Thursday, 27 December 2012

A Christmas Catch Up

A Merry Christmas to everyone and apologies for the lack of Blog posts. It has been crazy over here!!

I will give you a brief update starting where we left off, our return from Cuba.

I met Hollywood for a long arranged post-Cuba cigar night. Cigars were smoked, cocktails were consumed and little did I know, I wouldn't have many more nights like that for a while.

Next up was the Blog Awards. I was one of the finalist's in the Best Mobile Compatible Blog. I went, I didn't win but I had a great night and met some great people especially the two behind the following great blogs, Me, Mine and Other Bits and Worth Doing Badly. Real names are omitted due to legal reasons!!!

The next bit of news was the biggest of the year. The Byrnes had a baby boy called Leon. Thank Higgs Boson it was a boy as I will be the Godfather and I don't think a girl would appreciate being dragged to watch football matches.

Speaking of Football. I am now the Manager of the team I joined in the summer, South William St. Celtic FC. We wont be taking on the European stage anytime soon but we are holding our own. I could dedicate a whole other blog to their antics so I wont delve further into it here.

My New Humidor also arrived during my blogging break. It is a Adorini Habana Deluxe. It holds around 300 cigars spread among a removable tray and space for boxes of cigars. 

The humidor was needed immediately as I had to store my Cuban cigars and the packages I received in the post. Most notably from Logan Lawlor. First of all he added a few extra cigars to the 3 pack of Monte Pascals that I won on #CigarChat and then, just before Christmas  I received another fantastic bundle of Cigars from him. 

I love getting cigars from the US as the majority of sticks I receive cannot be bought over her. That is the reason when I spotted that Buttheads were doing an offer on boxes of Tatuaje Little Monsters I just had to get one. Kevin is a great guy over there and is always eager to help even though shipping to Ireland is not a common thing for him. I was saddened to hear about the School Shooting that was so close to them and must have effected many of their customers family and friends. 

On a lighter note, a very good friend of mine, Mr.Black, has found love. I met him many years ago as a young, wet behind the ears, naive but eager young fellow. As he hailed from the same part of the country as me I took him under my wing and showed him the ways of the world. It up for debate how worldly my knowledge is but he has turned out alright and just recently proposed to his, now, fiance. I wish them both the best of look in the future.

So with a wedding on the horizon  a godson to spoil and with Christmas around the corner I ended up taking on another job. A friend of mine is owner of a very successful restaurant in Dublin city center. He needed staff, I needed the money, It was only logical that I accepted. It is polar opposite to my regular job of standing on a door  but working both funnily gives me an appreciating for the other (if that makes sense)

That brings me to my absence  Working early mornings in the restaurant, late nights on the door and football in between has seriously hampered my cigar smoking, tweeting, #CigarChats etc.. On the plus side my Cigar collection has grown dramatically.

I did however find a few hours one of the evening to join the crew at their Christmas Herf. Smoking cigars with like minded Cigar enthusiasts is always a good thing and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I had to leave early, (work in the morning), however I ended bringing home a couple of fantastic cigars, one of which was a custom roll by Hamlet, one of the best torcedors to come out of Cuba. 

Before I knew it Christmas was upon me. Running around Dublin city center looking for presents is no easy task yet I got it done well before my usual panic of shopping on Christmas Eve. The Mrs outdone herself as well. This year I received a very nice selection of cigars along with a bottle of Middleton Barry Crocket. 

That kind of brings you all up to date. If I have forgotten anything or anyone I am truly sorry. I will also en-devour to keep my updates as regular as I can. A New Years Resolution if you will.

Anyway, I hope you all are enjoying the festivities and have a great time over Christmas. I will see you all in the New Year.

The Blog Awards

Little Leon

My New Humidor

#CigarChat Bundle from Logan

Christmas Bundle from Logan

Little Monsters from Buttheads

Inside the Box

Cigars from the Herf

Christmas Present from the Mrs - Cigars

New addition to the family

Christmas Present from the Mrs - Whiskey

Christmas Present from the Mrs - Book

From the Byrnes

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Cuba Day 11: The Journey Home

The last few hours of our holiday and wouldn't you know it. The sun was shining.

