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.

My niece and her new hubby on their honeymoon in Cuba

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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.

Darren Lee as Elvis! 



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It’s Spring! Bouquets to Art…

Sometimes when one is so focused on where to go next in this big, huge world, we lose sight of things close to home. A saying uttered by Dorothy Gale in the Wizard of Oz comes to mind when she was asked a question, “What did you learn?” by Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Dorothy replied “when looking for your hearts desire, sometimes you don’t have to look further than your own back yard.” That being said, I’m sharing with you something I found in my own back yard. Even though it’s a bit overcast today in San Francisco, here is a way that a local museum is celebrating the arrival of Spring.

For the last 33 years, the DeYoung Museum has hosted an amazing event working in collaboration with more than 120 of the most in-demand floral designers from the Bay Area and beyond, who are tasked with drawing inspiration for their floral arrangements from the permanent collection of art in the museum.

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It’s All About the Light…Maui Plein Air Invitational Event

It’s always a great time to go to Maui, but February is one of the best times to go.  It’s the time when a lot of people are escaping the harsh, cold winters of the mainland, (rain, snow, hail, and freezing weather!), more than 3,000 humpback whales are visiting the islands, putting on their mating shows and birthing their babies, and for those of you who love art, it is the time of the Annual Maui Plein Air Invitational Event.

Prior to 1840, paints were made my mixing dry pigments with linseed oil in artist’s studios.  Plein Air, a French term for painting outdoors, first came about when paints were finally made portable and could fit in tubes, which allowed the artists to go outside to capture the natural light which was so different than painting indoors in a studio.  The artists try to capture a moment in time, as if you could tell what time of day it was by the position of the sun and the length of the shadows.

A group of talented artists for Maui Plein Air


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Sorrento, Italy

We arrive in Naples, the 3rd largest city in Italy after Rome and Milan.  Like many seaside ports, Naples built fortresses to defend herself, but not much is left as this was one of the most bombed Italian cities during WWII.  Naples is a very industrial town, a stopping off port to the primary destinations of Pompeii, Capri, and the Amalfi Coast.  Hmm…which destination should we head to?

After a short walk to see a few sites within walking distance of the boat harbor, we decide to go to one of our favorite cities…Sorrento!  Coming into the port puts you at sea level where most of Sorrento is up on the cliff’s edge.  You can spend the first part of your day trying to hike to the top, or for a couple of Euros,there is a lift to take you up above.

Piazza Tasso is the main and central square, named after the famed Italian poet Torquato Tasso.  This center of town is like a spoke of a wheel, with many roads coming in, cars circling round, and then spinning off to side streets.  Restaurants on all sides make it a perfect place to dine and people watch.  Down the side streets you’ll find many gelato shops and shopping streets to satisfy all those looking for the perfect Italian souvenirs.

Wandering down the side streets is full of surprises.  There are stores for both the locals and visitors.  We found a charming place to have lunch, complete with Italian serenading and the best spaghetti and roasted clams I have ever had.  How do they make such a simple dish taste so delicious?  I certainly will be trying to see if I can make this dish once I get home.

Lots of photos of Sorrento…it’s just sooo picturesque, it’s difficult to stop the shutter of my camera!

Sorrento doesn’t have much of beach but that hasn’t stopped them from enjoying the crystal blue waters on a sunny day.  Man made piers jut out into the water.  Nearby eateries and the picturesque vista make this place worth a visit.  Just choose a sun chair, an umbrella, and you’re set for an afternoon of relaxation, swimming, and sun.

This is the last stop on our Adriatic Sea journey with Celebrity Cruises.  I hope you’ll join me on another adventure to a new destination on this beautiful and wonderous place we live called planet earth.  I can’t wait to discover what’s next!


Catania, Sicily, Italy

Catania is the second largest city in Sicily, and is known for it’s seismic history!  Yikes!!  Our tour guide said that in her lifetime, she has seen the city rebuilt five times.  All of the citizens live beneath the active eruptions of Mt. Etna volcano, never knowing if the next eruption is going to take their house.  It is one of the most active volcanos in the world and is in a constant state of activity.  It has been designated as a decade volcano by the United Nations, and is also a UNESCO world heritage site.   Of late, it has erupted in 2001, ’03, ’05, & ’08, with summit eruptions in 2006, ’08, and 2012.  Interesting to see, but I sure wouldn’t want to live here!

About forty-five minutes away is Taormina, a charming little village perched high overlooking the sea.  The narrow pathway is for pedestrians only and is flanked on both sides my old churches, lively bars, restaurants, and shops.

Handpainted pottery as been a part of the Italian landscape for hundred of years with the ceramists producing extraordinary pieces for tableware, decorations, and for kitchen and bathroom back splashes.  Oh, if only my suitcase were a little bigger.

We discovered a little traditional Sicilian staple, arancinas, the Italian word for “little oranges.”  It’s a little rice ball covered with bread crumbs and stuffed with meat, and often served with ragu.  We grabbed one of those at a sidewalk cafe, along with a gelato later, and meandered through the sidewalks soaking up the atmosphere.  There was no more charming way to pass the afternoon in this quaint and picturesque city.