Month: May 2017

Hot Huntsville

                                                     Early Masonic lodge in Huntsville

Huntsville is hot. No, it’s a super nova! Known as Space City for its marvelous museum focused on the US space program and associated “space camp’ (more in a future article), Huntsville, in far northern Alabama (close to Tennessee), is a great destination for a family vacation.

When Huntsville was designated the site of a convention I attended, my first reaction was “Why Huntsville?” But Huntsville offers a lot. In 1950 the city was tiny, but then it became the center of rocket development for the US. Engineers poured in, and today the city has the highest number of engineers per capita than anywhere in the US. Forbes lists Huntsville in the top 10 smartest communities in the world. These smart people have been very proactive in converting a sleepy Southern town into a fantastic city.

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To Know Cuba, Leave Havana

Most tourists who visit Cuba see either Havana or a nearby tourist beach, and nothing more. While Havana is an interesting, bustling, international city, it does not represent Cuba. And the beaches visited by most tourists are all-inclusive resorts off limits to most Cubans. They serve very mediocre Cuban food with culture delivered in contrived shows.

Back-roading in Cuba isn’t easy if you want to do it like a Cuban might. That is because the buses are crowded and uncomfortable, although very cheap. They accept the local currency, the peso, only. Most visitors to Cuba will never see a peso because Cuba has a second currency for tourists, the Cuban Convertible Currency or CUC.

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Magnificent but Remote Panama Beaches

People often visit Panama but only see Panama City which does not have nice beaches. But leave Panama City and there are very nice beaches tucked away in hard to access places. Many people make a tradeoff of quality for accessibility. Some do it without knowing the options. So here’s the lowdown.

In Panama City itself, two beaches are worth a mention — Veracruz beach and Playa Bonita. Both are on the banks of the Canal and neither are particularly good. About two hours away by fast ferry are the beautiful beaches of Contadora. Still most tourists drive to the beaches around Playa Blanca (about one and one-half hours west of Panama City) because of their all-inclusive hotels. The beaches are not ideal due to strong undercurrents and cold Pacific waters.

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