Cuba’s Bromeliads in Gardens and the Wild

I love bromeliads. Members of the Bromeliaceae family, they impress me with their range of leaves and flowers. The different environments they are found also fascinate including on trees, rocks and even wires. Cuba’s tropical climate and varying environments ensure it has many bromeliads, both wild and in gardens. Cuba also grows the most commercial and famous bromeliad: the pineapple.

Two of the best gardens to see bromeliads in Cuba are Artemisa’s Orquideario Soroa Botanic Garden and Santiago de Cuba’s Jardin de los Helechos. For wild bromeliads, visit nature reserves and national parks. Often seemingly random trees also have bromeliads.

With international travel limited due to COVID-19, seeing Cuba’s bromeliads in the environment is impossible for most. The next best thing is to check out the bromeliads in my video:

Havana, Cuba’s Capital and a Must-Visit

Cuba’s capital Havana is one of the world’s great cities. Its combination of history, architecture, transport, economics, culture and climate can’t be copied.

Back in 2016-17 I was lucky enough to visit this unique place including for new year’s eve. Coincidentally, also in Havana I saw Placido Domingo, was there when Fidel Castro died and bumped into Enrique Iglesias’ Subeme La Radio video shoot.

This video provides a taste of Havana’s streets:

Following are snapshots of Havana from the trip. Continue reading

Stumbling Upon Enrique Iglesias’ Old Havana Video Shoot

I grew up with Julio Iglesias’ music in the family home. His third child Enrique is now a mega famous singer himself.

Subeme La Radio ft. Descemer Bueno, Zion & Lennox video shoot

Video production people milling around on Cárdenas Street, Old Havana

Returning from Soroa, Rocío and I were walking to our accommodation in Old Havana (Habana Vieja) when we arrived to a closed road. On Cárdenas Street people and film production equipment surrounded its notable art nouveau houses.

Sign on van supporting Subeme La Radio video production

Sign on a production van parked on a side street; the Liverpool production was in association with Ogilvy, Oxígeno, TV Casa Productora and Island Film

Continue reading

Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Havana, Cuba

New Year’s Eve in Havana is traditionally not a major public celebration. Locals usually stay at home with their family eating roast pork and yucca before throwing buckets of water over their balconies onto the streets below. On this evening many tourists end up at overpriced dinners and shows.

The Old Havana (Habana Vieja) late afternoon streets contained suckling pigs either dressed waiting on a spit or already roasting over coals.

Suckling pig on spit balanced against a Havana wall

Suckling pig on spit balanced against a Havana wall

Continue reading

Visiting Cuba’s Largest Cave: Gran Caverna de Santo Tomás, Viñales

The Great Cavern of Saint Thomas (Gran Caverna de Santo Tomás) is Cuba’s largest cave system. Near the town of El Moncada 18 kilometres’ drive west of Viñales, the cave belongs to Parque Nacional Viñales.

Santo Tomás Cave is part of Viñales National Park

The Santo Tomás Cave path is 2.8km long

As a geology lover, Rocío was keen to see the cave, especially after seeing artefacts from it in Havana’s Fundacion de la Naturaleza y el Hombre museum. From Viñales we hired a car and driver for 20 CUC (US$20), waiting time and return journey included. Continue reading

A Crazy Adventure Seeing Flamingos at Río Máximo Wildlife Reserve, Camagüey Province, Cuba

* See bottom of post for a video of the day

Camagüey Province’s Río Máximo Wildlife Reserve (Refugio de Fauna Río Máximo) contains not only Cuba’s but the Western Hemisphere’s largest flamingo nesting site. After not getting to Cayo Sabinal, Rocío was determined to see the flamingos at Río Máximo.

Flamingos at Rio Maximo Wildlife Reserve

Flamingos at Río Máximo Wildlife Reserve

In Camagüey City we asked people and agencies how to get the reserve. No one seemed to know. State tour company Ecotur hadn’t organised tours there for two years due to the track there requiring a truck and the lack of on site hygiene facilities. An official tourist guide, who also didn’t know the way, recommended we hire a large US car (with driver) that had been converted to diesel to maximise our chances of reaching the reserve. In the city centre while looking for such car, we met an old man who reckoned he knew a way there. Then we met a younger guy who was willing to take us and had a friend with a car.

Instead of a hulking diesel-fueled US classic we had the opposite: a small Soviet petrol sedan! But our Lada had character, including huge windscreen cracks and no internal rear door handles. Time for another crazy Cuban adventure. Continue reading

Visiting Nuevitas Via our First Cuban Train Journey

I had never heard of Nuevitas until this day. A port town on Camagüey Province’s coast, it is not on the tourist map. Arriving to Camagüey from Holguín, Rocío and I hoped to go north to Cubitas for the Reserva Ecológica Limones Tuabaquey. Instead, the fruit cart man suggested catching the train east to Nuevitas. We wanted to experience a Cuban train ride so embraced his idea.

Our bicycle taxi driver advised we buy food beforehand as the train doesn’t sell any. 5 CUP (US$0.20) per fish sandwich later and we were set.

Fish sandwiches in Camagüey for the train journey to Nuevitas

Fried fish sandwiches in Camagüey for the train journey to Nuevitas

Taking a Cuban Train from Camagüey to Nuevitas

The daily Nuevitas train left Camagüey at 5:20pm with ticket sales beginning 4pm so we had time to observe the locals in the station and watch a freight train pass. Continue reading

Santiago de Cuba, Where the Cuban Revolution Began

Cuba’s second city Santiago de Cuba lies far from Havana and is known for both its music and rebellious streak. Rocío and I visited Santiago twice in December 2016, firstly for Fidel Castro’s memorial rally and funeral and later, returning from Baracoa. While based in Santiago we had an epic day trip to La Gran Piedra I blogged about here.

Moncada Barracks and the 26th of July Revolutionary Movement

Children at a school that used to be the Moncada Barracks, where the Cuban Revolution began; note the bullet holes in the walls

Children at a school that used to be the Moncada Barracks, where the Cuban Revolution began; note the bullet holes in the walls

On 26 July 1953 Fidel Castro led an unsuccessful armed attack on Santiago de Cuba’s Moncada army barracks. This is regarded as the start of the Cuban Revolution and the official revolutionary movement is named 26 de Julio (26th of July) after this date. The former barracks was converted to a school although some of the battle’s bullet holes remain. Continue reading