Architecture

Before and After: Coche Clasico in Havana

I am doing something different with the blog to focus more on practicing my photography and photo editing. I want to do a photo feature and include before/after editing almost weekly. So here it goes! This is a view of American classic car taxis in front of the Gran Teatro (Grand Theater) in Havana, Cuba (check out my last post for more about Cuba!).

Edits: Used Adobe Photoshop Elements to brighten sky and shadows and removed some people in background

Camera: Fuji Film XT-2

I’m going to add watermarks to these as well. Hoping to start selling prints so I want to protect my copyright. Thanks for understanding.

10 Things to do in Havana, Cuba (and a day in Viñales)

I recently returned from a trip to Havana, Cuba with a good girlfriend of mine and would highly recommend it to anyone thinking about visiting the country. The architecture and beaches were colorful, the people were friendly and the food was delicious. I found Havana to be fairly walk-able and we were even able to squeeze in a day trip to Vinales.

Wondering what a trip to Havana would look like? Here’s a high-level look of what my friend and I did…

Meet some locals and stay in an Airbnb: we rented this one. It was super affordable and directly across the street from the Capitol which made for a gorgeous patio view. The hosts were extremely kind and the place itself was just what we needed – two beds, private bathroom and a/c. They even provided drinks in the mini fridge for 1-2 cucs and breakfast in the morning for a fair price. If you haven’t signed up – click here! That’s my referral link so we both get a credit to our accounts.

Walk around Habana Vieja: We had so much fun just strolling through the city and looking at all the buildings and plazas!

Try lots of different foods (it’s all affordable and delicious): I’ll admit, some places I travel to just for the food. Cuba wasn’t one of these, so I was very pleasantly surprised and some of the great meals we had at beautiful restaurants. La Lamparilla and Los Nardos (right next to our place and great atmosphere – we went twice!) stood out to me. We would also stop by a little stand on the corner next to Parque Central that sold hot and melty ham and cheese sandwiches for 50 cents. Another stand was selling fried “donuts” with guava jelly – also super cheap and delicious! On one of our walks we walked into a cafe that didn’t even have a sign – but it was one of my favorite meals – salty grilled pork with the perfect fried plantains. So have some fun exploring the different traditional foods of Cuba!

See a live music show: We went to the Havana Libre Hotel where they have a nightly live music show, El Turquino.

Visit the Hotel Nacional: We originally went to book a tour to Vinales with the concierge (see next topic!) but spent a few hours in the garden enjoying the shade, view and a few drinks.

Take a day trip to Vinales (tobacco farm): Through the Hotel Nacional, we booked a day tour to Vinales. It cost 100 cuc each which was fairly expensive compared to how affordable everything else had been. We scheduled the driver to pick us up the next day. It wasn’t what we were expecting, but ended up being a highlight of the trip. We thought we’d be getting an official “tour,” but a taxi driver shows up and asks us what we want to do! Luckily, this driver was a great guy – very friendly and knew where to take us. After a 2-3 hour drive, we went to a tobacco house where we learned the process of picking, drying and rolling tobacco. We could even purchase premium cigars for half the price than they are sold by the factory. Then we went to Cueva del Indio (with sugar cane juice and rum in hand) where we got to cool down in nature’s a/c and take a boat ride through the beautiful caves. Next stop was the Vinales Valley which was SUCH a beautiful view – it almost looks like Jurassic Park. Then we stopped by our driver’s friend’s house who was a sweet older woman who offered us coffee in her adorable pink house. It was such a fun day!

Find a roof top view: Because, why not? We ducked into Hotel Ambos Mundos to check out their roof top bar (pink hotel near the cathedral!) Unluckily for us… it started to rain as soon as we got up there!

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Ride in an American classic car: OK,  I have to say… this was one of the coolest things about Cuba visually. The gorgeous, well-kept classic cars are everywhere. Most of them are taxis, so take a ride – just make sure you agree on a price before hopping in the car.