The Mrs in her infinite wisdom had not packed any of or "Beach Supplies" so there we were, making our way to the beach for some last minute sunbathing.

We lasted two hours on the beach. In and out from under the shelter, dodging the rain and enjoying the brief glimpses of Sun that broke through the clouds. Within the two hours we probably got an even hour of sun and hour of rain.

Time was pushing on and we had to check out of our room so we abandoned the beach for the last time and went back to finish our packing. Bags packed and checked out we headed to the buffet for lunch. That was one thing I was not going to miss.

After forcing food into me, the rain was coming down hard again. We went to the games rooms for a few games of Ping-Pong and to the lobby bar for a farewell cocktail  In reality we were just killing time. I don't think either of us we too sad to be leaving.

Our pickup arrived at 3pm and once again we were the only ones in a small mini-van. As we drove towards the airport the sun finally came out. The Mrs fell asleep, I looked out the window as Cuba passed me by. I saw people going about their everyday lives, men working, kids playing, women carrying fruits. I was going to miss Cuba. Sandals wasn't Cuba in my eyes. Havana certainly was.

We arrived at the Airport around 5pm to find out that. due to the storm, our flights was delayed until 1am. We looked around a few shops and after being told there were lots more on the other side we got in line to check in.

It took forever. The queue for our flight almost wrapped around the whole departure lounge, after shuffling on for an eternity, we got checked in. Then came the Airport Tax. We had to pay 25CUC each to be allowed to leave Cuba. That queue moved fast enough, more than could be said about Immigration  Another age was spent shuffling along, sweating and for no apparent reason wondering if they will find something wrong with your passport.

On the other side of immigration was the security checkpoint. A bottle of water and a lighter were confiscated from us, we walked through the x-ray, collected our things and were greeted by a small shop that among other things, sold Water and Lighters.

It took a few hours to get through all the checks. Its harder to get out of Cuba than it is to get in to Fort Knox.

Once in departures we realised that we were duped. There was nothing there. One big shop, two smaller ones and a very limited food counter. We were starving at this stage and ended up eating a Cheese sandwich and cold fries. We devoured it.

We walked around the "Shops", which didn't take long and bought a bottle of rum and I purchased a 3 pack of Romeo y Julieta No.1. The little cigar shop, along with the advertising all over the airport, were pushing a cigar brand called Guantanamera. I have never smoked one and they were very cheep. I asked the woman in the store about them and by the look on her face I new they were not good. They were so cheep because nobody was buying them.

I bought a single anyway. You don't know unless you try.

So that was it for departures. Now it was a case of waiting around, smoking and playing games on my phone. It was after 130am before we finally boarded the plane. Tired, Hungry and Not Amused the flight back to Paris was torture. I would rather take a boat next time.

Once in Paris we went through similar checks again. This time not as stringent thank Higgs Boson, although our rum was confiscated  I explained to the guy that it was bough in a Duty Free shop in the departures lounge in Cuba. He didn't care (It wasn't bought in Paris Duty Free). We were given the option to check it in but the walk was too far and the Rum only cost 7CUC. We let him have it.

Departures in Paris was great, Shops, restaurants, massage chairs. Unfortunately / Fortunately we only had a short stop over. Our flights was again delayed but only by thirty minutes. The Mrs went off and bought bracelets and girly stuff and I went in search of Cigars.

The prices were more expensive than Cuba but cheaper than Ireland. Money was running very low at this stage so I only bought a 3 pack of Davidoff Perfecto's. (I love Davidoff)

So back on an Airplane  we were making our way back to Dublin. After enduring a hellish 9.5hr flight, this flight was a doddle.

Back in Dublin, the Mrs had a brief blonde moment as we went through Customs:
"Do we go through the Something to Declare gate" she said.
"Be quiet and just follow me" I mumbled angrily hoping nobody noticed the guilty heads on us.

Funny thing was that we were well below our allowance for Cigars and Alcohol. I just didn't want to take the chance.

