Frivolous Friday: Cuba!
It’s Frivolous Friday!
Thought I would share some of the fun I squeezed in this week (in between all my portrait sessions and retouching work.)
Yep, this happened:
This has been a VERY exciting week for me!
Don’t tell anyone, but I snuck away for a quick vacation…..and you’ll never guess where I went…
(Whaaaaat??? Yep. the real CUBA! Exciting, right?)
The adventure was planned a few months ago when my Matt suggested we meet him for a little vacation –
We asked our AAA travel agent for ideas and she found a cruise for us that stopped in Havana, Cuba!
I have so many amazing things to show you and tell you about!
We were in the port of Havana for two days – the first day we enjoyed a four hour bus tour of the city and one of our favorite stops was the Gaudi-like home of artist Jose Fuster –
he has spent the past 10 years decorating the fishing town of Jaimanitas in the outskirts of Havana.
He has also built a chess park with giant boards and tables, a theatre and public swimming pools.
His work is best described as a kaleidoscope of intricate mosaics and sculpture…
Visitors can explore the undulating walkways and labyrinthine passages, passing under archways and examining the ceramics close-up and from afar.
It’s a unique example of modern art and architecture.
If you go, make sure you climb a few levels up to get the best views.
How would you like your backyard to look like this?
It didn’t take long for his art to spread from his home and backyard to the whole neighbourhood.
The entire Jaimanitas neighborhood is now a unique work of public art!
This next photo, in my mind, seems to sum up the story -as I see it – of the Cuban people:
First, they are very proud of their country as seen in the “Viva Cuba.”
Second, they are perfectly happy to live with just the basics – a small apartment and quiet and simple surroundings.
And third, they will create amazing art no matter their circumstances.
And speaking of art – Cubans have even turned their ‘regular’ buildings into art with COLOR.
***I ask you: Wouldn’t it be fun painting your house any color that made you happy? What would you pick? I think I’d go with purples or aqua blue!
I searched long and hard for this next portrait location — here’s the backstory: for the past few months I’ve been imagining the photos I would make in Cuba
(I do this same imagining for every wedding I photograph – I visit the venue beforehand so I have time to plan and imagine well before wedding day!)
Anywhoo – I decided my perfect portrait in Cuba needed to have a classic car in the foreground, with colorful buildings in the background, with lots of extra interesting details like clotheslines, etc.
At the end of our second day of touring I spotted what I had been imagining! (WHEW!) And was able to make the portrait I’d been dreaming of!
BTW: This was portrait was made in Old Havana which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I have lots more to share with you – like the sweeping view of Havana Bay and our ship….
Their cemetery – which is the second largest cemetery IN THE WORLD!
It was named for Christopher Columbus, and is noted for its many elaborately sculpted memorials.
It is estimated the cemetery has more than 500 major mausoleums, 800,000 graves and 1 million interments.
Space in the Colon Cemetery is currently at such a premium that after three years, remains are removed from their tombs, boxed and placed in a storage building so someone else can be buried there…
…and don’t ask me why that is a thing I can’t even imagine….
We visited the Plaza de la Revolución where political rallies are held. (Fidel Castro and other political figures addressed the country from this plaza.)
This square can hold more than a million Cubans…if you can even wrap your head around that number…glad we weren’t there on a busy day!
The square is surrounded by the National Library, many government ministries and the headquarters of the Cuban government and Communist Party.
And if you don’t mind, I’ll just jump in for a minute to mention that the socialist government didn’t originally allow the citizens to have small businesses. But over the years they gradually allowed people to apply for permits to open a small restaurant in their living room, or a permit to sell their handmade art – so that might also be why there’s so much art in the country. (They are not allowed to import things to sell, so that makes you more creative in your quest for extra money….?)
This building features Camilo Cienfuegos (sometimes mistaken for Fidel Castro) with the quotation “Vas bien, Fidel” (You’re doing fine, Fidel).
