Riding in Cars with Boys

If you want to step back into the automobile past, you need to go to Cuba. Havana is literally a rolling car museum with Oldsmobiles, Chevys, Fords, and Buicks that most car buffs in the US would pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to own, and they are used by Cubans as every day vehicles. It’s amazing to see a lineup of the vintage cars, waiting at an interection for the light to change, like it’s no big deal.

 

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Waiting for the light…

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Old Man & the Sea in Cuba

Ernest Hemingway certainly has a huge fan base in Cuba, having lived there for much of his life.  After he was a war correspondent for the Spanish civil war, he crossed his fishing boat , the Pilar, into the waters and made his home for the next seven years in Havana at the Hotel Ambos Mundas.

In 1940, with his new wife Martha, Hemingway bought an estate, about fifteen miles outside of Havana, which they named “Finca Vigia” (Lookout Farm).  He would live here for the next twenty years.  It was during this time that he wrote one of his most famous books, For Whom the Bell Tolls, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.  Five years later, he would divorce and marry his fourth wife Mary, who lived with him here until 1960.

Ernest Hemingway’s Home – Finca Vigia

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La Habana Vieja – Old Havana

Built in the early 1500s by the Spanish, Old Havana is a central section of town consisting of narrow streets built in a baroque Spanish colonial style.  The wrought iron decorative scrolling across all of the windows and doors serve also to protect since the windows are all open with no glass.  I guess it’s too hot here to ever have window panes.

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Mixing the Old with the New – the Vedado

By 1962, then President John F. Kennedy had implemented a full embargo against Cuba including all exports, food, medicine, and prohibiting any US company from doing business or trading with the US.  After almost sixty years, I imagined that Cuba would be a bit frozen in time, like America was thirty years ago. Much to my surprise, Cuba has moved forward, still trading with the rest of the world.  They have Hundais and Kias from trade with Korea, washing machines and refrigerators from Germany, food from Mexico and South America, and televisions from China.  Even though they only have five television stations, over 80 percent of the people buy a tv disc package for $2 which allows them to download hundreds of American tv sitcoms and news shows, so amazingly, many Cubans are quite up to date with news from America.  There are 2.1 million people living in Havana today.

Tour buses in Cuba, made in Ching 

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Vamos a Cuba

It was an early morning rise here in Miami to get to the airport. It’s never any fun to get up at five am on a vacation day. There was a special counter for those who were going to Cuba. Then came lots of paperwork, passports, visas, forms to fill out before we can get on that plane.

The conversation that was buzzing among our circle of friends all expressed the same sentiment… “let’s go to Cuba before things change too much, before the effects of the sixty year US embargo vanish with the new influx of tourism,” which was rapidly spreading to the island.

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My niece and her new hubby on their honeymoon in Cuba

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Art Deco and Miami Beach

As akid, I remember sitting at our dinner table on a Saturday night, eating a fried chicken TV dinner with the little apple cobbler dessert,(Remember that? My favorite part!) with my Mom and Dad intently watching the television as the camera floated over the blue waters and up onto the white sands of South Beach. That familiar voice would say “Live! From Miami Beach…it’s the Jackie Gleason Show!” That was my first awareness of Miami Beach, Florida.

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Stone Cold Crabs

We are off to meet friends, flying today to Miami, Florida. It’s an all day trip flying five hours from California, getting up at o’dark thirty, dodging the commute traffic, fighting the rain to get to the airport two hours before our flight. Five hours later, we landed in Miami Beach, walking out the airport doors into the warm breeze off the Atlantic Ocean. How nice, but it took all day.

Riding in our taxi, we immediately knew we were in a different place. Our driver was from Haiti, with his native language being Creole and French, his wife is Puerto Rican, speaking Spanish, and many of his passengers are East Coast people trying to get out of he cold and snow from New York and New Jersey. As we rounded the corner to our hotel, he pointed out a restaurant saying, “That’s one of the best restaurants in town if you can get in.” A light bulb went off in our heads remembering that we had seen it on Yelp when searching for the best places to eat in Miami. When we are in a new place, it’s always a priority for us to seek out great food. Since the sun was setting, and it was just a little us dinner time, we basically threw our suitcases into the room, and made a dash for Joe’s Stone Crabs Restaurant, three blocks away, hoping to beat the dinner crowd.

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Burn’n Love…Elvis is in the House!

There are so many things to do in Maui…golf, scuba diving, hiking, zip lining, whale watching, sailing, luaus with hula girls and fire dancers, the list goes on. You would never guess what Trip Advisor’s Number One thing to do when it comes to tours and activities in Maui…See Burn’N Love, the Elvis show, at the Maui Theatre in Lahaina! That is at the top of their list!

When I was little, my dad used to take us every year to Lake Tahoe for vacation. It was a week of going to the beach, having a few water ski lessons, and being out in the beautiful evergreen forest around the lake. Our trip always culminated with a trip to the Tahoe Southshore to the Harrah’s Hotel, to see some headliner, over a dinner show, where the prime rib and baked potato is cooked to perfection and the showgirl came around to your table and snapped your family photo. How lucky I was to see big name entertainers like Sammy Davis Jr, Tom Jones, Petula Clark, Shirley MacLaine, and Frank Sinatra. I’ve been a big fan of live entertainment ever since then. There were a few entertainers that I, regrettably, somehow missed…Prince, Michael Jackson, and Elvis Presley.

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Darren Lee as Elvis! 

 

 

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