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Exclusive: Jeff Brazier’s honeymoon diary from Cuba and Mexico

Jeff married Kate Dwyer in September

Jeff and Kate on the beaach in Tulum Mexico

When trying to decide where to go on honeymoon we just could not make up our minds. We have both been lucky to travel a lot and we knew we wanted to do something different and explore new places but that was a much as we knew. It seems like such an important decision to get right, so we did what everyone does these days and asked Twitter! 

Cuba and Mexico were quite quickly the front runners with so many people mentioning in particular Havana, Cuba’s capital and also Tulum, one of the slight lesser known areas of the Riviera Maya. Kate was always keen on Mexico but I have to admit it was not top of my list at the time – but trusting the recommendations we decided to go for it.

Jeff strolling through the streets of Old Havana© Photo: HELLO!

Jeff and Kate started their honeymoon in Havana

We actually moved house just three days before we left, so I focused on the heavy lifting and Kate, a travel PR, organised most of the trip so I was not sure what to expect but we were both just excited to go somewhere new and to have the time to relax together after a busy period.

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First up was Havana – we arrived in the evening and coming from a freezing England, we were so pleased to feel the heat hit us as we walked out of the airport. Straight away we saw (and heard!) all of the old American cars which fill Cuba with colour and character. Apparently Cubans are known as the world best mechanics, as they are constantly taking apart and fixing up old cars – in fact we only saw one new car during our whole time there!

Jeff and Kate by the rooftop pool in their hotel in Havana© Photo: HELLO!

The newlyweds stayed at Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski

We wanted to be right in the thick of it in the centre of Old Havana and were lucky enough to stay at the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski  – a stunning luxury hotel in 'Havana Vieja' which is a UNESCO world heritage site. It was a perfect location which meant we could walk just about anywhere in the city.

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Each morning we woke up and with a brilliant hotel gym just a couple of floors away, we had no excuse but to use it! Although we definitely made up for it by making the most of the incredible breakfast buffet that was laid on every day.  

Rooftop pool at the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski cocktails© Photo: HELLO!

Kate and Jeff enjoyed cocktails on the roof of their hotel

Keen to learn as much as we could about Havana, the hotel’s concierge arranged for a guide, Omar, to take us on a walking tour around the city on our first day. Walking around the different areas, including Cuba’s ‘Wall Street’ full of bustling salesmen, and each of the city’s famous squares was so interesting. We learnt about how the country and the capital has developed over time, how Communism works there and even saw where Ernest Hemingway stayed and drank.

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Each night we sampled different Cuban cuisine, a lovely mix of rich meats and fresh seafood – and enjoyed cocktails on the rooftop of the hotel as we watched the sun go down. Every restaurant had a live band playing Cuban music - a truly magical atmosphere. We made sure to sample lots of the local rum, although made the mistake a couple of times of asking the barmen to ‘surprise us’ with a cocktail, the strength of which we Brits just aren’t used to! 

Wandering through the cobbled streets we really got the sense that there is nowhere else like it in the world, full of vibrant noise and colour, and even though a lot of the buildings are in a state of disrepair due to a lack of money, it was somehow just beautiful. Havana is a real bucket list destination and we were so grateful to have had the chance to tick it off.

Jeff at Habitas beach club in Tulum© Photo: HELLO!

Tulum was the second stop on Jeff and Kate's honeymoon

After four days it was time to head to our next destination, which was just a short 1.5 hour flight, and we were in Mexico by lunchtime.  Tulum is a two-hour transfer from Cancun, which is the closest airport, but it was absolutely worth the wait. 

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Everyone we know who had been to Tulum had strongly recommended it to us, but we were still so impressed – it really exceeded all of our expectations straight away. We checked into the Kasa Hotel Parota, part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group. We wanted a small boutique hotel and this one, situated in the lovely Aldea Zama neighbourhood, was the perfect oasis away from the busy crowds.

Jeff and Kate at the KASA Hotel Parota in Tulum© Photo: HELLO!

The couple stayed at Kasa Hotel Parota

We were greeted with a lovely cocktail and shown to our incredible penthouse suite with its own rooftop infinity pool which was such a special touch for our honeymoon. We even had our own hammock. They are everywhere in Tulum and one of my favourite places to relax and sleep!

We joined the other guests and hotel staff for the twice weekly cocktail hour. With just over thirty rooms, it was nice to meet everyone at the poolside bar and sample some incredible Mexican canapes, and more cocktails of course.

It was hard to tear ourselves away from the beautiful room, but we had only five days to explore and we want to make the most of it. The hotel offers complimentary bike hire and we cycled down to the beach – seemingly the easiest and way to get around Tulum judging by how many other people were doing the same.

Jeff and Kate on the KASA hotel bikes© Photo: HELLO!

A bike tour was a perfect way to explore the local area

Set largely along a beachfront strip, with restaurants, bars, beach clubs and hotels lining each side – you simply can’t visit them all in one trip. Kate was armed with a long list of recommendations and each one we did manage to visit was totally unique and told its own story. The beautiful and laid back Habitas beach club was a favourite as well as the delicious Italian at Posada Margherita, one of the best bowls of pasta we have ever had.  

I can honestly say I was not even slightly hungry for the whole five days as we kept eating more and more delicious food as Kate was desperate to tick all the spots off. Aside from the seafood being so fresh, there is something about the Mexican way of cooking and the flavours they use that is different class. We honestly had some of our best ever meals there.

Amazing food and drink aside, the hotel also kindly arranged a couple of KASA Experiences for us with an amazing tour company called Living Dreams. We really wanted to visit some Mayan ruins and learn about the culture from that era, so we headed to Coba, which is less than an hour up the road to see some of the most well preserved archaeological sites. I climbed up the biggest one, but Kate wasn’t a fan of the almost vertical drop!

Jeff and Kate at the Coba Mayan Ruins© Photo: HELLO!

The newlyweds took a trip to the Coba Mayan Ruins

Another must see in Mexico is a cenote, or sea cave, so our guide drove us to Punta Laguna where we abseiled down into a sacred cenote. The water is so clear you can see the human remains on the bottom as it was once a burial site – it is silent and pitch black and beautiful but also a bit eerie and I was quite quickly back up the ladder! There was so much to do so we also manage to fit in a walk through the jungle to look for monkeys, witnessing a sacred Mayan ceremony and a zip wire across the lagoon before canoeing back, so at least we were burning off some of that food!

We had such a great time, but the five days went so quickly and we are so keen to come back to Tulum again as soon as possible with the boys. We were both so excited to have discovered somewhere that we loved so much and can’t wait to get back to.

As a whole the honeymoon was exactly as we hoped it would be, unique and unforgettable. It was so special for us to have those experiences together but to also relax and reset after one of the busiest years. We were truly sorry to leave, but excited to get back to the kids and we know for sure that we will go back very soon.

Jeff and Kate stayed at the Gran Hotel Kempinski La Habana in Cuba and the KASA Hotel Parota in Tulum.

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