Explore the local museums: There are quite a few museum choices in Havana! We went to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Fine Arts Museum) which had all genres of arts and only by Cuban artists. I wanted to go to the Revolution Museum but we did not have a chance.

Bus to the beach: we spent a morning at Santa Maria beach. From our Airbnb, it was a 5 minute walk to Parque Central where we caught the T-3 bus that took us there. It was 5 cuc round trip. The beach itself was beautiful and relaxing. You can rent beach chairs and buy drinks. It was not crowded at all and the water was gorgeous – I got in waist deep and could still see my toes.

So, have I convinced you? I’ve also posted some general travel tips for Cuba here.

Summer in Spain: Sevilla

10612854_10202587269192900_2593304565863529067_nAfter a much-too-long hiatus, I’m back to blogging. My trip to Spain was the highlight of 2014 and coming back to write about it was overwhelming at first, so I took a break from Road and Air.

I’ve decided to come back and write one post per city I visited in Spain with suggestions on what to see and eat. I may be rushing past the details, but I hope you make the trip and have your own experiences. To sum it up, Spain is a beautiful country with an alluring, laid-back culture and wonderful people.

I first landed in Sevilla (Seville in English) – it’s a hot, beautiful city gushing with Andalusian culture. Here are the highlights of my 3-day stay…

Hostel: Pension Virgen de la Luz

The hostel here was fantastic! It was clean, safe and in a great location. The staff was wonderful too, I arrived straight from the airport via bus and was exhausted, so they cleaned the room early for me so I could nap while waiting for my friend to arrive. We booked through Hostel World.

hostel

Food: pastries, sweets and coffee at La Campana

I fell in LOVE with Spanish food, wine and coffee my first day there. Since Sevilla was my first city to visit in Spain, I tried all sorts of Spanish food and drink for the first time at quaint bodegas and friendly bars. But there’s one place I want to call out specifically… La Campana.

Founded in 1885, this charming pastry shop was so yummy we visited for breakfast every day of our stay. I’d pick an array of small pastries based on how they looked (I didn’t always know what the names meant in Spanish) and have a cafe con leche in the outdoor seating area. If you visit, make sure to try a yema, a traditional Spanish sweet made with egg yolk and sugar – I’m a huge fan of egg-based desserts so I thought they were delicious.

Breakfast at La Campana - Yema is the bell shaped pastry you see.

Breakfast at La Campana – Yema is the bell shaped pastry you see.

Entertainment: Flamenco at La Carbonería

As this Spanish folk music and dance originated form the Andalusia region, I made it a point to go to least one Flamenco show that wasn’t a high production tourist stop. The atmosphere at La Carbonería was very relaxed and intimate. The bar was crowded but hushed when the show started. My friend and I ordered a pitcher of sangria and sat among the crowded benches for a lovely (and free!) flamenco performance.

flamenco

Sights

The city itself is beautiful, but there are several landmarks of Sevilla that make it extraordinary. Here are the ones I visited and recommend all of them:

  • Catedral de Sevilla and La Giralda: This is the largest cathedral in the world and worth the visit. You can see the tomb of Christopher Columbus as well as walk the spiraling ramp up to the top of the bell tower (La Giralda) for a breathtaking 360 degree view of the city.
  • Alcázar de Sevilla: My absolute favorite sight-seeing in Sevilla, the palaces are absolutely beautiful and I spent hours awing at the detail and architecture. Just look for yourself…
  • Plaza de España: The plaza was under construction when I visited, but it was nice to walk around this ode to a beautiful country.

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  • Metropol Parasol (also known as the mushrooms): I recommend spending the euros to go up the elevator! If I remember correctly it was about eight euros and included a complementary drink (soda, tinto, tinto de verano or caña). We went in the evening when the mushrooms are all lit up and enjoyed the night view of the city.

More on my trip to Spain: