Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cuba Trip Day 12 - return to Miami and Nashville

OAT Itinerary:
Day 12: Return to USA
Today, we bid Cuba a fond adios as we board our flight to Miami.
Meals included: B
Saturday January 21
We had plenty of time to pack, have breakfast etc. Nice not to have to rush. Migdalia and Raul of course brought us to the airport and she told us exactly what to do and expect. It was all easy and at about 1 pm we can walk to our plane.

Once again we are at the Sheraton Hotel close to the Miami Airport. Again we took the People Mover and it was very easy. I like that thing.
After checking in we decide to go downstairs to find something to nibble. We didn't really have lunch yet. Or do the airline nuts count?

We ordered artichoke and spinach dip to start with and some drinks but we waited and waited. When James went inside to get it himself it got even worse. But the sunset was marvelous! As you can see we did enjoy the dip and drinks too.

When it got too cold outside we moved inside for dinner. We ordered and then waited one hour, trying to get the servers attention. When finally a manager making her rounds asked us whether we were happy and we said "noooooooo" and explained, she tried to help. But the situation was still almost comical. At least we didn't go to bed hungry. Later than we wanted though.

Sunday January 22
We had to get up shortly after 5 am because we had an early flight. Ha-ha, the saga continued. Even after letting the water run for a very long time, hot water for a shower never arrived. In a Sheraton Hotel? When we check out and mention it, the clerk said that nobody reported it. No, because we are in a hurry to get to the airport. Goodness gracious.
At the gate we have a cup of coffee. Surprise, it tasted good.

The flight was alright. Newark Liberty International Airport at take-off. I like window seats.

OMG! I had already put the camera away because of the clouds. Then I saw this and hurried. It could have been better, but I still like it. Manhattan.

Nashville from the air. Percy Priest Lake.

I could pinpoint our townhouse right here.

And this is the bridge we drive under to go to "the kids".

Helen and William picked us up from the airport. Ben had bought flowers and they cooked dinner. I also got a belated birthday cookie. What a nice welcome!!!

And this really concludes our Cuba trip. What a great time we had. So happy we went.

Cuba Trip Day 11

OAT Itinerary:
Day 11: Havana
After breakfast, a Director of the Ludwig Foundation—a non-profit organization created to promote Cuban culture—will speak with us about the role of dance in contemporary Cuba. Next, we gain further insights into Cuban customs at the ornately historic Colón Cemetery, a sprawling 19th-century burial ground with elaborate memorials to figures from Cuba's past. Then, Malpaso, one of Cuba's first private dance companies, will welcome us into their studio to watch a private rehearsal, followed by a chance to chat with the dance members. After our visit with the Malpaso dance company, we continue on to Havana's historic La Cabaña, an 18th-century fortress complex near the entrance to the Bay of Havana.
When we return to our hotel, we'll have some time at leisure to pursue individual cultural interests during our final afternoon along the Colonial streets of Havana. Our last evening in Cuba features dinner at Starbien, a renovated colonial mansion tucked into the residential neighborhood of Vedado. Starbien is another of Cuba's privately-owned restaurants called paladares, and we'll have a chance to talk to the entrepreneurs about the recent changes in Cuba.

Meals included: B D - Accomodations: Hotel Nacional De Cuba
Friday January 20

Another lecture at 8 am ... after breakfast. I must confess, I am not that much into dance performances. I have seen The Nutcracker just before Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed it. About 40 years ago James and I saw Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev in the Lincoln Center in New York ... unbelievable beautiful! But that's about it. Well, I like to be open minded. The lecture was quite interesting. There was one sentence (quote) I really really wanted to remember but ...

We had never been in this part of the hotel (meeting rooms in the basement) and there was a lot of art hanging in the hallway. Being a lacemaker (and quilter) I found these two really interesting.

Quick trip to the room and now waiting for the bus. This is hanging at the hotel entrance but I can't see any holes.

The bus brings us first to Havana's historic cemetery = Cemetario de Cristóbal Colón = Christopher Columbus Cemetery. Of course Christopher Columbus is not here any more. He was moved and now lies in the cathedral in Seville Spain. But it is a very impressive place.
First we admire the workers at the entrance!

