got a free all-inclusive trip to a lovely resort in Barbados. And it was such a great experience it encouraged me to hunt down a bargain trip to Cuba and pay for it myself.
My main enduring memory of going to Barbados was mojitos. I have always been partial to the odd mojito, but in Barbados, they became my regular drink. As soon as I arrived, I put on my swimwear, lashings of sunscreen and made my way down to the pool bar. And ordered a mojito.
It was my first trip to the Caribbean and wow – I loved it. Everything looked so picture postcard tropical, from the beaches to the shacks. I felt I was experiencing a different way of living and it was so laid back. The sun beat down on us mixed in with the odd, very short tropical storm. And the plants and foliage were out of this world – tropical plants in their natural habit are stunning.
Now I’m sure you want to know why I didn’t pay for this trip. The reason this trip was free was simple – it was my Dad’s wedding. And I got to share a room with my brother and step-brother. Instead of having a big UK wedding, they opted for a beach wedding and took us kids with them. And it was an awesome wedding in such a stunning location.
Now my brother is on the adventurous side. He insisted on driving which was interesting and rather hair-raising shall we say. I became the worst sort of backseat driver as we wound around the countryside and saw the sugar plantations all around. Moreover, when we saw this rather cool rock in the sea – he had to climb it. Then I realised how people with kids feel.
In summary, the beach wedding was awesome and Barbados was such an awesome place to visit – the perfect introduction to the Caribbean for me.
After my freebie trip to the Caribbean, I decided it was worth it to shell out for one on my own. Cuba has always appealed to me, from the old cars to the beauty in the decayed buildings. And the Castro regime seemed really foreign, hence I was keen to visit before he died.
Cuba turned out to be as interesting as I expected. Mojitos were drunk by the caseload and lots of books were read. However, the real pleasure was visiting Havana – such a fascinating and majestic city.
I was impressed with how normal some aspects of city life were yet how alien some aspects were. The tour guides were very on the message, explaining to us how everyone loved the Castros and how Raul was voted in. We tried not to stare in disbelief and be as polite as possible, but the indoctrination was scary. It gave us a real insight into how one must obey the Castro line to live in Cuba. And as someone from a free country, that was really, really scary.
I love random weekends away especially when they are bargains. So when some cheap flights came up, I made the trip over to Vilnius for a weekend. And wow, Vilnius is such a gorgeous place. Everything and all the buildings were picture postcard perfect. It was like a magical step back in time, you imagine it hasn’t changed for hundreds of years.
Moreover, it was ridiculously affordable. I hardly managed to spend any money, despite doing everything I wanted and more. I went to the opera – which in itself was an amazing experience. And I delighted in the offerings at the bar – which were much more chocolate focused than alcohol-focused. They did make me think why are we so alcohol-focused to have a good time here?
My enduring memory of Norway and Oslo is my second favourite playwright, Ibsen. By a long way, the best bit of Oslo was seeing Ibsen’s apartment. I am such an Ibsen lover, I spent so long reading everything in the museum even the staff started to give me looks.
However, I am a natural early riser, and even in central Oslo is appears no one else is. At 9 am I struggled to find an open coffee shop. It was a Sunday, but come on? So I wondered lonely around the city and reluctantly drunk my takeaway 7-11 coffee, the only open place I could find.
Moreover, I think the cities aren’t what makes Norway amazing – I loved visiting the parks just outside Oslo and walking around admiring the views. The journey from the airport was also lovely – pine forests abounded and scenic vistas abounded. Next time I visit Norway, I will visit much more of the countryside.
After the Ibsen museum, I stumbled upon another gem. An open-air historical museum, with absolutely loads of buildings. This was an absolute goldmine and right up my street. I love buildings and architecture, and in true geek format, I wandered for hours. Moreover, travelling solo has benefits beyond the freedom to roam. In one of the buildings, a staff member was cooking pancakes traditional style. Guess who got the single pancake she was making? Yes, this single lady. It was yummy.
Beyond the amazing Stave church and traditional buildings, was a city apartment block. Each floor was furnished in different styles from differing eras – and it was amazing. I spent ages in the building – and imagined Nora living on one of the floors.
Related Posts – Counting Countries Series
- Travels as a Child – Countries 1 to 6
- On my own dime – Countries 7 to 16
- Going East – Countries 17 to 22
- Europe and Beyond – Countries 23 to 27
Over to you
- What are your thoughts?
- Have you ever had a free holiday as an adult?
- Have you been to the Caribbean?