Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruiz was one of the most influential and controversial people of the 20th century. He led Cuba’s communist revolution, ruled the country for almost 50 years and inspired and assisted left-wing movements regionally and globally. Even after handing over presidency to his brother Raul in 2008, Fidel was still regarded as the most powerful person in Cuba.
Saturday was going to be another interesting but normal day exploring Havana for Rocío and I. Instead, in the morning our hosts informed us Fidel had died aged 90 at 10:29pm the previous night (Friday, 25 November 2016). Our plans changed.
Cuban TV Fidel Castro special the day after he died with an email address for people to send in their tributes; the Spanish headline translates as “Ever onward to victory, Fidel!”
Havana’s grand Great Theatre has amazing architecture
Havana is a special city in which anything can happen.
On Thursday, 24 November 2016, Rocío’s and my first full day in Cuba, we were walking along Paseo del Prado, the border between Old Havana and Centro Havana. Coming to the Great Theatre (Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso), we saw a crowd near the entrance. Just as we get there, modern Mercedes Benz sedans (a rarity in Cuba) arrive and out step opera singer Plácido Domingo and wife Marta Domingo.
Plácido Domingo and wife Marta Domingo get out in front of Havana’s Great Theatre
Featuring Misti Volcano, Arequipa’s coat of arms on the main plaza’s southern portal, Portal de la Municipalidad
Arequipa, Peru’s second city and location of its Constitutional Court was home base for a significant part of my trip. Its mild climate, manageable size, affordability, world heritage-listed historic centre, volcano backdrop and South America’s best food made the city a great place to stay. I also met Rocío here. Continue reading →
Pigeons and people populate the late afternoon square in front of the cathedral
Like the Santa Catalina Convent, Arequipa’s main square (Plaza de Armas) is part of the city’s world heritage-listed historic centre.
Surrounded by the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa to the north and portals to the east, south and west, the plaza is a wonderful place to relax, watch the world go by and politely decline unsolicited offers.
A giant ribbon in national colours on the eastern portal (Portal de los Flores) prior to Peru’s independence day (28 July); Mt Misti is in the backgroundContinue reading →
A volcanic backdrop provides an impressive setting for Arequipa, Peru’s second city. Volcano mountains Chachani, Misti and Pichu Pichu ring the city to the north and east.
From left to right, Chachani (partially obscured), Misti and Pichu Pichu volcanoes viewed from Arequipa’s Yanahuara Plaza
Located in the gigantic Andes Mountain Range’s Central Volcanic Zone, Misti last erupted in 1985 while Chachani and Pichu Pichu are extinct volcanic groups. All three volcanoes are climbable either with or without a guide. I didn’t consider climbing them because of altitude sickness. Continue reading →
Santa Catalina’s white volcanic stone walls tower over these Pokémon Go players
Founded in 1579, Arequipa’s imposing Santa Catalina Convent (monastery) takes up a whole city block and is a major tourist attraction. One can easily spend hours exploring the different rooms, cloisters and galleries. The convent’s history, size, architecture, art and ambience impress. Besides the museum, an adjoining New Monastery still functions although it is closed to the public. Continue reading →
Peruvian cuisine’s variety, taste and freshness make it South America’s finest. Although Lima has Peru’s best restaurants and food festival (Mistura), Arequipa is the city most synonymous with food. Following are culinary highlights from my time in Arequipa, including my favourite food from the city, country and continent: a true chocolate delight!
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