Our local guide gave the impression that he really loves HIS cemetery. He told us about the customs. These are family places and the dead are still being interred. After two years the grave is opened and the bones collected in a little box so the place is ready for the next. Here are only a few photos.

The grave with the flowers is visited often. There is a story about it. A man lost his wife and baby at childbirth. The baby was placed between the mothers legs at the funeral. He loved them very much. Every day he would visit, knock with one of the rings and tell his wife things. When it was time to open and collect the bones, the baby was laying in the wife's arms. Everybody thought it was a miracle. So now people go there, knock, say their wishes and touch the baby on the statue. We saw the mother here lift her son up so he could do it.

There is another story here about this 75-foot monument, how 30plus firefighters died in a great fire (arson) on May 17, 1890.

The chapel.

Yes, real needlelace.

Then we met the dance lecturer again at a rehearsal at a Jewish center. He asked that no videos were taken, which of course one honors. But I did find some links when I googled. Here is one of the uTubes I found (there are many more):
The Malpaso Dance Company
Here is also a link to Duke University. By chance the article is about the US premier of Dreaming of Lions, which was also the rehearsal we saw.

The performance took 35 minutes. To my very great surprise I really liked it. James on the other hand voiced that he really prefers classical ballet.

Afterwards the dancers introduced themselves, their ages, where they were from, their education etc. and we could ask questions of course.

Last but not least we visited the Fortress of San Carlos de La Cabaña, the third-largest in the Americas. It was built at the narrow entrance of the bay and guards the harbor (well, guarded! Probably not necessary these days).

It also houses the museum of Ernesto Che Guevara. He is being mentioned often during our visit in Cuba.

Migdalia was very proud to point out that her husband is one of the honor soldiers (top right) in these photos at Che's funeral.

I like views from the top! May be you get a better impression with this VIDEO!

There was a cigar shop in the Fort. Many in the group wanted to make purchases.

We bought one for a friend ... but not the most expensive one!


Walking along in the Fort we suddenly saw these, better in the VIDEO!

Since the bus was going back to the hotel and we were free for lunch and the afternoon, we hopped off still in the center.

It was already past 1 and we were hungry so we didn't go far. This seemed like a nice place.

We should have known when we ordered. There was hardly anything available from the menu. The fish under "Habanero" was an inland fish from Africa. Really? No thank you. We did find something else to order, but since it didn't arrive in one hour (and we were by now very hungry) we paid for the Mojitos and left.

A little further down the road we were luckier. It was nice sitting there and we actually got food. There was also live music we could hear from inside through the open window but when I just listened to my VIDEO I thought I should have waited for a better piece of music.

We were luckier but she was not.

From my chair I looked into this street and was wondering whether this was where we had been to the market in the beginning.

It was not. But it was interesting to see how a lady had let down a basket from a window and got something put in.

Our lunch place.

A panaderia a few steps further.

Devoured at the table outside in no time.

A concert in the Plaza de Armas. Nice.

If you couldn't see because of too much crowd in front of you, just watch somebody taping it ha-ha.
Well, I did our own VIDEO of course!

I had to find a baño and visited that bad first restaurant again. The court yard was interesting.

Time to go back to the hotel. We finally get to walk the Malecón, the street along the sea. So many photo opportunities.

So many buildings which must have been stunning at one time. May be they will be again soon. Efforts are being made.

Don't know whether to look left or right.

And Pelicans too. They come here for the winter from Florida.

Dinner time. Our fair well dinner. Hard to believe that this is it already. The bus takes us to a private restaurant in a former mansion.

Piece of a birthday cake. Bill has a birthday tomorrow and we all sing and congratulate.

When we leave we all get a big surprise. We are not going back to the hotel in the bus but in those antique convertibles. James and I are going to be in this Buick (I think from 1958 or so) in the back. Just lovely. Holly and Bill sat in the front with the driver and yelled to the back "you kids behave back there". They must have remembered something from their youth.

I tried to capture the moment. VIDEO!
Not really possible.

What a wonderful ending to another wonderful day.