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The plane arrives in Cuba as the sun rises over the eastern horizon painting the inside of the plane with an amber glow. The view outside our window is breathtaking FA" Ladies and Gentleman we will begin our descend into Havana shortly, please bring your trays to an upright position and secure all items for landing. It's a beautiful 73• degrees out, enjoy your stay in Cuba and thank you for flying United Airlines" As the plane touches down in Cuba we are transported to a whole new world. We disembark on the tarmac and rather than follow the rest of the passengers to the terminal Nikko leads us to a black Escalade already waiting a few feet from the plane. The driver loads our luggage into the back while we board the SUV, Nikko gives the driver instructions and we head into the city. S:"Thanks again Nikko I really appreciate this" N:"My pleasure man" Me:"Hotel Saratoga, I thought we were staying at your uncle's Hacienda" N:"We are mama but I thought you'd want to see La Havana as well, so our first and last 24 hours will be spent here" Jared:"Sweet, thanks man" N:"You're welcome hermano" Julie:"I don't even know how to thank you Nikko ....... This....... I'm speechless" N:"No need to thank me just enjoy it mama" the smile on her face and the look in her eyes was thanks enough. How he wished she would look at him the way she looks at Shannon, but that ship sailed a long time ago, as long as she's happy that's all that matters. She rests her head on Shannon's shoulder as they look out the window, Shannon turns to Jared and exclaims S:"Toto, We're not in Kansas anymore" Jared smile like a little kid and chuckles Jared:"No we're not" Julie and I look at each and giggle.

Hotel Saratoga is located in the historic part of Old Havana, a 5-minute walk from the Contemporary Art Museum for Jared, The Port, the Palma Cathedral, and for Julie and I the exclusive Jaime III shopping avenue. I can already hear our credit cards begging for mercy, hey we girls are natural born shoppers and with twins at home ..... yeah you get the picture. On our way to the hotel Nikko gives us a small history lesson, he tell us that the hotel was originally constructed in 1879 and expanded between 1915 and 1925. Its located across from the Parque de Fraternidad which coincidentally has a tree planted from each country in the Americas. He also gives us a list of places we'll be visiting while in Havana such as Malecón, Morro Castle, the legendary Partagas Cigar Factory and for Shannon the best coffee in town Cafe El Escorial where they are known for roasting their coffee fresh each morning and their signature drink Cafe Calipso -espresso-rum-coffee licquer-creme.

S:"So what's your uncle's Hacienda like?" N:"It's just a fancy word for "a very big and semi-expensive house" he makes air quotes and bellows deep like and old distinguished gentleman, we can't help but laugh N:"Seriously don't be fooled by it's grandeur everything in that house my uncle got dirt cheap!" Jared:"You're joking!" N:"Wish I was hermano, the man's a tight wad! He only uses it to impress people, he says "it's too much house for us, were humble people we need to live like we are, humble" Me:"No te creo, en serio?" N:"The patio furniture and lounge ensemble on the beach, he got at an estate sale and had my cousin margarita re-upholster it all" Julie:"Oh my God, you are serious and I thought my Nana was as penny pincher" Me:"Nana Abby? Oh my God don't get me started." Julie:"She used to make us bathe from a bucket when we were little to conserve water" Me:"Lunch consisted of baby portions and a cookie a piece and half a glass of milk" Jared:"Maybe she was trying to make sure you finished everything on your plate" Me:"We were twelve!" Julie:"Oh yeah and we were only allowed to watch an hours worth of TV, she was so cheap in fact she'd recycle the neighbors newspaper ......" S:"Hey she was trying to save money" I give Shannon a sarcastic grin Me:"As a coloring book!!!! Waist not want not she'd always say" Shannon laughs loudly at that "Oh Wow, let me guess and you used to wear hand me downs from everyone else's kids" we both look at him like how'd you know, Jared chuckles at that shakes his head and lifts his hands in the air J:"I plea the fifth"

We check into the hotel and settle in for a power nap a few hours later we meet up with Nikko for a little sightseeing more importantly lunch. La Havana is amazing with its rich historical architecture and colorful façades maybe it's the Latin blood in me but it calls to me like a moth to a flame. Cuban cuisine is to die for, so flavorful and yummy. Nikko even orders vegetarian delicacies for Jared which he enjoys with gusto. After lunch we go for a walk down the Avenida, in the distance we hear the beat of a bongo drum and Shannon's face lights up. He looks at Julie "Come on babe" tugs at her hand walks a little faster. He was so sweet to watch and his excitement is contagious. We follow the sound of the drums to a courtyard, as early as it is, it's alive with the sound of music, singing and dancing. Shannon's hands begin to tap the air to the beat of the bongos, one of the guys standing behind the bongo players catches Shannon and says something to one of them and they both look up. The bongo player smiles at Shannon then speaks BP:"Que hubo hermano, think you can keep up?" Shannon looks at us and smiles. Jared gives him a mischievous look "Go for it!" He looks back at the bongo player S:"You're on" he steps into the courtyard and takes a seat they hand him a set bongo drums and he begins to play. To everyone's surprise not only can he keep up, he doesn't even miss a beat, we all watch him in awe he isn't just playing but feeling the music. His eyes close as he plays its like watching him on stage at a 30 Seconds To Mars concert only different. He bites his lower lip and opens his eyes, he's in his element and loving it!

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A/N For those of you who don't speak spanish i will be includeding mini vocabulary lesson.

Oye-Listen
Hermano-brother
En serio-for real
No te creo-i dont beleive you??

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