Visiting Uncle Mojito

January 31, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

A week to our favourite (all-inclusive) resort in Cuba is meant to be a week of R&R. So, naturally, Patricia and I stay up until three in the morning, drinking Mojitos as long as the mint lasts and laughing, philosophizing and dancing the Salsa with our fellow imbibers. Then, because my cats usually demand it of me at home, I am up by 7:00 in the morning, whether there are cats or no. Who needs to sleep in when there are the mountains on one side and the ocean on the other and all is toasty warm? 

The Brisas Sierra Mar, so-called because of its location between those mountains (sierra) and the Caribbean Sea (mar) is settled some 70 kilometres east of the city of Santiago de Cuba on the southwest corner of Cuba, bumped up against the provincia of Guantanamo on its west side. Guantanamo forms that coastal point of Cuba. The location of this resort could hardly be more perfect, settled as it is, in a spot so scenic that one simply loves looking at it. 

The Sierra Maestra Mountains do not consist of heady peaks of rock, capped by a dwindling bed of snow but rise from 1200 to 1700 metres through the length of the province. They are tree-covered. Whereas, once, the island was 90% covered in forests, colonization over the centuries saw the forests reduced for agriculture and livestock, to a fraction of that, although reforestation since the Revolution has brought it back to 19%, much of it on the mountains. 

They are soft to look at, a million colours of green, punctuated by the wings of flashy birds to whom they offer a rich habitat. The way the resort is placed in the configuration of the land, from nearly every point of view, the foothills of the mountains sweep down to the sea, elegant palm trees frame the scene and you have a vision of real beauty that is kind to the eye. 

A long wide walk way from one set of elevators leads to the buffet restaurant, the large open lounge, the pool and so forth, offers the view in full. I stopped on my way to breakfast one morning, to admire it all, standing unintentionally beside another guest. Everyone speaks to everyone at Sierra Mar.

“I’ve been here 29 times,” she said, “We used to come with our kids. And every time I arrive to the resort and stand here, it’s like the first time – I never tire of this view.”

We agreed on that.

Her numbers are not unusual. Patricia and I have been there – well, this was our tenth time. We met friends last year, whom we have visited at home since. They come every year for six weeks to escape the rigours of the Canadian winter. 

That too, is common practice. A multi-month stay in this resort is an ideal refuge from wind and cold, for Santiago de Cuba is pretty well guaranteed to be warm, protected by the mountains from the spates of chilly weather along the northern coasts of the country.

For many of us, it’s a cottage substitute, a mere four-hour flight – no stop for butter tarts. We don’t look on it as travelling, really, just visiting a happy, familiar place: Uncle Mojito is our joke.

Trip Advisor’s adherents pan the 3.5 star Brisas Sierra Mar. They complain the rooms are dated. Yup – they are painted ice cream colours with a different regard for what pink goes with what green – ours was vanilla on the ceiling and the walls were strawberry and mint. Stepping outside, the balcony welcomes you with those stunning views and sometimes an exotic bird will grace the railing if you sit quietly enough.

They complain about the food, which is simple, Cuban fare, lots of rice and beans; fruit and raw vegetables, dishes with meat; plantain, potatoes, fish, chicken, cake … basic, good food; sometimes a pig on a spit, turned for hours by hand over an open fire.

We hold the elevator doors open for each other; we crack jokes with people we don’t know. The staff know us; they fuss to make the Mojitos just right; they cook and clean and we don’t have to bother. Domestic animals: horses, a cluster of pigs – chickens wander at will. 

We’ve met people from all walks of life, some of them really well off – five-star people and they love coming to Sierra Mar because it is off the beaten track, an unpretentious smaller resort with wonderful scenery and lots of lovely folk.

One of the minor treats came on the CNN international news: amid the endless coverage of the United States’ struggle in the impeachment process of their president, Donald Trump, came the news that Canadians were outraged about where their Prime Minister bought his donuts, as if Tim Hortons isn’t now an American company.

Kind of makes you proud, doesn’t it?


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