Tuesday Photo Challenge – Flowers

This is my entry in the Dutch Goes the Photo! Tuesday Photo Challenge – Flowers.

Weeping Cherry Blossoms

The photo shows a sidewalk covered with the pink petals that have fallen from a weeping cherry tree. The flowers were beautiful while they were on the tree and continue to spread their beauty on the ground, ornamenting the shadows of the branches from which they fell.

The photo was taken by our daughter on April 26, 2016, at 8:06 am with a Samsung  Galaxy S6 cell phone

Cuban Diary Day 6: Las Terrazas Eco-community

 Thursday, 12 May 2016

This morning Caridad got up at 5:30, since we have an 8:30 start. The towel she put under the bathroom sink to catch the plumbing drips was soaked and water was pooled in front of it, just where someone stands to use the sink. The plumbing leak has been getting progressively worse each day. There is a floor drain under the sink, but the water does not go anywhere near it. Caridad mopped up the water with the towel and wrung it out in the tub (three times). The maid had left a towel animal for us yesterday, and it was a shame to sacrifice it to mop up water. When Caridad got out of the shower, the dripping of the sink was audible as the water drops hit the towel on the floor. While the leaking of the sink has gotten much worse, the toilet has been working better for the past two days.

Lazaro feels much better this morning, stomach-wise, and the wound on his head appears to be healing.

As Caridad sits typing this, the cigarette smell is getting worse.

The drinking water situation for us is getting serious, since we have been unable to get out to buy large bottles of water. We each get 500 mL per day on the bus, and the same size bottle costs 2 CUC in the hotel. The hotel doesn’t sell larger bottles.

A few words about our tour group members: of the 13, 2 are from California, 4 from Virginia, 2 from Washington, DC, 1 from Pennsylvania, 3 from New York, and 1 from Maine. We are West Coast and East Coast, and we are as varied in opinions as would be expected, a microcosm of the US. We have (at least) one Trump supporter; while some others express strong opinions that suggest political leanings, they have not openly declared for a candidate.

Since we are going out in the country today, we are using sunscreen and an insect repellent with picaridin to discourage mosquitoes from biting us. We haven’t seen any mosquitoes yet, but the Zika virus is here in Cuba (with cases in Havana, even) and we don’t want to risk taking it back to the US.

Downstairs at breakfast, we had the tried and true: hard-boiled egg, toast (without the runny “jam”), dates, and coffee, as well as some pineapple that was fresh. Our new theory is that fresh food appears on Wednesdays and stays there (for at least a week) until it is eaten. Our first breakfast here was Sunday, the 5th day of the cycle. Today Caridad tried a half-slice of French toast, with some kind of syrup, as a test. She could not cut a bite off with a knife, which left only a faint depression after a few long seconds of sawing. Lazaro said that he has seen people put the tough bread through the toaster, but, of course, we don’t know if it worked for them.

We were back downstairs early for the scheduled 8:30 bus departure (that happened at 8:45). After about an hour on the bus, we arrived at Las Terrazas eco-community and picked up a guide for Las Terrazas. Here we were given a welcome drink and musical performance.

Papermaking in the studio of Ariel Gato Miranda

Since the briefing room there was being renovated, the guide briefed us on the bus ride to the first stop, a local artist, Ariel Gato Miranda. This man makes paper from recycled office paper and silkscreens his designs on this paper to make smaller prints and notepaper. He also makes wooden hummingbirds from bits of leftover wood. These hummingbirds come apart for easy transportation. Our souvenirs were a hummingbird and an art print.

Hulling coffee beans at Las Terrazas

After this, we drove to the site of an ancient coffee plantation that had been owned by the Spanish and worked by their slaves. The guide explained how coffee beans were picked, dried, and hulled by the slaves. She showed us where the slaves were locked in at night, with a dozen slaves in each stone room than was about 8 feet on each side. There were 10 such rooms.

At each place, the guide pointed out trees, plants, and birds. The Cuban trogon, pictured on the left above, is the national bird of Cuba. It is known in Cuba as the tocororo, or tocoloro, for its call.  This trogon is sitting on the branch of a tree with the nickname “English Tree,” so-named for its red bark that looks like sunburned and peeling skin. The lichen (pictured on the right above) that grows on some trees as splotches or stripes, depending on the type of tree, indicates that the health of the air is good in this area.

The original Maria of Café de María.

We made a stop at the village shops that service the community. Here we were able to sample local Cuban coffee in the Café de María.

Chickens at Casa del Campesino

We went from here to Casa del Campesino, where we had lunch. We had a salad (cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber), bread, sweet potato crisps, rice, black beans, chicken, shredded pork, and chocolate ice cream and coffee (espresso) for dessert. While we ate, a peacock and a mother hen with chicks searched the ground just in front of the restaurant for crumbs. One brave chick ventured inside to search between feet under the tables .

While the itinerary listed free time to swim at Rio San Juan, the Las Terrazas guide told us that was not possible because there had not been enough rain for the past three months. When some group members asked whether we could see it anyway, she declined, saying the place “would be embarrassing.”

We headed back to Havana on the bus. The local guide accompanied us for a few miles before getting off near her home.

On the bus, the tour members questioned our guide about various topics. Our guide, in discussing higher education in Cuba, described someone she knows who has a college degree in computer science, but at his job was asked to use MS-2. After a few seconds, someone said “DOS,” but the moment passed. The guide did not realize that MS-DOS means “Microsoft Disk Operating System”; she just translated the Spanish word “dos” into the English “two.”  (MS-DOS was principally used from the 1980s to the mid-1990s, after which it was gradually superceded by Microsoft Windows, although it was the underlying basic operating system through Windows 98 SE. Microsoft support for Windows 98 SE ended on July 11, 2006.  The guide’s acquaintance was being asked to work with a system that hasn’t been supported for 10 years.)

We arranged with our guide for a reservation for dinner at a restaurant in Old Havana. We will go and return by taxi on our own.

We were all returned to our hotel to freshen up before dinner. Five of the group are going in a convertible old car to the Tropicana for a show tonight. They will be out very late.

Towel swan

When we got to our room, we found that the plumbing for the sink had been repaired while we were out. There are new supply lines and shutoffs. This should be the end of the leaking. This probably means that our toilet was also actually repaired several days ago. As an added bonus, our maid left us a towel swan, which we can now keep intact.

Menu at Restaurant Moneda Cubana

Dinner is at Restaurant Moneda Cubana on the corner of Mercaderes and Empedrado Streets, near the Cathedral Square at 7 pm. We took a taxi from the hotel and were at the restaurant 15 minutes early, but they seated us anyway. We had a table for two on the rooftop, at the edge with a beautiful view of the fort across the Bay of Havana and of the surrounding buildings and the small park below where boys were playing. The dinner was bread (rolls, large crackers, and bread sticks) with a dipping sauce, squash soup, two large lobster tails each, rice, and some cooked green pepper and cucumber slices. It was delicious.

As we were finishing, we saw that four members of our tour group were seated at the other end of the roof from us. Our guide had independently recommended the restaurant to all of us, but we didn’t know we would all end up there. We were finished before they were served.

Ernest Hemingway in La Floriditas

After this, we walked to El Floridita, which is a bar that Ernest Hemingway made famous. There is a life-sized statue of him posed at the end of the bar, and many tourists have their picture taken with “him.” After taking pictures, we sat and listened to a small band play Cuban music. There were four women (singer, drums, guitar, and flute) and one man (bass) in the band and they were quite good.

Statue of José Martí, in Central Park, Havana

After this, we walked around taking pictures after dark of streets, statues, buildings, and parts of buildings (e.g., towers). We walked back to the same area near our restaurant and declined offers of taxis until a young man with a green 1952 Pontiac approached us. His car has a Toyota engine and a Citron steering wheel. He drove us back to the hotel for a good price.

