Cuba – day 5

Another very busy day.

Remedios is the only city in Cuba to have two churches in the plaza. They alternate services weekly. We visited St John the Evangelist.

The altar is 22-carat gold over cedar carvings.

A side altar with a rare image of a pregnant Mary.

To get to the next destination, we all boarded bicitaxis. Our driver was Manolo.

At a local museum, we learned about Remedios’ tradition of Parrandas which lasts 7 days from December 24-31. There is an imaginary line through the center of the plaza and down one of the streets that divides Remedios into two neighborhoods: San Salvador (rooster) and Del Carmen (hawk). In church people sit on one side of the aisle or the other depending on the neighborhood they live in. There is even a joke (I think) that you only marry someone from your neighborhood. For Parrandas, each neighborhood creates floats, costumes, and fireworks. There is a friendly competition to see whose is best. There is no winner, just the enjoyment of competition and bantering back and forth.

Handmade fireworks. This type spins.

The costumes are quite elaborate.

This is only a headpiece, 3 meters wide, 3 meters tall.

The preparations for Parrandas begin immediately in the new year. Designs are created and the building begins in a secret location in each neighborhood. We visited the Del Carmen location. 

Great left turn signal, Manolo.

Horse-drawn carts are a common sight.

We learned about the bodega – the government run rations store. There’s one in every neighborhood. Our Cuban tour guide, Ray, shared what a ration book looks like and how the system works.

A ration book:

Back to the hotel and onto the bus to visit a nearby museum which showed the history of the sugar industry from the early beginnings

to the next stage of modernization.

Lunch was at a nearby farm. To get there, we crossed a busy road and railroad tracks, then a bridge which was limited to 8 people at one time. 

The man in the center is 81 years old and has been harvesting palmiche from the palm trees since he was 14. 

Then he showed how it’s done. 

After lunch, we met local professional baseball players and played a one inning game. 

Across the street was a typical Cuban cemetery which are always above-ground.

Dinner at a local paladar called El Piramide. The family lives here. We ate in the converted living room. This is what local families do to make more money.

Cuba – day 4

We checked out of our hotel and made one stop at a cigar factory before heading out of Havana.

We climbed several floors to get to the area where the cigars are being rolled. On one side, trainees will spend one year learning how to do it correctly. On the other side, experienced rollers made 70-140 cigars/day depending on the size and type of cigar. Taking photos is not allowed but the security guard was on his phone, so we provided cover for one another and took quick pictures.

Back to the bus and on to our next stop, actually a bathroom stop but also the option to get a pina colada.

Lunch at Restaurante Los Tainos.

We stopped at a monument to Ernesto Che Guevara.

In Santa Clara, we learned about a community project called El Menjuje which aids people of all types and encourages inclusivity for all.

Our hotel in Remedios – Camino Principe – The Prince’s Path. Beautiful hotel outside and inside! And … slow but adequate (and free) wifi. Time to catch up.

All the rooms face inward to the courtyard.

After dinner in the hotel, Terri and I walked around the plaza. We were lucky to be in Remedios for the annual Semana de la Cultura – Week of Culture. A band getting ready for their performance although the big show began at midnight to celebrate an important person’s birthday. Two in our group stayed out until 1:40 am enjoying the performance and dancing in the street.

On the other side of the plaza.

Cuba – day 3

Stop #1. Arte.92 – a socio-cultural community project completely self-funded to provide a place for artists to create but also to provide opportunities in all the arts for the surrounding community.

Artists Adriana, Agudo, Jorge and Porfirio, our tour guide:

Repurposed cardboard sculpture:

We climbed 88 steps to get to the very top of the building which provided a panoramic view of Havana.

Stop #2: a religious center in the Guanabacca district to learn about Afro-Cuban religion and ceremonies.

Stop #3: Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro built to protect Havana’s harbor.

