Saturday, 18 February 2017

Holguin, Cuba

The reason we were in Cuba at all was thanks to somebody turning 50!
Mr Seasons felt that 50 deserved a special adventure.
And I couldn't disagree (especially since my very own 50th birthday (and therefore, 50th birthday adventure) is only one year away!

After our (rather long) car trip (see previous post) from Santiago to Holguin in a 1958 Oldsmobile, we enjoyed what turned out to be the very best shower we had whilst in Cuba!

We then went for a stroll to explore the town.
It was a lovely evening. It was Saturday night and the people of Holguin were ready to party.

We passed a bookshop...

and stopped to admire the Mural de Origen (below) near Parque Peralta. 
The mural shows the history of Cuba from indigenous times to the end of slavery. It was created by 14 local artists in 2005 and features the central figure of Captain Garcia Holguin.

Parque Peralta (Parque de las Flores) is named after General Julio Grave de Peralta who led an uprising against the Spanish rulers in 1868. His statue now graces the centre of the plaza.

Sadly the lovely looking Museo de Historia Natural (Carlos de La Torre Natural Science Museum) was closed by the time we walked by, but the evening light reflecting off the yellow and cream paintwork was charming. 
Built in 1926 as a meeting place for the ruling Spanish land owners, it was converted into a public museum in the 60's.
Two marble lions protect the entrance.

Like much of Cuba, beautifully restored buildings sit side by side with those still to be renovated.
And like much of Cuba, that renovation is happening now.

I loved our brief stay in Holguin.
As the sun set and the lights came on, the Saturday night vibe kicked in.
Music pumped from various venues - the happy sounds of singing and dancing followed us around the streets. And we wished we'd planned a longer visit.
Next time!

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Driving to Holguin

 Our trip from Santiago de Cuba to Holguin was done in a 1958 Oldsmobile.
Our casa particular owner arranged the taxi for us.
Private Cubans are not allowed to drive foreigners around without a proper licence.
This is policed, so it's not worth anyone's while to do otherwise.

The day was very hot and humid.
The car had no air conditioning and old vinyl seats.
Thank goodness I always travel with a sarong - on this day it was useful as a seat cover, so our legs didn't stick to the vinyl.

The exhaust smell was also pretty over powering.

The trip was fun to start with, but I confess that I quickly got tired of the heat, being buffeted by the hot air & fumes coming in through the open windows and the poor shock absorbers that had no chance of easing our way over the many, many potholes (baches).

It was an adventure, best enjoyed in the past tense!

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Santiago de Cuba

Where to start?
How to describe all the sensations, impressions and thoughts I have about our recent 2 week stay in Cuba?

I will start small, just to get started.

However Mr Seasons and I are planning to create our own travel blog.
Preparing our trip to Cuba, so that we could travel independently, took quite a bit of work and research. We feel that our hard won knowledge could be useful to future travellers.

I will use the next few Saturday Snapshot posts to begin this process.

We took several panorama shots in each town and city, so I will start with these.

If you are viewing this on your computer, click on each image to make them larger.

Santiago de Cuba was our first port of call in Cuba.
It took us 2 full days of travelling from Australia to get there!

We decided to start at the south eastern tip of Cuba, then gradually work our way back to Havana.

Our Casa Particular was Casa GG - hosted by Michel and Kyall. 
When we were researching casa's we looked out for ones that mentioned they had someone who spoke English as our Spanish was very very basic.
The added bonus with this casa, was that Michel could cook - I mean really cook!
Dinner and breakfast were a treat every single day.

With everything we had heard about food in Cuba we wondered, at the time, if Michel was setting the bar too high and that we would be disappointed with every other meal in Cuba.


Jetlag is always a part of such a big trek.

The good thing about jetlag though is we get to see some sunrises - something that almost never happens in our day to day lives back home.

Casa GG has a lovely roof top garden with hammocks. Perfect for catching the cool evening breezes.
They also have another smaller roof top area above the guest room that provides an extensive view of the city. 

You can see that some of the homes are still suffering damage from Hurricane Ike in 2008.

The main area of Santiago is down the hill towards the bay.
An easy 10 - 15 minute stroll.

The 2015 Lonely Planet suggests a great city walk for Santiago.

We did the majority of it on our first day (although the heat & humidity chased us back to our air-conditioned casa by 3pm).