We bought a 500 mL bottle of water before going back to our room. Then blogging and bed. Tomorrow the bus leaves at 9 am.

Stay tuned for more of our Cuban diary. If you want to catch up on the first days, read:

Eight Days in Cuba: an Introduction

Cuban Diary Day 1: Arriving in Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 2: Squares of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 2: Views of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 3: Cigars, Salad and Salsa

Cuban Diary Day 3: Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia

Cuban Diary Day 4: Religion, Restoration, and Revolution

Cuban Diary Day 5: Society, Art, and a Micro-brewery

Cuban Diary Day 5: Society, Art, and a Micro-brewery

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Caridad got up at 6 am again, but Lazaro was up frequently in the night. Something from yesterday did not agree with his stomach. Caridad is not optimistic that breakfast here will help. Just before leaving the room, Lazaro banged his head on the towel rack in the bathroom and we had to clean up the blood and bandage his head before leaving. On the way to breakfast, Lazaro exchanged $40 USD for 34.80 CUC.

The breakfast buffet appeared to be replenished. The baguettes were only slightly stale, and there were complete rows of cheese slices. We stuck with boiled egg, baguette, dates, pineapple slices (the tough core had not been cut out), orange juice (not bad), and coffee (good). It was also easy to find a table for two inside the restaurant.

We were ready for the bus well before 9 am, but the bus was late. This morning our first stop was a 90 minute workshop (discussion) with Dr. Marta Nunez on “Education and Cuban Society Today.” She is a PhD sociologist (retired) and she spoke at length on homophobia and other sexual identity problems in Cuba. She also spoke about women’s problems, specifically, that women are still expected to keep house and raise children in addition to their full time jobs, even though the Cuban marriage vows specify that husband and wife will share these family tasks equally. Men, on the other hand, are raised to be macho and never trained how to do housework. The birth rate in Cuba is slightly over 1 child per family, partly because women have no time for more children and partly because abortion is legal and prevalent as birth control. She answered questions thoughtfully. It was a good session. (The photos above were taken on the main level of the building where we met.)

One of our group asked what would happen if she walked into a men’s room, assuming she self-identified as male. The guide said she would be escorted to a ladies’ room, because that is what she looks like. Cuba does not yet have a law that would allow her to use the men’s room. 

On the way to our next scheduled activity, we made an unplanned stop (at the request of a tour group member) at the government-run Marina Hemingway, Cuba’s largest marina. (The only relationship to Ernest Hemingway is the use of his name.) This is the marina that foreign pleasure boats must enter, rather than Havana harbor. Originally, the marina, named the Marina Barlovento Complex, was built (beginning in 1953) with docks for the yachts of resident property-owners. However, the marina was nationalized as part of the revolution in 1959 and renamed Marina Hemingway. Hosting many nautical events, the Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba (HIYC of Cuba), founded on May 21, 1992, also holds races here.

Next we took the bus to the home of the acclaimed Cuban artist Jose Fuster. He has filled his small house and yard (and his neighbors’ walls) with ceramic sculptures and murals. We were welcomed by his oldest son. There were other artists-in-training there, also. The best mural, in Caridad’s opinion, was on a second story wall and represented Noah’s ark. After we looked around for about 20 minutes, lunch was served in a small pavilion in his front yard. The lunch consisted of bread, squash with onions, salad, chicken, fish fillets, rice, black beans, and a flaky pastry (resembling a moon pie, except square) for dessert.

Following lunch, we toured the National Bellas Artes, a museum of Cuban Art. We were taken around by a young woman who described many rooms of art. We saw works by several artists as their styles evolved over time, as influenced by the revolution. There were two artists who (according to the guide) were representing their repression as homosexuals. In Caridad’s opinion, one of these artists had just painted plain old pornography. The tour ended abruptly (our time was up), so we tipped the guide and headed back downstairs. Caridad looked in the gift shop for a postcard with a painting by Pedro Pablo Oliva, who, she thought, had the best paintings, but there was none. Maybe Caridad can find out something more about that artist when she gets back home. (Photography was not permitted in this museum. Also, we were not permitted to view the pre-Revolutionary art, which supposedly includes works by Rubens, Murillo and Goya.)

