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Archive for ‘December 31st, 2018’

Another Full Day in Habana

Our Second Full Day in Habana on our own! Nov 12

Today, we arise and go out and find breakfast. We actually go into a large hotel just to see how the Europeans do it and breakfast is lackluster at best and it costs $70 by the time we get out of there! We’re glad we didn’t try this before! Tummies satisfied, we walk around the top floor of the hotel and find an outdoor patio for a view. Strange art sculpture adorn the lobby as we leave.

We spy a form of transportation that we have not, as of yet, ridden in and we approach them with the intent to get a ride. Alas, we are disappointed when we are quoted a higher price that even the Classic Cars charge! The miser in me comes out, especially after the outrageous breakfast and we decline the ride.

A stroll around the area reveals more graffiti art and our cameras are happy once again. Even a poster of an ex American President shows up!

I haven’t posted many photos of local Cubans to date, so it is time to put some up. I hope you enjoy!

Street scenes and live music in a park and it’s time for a cool beer again in the uncomfortable heat and humidity!

The band engages us and we party with them for a bit. See their latest moracca player! We meet more tourist and make new friends!

A typical street scene!

More fun shots from our walk on the Malecon…

Other fun street scenes that didn’t make it into a category!

More uncategorized images, transportation vehicles and an outdoor restaurant for lunch.

Our last dinner at Habana 61!

One more evening in town and I’m not tired yet. While Elee retires for the evening, I bring a cigar and some honey with me and go back to the local park with the live music and I order a cold brew and meet a couple from Europe with the same thought. I offer them some of the honey and show them the trick the Cuban farmers taught me with the honey cigar filter and we become fast friends and they let me photograph them! If you guys see this, please comment and get in touch!

So I’ll say adios for the evening and retire. For tomorrow, our trip will be over and we go back home. Cuba has been a marvelous trip. Compliments of my late Mom who feared for me traveling but always wanted to see where I would go next. This trip was for you, Mom!

A Full Day in La Habana

An unplanned day in La Habana, Nov 11

So we wake up today with no planned tours, a day to ourselves! We find breakfast in a local restaurant because our Casa does not serve breakfast here. But the is Havana and there is food everywhere! We walk around marveling at the old construction and all the old classic cars. This place is a step beck in time.

Without much difficulty we find a street fair we have heard about on Paseo del Prado, otherwise known as Paseo de Marti, and we walk along checking out all the local art on display. It is just few steps away from Telégrafo and Parque Central hotels, this is a place that grabs passerby’s attention, not only by its privileged location but also by the items on sale. We see tons of vivid paintings that depict the Tropical feeling around us. There are street landscapes full of Old American Cars and lovely people walking, portraits in watercolor, charcoal drawing and much more! At the end of Paseo del Prado, we come across the Malecon (A seawall and walkway along the coast) and an interesting old fort, ‘La Punta Fort’. We cross the boulevard and walk around the fort after paying $1 each to go inside and my camera stays happy. Views of the fort overlooking the modern part of Havana give striking contrast to our surroundings.

We cross back over the boulevard and walk back along the street fair on Paseo del Prado where we buy our obligatory art piece from an artist that, in our opinion, best represents Cuba. But we ask the artist to remove the canvas from the stretcher frame so we can transport it in our luggage and she does so happily.

We take the painting that the artist conveniently rolls up and puts into a tube for us and we walk back to our Casa to put it in our luggage so as not to have to carry it around. Interesting graffiti on walls and doors abound here. Parking lots of old classic cars where, for about $30/hour, you can get a tour of Havana. We did that yesterday. We pass by ‘La Florida’ again and true to the info on our tour yesterday, this place is hopping and it isn’t even noon!

Okay, painting put away safely. on to walking in a new direction and new, or is that old, sights to see. A street vendor’s cart full of produce, this is how it’s done in Cuba! A very old church and a park and we come across El Chanchullero where we’re told we can get the best and cheapest cocktails in Old Havana! So we go in, being lunchtime, and go upstairs for a view, lunch and cocktails and beer. We only had to wait for 5 minutes to get a table, but when we came out an hour later, there was an hour long line to get in! I guess timing is everything!

Back into the streets of Old Habana, we walk around with our cameras happily snapping away, street scene after street scene of colors and textures greet us. It is common to find artistic murals on walls and sculptures on the sidewalks as we take in this wonderful place. The old classic cars make you wonder if you have really taken a time machine ride!

The people are as colorful and different as the architecture, from young children playing in the streets to street musicians trying their best to make a buck to bicitaxis with interesting names to policemen comparing notes on their cell phones to school children in uniforms to random workers taking breaks in the oppressive heat. School is free to all in Cuba all the way through University! But, as evidenced by what we see in all cities and towns here, all students wear uniforms. It appears that the color of your school uniform denotes the section of school you are in. Blue is the youngest, then gold, then to the teenagers in brown and University Students wear Blue & White.