At La Cabana fortress we learned all about the Cuban Missile Crisis, saw deactivated missiles and other Soviet-made Cold War relics, as well as a wing of a U.S. Air Force U2 reconnaissance aircraft downed by the Soviets in 1962.
Interesting and scary at the same time if you know what I mean.
We walked around town that evening just to see the sights….and there were lots of sights….
On day two of our Havana adventure, we hired a guide in a 1957 Buick to give us a close up and intimate view of the city.
*The best part of having the taxi was that we had one-on-one time with our guide so we could ask all those questions we really wanted to know.
(Like salary levels: His mom is a lawyer and makes $25 per month. We also learned that health care and burial is free to everyone, all men enter the military at age 18 for two years, each family gets free basic housing and a bag of rations each month, what they do for fun, what they think of America, if they can travel outside the country, how much a car costs….etc, etc, I can’t begin to tell you how interesting it was!)
And speaking of the taxi here’s a fact I bet you didn’t know:
All those huge luxury sedans were imported by wealthy Americans in the 1950’s when Cuba was a popular holiday destination for Americans.
Those Americans imported 125,000 Detroit-made cars to Cuba, only to abandon them following the Castro takeover in 1959.
And on a Pam-level, can I just say they were AMAZING to photograph!
Seriously, as a photographer, I was in a constant SWOON over the shapes, the colors and the sparkle of those cars against the backdrop of Cuba!
Is this the sweetest little scene or what? So thankful we had the chance to get a closer look at the Cuban people….
And talk about color….
We also saw the diverse homes…
And the different neighborhoods of the city.
This is the basilica and the monastery of San Francisco de Asis (built in the sixteenth century!)
Cuba’s prevailing religion is Christianity, although it is heavily influenced by African Santería.
Cuba is all we imagined and more.
The country is in a socialist time warp for sure….the people are poor, but surprising to me, also happy, relaxed and content.
(Our taxi driver said he has family who left for America in the 1960’s and want to come back to Cuba but aren’t allowed)
The city was both rough and polished at the same time – but the thing that came through everywhere was their celebration of all things ARTISTIC!
These next few photos really show the “rough versus polished”
There are a lot of buildings that are falling down (some still inhabited even though they clearly shouldn’t be)
Some streets are clean and beautifully painted….
And other streets that are not as well kept….
But everywhere is unique, colorful and amazing art!
All too soon it was time to head back to the ship, but we all left feeling like we’d had an amazing peek into history and that we’d made a friend or two….
And we didn’t only get to see Havana on our cruise, the ship also stopped in Key West, Florida.
First of all , Key West is a sweet little town – we’d vacationed there before, but we had fun visiting again.
We walked around taking in the sights and the COLORS!
These are just some random acts of photography — with a focus on TROPICAL COLOR!
And we stood on the southernmost part of the United States – just 90 miles from Cuba!
And we spotted a chicken CROSSING THE ROAD (lol -can you stand it?)
So we asked him: “Mr. Chicken, why did you cross the road?”
And he said: “To cockadoodle dooo something”
Hee hee….oh I crack myself up sometimes….And if you can stand one more chapter of my story, I had an amazing time on a behind the scenes tour of the ship during our day at sea….
First stop was the ship’s laundry where I’ve never seen so many loads of laundry IN MY LIFE. Uggg
Also visited the engine room and learned all about the ship
Enjoyed some yummy samples from the galley And visited the Bridge to make sure the captain was steering the ship correctly (he was.)
Can’t wait for my next adventure.
And I wanted to end this story with a perfect quote but I found three that I’m currently adoring – so you get a bonus of three quotes to think about:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness….” ~ Mark Twain
“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”
What can I say: I’m Feeling Blessed!
And do you know what else I’m blessed by? Capturing amazing moments for you to treasure for a lifetime!
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I am a full time professional photographer based in San Diego, but will travel anywhere for weddings.
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