Line of 1950s cars

Heading back to the hotel, the bus stopped for 10 minutes near a long line of old cars so that we could get off the bus and take photos. We two sat in a 1952 Chevy convertible while the owner took pictures of us. He said it had the original engine.

The bus then took us back to the hotel to freshen up. After blogging, it was nap time.

Ship in Havana Harbor

Around 7:15, the bus arrived to take us to dinner. Driving past the Havana Harbor, we saw an interesting ship (pictured above). This is where the first cruise ship to visit Cuba was anchored last week.

Our dinner was at Antiguo Almacén de la Madera y el Tabaco, a micro-brewery. (We did not tour the facility,  but the large vats and other apparatus were clearly visible.) The restaurant placed two two-liter tubes of beer on the table (one light, one dark) and diners helped themselves from the taps. The dark variety seemed to be more popular. The appetizer was a salad of shredded cabbage with a few very thin slivers of cucumber and a few toothpick-sized pieces of carrot. The entree was a mound of white rice (more than a cup), about a quarter cup of a cooked cabbage mixture, and perhaps 3 ounces of shredded beef. Dessert was shredded coconut in sweetened milk, followed by a tiny cup of espresso (though twice the volume of espressos we have been served elsewhere). The food all tasted good. While we ate, a band played Cuban music, and after the performance they sold CDs of their music to several group members.

On the way back to the hotel, the bus dropped six of the group to go to a bar that Hemingway frequented, where there would be music and dancing. The rest of us continued back to the hotel. We have an 8:30 start tomorrow, the earliest yet. Lazaro is still trying to get over what appears to be food poisoning from yesterday and needs a good night’s sleep.

The smell of cigarettes is very strong in the room tonight. One group member thinks that someone is smoking in another room and the smoke travels from that window into hers and ours. The windows do not close all the way. She also is sick from something she ate yesterday.

And so to bed.

Stay tuned for more of our Cuban diary. If you want to catch up on the first days, read:

Eight Days in Cuba: an Introduction

Cuban Diary Day 1: Arriving in Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 2: Squares of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 2: Views of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 3: Cigars, Salad and Salsa

Cuban Diary Day 3: Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia

Cuban Diary Day 4: Religion, Restoration, and Revolution

Cuban Diary Day 4: Religion, Restoration, and Revolution

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Today is our fourth day in Cuba.

Up at 6 am today to find out that hot water is not turned on until 6:30. The same smell of cigarettes is here, stronger in the night but still here. Going down to breakfast, our next-door neighbor held the elevator for us. Unfortunately, none of us thought to push a floor button, so the elevator ascended rather than descended. After 5 more stops (2 on the way up, 3 on the way down), we had added 9 French-speaking passengers for a total of 12 on the elevator. (The posted capacity for the elevator is 10 persons.) It was so crowded that a young man waiting at one of the stops did not get on (but the woman at the next stop did squeeze in after making a face). We original three, being at the back of the car by now, were last off. As Lazaro said, “it looks like a clown car” as we all streamed off the elevator. The last departing Frenchman turned and smiled. Our neighbor, the first on the car, was the last off and the last into the breakfast buffet (no good deed goes unpunished).

Lobby, Hotel Presidente

Following the French crowd into the breakfast buffet, we saw that it was overfilled with no place to sit. Caridad found an empty table in the lobby outside the restaurant door, and by the end of breakfast, there were several other Americans (only) at the tables there. The buffet offerings were the same as yesterday, and again, the palatable choices (for Caridad) were a boiled egg, toast, and dates.  Lazaro readjusted the toaster, moving the setting from toast to bagels, since the toaster was not powerful enough to toast a slice of bread on one pass. We had juice and coffee, which were passable. Other pastries tried were lead. One of our group at dinner yesterday had suggested the cheese, but when we looked at it this morning, there was very little left around the edges of the tray and that was congealed. We can’t believe that the Cuban people, cooking at home with the same ingredients, would produce what passes for food in this restaurant.

