Saturday, April 8, 2023

CUBA BABY! Havana - Day One

 Greetings from the URAL Club of Cuba

The surprise trip I have been hinting at has happened, Havana, Cuba!
Have always wanted to visit Cuba, however for many years it was impossible for US citizens to travel there. 

When recently reading about a Photography Workshop in Cuba with a well known Danish photographer, I jumped at the chance to participate. While not difficult to get your VISA and necessary paperwork in order to go, it must be done correctly. So take your time, carefully read the instructions. 

Once it looked like the trip would actually happen, I made two contacts in Havana who could open doors for me. Get me into places the typical tourist would never see. First was with the president of the URAL Club of Cuba. He and I corresponded over several months, building confidence in each other. Explained why I wanted to meet, photograph and hear their stories about the club and the members.

The second contact was with a Cuban Doctor who also happened to own a 1954 Ford Fairlane that his son drives as guide for tourists. (Note: this old Ford now has a Nissan Diesel motor). The Doctor and I also corresponded over several months detailing where we would like to go, what to see and what could we bring to benefit the Cuban people. More on that later.


Arriving in Havana on a direct flight from Houston, the Doctor Rafael picked us up at the airport, took us to the airBnB we had rented, drop off our suitcases, then gave us a quick orientation tour around the Cuban capital. Note: The US government has a list of hotel and restaurants that are Cuban government owned that Americans are not to patronize. We are there to "benefit the Cuban people", not their government.

I say We, as I invited a fellow Houston photo club member, Alan Wilson to go also. He and his SO Marianna, quickly accepted, but decided real Cuban Salsa Dance classes were more interesting than a photo workshop. That's okay, Cuba is a photographer's paradise as well as a dancer's dream.

So off we go the first afternoon, getting to know our way around the capital city.

Revolution Plaza, 
where Fidel Castro delivered his first speech to the Cuban people after successfully overthrowing the Bautista regime in 1959.

The main walking entrance to Old Havana, across the street from the Capital building.

A typical side street in Havana, buildings in various states of repair and disrepair.

Late afternoon shadows in the old city.

The NEW Cuban Capital Building, 
which they state is larger and taller than the capital building in Washington, D.C...
with two vintage 1950's American sedans parked under the street lamp. 
There are new cars in Havana, but old cars are what everyone wants to see. The Cuban ingenuity in keeping the old iron running when they have no access to OEM parts is amazing.

Time for our first dinner in Havana, across the street from the Capital Building. 
A trio was entertaining a sparse crowd, being a slow Wednesday night. Then we learned most Cubans dine later around 9 or 10, we walked in early, at 6:15 P.M. 

A grilled chicken breast with a side of mofongo (rice and beans).

Day Two - Thursday

Am so excited about being in Cuba, I could not sleep the first night. 
Was up at pre-dawn hours to catch this sight.

Slowly the sun rose, dawning a new day in Havana. 
I'm ready to explore.

Have many tales to relate, details to add and photos to share. Including hearing a world traveled Cuban Opera singer perform Sibony, an old Cuban love song. 
Yes, Siboney, the name we gave to our new puppy last month. 
Pure coincidence.

Sit back, relax, as I share more about modern day Cuba, 
by wandering the streets looking for photo opportunities,
 talking with people I meet, 
going for several rides with the URAL Club,
being invited into people's homes,
attending an intimate performance at the National Theater,
visiting a tobacco farm,
watch a cigar being hand rolled in the family farmhouse,
and more.


  1. Congratulations on your trip. Cuba has been on my bucket list for years. And I don't blame your friends from attending the Cuban Salsa dancing class, lol

    1. Cuba is open for us now, but who knows for how long. Go while you can... it's a photographer's paradise.

  2. Wow! I didn’t know Cuba was open to tourists from the U.S..

  3. Richard, I too was a bit apprehensive about going to Cuba, not sure if US citizens could or not. The more I investigated it, the clearer the correct paperwork route to follow became. To be clear, TOURISM is not an approved category for us to visit Cuba, not according to our State Department. However we can go visit to "benefit the Cuban people." There is a four page list of hotels,restuarants and places Americans are not suppose to patronize as they are owned by the Cuban Government. That is why we stayed in an AirBnb owned by a private Cuban citizen. Even today, they say 80% of North American tourists in Cuba are from Canada, who never had an embargo with Cuba.

  4. Replies
    1. Thanks Dom, more coming as I work through the thousand photos I took.


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