Out of the Airport we went and not long after breathing in the Irish air again, we were back at home in the apartment.

Havana was fantastic and Sandals was an experience but for now, our Cuban adventurer was over!!!

Flip Flops

Watching Men Clean The Beach

Left For The Maid - Barely Used

Our Key Cards

The Mrs Bracelets 
My Cigars

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Cuba Day 10: Rain Bathing

What was that? I had been so long since we had seen it. Could it be? Yes, there was a glimmer of Sunshine.

The Mrs catapulted herself out of bed and before I could even realise what was going on she had the bag packed and sun-cream on. I guess we were going to the beach!!

To her dismay, it was a better day from the inside looking out. We trundled on anyway and arrived at the beach. We got our usual spot, which wasn't hard considering there were only a handful off other people there. Towels down, sunscreen on, lounger situated for optimum sunshine, we were ready to get our tan on.

Then it rained.

We were in and out from under the cover of our parasol like a Jack in the Box. guessing when the rain would start and when it would stop. After an hour or so, shivering under our towels, we decided to give up.

We returned to the room for a shower and a change of clothes and to try to get a bit of heat back into our shivering bodies. Once recovered it was off the the buffet for lunch.

All this eating was wearing thin. I don't have a regular eating pattern at home and sometimes I even forget to eat. With the weather the way it was I had nothing to do but eat.

After Lunch we had a look around the few shops the resort had to offer. The Mrs bought a ridiculously over priced T-shirt and I flirted with the idea of buying more cigars. In the end I decided not too. Instead we went to the "Super-market" and bought a load of snacks to munch on while watching TV (Weather Channel)

It was a good job I did have the snacks as the buffet option that night was terrible. It was almost as if they brought out the leftovers from the week.

Entertainment time again and it was as bad as the buffet. Some auld granny trying to be cool while singing Beatles songs...badly!! It was so bad it was almost funny.

We met the Scots outside "Varaderos" after the show. We had a drink and a chat outside the club and were enjoying ourselves until the rain forced us to part. The Scots went off as the Mrs and I went to the lobby bar for a night cap.

When we got back to the room we started packing our clothes for our departure the next day. As the Mrs packed the clothes and I packed the cigars, Sunshine and Havana seemed a long time ago.

The Mrs Leaves Her Mark

Our View

A Little Brighter


Sunday, 4 November 2012

Cuba Day 9: Isaac Arrives

We awoke with a fright on Day 9, and a lot earlier than usual.

There was banging, hammering, thumping and rumbling sounds coming from out on the balcony. It was only 5:30am and we opened the curtains with alarm. It was as we feared but expected. Isaac had arrived!!

So we went back to sleep!!

When we awoke again, at a reasonable hour this time, Isaac was still raging. Is it Issac, Isaac or Isacc? I spelled it Issac in my last post but Wikipedia tells me its Isaac. Anyway, I digress.

I turned on the TV and scanned for the football (real football, not the American kind) Man Utd were playing Fulham but I failed to find it so I settled for Spurs vs West Brom. I couldn't tell you the score, I didn't really care but United ended up winning 3-2. That cheered me up a little but not so the Mrs who was once again denied her time in the sun.

After the football we went to the buffet for lunch. I got a humongous plate of prawns and while struggling to peel them, destroyed my shorts in the process. Too much hard work for not enough reward.

Lunch finished, we decided to have a look at the beach. The walkway was roped off but that wasn't going to stop us. We got to the end of the sand and the place was deserted, the sand was no longer golden and the sea looked just down right angry. It reminded me of home!

I come from a seaside town in Co.Donegal called Bundoran. It is a surfers paradise and if the people there saw what I was looking at, they would be running towards the water with a board under their arm.

Unfortunately I wasn't of that mindset so the Mrs and I headed back to the resort I decided to have a look in the Cigar Shop. I bought a few packs of cigars:

3 x Partagas Series P No.2
3 x Montecristo No.2
3 x Montecristo Petit Edmundo

Cigars in hand we headed back to the room to watch the weather channel and some movies. I had planned for a relaxing holiday but I didn't expect it to be spent watching TV in my room.

