Monday, September 29, 2014

Intrepid EM

I first met EM in the early '90s after she befriended my brother at SVA.  We bonded several years later when I found myself unemployed, and able to take spontaneous vacations.  Our first trip was a brief jaunt up the coast in her tricked out custom camper.  Although an air bag problem needing immediate attention stopped us outside of Santa Barbara, and we didn't get much further, it was memorable.  The next one was a road trip to Northern Baja.  We ate fish tacos, found beautiful secluded beaches, and laughed.  Over the years we had two crazy adventures in Kauai, a much needed excursion to Sayulita, and a birthday celebration in Bangkok and Cambodia.

EM is the perfect travel companion to explore the path less traveled, and let the days unfold without  a premeditated plan.  I'm grateful for her wanderlust spirit, fearlessness, and  ease in which she explores new territory.  By the end, we were both looking forward to the comforts of home, but there were so many perfectly absurd moments like practicing salsa in the bathroom, or the waiter, who overheard our conversation and earnestly asked the difference between "I'm so tired" and "I'm so fucking tired" that will be etched in mind forever.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


I know I live in LA, but the seasonal change is still recognizable.
The nights are cooler, the days are shorter, and the produce at the farmers market is transitioning.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Tourist at Home

When traveling, my camera is my constant companion.  Indulging my desire to shoot is one of the best things about aimless days and being in new surroundings.  Getting lost with my camera is an attribute of why I like to travel, and one of favorite things about being away.  The first few days after a trip, I still look at the world through "vacation" eyes.  Buildings I've passed a million times beg to be photographed.  What was a necessity on vacation, slips into being an after thought, and I leave the house without my Canon slung over my shoulder.   Today I remembered it, and instead of driving by The Capitol Records Building, I parked and took pictures, just like a tourist.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cuba in Black and White

Monday, September 22, 2014


Where to sleep and eat in Cuba

Havana - Accommodations

Hotel Nacional (Calle 21 y O | Vedado, Plaza, Havana) - It was convenient to have accommodations at a big hotel the first two nights.  It was easy to exchange money, buy a street map, get information in English.  The 8th floor was recently renovated, and nicer than the others.  Beds were very comfortable, room was clean, air conditioner quiet and strong.  The downside: very touristy, expensive, breakfast was mediocre, long walk to Habana Vieja, but closer to restaurants in Vedado.

If staying at a hotel is important, I would check out other ones in the old city -- The Saratoga, and Raquel had beautiful lobbies and had great locations.  Otherwise, I'd book a casa particular as soon as possible.  Experience is more authentic, and food is better.

Artedel Luxury Penthouse ( - Ydalgo's casa particular in the Vedado was sophisticated, stylish and very comfortable.   Similar to a boutique hotel; the beds wer very comfortable, beautiful tiled bathrooms, delicious breakfast served on china.  Wrap around porch has spectacular views and there's a little dunking pool.  Much more expensive (70 CUC/night) than the other casas, but less than the hotels, and worth it.

Casa Lilly ( - Apartment on 13th floor of a residential building in the Vedado.  Beautifully decorated.  Saw the space, but didn't have vacancies.  Stones throw from Artedel in Vedado, and much more reasonable (35 CUC/night). 

Chez Nous ( - GREAT location near Plaza Vieja.  They have two properties, and we stayed at the one across the street which was like renting an entire apartment.  Views were spectacular.   Bathroom was down the hall, but big and clean.  Mattresses were okay.  Main house, where we were served breakfast,  has more charm, and one room has private bathroom.  (35 CUC/night)

Havana - Meals

I was forewarned that no one goes to Cuba for the food. One of the repeated jokes in guide books and online articles --  "What are the three greatest failures of Fidel's revolution?  Breakfast, lunch and dinner?" made me slightly apprehensive.  I packed a half dozen protein bars for emergencies, and hoped for the best.  Cuban's bland and unadventurous food is the result of scarcity, cost and rations.  Spices and vegetables are difficult to find, menus are predictable, and dishes under seasoned.  Bread is often stale, and flavorless.  Thankfully, rice and beans are plentiful, as is fish.  I kept my orders simple -- roasted or grilled fish.  Eggs were always served at breakfast which was an unexpected treat.  Bananas were abundant and creamy. 

Don Lorenzo (Calle Acoste 260 entre Habana y Compostela) - Nice patio terrace, with live music.   Food was good, not great.

El Cocinero (Calle 26 entre 11 y 13, Vedado, La Habana, Cuba)  Run, don't walk to this sophisticated paladar.  Food and cocktails were exceptional, as was desert.

Cafe Laurent (Calle M No 257, between Calles 19 and 21, Vedado) Very good.  Inspired, good quality food.  Beautiful upstairs patio.

DeCameron (Linea 753 entre Paseo y 2 | Vedado, Havana) - charming atmosphere, we ate in a room of clocks.  Green salad was heavenly, shrimp was okay, but overall would recommend.  Quality of food and service was high.

El Templete (Ave. del Puerto esq. Narciso Lopez, Habana Vieja) - overrated, expensive and mediocre.  Went there becauase Anthony Bourdain shot there, but it's state run.  Don't recommend it, and would try to eat at Paladars.

Le Chansonnier (Calle J No 257, between Calles 13 and 15, Vedado, +537 832 1576) Was recommended, but didn't have time to visit.  Reviews are positive.  Would check it out.


Casa Yurkenia and Lila (km 25 carretera a Vinales, # 6-B, Vinales 22400, Cuba) - delightful casa 5 minutes walk from town square.  Quiet, beautiful rooftop views, clean and very hospitable.  Delicious home cooked breakfast (fresh juice, coconuts, bananas, eggs, cheese) and dinner (soup, fish, vegteables, rich and beans, taro chips).  Welcoming and delightful.  (Yurkenia's email


Calle Acosta #260
entre Habana y Compostela
Habana Vieja - See more at:
Calle Acosta #260
entre Habana y Compostela
Habana Vieja - See more at:
Calle Acosta #260
entre Habana y Compostela
Habana Vieja - See more at:


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cuban Self Portrait

There was a spectacular view from the casa particular's bathroom, yet the window cut off my head.  Through out the day and night the breathtaking city transformed with the changing light. The ocean glittered in background until night descended and lights began to twinkle.


The end of a vacation is always bittersweet.  The long awaited adventure is behind, and reality awaits.  I desire another careless week, but this one I'd spend at home in the comfort of my bed.  EM and I travel easily together, but she likes a chilled, air conditioned room with fans and white noise.  I need  the exact opposite, a natural cross breeze and silence. My body is sore from soft, springy mattresses, a horseback riding injury, and a spill  from the bicycle.  Although signs of an active vacation, my body is in need of some TLC.  I'm much more rested than when my journey started, mainly because my mind has had time to unwind, but physically, I'm still exhausted.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Vedado, the most modern section of Havana, was developed in the first half of the 20th century.  A mix of middle and upper class houses, many art deco in style, are in various forms of decay.  Shady sidewalks, museums, and some of the best paladars in the city are in this neighborhood. Less congested than the older section, more tranquil, and perfect neighborhood for walking and exploring.


Havana has many beautiful museums, eerily empty and devoid of big, touring exhibits, but the art is still spectacular and the buildings that house them magnificent.

Friday, September 19, 2014