Because the only way we could go to Cuba was with a USA-approved tour group, my friend Patti and I wound up traveling with a mixed bag of characters. Some were heaven (like Lisa and Pam, Jeannie, Ginny and Alan), and some were, well, less so. When I asked our Cuban guide if we were a badly behaved group, she diplomatically replied, “Not really a group. More like a collection of individuals.” Right. Patti and I had nicknames for many of our fellow individuals. A particularly sourpuss couple became “The Vinaigrettes.” There was also “Miss Know-It-All,” “The Simpsons” and so on. Above, a good shot of “The Bad Pam.”
May 17, 2013
Our first day in Cuba, we were bussed out to the model community within the tropical rainforest in the western part of the island. (Seems like this is on the list for all tour groups as we saw busses come and go all morning.) While we got our orientation and listened to a local group offer some great music, we were offered a rum-based cocktail (10am). I declined. But looking up, I saw this roof made of thatched palm fronds. Nothing is wasted in Cuba. Except maybe some of the tourists who didn’t decline that breakfast mojito.
May 16, 2013
Even though our charter flight’s takeoff from New York’s JFK was delayed several hours (the crew had forgotten to refill that blue liquid for the plane’s toilets, honest), our arrival was magical. The drive from Habana’s airport along unlit avenues with kids playing in the warm darkness was something out of a documentary. And when we checked into our (relatively) fancy hotel, I couldn’t help taking this photo from my balcony looking down at the nighttime pool. It was just as languid and luxe and enchanting as it looks. And I was so happy to finally be in Cuba.
May 15, 2013
Patti (whose chosen Cuban name during our trip was Que Lastima) is delighted to find that her likeness has been immortalized in this ceramic-enhanced neighborhood we stopped in, not far from Casa Castro in a suburb of the Cuban capital. Was it Michelangelo who said, “Art imitates divine perfection”? Patti is much too modest to agree. After all, she is, as she’ll remind you, a Virgo.
May 14, 2013
Smile! Before I went to Cuba, my friend Jane (who’d been there the previous Christmas) told me that for the first three days, I’d be amazed at all the American cars from the 1950s that I’d see. That I’d take photos of them all. And that after three days, I’d become so accustomed to seeing them that they would no longer be a novelty, no more photos. She was right. Not that I still didn’t love seeing them on Day 4, just that they’re everywhere in Cuba, certainly everywhere in Havana. One afternoon I stood on a street corner near Havana University and counted them: one in every four cars that passed was an American classic. And when I timed their appearances, I found that one passed by every 11 seconds. So.
May 13, 2013
Cuba Week begins here on SLS. There’s music almost everywhere you turn in Old Havana. Policemen, too, though they’re usually muy casual about their watch, like this guy here. The streets of Havana were among the safest I’ve ever walked. Except for the pieces of decaying buildings that sometimes fall from the sky. Or at least that’s what my Cuban friends warned me about. Never saw any such cascades, but I sure did see many decaying buildings in this faded, glorious city, facades possessed of a charm all their own.