Below is the view of the Tivoli (the old French quarter) from the balcony at Museo de la Lucha Clandestina (Clandestine Struggle). 
The museum itself is housed in a colonial-style building. 
It was the headquarters of Batista's police force during the 50's, until it was burnt down by the revolutionaries, led by Frank Pais in 1956. 
The restored rooms now house a museum celebrating the Movimiento 26 de Julio which details the underground struggle against Batista in the 1950's.

Parque Cespedes (below) commemorates Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, the man who kick-started the Cuban independence movement back in 1868. His statue is in the middle of the plaza.

On the right you can see the beautifully restored Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion.
Straight ahead is the Hotel Casa Granda where we stopped on the beautiful balcony to share a greasy pizza for lunch. Apparently Graham Greene also lunched here back in 1914.

However the view over the park made up for the food. I (probably unfairly) blame the iced tea I had here on the tummy bug that savaged me that evening.

The building on the left with the blue details is the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall).
Fidel Castro made his first triumphant speech to the Cuban people from this balcony on the 2nd January 1959.

Parque Cespedes is also one of the wi-fi parks in Santiago.
All the locals gather here with their devices & Etecsa cards to log on.
Musicians, wi-fi card touts, tourists and locals all intermingle in this square, creating a happy, vibrant buzz.

The final Santiago panorama (below) was taken from the balcony area in front of the Catedral.

On the right is the Hotel Casa Granda.
Next to it is the Casa de la Cultura Miguel Matamoros which was the San Carlos Club before the revolution. It now houses the Salon de los Espejos for artistic and cultural events.

The glass windowed building on the left is a bank.
While the squat building next to it is the Casa de Diego Velazquez built in 1516-30 for the governor Diego Velaquez. Restored in 1965 it is now the Museo Ambiente Historico Cubano featuring Cuban furniture through the ages.

If you are viewing this on your computer, click on each image to make them larger.
This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy New Year

Happy New Year from Sydney, Australia to all my blogging friends in New Zealand who have just tipped over into 2017!

The 9pm fireworks in Sydney are smaller than the more famous midnight ones, but they're great for families.

All the harbour pontoons synchronise their displays, so that fireworks light up the sky all around the various coves and bays of the city.

Our Inner West suburb is dotted with wonderful viewing spots.
We haven't been here for years to celebrate NYE - I'd forgotten how exciting it is.

The suburb is closed off at lunch time, so that only residents can drive in.

All the parks start to fill up with families about 8.30pm. 
Parties seem to ooze out of every second house to watch the fireworks.

Everyone oooh's and aahhh's, a few young children cry, we all applaud at the end. 
Then everyone takes the kids back home and put them all to bed.

The parties continue, the young adults start arriving, the pubs fill up, party boats dooff dooff around the harbour & Mr Seasons & I meander home to put our feet up under the air con, with a beer in hand & watch the Robbie Williams in Talinn concert until it's time to meander back to our secret viewing spot for the midnight display.

Pop back just after midnight for some pics of the big display!


WOW! The midnight display is always so much better in real life than the TV.
It's nice to have the occasional Christmas and NY at home so that we can enjoy these fabulous Sydney events up close and personal.

All the the booklets are home safe and sound now, so I'm off to bed.

Happy New Year one and all, whatever your time zone, may your new year be joyous, healthy and full of grace.

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas

Our local council provided some Christmas cheer in our Square this year for the first time.
Some scoffed - it was too small.
Some thought it a waste of money - bah humbug!

But I love our graceful little tree - in all weathers and lights - it was a lovely way to start and end my work day.

However, no-one in their right mind would dare call the Christmas tree in the QVB too small!
Moving up into the dome from the ground floor, through three levels, this tree is truly majestic and magnificent. Covered in Swarovski crystals it sparkles from its tippy top to its glorious base.

Christmas in Australia means the flowering of the native Christmas Bush - one of my favourite bushes for its glorious colour and delicate flowers.

The neighbours cat showing off his Christmas cool!

Seasonally silliness as our old Sydney buses get pulled out of retirement to become party buses!

My bosses grandson and his friend, graced our doorstep with Christmas carols for the first time this year. It was a lovely way to work our day. It was such a delight to see how poised and assured this young man has become. Our customers were thrilled and my boss was beaming from ear to ear.

