Tips For Traveling to Havana:
1 DO remember that Americans cannot use credit or debit cards while in Cuba, so you must bring all of the money you may need.
2 DO NOT get food poisoning the day before you fly to Havana.
3 DO learn/practice some Spanish before you travel.
4 DO NOT consider hotel food for your first foray back into eating after food poisoning.
5 DO appreciate the architecture of Havana, and not just the classic cars.
6 DO NOT become so engrossed in looking up at the architecture while walking around Old Havana that you fail to notice and then step into freshly poured wet cement. With both feet.
7 DO try the relatively recently established private restaurants or "paladares' if food is palatable to you during your visit.
8 DO NOT expect that the overseas shipment with half of the pieces for your solo gallery photography show opening the day after you are slated to return to New York will have arrived as scheduled before you leave, or even be delivered in New York while you are in Havana.
9 DO enjoy the fantastic and seemingly omnipresent live music throughout Havana.
Travel tips illustrated:
Tip #5: Image above taken from within the shell of a building in Old Havana, the ground floor of which functions as an informal market housing makeshift stalls for selling produce.
Images below: first La Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada de La Habana, and then the Gran Teatro de la Havana.
Construction on the cathedral began in 1748 and finished in 1777, resulting in one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Cuba. The cathedral is constructed primarily of blocks of coral cut from the Gulf of Mexico, allowing marine fossils to be seen in the facade.
The Gran Teatro opened in 1915 during the early years of Cuban independence, built around and preserving the Teatro Tacon, which had opened in 1838.
Tip #6: Yup, not a joke.
Tip #7: Economic reforms instituted in Cuba in 2011 eased regulations on private restaurants, making a practical reality of what was only a technical possibility in the 1990s. These ‘paladares’ are found in private homes or premises, and are the best option for dining out in Havana.
La Guarida is considered one of the best paladares in Havana, and that reputation has made a challenge of getting a reservation. Lunch seatings are easier to attain, and as it turns out were a fortuitous alternative as the daytime allowed for better lighting of the beautifully textured interior space currently undergoing renovation. It's a bit of sensory overload, with the evident aging and deterioration contrasted by jolts of applied color, both within and without.
I wanted to capture a bit of La Guarida on my phone as I was leaving, while not being so obvious in my efforts. The result is this slightly shaky video, which still shows the fantastically narrow and high doors, the maze of passageways from the dining room to the kitchen, the buzzing sounds of reconstruction, and the beauty of decay before it is ameliorated. Recording was interrupted so that I could shoot the space with my camera, before resuming the video. I love the web of twine woven between the walls and columns, which at the time I thought was related to the construction, but is actually used to hang the laundry of linens from the restaurant.
See more images on Instagram, @michele_dragonetti
Cooke, Julia. The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba. Seal Press 2014.
Sweig, Julia E. Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know. Third Edition. Oxford University Press 2016.
"Sea Something, Save Something" at Borghese Vineyard is open through the month of May, and seeks to build community around the efforts to raise awareness of the need to protect the marine environment on both the North and South forks of Long Island's east end. Fundraising efforts will benefit Cornell University's Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program. Borghese Vineyard, 17150 County Rd 48, Cutchogue, NY 11935 on Long Island's North Fork.
artUNPRIMED pop-up show, open through May 15 at 105 Newtown Lane in East Hampton, NY. See artunprimed.com for more information on the show and other exhibiting artists.
I am also showing a piece from my Boat Hulls series in the Guild Hall 79th Artist Members Exhibition, through June 3, 2017, in East Hampton, NY.