Lazaro again tried to get change to use for tips, by asking the front desk for 1 CUC notes, but they had none, only 3 CUC notes. With the unfavorable exchange rate, and tipping at least 1 CUC at a time, tipping becomes quite expensive. (A CUC is valued here at more than $1.15 USD.)

Heading back to the two elevators, we observed that their cars were stopping at certain floors for a long time before ascending. Finally, a car reached the lobby and we got on with another group member. At the second floor, five people were waiting with four large suitcases. We told them that the elevator was going up, but three people and all the luggage crowded in. The other two people presumable walked down the one flight of stairs to the lobby. At the 6th floor, the three of us squeezed out around the luggage. We don’t know what happened to the people who wanted to go down by going up.

We were back down to the lobby before 9 am, and the bus and guide arrived shortly. On the bus, the guide told us that our first stop (the Convento Belén community center) was canceled because they had no water and could not have visitors for a week. Our schedule was rearranged.

The event previously scheduled for the afternoon, a visit to the Yoruba Association “to learn about the influence of African religions on Cuban culture,” came first. A representative there talked to us, in accented English, about religion and the exhibits in the building. Her talk and the displays were informative and interesting. When Nigerians were taken from Africa to work for the Spanish in Cuba, they were only allowed to worship in the Catholic faith. Of course, they already had their own beliefs and gods, and so they incorporated them into their Catholic worship. Their gods are represented by the Catholic saints, in addition to their representation as Afro-Cuban orishas (saint-gods). For example, the orisha Aggayú is associated with the Catholic Saint Christopher. The sculptures and tableaus in this museum represent these orishas. This merged religion, Santería, only exists in Cuba, and the Yoruba Association is the “museum” for this part of their culture. Photography inside the museum was prohibited, but the shop owner on the first floor welcomed picture-taking.

The Santería shop sells only religious items. The shelves against the back wall display Catholic saints and other figures with religious significance. Notice the figures of native Americans on the left of the top shelf: Cubans include native Americans in their ancestry. The case of hats contains decorated ceremonial hats for the Santero (priest) as well as white caps that can be worn by male initiates into the religion. (During the first year of initiation into Santería, both male and female initiates wear only white.)

Next, we visited the Escuela Taller Workshop School, where young men and women between 18 and 25 years of age are taught skills needed in the restoration of the many old buildings in Cuba. They are taught concrete, stone masonry, plastering, woodworking, glasswork, plumbing, electricity, painting, and murals. Their schooling takes two years, beginning with 6 months of coursework and ending with 1.5 years of on-the-job training. After this, they are guaranteed a job by the government in restoration projects. If they want, they can work independently completely or in addition to government work after they complete training. On average, women comprise 30% of the classes, depending on the skills needed. The government plans two years ahead for projects to be worked on, and the school adjusts its classes to meet this need. We saw students replicating plaster moldings and planing wood. We also saw a table saw with absolutely no safety guards.

Lunch at Restaurante Santo Ángel came next. We had black bean soup as an appetizer; a seafood skewer, chicken or pork for the entree; and strawberry ice cream for dessert. A band (clarinet, oboe, and two string instruments) played while we were there, and a collection to tip them was taken.

As we stood in the shade in front of a store, the guide described foreign private enterprise in Cuba. Foreign companies can rent space in Cuban government-owned buildings and keep the profits; individual-owned Cuban companies cannot. The store we were standing in front of is English; it sells clothing (a shirt in the window costs 100 CUC), but the guide has never seen anyone in that store for the ten years it has been there. All around the square were similar foreign-owned companies. One of the tour members would like to open a business in Cuba selling electrical parts, since he does that at home.

Train in front of marketplace
Train engine in front of Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes San José

After this, we went to Centro Cultural Antiguos Almacenes San José, located in a harbourside warehouse in Old Havana.  This is a huge indoor market where art, wood carvings, leather items, and anything a tourist might want were presented in hundreds of small stalls in many rows. Resisting the many entreaties to “come into my stall,” we walked past and looked at every stall. Some of the art was very interesting, but really too large to bring home. (Photography inside was discouraged, since the artwork was original.) We admired the train engines sitting in front of the building, and then waited in shade for the bus.

After this, we drove to the “Plaza de la Revolución” or “Revolution Square” to see the memorial to the Cuban hero José Martí, completed in 1959. This tower, already on top of a hill, is 109 meters tall; the statue of Marti is 18 meters tall.  (There is a rumor that the underground base of the tower is as deep as the tower is tall, containing a bunker for high government officials.) The fee to walk up the hill was 1 CUC, for which we each paid using a 3 CUC note, receiving 2 CUC each in small change. This is what we need for tips and restrooms. We walked up the hill, hoping to ride the elevator to the top of the monument, but it was not running.  We hurried back to the bus, just making our 15 minute deadline.

Around the plaza are the National Library, government ministries, and other important government buildings. On two of these buildings are the huge steel likenesses of the most important deceased heroes of the Cuban revolution:  Ernesto “Che” Guevara  on the Ministry of the Interior, and Camilo Cienfuegos Gorriarán on the Ministry of Communications.

Palace of the Revolution

Behind the plaza is the Palace of the Revolution, which is the seat of the Cuban government and of the Communist Party (the “Cuban White House”). (We tried to imagine a tunnel between this building and the rumored bunker beneath the Revolution Square tower.)

After this, we drove back to the hotel to “freshen up” before dinner. This means a short nap after blogging.

Just before 6:45, we went to the lobby to meet the group for dinner. It was raining, so Lazaro hurried back to our room to get the umbrella. It was still raining when the bus got to the restaurant, but finished before dinner was over. The Russian paladar Nazdarovie is a Soviet Union style restaurant. The food was excellent. We shared a table with another couple from the tour group, and their company was excellent also. We were back on the bus before 8:30 and dropped off at the hotel shortly after. Six of the group continued on the bus to a musical performance, and they will taxi back to the hotel afterward. We and the other couple from dinner sat in the hotel lobby and listened to a group of (mostly female) musicians play and sing, long enough to tip them twice. At one point, we were the only group listening, so the vocalist came to our table as she sang “Yesterday” in almost perfect English. We went back to our rooms at about 10:30, to get ready for tomorrow. While we were in the elevator, a young woman got on wearing a red Nike shirt, and our companions joked with her about exercising on vacation. As it happens, she lives one town away from us. Small world.

Stay tuned for more of our Cuban diary. If you want to catch up on the first days, read:

Eight Days in Cuba: an Introduction

Cuban Diary Day 1: Arriving in Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 2: Squares of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 2: Views of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 3: Cigars, Salad and Salsa

Cuban Diary Day 3: Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia

Karnak Temple – Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Architecture

This is my entry for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Architecture

Karnak Temple, Luxor, Egypt

Karnak Temple was constructed around 1400 BC on the east bank of the Nile River in Luxor, Egypt (ancient Thebes).



This is my clouds entry in the Dutch Goes the Photo! Tuesday Photo Challenge – Clouds.

Sky above Statue of General Calixto García Iñiguez

This photograph was taken from a window of a moving bus traveling eastward on the  Malecón, which is a broad roadway, promenade, and seawall stretching 8 kilometers (5 miles) along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico from the Vedado neighborhood to the Havana Harbor in Old Havana.

Where the Avenida de los Presidentes joins the Malecón roadway is a statue to honor Calixto García Iñiguez, a famous Cuban general. This is the Garcia of the essay “A Message to Garcia” written by Elbert Hubbart, which was made into two different American films of the same name in 1916 and 1936.

The photograph was taken of the sky above the statue.

The camera used was an Olympus TG4 with settings  f/6.3, ISO 100, and 90 mm focal length.

Cuban Diary Day 3: Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia

Monday, 9 May 2016

On the third day of our Cuba tour,  we visited Finca La Vigía, which was Ernest Hemingway’s residence in San Francisco de Paula from 1939 until his death in 1961.  Two well-known novels were finished here (For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea), as well as the autobiographical A Movable Feast.  (After renting for about a year, he bought the property in 1940 with some of the royalties from For Whom the Bell Tolls.)  Finca La Vigía is in a secluded location about 10 miles east of Havana. Cubans are very proud of Hemingway.

Map of the Finca Vigía museum

The Cuban government took possession of the property after Hemingway’s death, and it was opened to the public in 2007 as the Finca Vigia museum after two years of restoration. The map of the property, pictured above, was created quickly for the visit of US First Lady Michelle Obama in March, 2016. (The property is small and the map really isn’t necessary.)

Hemingway’s guest house, viewed from the main house

The guest house is located beside the road on the way to the main house. It now houses offices and meeting rooms.

Front entrance, Hemingway Main House

To the left of the front entrance to the main house, at the top of the steps, is a bell that was rung to announce guests. If the guest was particularly important, then the small cannon inside the front door were also used to announce the visitor.

While the main house and tower are not open for entry by the public, it is possible to view the rooms through large open windows.

Hemingway’s typewriter is still in the house. (He wrote standing up, in his underwear, at the bookcase pictured on the left.) His fourth wife, Mary, had the tower room constructed as a light and airy space for writing, but he preferred to write in his bedroom.

View of Havana and the sea from Finca Vigía

The name “Finca Vigía” means “lookout house” or “lookout farm” in Spanish, because the view from the tower includes Havana with the Gulf of Mexico to the north. Also visible in the picture is smoke rising from the Ñico Lopez oil refinery in Havana harbor, currently operating at 40% capacity.  (This refinery was formerly Esso and Shell oil refineries until nationalized by Cuba in June, 1960.)

Adjacent to Hemingway’s bedroom is his closet with his war correspondent’s jacket and many pairs of boots.

Next to the closet is the bathroom, with his weight chart written by hand on the wall. The left-most entry is 192 pounds on July 20; the heaviest entry is 240 pounds on March 3. The year associated with many of the dates is unclear, although some are specified (e.g., 214 pounds on April 15, 1956). His 1944 passport listed his height as 6 feet and his weight as 220 pounds.

The dining room and living room on the main floor remain as they were when Hemingway lived there.

Items in the rooms that are stereotypical Hemingway are the many hunting trophies mounted on the walls and the bottles of alcoholic beverages (some empty, some not) sitting on table tops.

Hemingway’s swimming pool, the first in Cuba, is dry now. The bath house contains a small gallery of photographs of Hemingway and others.

Hemingway’s fishing boat, Pilar, is viewed from an elevated walkway. Pilar is both the nickname of his second wife Pauline and the name of a character in his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. His novels The Old Man and the Sea and Islands in the Stream were influenced by his time in the Pilar. During World War II, he used Pilar to search for German submarines and reported their locations to the US Navy.

Hemingway’s Pet Cemetery

The pet cemetery contains four of Hemingway’s dogs; two of these dogs died in the care of his staff after his own death in 1961. The young woman in the photograph above is actually taking a “selfie” of herself with Hemingway’s boat Pilar, seemingly unaware that she is posing in a cemetery.

Many visitors arrive in 1950s era cars, providing photo opportunities for those who remember those cars fondly.

Stay tuned for more of our Cuban diary. If you want to catch up on the first days, read:

Eight Days in Cuba: an Introduction

Cuban Diary Day 1: Arriving in Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 2: Squares of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 2: Views of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 3: Cigars, Salad and Salsa