Merry Christmas one and all.

However you spend your 25th of December, may it be filled with family, friends and love, at the very least. And may your Christmas Eve be filled with fun, laughter and good cheer.

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

The Royal Hall of Industries

The Royal Hall of Industries at Moore Park holds many fond memories for me.
During my childhood, when the Royal Easter Show was held in this area, the Royal Hall of Industries was the showbag pavilion.

Officially opened in February 1913, the RHoI only took nine months to build.
With vaulted ceilings and cathedral windows, this Greco-Roman style building is majestic and imposing.

Used as an exhibition space from the beginning, the Hall was later commandeered by the government during the 1919 Influenza as a morgue.

Throughout the roaring twenties, it was affectionately known as the Palais Royale by the young party goers and used for balls, dances and roller skating.

During the Depression, the Hall was turned into a boxing ring.
The army then took over the space during WWII.

Now the Hall is used for special events like the Big Designer Market (which is why we visited recently), the Mardi Gras Party and for the filming of Masterchef Live. 

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

White Rabbit Gallery

I've been meaning to visit The White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale for years, but it was spotting a friends post on Instagram from the Vile Bodies exhibition that prompted me to finally go.

I'm not sure I can say exactly why the mass hanging of nude male figures was the prompt I needed except perhaps I was feeling in need of being challenged.

Zhang Dali's, Chinese Offspring is challenging to all your senses whichever way you look at it.
And there's plenty of viewing options - it fills the air space in the main entrance foyer and it can be seen from each level of the staircase.

Cheng Dapeng's Wonderful City was an amazing collection of body parts and hybrid creations artfully displayed on a 9.6m long lightbox. The mutant forms were strangely appealing.

Yang Xin's, Original 5 mixes organic and inorganic pigments to "produce multicoloured blobs that resemble living cells".

Xu  Xinping's clasped hands were a calming feature in this rather startling exhibition.

"Gigantic clasped hands, rendered in white chalk pastel on red paper in twelve separate panels, loom out of the black charcoal background, like a monumental sculpture. Is this a gesture of prayer, of supplication, or of patient resignation?"

Exotic Flowers and Rare Herbs Series by Cang Xin features a "menagerie of invented, hybrid life forms, with luxuriant plants growing from the bodies of creatures including porcupines, cockroaches and scorpions."

The Gallery also contains a Tea House - the bird cage ceiling display, whilst sipping one's green tea, was far more relaxing and rustic than the exhibition.

Vile Bodies was surprising, bizarre and confronting at times.
I'll be curious to see what turns up in the space next year.

"The White Rabbit Collection is one of the world’s largest and most significant collections of contemporary Chinese art. Founded by Kerr and Judith Neilson, it focuses on works produced after 2000."

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Crowded House Encore

I have loved Crowded House and their music from day one.
I purchased their first album the day it was released in Australia - I was at uni, in Wagga and I still remember how happy I was to be the first in my dorm to have it!
Don't Dream It's Over was my first favourite song, but very quickly, every single song won it's way into my heart.

Over the years, I acquired every single album that Crowded House released.

Twenty years ago I was devastated when they announced they were breaking up.
And I was utterly  heart broken when I realised I wouldn't be able to attend their free farewell concert on the forecourt of the Opera House.

In 2005 when Paul Hester suddenly and sadly died, I gave up all hope of every seeing them play live.

Fast forward to 2016 and the unexpected announcement that the remining members of Crowded House would perform an encore concert at the Opera House to celebrate their induction into the ARIA Hall of Fame.

Two encore concerts blew out to four very quickly as ticket sales went ballistic!
Mr Seasons sat online for an hour or so, to finally secure us tickets for the final nights performance.

It's almost impossible to describe how excited I was!

We arrived a couple of hours early, to find this line snaking it's way back down Circular Quay.

But we were still early enough to secure a fantastic viewing spot on the steps. 

I won't bore you with a zillion blurry photos of the stage - mostly because I was too busy dancing and singing to think about taking photos!

After a brilliant evening, with a guest appearance by Neil's equally famous older brother, Tim, the skies above our heads lit up with a fireworks display.

The concert was televised live around the world - I hope you were lucky enough to see it too.
It was a special night for many of us - including this reporter - Jamila Rizvi - who summed up perfectly what we all experienced on Sunday night.

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.