Next, lunch at a state-run restaurant, La Divina Pastora

followed by a Cuban dominoes lesson by the Cuban Double Nines champion, Mick Domino (not his real last name). 

Stop #4: the art studio of Santacana

Back to the hotel for a couple of hours, time to rest before our dinner outing (stops # 5, 6 and 7 ahead). After a daiquiri at La Floridita, another favorite bar of Ernest Hemingway.

we had dinner at a “speakeasy,”

followed by a performance by a Buena Vista Social Club tribute band and singers.

Cuba – day 2

Bienvenidos a Cuba. Havana Cuba, the morning view from my hotel room:

We took a tour bus to the area of the city known as Old Havana and we walked and walked. Plaza de San Francisco aka Pigeon Plaza:

The pink hotel, 5th floor on the corner, is where Ernest Hemingway lived for 7 years.

The very popular bar where Hemingway drank mojitos. We all had one.

In the Plaza de la Catedral:

Traditionally, Saturday is laundry day. Who needs a dryer anyway?

A public bus. First the motorcycles are loaded, then they see how many people can fit. 

Arte Corte: a community enhancement project on one of the streets, centered around a hair salon and a barber school. Hair cutting scissors from all over the world have been donated and attached to this sculpture. It’s not finished.

Hamel Alley, a community project dedicated to art.

A local explained the connections between religions in Cuba, including Santeria. 

Lots of walking today. Everyone is quite tired. After a 2-hour break in the late afternoon, we boarded the bus again and went out for dinner. Dinner was at one of the many paladares in Havana – small family-run restaurants.

And we’re off …

Thank you Elaine for taking us to the airport EARLY this morning. And for driving back to bring my cell phone which I left on the back seat.

Eek! A form we didn’t know we had to fill out to get a QR code in order get a boarding pass -a special requirement for the country we’re going to.

Two hiccups before 5am. After a stop in Phoenix,

One more flight .. but, to where?

Alexander McQueen

Ann Ray photographed Alexander McQueen throughout his career. In the beginning, he couldn’t afford to pay her, they bartered photography for clothing. This exhibit, Rende-Vous, at the Crocker details the story of their professional relationship.

There was special area called the Dressing Room. Inside, there were several interactive activities, such as small-scale wooden models and clothes for children to create their own fashion statement. In the background, a few dress forms with clothes, hats, etc which children could try on then walk a very short runway and have their picture taken.

Carson and Terri playing a memory matching game for fabric patterns – ikat, plaid, stripe, houndstooth, quatrefoil, toile, etc.

Carson and Thais:

Projects completed

A clothesline and a bicycle in one embroidery design – I had to make this. And I was able to use a lot of scrap fabric to finish it.

Jim and Lucy asked if I could figure out how to make a bag for the right side of Jim’s wheelchair – something to hold his wallet, a remote control, a special pocket for his cell phone. It was a fun project to figure out and took 3 fittings to get it right. And I used more scraps.

It’s always nice to see where something landed. This is Abbey in Virginia with the 50 Bikes for 50 Kids quilt.

Your bike rides this week

Monday February 20. Minerva took this picture of Rosalyn, Brenda, Elaine, Lennore, me, Rachel, Tracy, Agueda, and Lillie.

Tuesday February 21. Maria and Tony:

A quick stop to chat with a friend from work. Nathan, Chris, Barbara:

Saturday February 25. Maria:

Yes, it was COLD. Me, Jim, Brenda, Lillie, Lennore, Rachel:

In February, a bicyclist can expect the first 70-degree days. We had one, barely. Now, at the end of the month, it’s cold and rainy. Good for California drought conditions but not so good for cycling.

Go Lady Hawks!

One of the ladies in our ride group, Agueda, has a daughter who teaches at Natomas High School and coaches the girls’ swim team. This week they had fundraisers at local restaurants. Today, four of us met for lunch at Mountain Mike’s Pizza to benefit the team. Agueda, Rachel and Brenda: