Sunday, June 12, 2016

Cuba - 2016

This trip was a long time in coming. Dan has wanted to visit Cuba for ages and it has only become possible for  us recently due to tour companies setting up people to people cultural tours. Ours was through AAA and Collette Tours. Americans are still not permitted to book flights and travel from the US. Our tour arranged our visas and charter flight from Tampa. The itineraries are set and we were not allowed to opt out of staying with the tour. But not a problem as we enjoyed the whole time spent.

Our chapter flight from Tampa approaches landing in Santa Clara, Cuba
Santa Clara Airport
The airport parking lot and Dan gets what he came for right away....OLD CARS!
Yes, there are modern cars here, just not American cars.

Some are spiffier than others.

                                Che Guevera Memorial and Museum...our first stop

                              That's Che up there. If you don't know his significance to Cuba look HERE

Huge plaza facing the Che Memorial

 Our first meal in Cuba was at the Don Quixote Restaurant, a paladar or privately owned business.
Unique bus

Festival of the Grandparents
Thought they were taking us to the "old folks home" but it turned out to be a rather lively group of senior citizens who demonstrated Cuban traditional dancing and games

This gentleman danced with me.

Views of Santa Clara

Note the nurse in her uniform. Right out of the 50's. When was the last time, if ever, you saw a nurse dressed like this. She wasn't the only one I saw.

Here's a little fixer-upper. Citizens are permitted to own, buy and sell property under the new law.

Written in dust on the windshield - NO VENDE! Not for sale. Old cars are very valued here as they attract tourists.

Roadside Snacks
A visit to a school for the performing arts right across the road from the snack shack.
I have no idea why a chicken appears on the sign or who Samuel Feijoo is. Should have asked.
Two young talented students  performed a ballet pas de deux, but I don't have good photos.

                        Universal young boy pose. I shot a candid but they wanted this one.
Various modes of transportation in rural Cuba

Spent first 3 nights at Iberostar Ensenachos, a Spanish owned resort mostly filled with Canadians.

 The Sugar Museum at closed down sugar mill also had a collection of the old locomotives that brought the sugar cane to and from the mill.

One of the trains was supposed to take us to the town of Remedios, but alas, there was some problem with the track that day.

Hotel in Remedios - had lunch on the patio

Another way to get around.
 Sorry I didn't get the front end in the photo.

      The locals hang out in the town square. Many of these town squares now supply public wi-fi.

Local artist cooperative

Disney wouldn't be happy to see above!!!

Old Soviet washing machine now being used by the artist to make paper mache in.
I'm always drawn to anything that smacks of sewing.

Forgot exactly where I took this. But the sky, cloud and colors are so gorgeous.

Cienfuegos on the southern shore of Cuba

Lunch at Villa Lagarto and the view from it

Like any place I've ever traveled there are always contrasting views in Cuba

 Had a short stop at this botanical garden which is home to over 200 species of trees

More cars

Cuban street scene with our guide Luis on the rightThe Hotel Nacional de Cuba where we stayed            our four nights in Havana. Very historic hotel that catered to lots of celebrities including mobsters!

 Behind the hotel which overlooks the northern shore and the Malecon (below) More info CLICK HERE
 Just this old guy and a young father risking his kid's life during the day...but a major hangout in the evening.

 Lobby and front entrance of the hotel
Photo snapped by an obliging British couple in the "backyard" of the hotel
            Another visitor was this familiar looking guy. He got there ahead of us. Don't think we will get our picture on the wall.                                 

Also along the Malecon is the US Embassy (see more info CLICK HERE) 
                              Facing the Embassy - Our Country or Death - We Shall Prevail

A group of boys kicking around a scruffy soccer ball on the plaza

Two views from opposite directions. One side unpainted. The other was painted for the Pope's visit because he would only see this side. I can't verify this, but we were told.
 Cathedral of Havana - more info CLICK HERE

                                Interesting mural of Cuban historical figures

Time for lunch. Note the English translation of the best thing to order in Cuba, Ropa Vieja. It 's the last item under MAIN PLATES! 

 More cars and nice scenes below

 We went to an art museum and were shown the progression of Cuban art, but I only photographed the outside displays.

Our bus driver, also named Luis, reads up on this lady.

                               Obviously, religion has not been banned in Cuba
 The following are photos taken at Casa Fuster, the home and studio of Jose Fuster and his apprentices who have completely filled the whole neighborhood with his Gaudi inspired tile art.
To know more CLICK HERE

Can you name those guys on the boat? I can name two.

One of the best experiences was the salsa dancing lessons which Dan sat out. SO, I got to dance with the adorable instructor!
Shopping was not a big part of this trip. Mostly tiny souvenier shops and street market stalls, but we did go to a cigar store at Morro Castle where I bought the CUBA t-shirt

                   Cigar shop on right

 Took a spin around Havana in a "coco-taxi". No Dan did not drive. See our driver (another guy named Luis) below.

 A highlight of the itinerary was the visit to this high school for the most talented music students from all over Cuba. It was built on the site of the old Havana Country Club golf course and began with a unique afro-inspired architecture. Sadly, the Soviet style took over to produce the sad building below.

But the music produced by these young students was phenomenal. They graduate from high school as professional musicians.
       I vote this young man "Cuban Idol". Great voice and singing style...and he can play piano as well. All students of the school are required to play piano as well as any other instrument of their choice.
             The woman is the deputy director of the school and a pretty snappy dresser!

       All is not music. Here students are helping drag a Chinese-made piano onto a pick-up truck.

 The Literacy Museum (see more HERE)
 Mural on the wall in the museum
                            The uniform and lamp that symbolized the literacy movement
The campaign had it's martyrs and relics shown here.

 The following photos are from walks around the city of Havana, or as they spell and say it...HABANA.

This hood ornament stood out

Some cars are modern but what the heck is a Geely?

Yes, we felt very safe. Only the police and the military have guns
ane we behaved ourselves.

A typical scene anywhere

Urban gardens are becoming more popular here, too.
 The following photos are all taken at Finca Vigia - Ernest Hemingway's Estate which has been preserved along with all it's contents including 9,000 books. 

Oooh! Pink and blue chenille bedspreads!

                               Wouldn't that head on the desk make a great stapler?

                                Animals stare over your shoulder while you dine.

 Squeezing the sugar cane to make
Coctel Vigia - available with or
without rum
Hemingway's View 

 And, of course, another Chevy for Dan
One of the nicer elementary school buildings in a Havana neighborhood.
All elementary students where a red uniform.
One of the prettiest buildings anywhere and I can't tell you what it houses. More research needed.
On our last night we were driven to dinner in a "52 Chevy convertible. It was starting to rain and the owner had to put up the vinyl hand-made top for the only 30 minutes it rained during our whole week.
Dinner was at a beautiful restaurant on the Plaza de San Francisco

On our drive to the airport were these two buildings. I recognize Che but is that the Ayatollah?
And then there is this guy at an intersection. 

                                                                        Yassar Arafat

Yes, let's end the embargo! But don't get rid of those cars.

1 comment:

  1. So glad you guys got to go
    Can't wait to go there