Thursday, January 26, 2017

Impressions of Cuba


That, along with "gracias" and "cafe con leche" is about all of the Spanish I know, haha. Thank goodness we have the perfect translator/tour guide in our family. As some of you may know, our son-in-law was born and raised in Havana, Cuba. Which is what prompted our recent trip to visit his homeland and his family, now that relations between the U.S. and Cuba have improved and commercial flights are available. Our visit was relatively short, only 4 full days there, but it was a great introduction and we will definitely be returning!

I'm going to warn you that this post is photo-heavy, so I'll try to keep my ramblings to a minimum. But I do hope you enjoy the beautiful sights of Havana and Varadero Cuba. OK, let's go...

Our first view of the city was here, along the Paseo del Prado, leading to this photo of the Parque Central. It is easy to see the charm of island vegetation intermingled with centuries-old baroque and neoclassic architecture. And, of course, the famed antique cars of Cuba are abundant. It really is very much like the romantic photos you see on travel websites. And as a bonus, the weather was absolutely perfect while we were there! There was not a cloud in the sky, and the temps were in the upper 70's and lower 80's during the days. What a welcomed break from our Nebraska winters!

On our first night in Havana, my favorite daughter surprised me with tickets to see Ballet Nacional de Cuba performing The Nutcracker in the incredibly beautiful Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso. I can't tell you how happy this made me :) My daughter and I love to attend dance performances often (she is a professional dancer, herself, as is our son-in-law) and this was SO special! As a matter of fact, The Nutcracker is what brought our two dancers together, as that is where they first met :)

Now, I will say that we had to giggle a little bit about the fact that we were seeing The Nutcracker in January in a tropical climate. We have seen many versions of this ballet, and she has performed in countless Nutcrackers; and this was the first time we went wearing summer attire.

You can see the opulence of this theatre. In Cuba, unlike in the United States, the arts are highly revered and supported.

I would never have known it, but Jordan pointed out that Alicia Alonso, herself, was in the audience. Her story is very interesting. I encourage you to look her up on the web. She is a Cuban prima ballerina whose vision was impaired from the age of 19. She married early and the couple moved to New York, where she studied with the School of American Ballet. She eventually became a principal dancer for the company, and she and her partners learned to compensate for her vision impairment. In 1948, she returned to Cuba to found a ballet company, and she also started a dance school. During these years, Alonso continued to dance as well. When Castro took power in 1959, he offered cultural funding for her company. To this day, she is considered one of the "greatest ballerinas of her time", and as a director has produced many world-renowned dancers. This is but a brief little summary of Alonso's story, but there is much more to it if you care to do some exploring.

You can see here that the sets were not as extravagant as some American productions. But the dancing was stunning! We didn't mind the minimal props, and it was fun to see a new interpretation of the scenes and costumes.

And here is a dazzling look at the theatre at night. Have you ever?

The next day, we walked through Old Havana and visited a brewery. I have to say that I was not very enthusiastic about this prospect, because I had better things! But the brewery turned out to be surprisingly fun! We had lunch, a cocktail, and listened to some live music - Cuban style :)

We all laughed a little over the menu. It was this giant board that the servers carried from table to table. During our trip, we enjoyed many mojitos. We were also fond of the Cristal, which is a light beer...and it's inexpensive, too! I'm not much of a drinker, but we were on vacation after all ;)

After leaving the brewery, we walked over to the "fair" for a little shopping. It was very much like other tourist spots that I've visited on cruise excursions in the past...lots of souvenirs and inexpensive kitschy items being sold in rows of booths. But we all left with a few treasures, like coasters, art, and jewelry.

When our stomachs and shopping ambitions were thoroughly sated, we headed to our son-in-law's family home for a wonderful, authentic Cuban dinner and priceless time blending our two families together.

There was a bit of a communication barrier, but we did lots of laughing and hugging in the universal language. Because Cubans are not permitted to leave their country, they were not able to attend the kids' wedding. This was the first time we had all been together, and we created some extraordinarily special memories.

The following day, we headed 2 hours from Havana to spend time on one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. White sand, turquoise waters, a gentle breeze...ahhhhhh!

I hadn't prepared for a beach day when I packed, so here I am in my shorts. Obviously, though, that little faux-pas didn't dampen the day's fun! Here at Varadero, Matanzas, there are many hotels and resorts. My husband was chomping at the bit to play can bet that next time we go, I'll pack a bathing suit, and he'll pack his clubs!

A few daiquiris later..........

Day 4 included a visit to Floridita, a historic fish restaurant and cocktail bar in the older part of Havana, Cuba. The establishment is famous for its daiquiris and for having been one of the favorite hangouts of Ernest Hemingway in Havana. (source: Wikipedia.)

The designer in me was compelled to take a picture of the chair (please forgive the glare.) It's cool, huh? The decor was really interesting, and those famous daiquiris were quite tasty. We had some Cubano sandwiches and, once again, enjoyed live local musicians.

My hubby decided to have a little chat with Mr. Hemingway, and my daughter took a sip from the giant daiquiri display. Pretty typical hijinks for this family, haha.

Our final evening in Havana found us in Plaza Vieja for a fun dinner at La Vitrola, a 50's-themed restaurant. We really enjoyed the area, which boasted more gorgeous architecture and a delightful atmosphere.

This city is rich with beautiful buildings, carved wood and stone, and old-world elegance. My fascination with the architecture had me taking lots of pictures, as you can see.

I hope you've enjoyed this little travelogue. If you ever get the chance to visit Cuba, you won't be disappointed. I can hardly wait to return!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Turner Bubble Mirror

Happy New Year, Friends! 

Have you cleared all the glitter and pine needles from your homes by now?  Many times, when our rooms have been bedecked with holiday dressings for several weeks, they feel stark and empty after we pack the ornaments away.  It takes a little adjusting to appreciate our everyday d├ęcor again.  But, I find this the perfect time to look at my rooms with fresh eyes.

I have SO many design projects on the docket for 2017!  These rooms are very tired, dated, and ready for new life.  The "biggie" will be our Master Bedroom.  Have you ever noticed that there are zero photos of our bedroom(s) on this blog?  Well, there is a very good reason for that, haha!  As soon as progress gets underway in the Master, I'll be shamelessly humbly revealing a "before" photo.

In the meantime, though, there are lots of smaller facelifts going on around here.  I may have mentioned that I'm trying to update my design style and replace some Neoclassic/Vintage items with fresh looks.  Don't get me wrong...I'm all about a great period piece, and my style will ALWAYS be an eclectic mix.  But, I'm really ready to interject some modern lines and statements into our spaces.  In fact, toys are not the only Christmas gift I bought myself this year (see previous post if that sentence piqued your curiosity.)

A couple of months ago, I was perusing one of my favorite antique stores looking for bits and bobs for Etsy projects, when I spotted a Turner Bubble Mirror (insert heart eyes emoji here!)  My heart skipped a few beats, but I walked away after I looked at the price tag, as it was definitely over my self-imposed budget.  The vision of that mirror was planted in my head, though, and weeks later I told myself that I'd return to the shop...if the mirror was still there, that meant it should come home with me.


Plus, the consignor offered me a 20% discount - Yea!  It was still a splurge, for sure, but I knew that the mirror would have good staying power and could adapt to many future rooms and styles.

Here is what little I have been able to learn about it on the web:

The Turner Manufacturing Company was located in Chicago, IL and went out of business in 1975.  At one point, Turner was the largest producer of low-cost prints of "old masters" and mirrors, which were sold at department stores and "Five-and-Dimes."  (via quirksbyannie)

I'm not sure if I got a deal or if I gave away the farm.  Either way, I love this mirror and don't have a drop of buyer's remorse.  That being said, there are a couple of things that were actually better about the mirror that used to hang in this spot, haha.  It was larger and filled the space better; and it reflected what is in the room (which made for prettier photos.)

But, the "bubbles" of the Turner Bubble Mirror really reflect (no pun intended) the shape of the convex mirrors that hang above our sectional, as seen in a photo from earlier last fall (hence, the pumpkins and acorns.)

I think this new mirror elevates the look of these two spaces.  It's industrial, chic, and modern, all at the same time.  It reminds me of something that would be produced by a car manufacturer, do you agree?

Thanks for stopping by to see my new mirror.  Next week we're off to Havana, Cuba for a few days, so hopefully I'll have plenty of great photos to share with you when we return!


Sharing with:  Between Naps on the Porch, Vintage Charm, Life on Lakeshore Drive, Sundays at Home, Between Naps on the Porch, The Scoop, Inspire Me Tuesday, Inspire Me Monday