trip to cuba
december 25, 2000 - january 3, 2001

Cassandra and i visited Cuba for 11 days with my father, Paul, and his SO, Ann.

01_cat_book.jpg (72486 bytes)

We brought with us an enormous book on Cuba (the Moon 'handbook', 800 pages) which proved to be an amazing source of information.  We learned a ton about Cuba - it's people, culture, politics and history - from reading the book, reinforced by actually being there.
02_inglaterra.jpg (169719 bytes) Our base, the Hotel Inglaterra in Havana, in the old part of town, "Habana Vieja".  One of the oldest hotels, supposed to have funky charm, but was kinda overpriced. 
03_renovation.jpg (136926 bytes) Lots of huge stone buildings, many of which are finally being renovated - lots of scaffolding.
04_booksellers.jpg (196512 bytes) Book sellers in a plaza.  Selection was dismal - apparently very little makes it through the bad exchange rate, poor economy and political barriers.
05_castle.jpg (187041 bytes) This castle was full of art exhibits, part of the Havana Biennale... in fact, the whole city was full of good art, not just museums but all around town, sculpture, murals, paintings in restaurants and houses, everywhere. 
06_industry.jpg (156959 bytes) Sadly just across the harbor to the east was a large industrial area, oil refineries and the like.  Reported the harbor is incredibly polluted.  We saw almost no birds at all.
07_cat_street.jpg (102076 bytes) The narrow streets and abundant balconies reminded me of the French Quarter of New Orleans, but the buildings are larger and made from hugs blocks of limestone.
08_maqueta_pan2k.jpg (170857 bytes) A very cool scale model of the old city, "Maqueta de la Ciudad"
11_maqueta_center2.jpg (182441 bytes) A close-up showing the amazing detail in the model.  The area is the plaza next to our hotel.
15_hanoi_ben.jpg (85186 bytes) Bought a friendly local a drink, and got to ask lots of questions about life in Cuba.  His name was 'Hanoi' and he made $5 a month working retail - doctors and lawyers make $15-$20 a month.
26_castle_view.jpg (138557 bytes) Exploring the castle across the harbor, looking back toward old Havana.
The climate was mostly warm, amazing if you consider that a short distance away on the US mainland it was snowing.
28_paul2.jpg (144310 bytes) My father, in a restaurant whose walls were covered with graffiti.  Nearly all the food in Cuba was bland at best, and those that took dollars were quite expensive as well.
35_soviet.jpg (119573 bytes) One of the strangest buildings i have ever seen, the Soviet Embassy in western Havana.  I was surprised at the number of marginal countries, like Laos and Palestine, which all had embassies there.
38_dappled.jpg (235642 bytes) I really like this picture of a plaza with banyan trees, beautiful in dapped shade.
39_coco_rose_flan.jpg (159548 bytes) A yummy dessert: shredded coconut in syrup, accompanied by cheese slices.  Yes!
47_sant_church.jpg (109418 bytes) A Santeria church.  It was clearly the most common religion - although officially an atheist country, Santeria was everywhere.
50_chevy.jpg (69122 bytes) Very old cars were very common on the streets.  On the eve of the Millennium, the only cab we could find happened to be a 1936 Chevy!
52_sara2.jpg (58602 bytes) On the eve, we visited with Ann's friend Sara.  Sara was originally from San Francisco but had been in Cuba for a long time, doing cultural exchange work.
58_paul_ben2.jpg (54808 bytes) Isn't it strange how we unconsciously emulate the gestures and mannerisms of our parents?
63_group.jpg (115660 bytes) A houseful of international student types that we met.  Afterward, we went to the house of a Santera ('priestess') named Barbarita and saw the new millennium in with a ceremony to the Santeria gods.
69_street_door.jpg (173993 bytes) A street in the 'Vedado' neighborhood, every square inch decorated as a community art project.
71_rabbit_sara_ann.jpg (146077 bytes) I suspect the rabbits and pigeons were awaiting involvement in a Santeria ritual.
70_street_cactus.jpg (157323 bytes) More amazing detail from the art street.
72_univ_day.jpg (103355 bytes) Front of the enormous Havana university.  Curiously, there was nothing like a 'college cafe' anywhere around it.
75_flan_cafe.jpg (72500 bytes) Although Cuba grows great coffee, most of the coffee we had tasted strange, and is reportedly commonly adulterated with 'filler'.  The good stuff is only for export, under the 'Cubita' brand.
82_studio.jpg (225779 bytes) On the last day, we visited a funky pottery studio which made nifty ceramic drums.