That evening it was the turn of the Seafood A La Carte. A nice meal but for me, the worst of the A La Carte options. I had Seafood Cocktail to start followed by a tepid Tomato soup. My main was a Prawn dish ( I didn't have to peel these ones) and I had Tiramisu to finish. The Mrs had a Lobster Bisque followed by a Selection of Seafood and a Chocolate Cake to finish

It was off to "Varaderos" again after dinner for the entertainment. Tonight's show was a Dance Extravaganza  The only thing extravagant was the costumes. Even a power outage and the doors flinging open from the wind outside didn't stop them. As they say "The Show Must Go On". It passed an hour though!!

The Cigar Bar was the next and final stop for the night. I lit up a Vegas Robaino and sipped on a 12yr old whiskey and watched out the window as Isaac got stronger and stronger.

The Seafood Restaurant

Selection of Seafood


Extravagant Costumes

The Cigar Bar Wall
My Cigar Purchases 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Cuba Day 8: Food, Walks and Rain

Day 8 arrived and from the start it didn't look good.

Looking out to the balcony a wet and cloudy day stared back at us, we turned on the TV to hear the news that there had been a shooting at the Empire State Building and there it was, in the corner of the screen.  Issac was on his way!!

So with no sunshine and nothing else planned we decided to check out the buffet for breakfast. It wasn't great, for me anyway!! There was all the fruit you could ask for along with salads, cold meats and even a crepe station. I scoffed in the face of this fantastic selection  I am a Man, an Irish man, who has a beer belly and receding hairline, I don't eat salads for breakfast, so I went in search of the sausages and bacon.

I found them, I ate half of them, I almost got sick, I never went back for breakfast again!!

It was raining by the time I had spat half an unknown meat, pretending to be a sausage, back into my napkin. There was very little to do but go back to the room. We chilled there, watching TV (mostly the News and Weather) for a few hours.

After the shambles that was breakfast (again, only for me, you might love it) I was hungry so we decided to hit the beach bar for Lunch. The Sun was breaking through the clouds but it was still spitting rain and windy. I forget what I had for lunch but it was probably a hot-dog or a burger.

Afterwards we decided to take a walk along the beach.We ended up walking up too three resorts to the left of Sandals, turned around and walked back as far as one resort to the right. It was evident that Sandals had by far the best beach. The resort on the right had no more than 10 foot of sand from the resort to the sea!!

We returned to Sandals and went to the games room. We played a few games of Ping-Pong followed by Pool and then went to the lobby bar for a drink. A couple of Kola's later and we were back in the room to watch the weather channel for a few more hours.

We had our Italian A La Carte meal booked for that evening and as the rain started to come down harder we got dressed up and under the protection of our umbrella (We are in Cuba remember) we made our way to the restaurant.

I loved the Italian!! After my rant about salads and cold meats earlier, I couldn't get enough of the Antipasta, the Stuffed Vine Leaves especially. I had Minestrone to start, followed by Chicken Parmigiana and a nice Chocolate cake to finish. The Mrs had Mushroom soup, Penne Carbonara and Vanilla Ice Cream. I think I came out better of the two.

After dinner it was time for the evening entertainment. Sandals World Famous Rock Show. due to the weather it had to be moved inside to Sandals World Famous Nightclub, the ever originally named "Varaderos"

The show wasn't too bad actually. A few toe tappers were played and we were joined by a nice Welsh couple. The couple tried to talk to us but it was very hard shouting over the music. They were then joined by a group of people who have got to know each other, over the week, around the swimming pool. They all seemed very nice and we watched the end of the show in a large group.

Once the music finished and the "Nightclub" started, the Mrs and I headed for the lobby bar. A little more relaxed and a lot more quite (Higgs Boson I am getting old). There we met a nice Canadian couple who had just arrived. We chatted to them for a while before heading back to the room for the night.

As we climbed into bed we heard tapping at the window. Issac was calling in to say hello!!