Looking at my pre-travel notes, I am reminded of a place to visit that is not open tomorrow so we hire a bicitaxi to take us over into the newer part of Habana to a place called, “Callejón de Hamel” (Hamel Alley)

This is a cultural project that is an entire street of poetic images and sculpture that you have to walk through, a place for dancing rumba (which, unfortunately was not going on today) and experience the authentic presence of the African roots in Cuba. “The Hamel Alley” is an explosion of Cuban creativity, colors and Cuban Pop Art.

Our eyes and camera lenses saturated with all the magnificent colorful art displays and buildings, we pass by a local schoolyard where the students seem like animals in a cage just waiting to be set free.

We come to the Malecon and start walking the few miles back towards Old Habana. The ocean scenery, old cars and architecture take us back again in the time machine. The architectural richness of the Malecón is expressed through 18th- and 19th-century stately homes, followed by a row of 20th-century buildings with an unusual combination of styles and profusion of portals, columns and pilasters that loosely follow classical lines. But beyond the architectural values of the buildings, its greatest charm lies in being somewhere to stroll or hang out on a stiflingly hot day. We see couples making amends, and many children and fishermen. It is Havana’s outdoor lounge.

A couple hours later, we make it back to Old Habana but the time machine has left us in the past with the old classic cars and more old architecture.

Walking back through Old Habana towards the shipyards, horse drawn carts are everywhere and outdoor cafes abound because it is more pleasant to be outdoors than in unless you can afford air conditioning here. As I have pointed out before, glass windows are an expensive commodity in Cuba that only the wealthy can afford. Open air stored for the most part some with security bars for protection, but very few glass windows. We get lucky and find a bar with glass windows AND air conditioning and we stop for a brief respite for a cool Mojito and a cold beer. It is also our luck that within a few minutes of being there, a guitar player walks in and starts practicing his craft with some salsa music! So my camera is happy with more up front and personal photos and our wallets are unhappy, but satisfied with less tip money in them!

Back out in the streets, the scene is a bustling art show. Art stores all the way up this street and artists that try to pull you in for a sale. Some are willing to pose for free, but most of them want you to buy something first.

We found an old cathedral to check out! We don’t pass up the chance to get some photos both inside and out.

Then back out onto the streets to see the sights… Old Cars, Bicycle delivery carts, A building I dubbed, “Halfdome”, cruise ships in the harbor, a train that claimed to be Cuba’s first train and live music in the streets!

We come across an old Rum Factory that still functions and they offer tours. So in we go and we sign up for a tour that start in a few minutes. We are taken through the factory and shown how the rum is made. There is even a model train layout of the factory in it’s heyday! Vats of aging rum are on display and the smell of rum and oak are heavy in the air! We finish the tour in the gift shop, where we buy Cuban Rum and find a few more cigars to bring home!

Our Cuban connection that helped us plan our trip has made reservations for us at a place called “Habana 61”. We show up at the suggested time and find the place is reservation only. We are seated and they take the best care of us. The food is splendid and we dine in luxury. Well, luxury for Habana anyways! The price is very modest and we get out of there without any major rift in our wallets. Thank you, Yilliam!

Back into the city for the rest of the night, we go into El Floridita for drinks. But my camera calls and informs me that it hasn’t had much of a chance to take night photos in the city and it is starving for attention! So I leave Elee with two bright and vibrant your ladies to visit with and I take a stroll with the camera and tripod. An hour later, I come back to enjoy a cool libation with her and find her happily chatting away with these new friends!

This day complete, we walk the 2 or 3 blocks to our Casa and retire for the evening!

The Cuban Art Factory (FAC)

An Evening of Intriguing Art and Music! Nov 11

As the sun sets on the Malecon, we get a taxi to another attraction in Habana that we have been told not to miss.

So our taxi brings us across Habana to our destination for the evening. But it’s still early and our tummies are rumbling again. We walk back to the Malecon in search of a restaurant and we come across an interesting old castle turned restaurant and we go in only to find that a wedding has reserved the place for the evening. So out we go and we find another old building turned restaurant and we go in to find an acceptably priced place to eat and we enjoy a seafood dinner. After dinner, we head back to our evening location to find another pair of lovers that I create an artistic photo to remember them by.

We get back to the place we want to check out, the “Fabrica de Arte Cubano” or “Cuban Art Factory” and we get in the cue. There are approximately 50 or so people in front of us and we chatter happily with a few that speak English while we wait about 30-45 minutes for the place to open. Once inside, we find all kinds of eclectic art displays with at least 6 or 8 well stocked bars to keep everybody filled with cool libations. Music of many kinds play, from live bands to DJ’s and there are at least three rooms that are showing movies and tv shows of one kind or another. I even end up taking part in a live photographers studio and am given a card with an emotion printed on it and I am photographed trying to show that emotion. I take away a business card with a website and am told to visit that site this coming April to see the final photos.

After a fun night visiting some very strange art, we grab a taxi back to our Casa and retire for the evening! See you tomorrow!