04 June 2017

Viva Cuba!! Blogpost 3 of 3 . . . Lots And Lots of Walking Around With a Magical Sprinkling of Jazz!

Not much can follow up a fabulous trip to the Cuban countryside. But we found some incredibly photogenic and colorful places to spend our last couple of days in Havana. Not hard to do in such a beautiful and lively city, mind you.

We walked from where we were staying all the way across several neighborhoods to find and peruse a giant cemetery. The Colon Cemetery—Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón—was founded in 1876 in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana. Named for Christopher Columbus, the 140 acre cemetery is noted for its many elaborately sculpted memorials. Wikipedia estimates that the cemetery has more than 500 major mausoleums, chapels, and family vaults. Colon Cemetery is one of the great historical cemeteries of the world, and is held to be the most important in Latin America in historical and architectural terms, second only to La Recoleta in Buenos Aires.

This cemetery reminded me of when I visited Italy in 2008, which seems like many moons ago. Aisles and aisles and aisles of monuments to the deceased. I say aisles, but perhaps rows is a more fitting a term. I tend to be fascinated by old cemeteries. I enjoy things that are broken, especially statuary and religious or spiritual iconography. I like to think of this "brokenness" not as injured or unkept, but more as a measure of time. So much time has passed that this statue's head/arm/leg/wing has fallen off.

I always tend to ponder my own death when I visit sites like this. And these thoughts tend to go either far to the left or far to the right. On one hand, a sculpture would be a nice homage. I am an artist, after all. So it seems rather fitting. But what would this sculpture be of? On the other hand, my goodness! The space that these structures take up is ginormous! Wouldn't the space used for a cemetery be better purposed for something else? Like housing for the homeless or a new school? I do not have a family, so perhaps I am missing that part of the remembrance equation.  

Still. Cemeteries like this are so incredible to visit! Family histories captured for all to see.

In the center of this cemetery sits a small chapel. It was empty when we first arrived, so we sat down for a while and had a lovely time experiencing the space. There was a beautiful painting just behind the altar area and several interesting religious sculptures throughout. I mirrored the image I took of a little pink Jesus statue and made a new image out of it (above). As we were leaving the cemetery, we noticed a funeral or some sort of gathering taking place. Lots of cars and motorbikes showing up and parking on either side of the chapel entrance. Perhaps it was just a Mass.

We continued our self-guided walking tour of Havana by doing a search on foot for two art places that I found online that were either closed or non-existent. This saddened me a lot until we found a cart selling chocolate filled churros. We bought sodas and churros and scarfed them down faster than even I could stop long enough to take a picture. These churros were about 10 inches long and so cinnamon-y good! 

Also, Anjali with an Anjali-sized, hyper-mint green car = important things of note. We both loved this!!

If you have read the past two posts about Cuba, you have probably figured out that I enjoy taking pictures of pattern. There were SO MANY FLOORS AND WALLS AND SURFACES in Cuba that made me giddy with excitement. Pattern for days, people! Florals, plaids, stripes, basket weave, whatever. And each of them just as beautiful as the next one!

I think it was Thursday night that we decided to go to a famous jazz club. It didn't open until 10pm, so we hung out in the neighborhood sharing laughs and foods and drinks. By the time we arrived at the club, a line had formed outside the entrance. We stood in line between a mother/daughter team from Canada and a couple of ladies from California who came to Cuba via Mexico City. It took about 30 minutes for us to cycle through the line. Once we got up to the telephone booth, we went through the doorway and proceeded down a flight of stairs to a dimly lit bar with a very limited number of tables. Our entry was something like $10 and included two free drinks. 

We stayed for the first set, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. If there had been more room in this club, I totally would've danced. This band's music was so infectious and lively and upbeat! Latin jazz should be the soundtrack for life! 

The next morning, we jumped in an egg taxi and went to Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, located--once again--in Old Havana. Such an awesome place to mosey about! 

This museum contains the most comprehensive collection of Cuban art worldwide. I would have more images of what we saw, but I got into lots of trouble on numerous occasions for trying to take pictures. Even Anjali got into trouble for interacting with an interactive piece of artwork. 

After several hours of looking at art, we stopped by Sloppy Joe's for--you guessed it--sloppy joes. Complete with a side of fries and whole olives mixed into the meat, this was an awesome meal. It was our second time at Sloppy Joe's, but our first time having the namesake meal. Turns out, Sloppy Joe's the establishment is a bar dating back to the 30's! Along with Ernest Hemingway, John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Ignacio Jacinto Villa y Fernandez "Bola de Nieves", Mario Moreno "Cantinflas", and Jose Antonio Mendez "The King" were all part of the long list of "illustrious visitors" to share a meal or a drink at Sloppy Joe's.

We made our way back to our villa on foot, this time not being rained on. It was beautiful weather, actually, and captured the colors so perfectly! 

We passed this marvelous blue wall, and after Anjali posed in front of it, we both agreed she looked like M.I.A. (See below.) In fact, she might just be M.I.A., and I'm only just now realizing it.

Anyhow . . . After a quick last stop at the wonderful bakery next to our villa, we said goodbye to beautiful Havana. We packed up our things, wrapped up our gifts for friends, and promised this vivacious country that we would be back again soon.

"The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice." - Hemingway

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