A Walk On The Beach

Stormy Sea (For Cuba)

One of the other Resorts

The Italian Restaurant

The Rock Show

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Cuba Day 7: Varadero Day Tour

I am going to skip over Day 6. A very nondescript day. Beach, food, drink. Nothing exciting.

Day 7 was a different kettle of fish. I was still suffering from lobsteritis and as the other sun worshipers worked on topping up their already bronzed bodies I decided that my sun-burnt body needed a break from direct sun.

We awoke to the sound of thunder storms and as I went back to sleep with a sly smile on my face the Mrs headed off to book a day trip to Varadero town. When I re-awoke  the thunder had scattered the cloud. It was now sunny with a few clouds. Showered and dressed we stood at reception waiting on our bus.

Our first stop was at Al Capones Villa, now used as a restaurant. Apparently Mr. Capone himself never actually visited the Villa himself however after a walk around I was assured he would not have been disappointed if he had. Unfortunately the walk around was very limited as the current proprietors didn't look too happy with us traipsing about the restaurant and not actually ordering anything.

The next stop on the trip was to Varederos largest Flea Market. The Mrs was now in her element and any complaints about not lounging on the beach were forgotten. We spent around 45 minutes looking around the stalls. Some of the stuff was very nice and some of the art work was amazing. The rest was just tat. The Mrs didn't mind though, she could have spent all day there.

After the market we stopped at a Cigar and Rum store. All of my cigars had been pretty much bought at this stage however it didn't stop my search for the elusive Edition Limitada range that seemed so scarce in Havana. An awkward conversation ensued and my English with some broken Spanish thrown in for good measure led me to the conclusion that the search was to remain elusive.

Slightly disappointed but not surprised we headed towards Xanadu Mansion. This was the former residence of Irenee Dupont de Nemours, a French American millionaire  It now serves as Cuba's only 18 hole golf course and club house.

We climbed the narrow stair up to the bar at the top of the mansion. Here we received a Cuba Libra, we brought it out to the balcony and took in the fantastic view. The sun was now shining brightly and the heat it gave off was just about bearable but as we sat and looked out over the green golf course and blue ocean, we wanted to stay there forever.

 After the Golf Club we made our way back to the resort. We went for lunch in the buffet and followed that by a few games of pool in the games room. Later that evening there was a Mangers Reception for all the people in the resort. We went back to the room for an afternoon nap before getting ready and heading towards the lobby bar.

At the managers reception all the heads of staff were present. Prizes were given out to a few lucky people and there was a bit of Cuban music to accompany the drinks reception. The whole affair lasted less than 30 minutes after which we headed to the bar for a few cocktails before dinner.

It was Cuban theme in the buffet that night and we enjoyed Creol soup and suckling pig. All very nice. This was followed by an hour of Cuban entertainment. An hour was 60 minutes too long.

After the show we met up with the Scots. As the rain finally came down with full force we headed to the piano bar. A couple of drinks here were enjoyable but as we were the only people in the bar we felt it was rude to talk as the lady played the piano. We decided to leave, face the rain and make our way towards the lobby bar for a night cap.

A couple of Pina Colada's later and it was getting cold. We decided to say good night to the Scots and make our way back to the room.

We had a very enjoyable day, away from the direct sun, but as we climbed into bed, the rain hammering against the window, we wondered would we get another chance to visit the beach.

Al Capone's Villa

The Man Himself


A Stone Car

Outside The Flea Market

View of Golf Course

View of Ocean


Playing Pool

Managers Reception

Pina Colada and Sandals Passion

Outdoor Entertainment Area

Monday, 8 October 2012

Cuba Day 5: Hangovers and Sunburn

Day five and I awoke with a very sore head. The pizza that had remained untouched from the night before was now crawling with Ants. It was not a pleasant sight when you are hungover but being the strong alpha male that I am, I ran to the bathroom and got the Mrs to take care of it!!

I hate Ants!!

So with the apartment Ant free and the offending pizza removed I bravely (reluctantly) came out of the bathroom and prepared for the day ahead. I couldn't face breakfast so it was straight to the beach.

