Sunday, 26 May 2013

Cuba # 3 -- of 3
March 2013

In Havana we left the group to explore on our own. We went into a beautiful small church that was off the beaten track. It's the first time I'd ever seen a lighted halo around the Virgin Mary. It was quite beautiful.

Also in the same church, the Virgin Mary in a white gown.

In a flea market at Havana harbour... for the tourists, so lots of paintings of cars and Havana highlights.

Cubans know that some tourists will grab anything to do with Hemingway. He wrote "Old Man & the Sea" during the 20 years in was in Cuba.

The B&W photos were effective.

And of course, we can't forget Che.

Kids are very adaptable when they're looking for a place to play soccer. These ones were in a bricked churchyard in a busy area of Havana.

The brown pants are part of their school uniforms.

Colorful bamboo at the resort.

One of the maid's more elaborate creations. It was for Jane's birthday.

Paint is in short supply and expensive, so hand painted cars are commonplace.

A local joke... this is the "Mother-in-Law" bridge. If you don't like your mother-in-law, you take her out on the bridge to admire the view and toss her over.

After a quiet river cruise some descendents of pre-Cuban natives put on a dance for us.

For sale at the dock.

I take too many shots of the classic cars, but they're hard to resist.

Some kind of hybrid?

A comfortable perch above a set of doors to watch the world go by.

We went to a tourist ranch in the hills for lunch on one of our outings.

They have a small pineapple field.

Goats tied to a tree for the tourists. Kind of sad in a way, but I think that they think it's the kind of thing that tourists like to see. Just for the kids maybe.

Banana blossoms are odd looking things.

Eduardo and his bull were at the ranch too. You could go for a ride (a walk really) for a peso or two.

I asked Eduardo if I could take his picture. He struck this Clint Eastwood pose that I'm sure he's done 100s if not 1000s of times for tourists. A cool looking dude I thought.

"Come on, get up. I want to play."
...  "Not now, it's too hot."

Guinea Fowl

"Who's that guy, Mum?"

Our guide kept saying he was going to show me a "Canada Tree". When he finally did, he explained that they call it the Canada Tree because it's bark is red and it peels... like Canadians burn and peel in the sun.

A coconut and its tangles.

A Muscovy duck amongst some mango "eggs"

Not all of Havana is run-down. The new section, along the Malecon, is much like here, complete with modern apartment buildings and shopping malls. The question is though, "How many Cubans can afford to go to the malls?"

The National Hotel in Havana is a big tourist draw because of its association with the mob and Hollywood stars. An important mob meeting was held here in 1946 with the likes of Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. The mob pretty much did as they pleased in pre-Castro Cuba, as long as they shoveled enough cash to Batista and his bandits. Hollywood stars such as Tyrone Power and others of that time were also frequent guests.

Revolution Square... where Castro gives/gave some of his long-winded (sometimes 3 or 4 hours) speeches, while his audience stands in the baking sun. The Che Guevara likeness on the apartment building next to the square obviously blocks what might have been a good view for some of the apartment dwellers.

This monument is on the other side of the square. You can see some people sitting at the bottom of the statue of Jose Marti for scale... and the seemingly ever-present Turkey Vultures circling the upper part of the monument.

Known as "Pregnant" Royal Palms, or a Royal Palm nursery. I forget the explanation... if we were told.

I'll end with a Cuban beach. This pelican was making wide circles out to sea or over land, because he almost always flew from left to right along the beach. I suppose it's more likely he was going seaward looking for a meal.

Cuba is one of our favourite destinations. It's sad that tourist-Cuba is so different from the life the locals live. We can take some comfort in the fact that tourist dollars do help the overall picture. Probably not as much as they should, but they do help. It's now the number one source of dollars for Cuba, and the Castros are trying to lure more and more tourists to the island.

If the U.S. ever lifts the embargo, things will change dramatically. Most tourists don't look forward to the changes that would mean, but it would no doubt benefit the Cubans themselves. And as Martha Stewart would say, "That would be a good thing."

I've read that the main reason that the U.S. embargo continues is because the Cuban exiles in Florida (about a million of them) want to keep it that way, and if the U.S. government were to lift it, the exiles wouldn't vote for the political party that lifted it. And Florida is a key state in American politics they say. Sounds plausible but I don't know enough about American politics to know if it's true of not.

Some small changes are now underway in Cuba, under Raul Castro, but the changes seem to be excruciatingly slow. The end result of the revolution hasn't been what was hoped for, but now those in power don't want to lose their positions and perks, just like those in power anywhere else. It's a dilemma to be sure.

- fini -

Friday, 17 May 2013

Out & About in May - # 2

For a few days in May, if conditions are right, nature decorates some of our streets & sidewalks with her Maple blossoms.

Individual blossoms are tiny, about the size of a small pea, but en masse they're a sight to see.

I think these are all from Norway Maples (I didn't look closely enough)... the yellow ones from the green-leaved trees and the 'orangey' ones from the red leaved Norways.

I went up to Enniskillen CA to check for red Trilliums. It's a hot spot for the reds. In fact, I've only seen one white one there.

Red Trillium blossoms are generally smaller than the whites, though not always. They're also camera shy, bowing their heads more often than not. The leaves can be huge.

Because they're less common than the whites, the reds tend to get more attention from us.

Fiddleheads having a family conference.

A mass of Maple blossoms at Enniskillen. They're easy to miss, almost disappearing amongst the leaves.

It's easier to spot them on the ground.

Tiny, but beautiful.

This fox startled me, when I spotted him about 10 or 12 feet in front of me. It only took a second to realize something wasn't right. He wasn't looking at me and he was just too still, not moving at all. Turns out it's a stuffed one that someone decided to leave in the woods, just on the edge of the parking lot. Strange.

Marsh Marigolds at Enniskillen.

These Dryad's Saddle fungus were at Enniskillen too. It's a common one in the Spring in our parts. One of my favourites.

I found a few things to shoot on the path this week. This catkin is from one of the Poplars. These cottony 'necklaces' always remind me of ones that I saw as a kid in Moose Jaw.

The variety of colors on this Birch caught my eye.

I thought this was interesting... the stump from a multi-trunked tree I assume.

Colors caught my eye here too... cones on a spruce. Male & female ones at various stages I think. Mother Nature decorates in Christmas colors in May it would seem.

Manitoba Maple... blossoms have been replaced with keys. This is one maple where the leaves look nothing like other maples. Maybe that's why the Americans call the tree Box Elder. Some people think some of its leaves look like flames.

Most of the keys on this branch haven't opened yet so they look like loop-earings or chains.

A bush in the ditch on the path. From someone's garden no doubt.

Interesting, in that it's covered with 1000s of tiny blossoms, crowded together.

How many sub-divisions in Ontario are on what used to be apple orchards? Ours is. They're still some apple trees in the ditch on the path... neglected but going strong.
I have more for May but will save them for a later post. A lot happens in May in nature.

- fini for now -

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