Back in May, I traveled to Varadero with one of my besties, Tanya, for some very long overdue quality time and a much needed vacation. We were looking for some R&R, but we also wanted to do a bit of adventuring, and learn as much as we could about the arts, culture, and politics of Cuba.
Normally, I try to connect with local, independent people for tours, but since we were staying at a resort (a first for both of us), it was easier to go with more organized groups. I can’t say enough good things about these tours, and about how thoroughly knowledgeable our guides were. We did an eco tour (with snorkeling, a safari, and a boat tour), a trip to Matanzas, and a tour of Havana, all of which were very exciting and informative.
We also did a little exploring on our own, meeting some interesting and fun locals, and making new friends from around the world. Some salsa moves may have been busted out, at La Casa de la Musica, and a couple of other fun places (nos encanta bailar!) but, lucky for you, I didn’t take any pictures of that hot mess!
This is Bacunayagua Bridge, in Matanzas (translated, “Massacre”), also known as “The City of Bridges”, and sometimes “The Venice of Cuba” (since Venice is known to have beautiful bridges).
(Personal aside: I’ve been fascinated by bridges for some time now — when I was small, I’d mentally trace the various outlines of the different bridges in Toronto, and wonder how many designs were possible. Then, in high school, I read Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, which vaguely discussed the construction of the Bloor Viaduct, thrilling me with descriptions of hard work, height, dimension, and lives radically altered; this was my impetus to learn a little about bridges, and now it’s one of my nerdy interests. There will probably be more bridges on this blog in the future.)
This bridge was completed in 1960, I believe, and it’s a polygonal arch bridge, with four tapered concrete beams. It is the highest bridge in Cuba and offers an incredible view, as you can see. This picture was taken from a popular lookout, complete with vendors and performers. Surveying the area from this point, you have an almost omniscient feeling — everything is in your sights, there are no surprises, no secrets, and you feel atop the world.
Old Havana (La Habana Vieja) is wonderful. It won me over, first with it’s incredible coffee, which I sipped at a cafe in the square, and then, once I was awake, it wowed me again with it’s baroque style architecture, and ancient Roman influences (oh, and also the castillos and fortresses, the talented and funny street performers, the people, and pretty much everything else in Old Havana).
La Castillo de la Real Fuerza
Do these next two photos look similar to you? The first is a mural made of colored sands, from various beaches around the world, it’s a mirror image of the building across from it, and it depicts the revolutionary, political thinkers that once frequented the place.
And now, a classic car montage! I usually don’t care much about cars, but I was interested in how well maintained these old cars are, despite being used on a general, day-to-day, basis. I also liked the aesthetic juxtapositions of these classic, American-made, Cuban-maintained, cars throughout the various atmospheres of Cuba. These photos were all taken on the same corner within about a ten minute span. My favorite image is the last one, though I’m not sure how classic the vehicle is.
Tanya has always been very particular about food. Me? Not so much. There are very few things I don’t enjoy eating.
I’m so grateful that we were able to take this trip, and explore the country in the way we did. As a traveler, I think it’s important to recognize a place for more than just it’s vacation merits, and to leave that place knowing something authentic about it. In Cuba, I think we accomplished that goal.