The weather was fantastic and surprisingly the beach was not too busy. We noticed that there were a lot of people beside the pool and once I stepped on to the sand I couldn't figure out why. We walked along until we found a suitable spot, not too far from the bar but far enough that the music would not annoy us.

A guy pulled out two loungers for us and we settled in for a day of relaxation. Sun cream on, lounger in position, book in hand I was ready to do nothing.

That lasted for little over ten minutes. I am Irish!! In an Irish heatwave you will see white pasty men walking around in shorts they have owned for five years and only worn twice. When we are basking in the sunshine, eating our ice cream, complaining about the heat, it wouldn't be uncommon to see a group of Scandinavian tourist walk past puling their scarves tighter around them. Bottom line, we can not handle sunshine.

So ten minutes in and the sweat was dripping of my head and dropping on to my pages of Dorian Grey. There was only one thing to do. Hit the water. So I casually jumped off my lounger and strolled towards the ocean. I would like to think of my self as bronzed Adonis striding along the sand before diving into the breaking water but as the sand was burning the bottom of my feet I began to walk faster and ended up looking more like a school girl running awkwardly, tripping over and falling into the water.

The ocean was like a dream. Crystal clear and warm. I had to walk a good distance out to sea before it was deep enough to cover my height. I jumped with the waves and swam like a dolphin although the Mrs said I looked like I was drowning and other beach-goers were ringing Greenpeace thinking that there was a whale in distress.

The rest of the morning went like that, in and out of the water. The sun would dry me off, I would get too warm, I would go for a dip and the cycle repeated itself.

We went for lunch at the beach bar. I had a very pleasant hot-dog and chips. The hangover was still there and it was all I could stomach. The Mrs headed back to the beach but I decided I would go back to the room for a bit of Air Con.

My back was feeling a bit sore and tight and as I walked into the room I caught a glance of myself in the mirror. I was like a lobster!! Burnt from head to toe. How could this be? I had covered myself in sun block and it said it was water proof. The Mrs later explained to me that it wasn't water "proof" it was water "resistant" Apparently there is a big difference. I do not operate well hungover.

I returned to the beach and sat in the shade for the rest of the day reading Mr. Wildes sinister and sarcastic pros and after soaking in all the sun we could for one day we returned for an afternoon nap before heading out for dinner.

We were booked into the Caribbean restaurant for dinner and we looking forward to it. We had an early booking so there were only two other couples seated when we arrived. The service was fantastic. The waiting staff wore white gloves and served butter with silver tongs!!

The food wasn't so bad either. I opted for Yukka fritters to start followed by a Caribbean Chicken dish for my main. The Mrs went for Cajun soup and the pork main. I think I fared better out of the two of us but both meals were great. The dessert on the other hand was not. I ordered what sounded like a fantastic dish. The menu described it as Candy of Molten Orange with a Caramel Foam. What I received was a couple of orange wedges with a sticky liquid that tasted like it was scrapped from the bottom of the oven. The Mrs ordered a simple rice pudding but received a stodgy bowl of rice covered in far too much cinnamon  We decided not to finish the dessert as it would leave a bad taste to what was otherwise a very nice dinner.

Cocktails in hand and still attempting to wash the burnt taste from our mouth we went to the outdoor entertainment area. The show was mixed music and culture themed and at times was so bad that it was entertaining. It only lasted an hour. After the show we sat in our seats and watched the Thunder and Lightening which seemed to start on cue. The rain came shortly after but didn't last too long however the temperature dropped drastically and it was a lot cooler. We headed towards the lobby bar and after the Macho(sic) day I had I thought there was no better way to finish it off than ordering a big girly Pina Colada. The joke backfired though, it was gorgeous!!

After the rain, a terrible smell came across the resort, a sewage smell, not pleasant at all. Unable to stomach the smell we only had one drink and went back to the room. After-Sun and Aloe Vera were applied in copious amounts and we went to bed.

It is hard work doing nothing

The Beach

My Shade

Dessert Menu - They found a new Cinnamon Species

The Show

More of the show