A new 7th wonder

Following an internet poll a few years back, Havana was chosen as one of the world’s New Seventh Wonder cities, and after a recent trip there I can certainly see why;  I spent ten days being totally captivated mostly by the Cubans who made this one of the most friendly and memorable places I’d ever been.  I want to go back.  Soon.

Glencoe for printing-61

I had a nice reminder of what is really important in life too.  Compared to the West, the Cubans get by on remarkably little – the monthly salary would barely buy a decent dinner here in London – but they are incredibly proud of their country, its free education system (and I know plenty of students in the UK who’d love free university education), free healthcare with life expectancy now better than the nearby USA, and respect for older citizens who can access services to keep them active and independent well into their 80s and 90s.  Quite simply, Cubans look out for each other and they live and work together; it’s a shame we’ve lost some of that.

Glencoe for printing-39

There’s work for everyone and the place is a constant bustle; it also seemingly never sleeps, and it was a joy to see local friends and families simply out on the streets, walking, talking and laughing.  I was slightly less impressed by the early morning roosters though – but I suppose they meant I never over-slept.

Glencoe for printing-60

My trip was as part of a small group of (4) photographers with a local guide for five days, and we had a fabulous time.  Having a local guide over an extended period meant we got to parts of town that most tourists probably wouldn’t see.  Travelling with a few like-minded people also meant we could talk photography and bang on about gear without boring all the people we were with!   I also enjoyed a few days by myself on the weekends either side of the trip – time to get totally immersed and just go with the moment.

Glencoe for printing-71

There’s so much material for photographers to work with too (especially given how we’re so drawn to decay), although it’s hard to avoid some of the Cuban clichés – old cars, old ladies smoking cigars, etc.  It took a little while to ‘get my eye in’ after some fallow weeks photography-wise but I’m happy with some of the images I got.  I was even happier with the great company, the excellent music in the evenings and, let’s be honest, the rum (yum).

Glencoe for printing-36

If you’re wondering about going, I’d say that as long as you’re not a compulsive neat-freak then don’t hesitate and get there as soon as you can – but don’t go to the all-inclusive tourist resorts; stay in one of the private casa particulares  (Cuban B&B) and get to live with the locals.  Eat like them too – simple Cuban food (grilled meat or fish with rice and vegetables) was tasty and plentiful; Cuban takes on other cuisines (Italian for example) is probably what leads to complaints from the tourists….

I hope some of these photographs might be a little encouragement too.

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Published by

Jon Schick

South East London-based, I work for the National Health Service but try and fit in some photography on a regular basis - often on dog walks with Harry my patient Lab-Retriever! Harry and his three cat companions provide some photographic material when the going gets really tough (it's the internet - gotta have a cat photo) but the almost-grown kids stay as far away from the lens as possible!

2 thoughts on “A new 7th wonder”

  1. Hi Jon, Did you go with old friends or with people from a group or what. I would love to do something such as this …and as retired probably can. I was worried about formal groups with well known photographers but an informal one sounds so delightful. I love many of these photgraphs …. Must have been magical …
    PS life has been cpmlex recently as Sarah and my mothers both in their mid nineties and both been severely ill in hospital. I am at the moment up on Sanday in the Orkneys … But hopefully things will calm down soon T

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  2. Hi Tom – great to hear from you – I’ve removed your email address from the comment though so you don’t share it with all my many reader(s) from all over the world….. well, at one person in the Orkneys tonight :-). I went to Havana by myself and just signed up for a tour with a company that said they’d accept a maximum of 5 people per trip, and took my luck. It was certainly an informal group and we had a great time over the 5 days. I stayed for the weekend either side and had a wander around by myself – not something I do often, but I’ve been on a couple of photo-trips by myself over the past couple of years and really enjoyed them; that may say something about how antisocial I must be!

    Hope things go well with your relatives and that they get out of hospital soon – are they getting some good rehabilitation so they’ll be able to get out asap?

    And one other recommendation for you – as a taster for a photo trip, there are some great ones in and around Scotland (and elsewhere) run by Dimitri Vasileiou and Mike Bell – check out inspiring-photography.com. That’s who I went with when I took the Glencoe photo on the next post. For photo-technique they are far superior to the tour I did in Cuba – I learned so much over a short weekend and they are lovely people and great guides.

    Cheers,

    Jon

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