Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cuba with Carolyn Fedler Batzofin...a guest posting

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My first evening meal, standard Cuban cuisine.
Rice, black beans, fried plantain,chicken and yummy ice cream.

Interior of one of the awesome vintage cars we traveled in.
 My morning tour of Havana

Can't decide which car I loved - ALL of them !

An ornate family mausoleum at the Cemetery of the Dead

I come face to face with the icon of the 3rd world.
Che graces the Ministry of the Interior building in Revolution Square

Vintage cars everywhere!

No modernization in open fruit and vegetable market.
Pork and goat meat in abundance.
Beef somewhat harder to get as it is more expensive for the locals.

El Morro Fort protected Havana from invaders - note the cannons.
Nevertheless, the only "invaders" today are the big cruise ships coming into port.

I was merely an observer during the salsa dance class at Hotel Florida.
I have two left feet.

One mode of transportation - bicycles from China.
It is not easy for locals to get around, they rely mostly  on bikes,
 horse carriages and the occasional unreliable public transport

2008 Hurricane damage in Cojimar, 16km  outside Havana.
Ernest Hemingway had his boat at this fishing village

Locals in unrestored part of Old Havana

Stairway to...
I felt that I was being transported back to the '50's !

Part  of the renovated Old Havana - thanks to UNESCO

Old doors sourced from colonial mansions throughout Old Havana
These are on show at The Colonial Museum(Museo de Arte Colonial)

Plaza de Armas - open book fair and where I bought the Motorcycle diaries.
  The sum total of the revolutionary literature available.
 This place comes to life when street lamps are lit and the partying
begins with music, rum and cigars!

It was the cat that attracted my attention at first.
I had not even noticed the woman until she picked up the cigar.
I found that the locals will pose for payment.

I can't decide which part of Old Havana  I love more
 - the un-renovated with the locals or the renovated with the tourists
 Mansions are being converted into boutique hotels 
and the locals have had to move elsewhere
West  Cuba - my first sight of the Vinales Valley , tobacco heartland.
Spectacular limestone "mogotes" that have many caves.

This was by far my best chicken meal .
At the charming  home stay in Vinales - Casa Omar y Mailidy .
I found home cooked meals generally better than hotel food.

An unusual "pet "- not much room to run around?

On my walk through Vinales Valley. So picturesque
Being a UNESCO heritage site has its advantages.

A typical scene in tobacco farming - no tractors used.
Oxen are used as there is less damage to the leaves, a precious commodity.
The hut behind stores and dries the leaves.
Ploughing is ongoing to avoid  weeds growing

I got to pet this forest rat.
These rats are used as food, but this one was a loved pet.
When I stroked its' cheek ,it closed its eyes in happiness,
I  almost expected purring!

A MOST interesting plant- Mimosa. 
Apparently it was used as a substitute for toothpaste during the "Special Period" 
( bad times for Cuba when Soviet Union collapsed). 
When I touched the leaves, the entire branch dropped down in the opposite direction . 
No one has been able to explain this phenomenon.. 

I have seen in my husband's posting how he is "in love" with his Samsonite suitcases.
I could not understand this relationship...
Until I borrowed them for this trip
Now, I too, am smitten by the Samsonite luggage and all that it offers.
Ease of use, no keys necessary and more over, it offers plenty of packing space.
On my return it was hard to hand them back to him...I foresee problems on our next joint trip.
I feel that a "hijacking" might be the only option.
I too am now a convert to the modern Samsonite technology.

These were the two home stays I enjoyed,
as well as one of the restaurants our group ate at.

The tour was organized by Master Travel Ltd, specialists in escorted tours worldwide.
To find out more about the company and what they offer.
visit the web site: www.mastertravel.co.uk.

All images are the copyright property of CAROLYN BATZOFIN and may not be used  without permission

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