Bon Voyage

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Travel is no longer the “big deal” that it once was.  Whether for pleasure or business it seems everyone is always on the go somewhere.  Even for us, we travel as much as our time and bank account will allow.

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We live in a wonderful world filled with many glorious things to see and do! 

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Sadly, with vacationing and travel becoming such a common affair, general etiquette has become much less common.  

It is nothing to be nearly knocked-over in the airport, screamed at by an unhappy traveller, run-off the road by an angry driver, or appalled by the dress (or lack there of) from others.  As Audley, Bradley and I  begin to pack for a family adventure this fall break weekend, I have really been occupied with issues concerning proper manners in an airport, flying, and driving in an area in which we are unfamiliar.

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While etiquette seems to be a thing of years past, It is something I have been passionate about my entire life and always want my family to practice, even as they are growing up and moving on into their own adult lives.

First, when traveling, be patient and be prepared.  Pushing, shoving, screaming, and muttering curse words for small children to hear are not going to keep flights on time or make the lines shorter.  Since 2001 security in airports has become extremely tight and getting through check-point lines can often seem like a lifetime.  Save your self the heartache of rushing to your flight or sitting in rush hour traffic and plan ahead.  Try to be at the airport at least an hour and a half for domestic flights and two and half hours early for an international flight.  You will still have a wait of some sort, but you shouldn’t have to run to catch your flight!  When we travel by car we do our best to remember time zone changes and leave an extra hour time in hopes of avoiding rush hour traffic or other delays.  Accept your delays with grace and tact.  Impatience will not change a thing.

 

Second, be understanding and tolerant.  It is not the poor girl who is checking boarding passes fault that the flight is late, nor is it security’s fault that a hundred people showed up at once to go through the lines.  And understand, if YOU change your flight after arriving at the airport to avoid delays YOU are risking the loss of your luggage.  Also, while traveling, realize that things are not going to be as they are at home.  Just traveling within your home country you will find so many cultural differences, so don’t you know another country will be a whole new experience!  Be open to these differences and try not to offend anyone by snarling your nose.  Try something new, go with the flow, and you might find something that you love!

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Third, take care of your health.  If you feel a cold coming on a couple of days before a trip, take proper care of it, don’t assume it’ll just go away.  Would you want to sit next to someone who is coughing, sneezing, and blowing their nose an entire flight?  Also, be sure to get shots you might need before going.  If you take prescriptions, be sure to have them filled and then pack them so that you are not spending time you could be having fun calling pharmacies and doctors trying to get what you need.  Rest to the best of your ability before and during your trip as well.  Improper sleep contributes to feeling bad and colds which you do not want on a trip!

Fourth, please get dressed, and have a little class when doing so.  I do not want to see your boobies or your bum.  I have my own and know what they look like.  I have a teenage son who doesn’t need any encouragement to think impure thoughts and an overly opinionated husband who will judge your character based on your dress.  Bathing suit tops are for the beach and halter tops are perfect when you are in your own yard, not for riding in an airplane.  Have respect for the people around you and cover up.   Also remember, lounging pants are found in the pajama department for a reason.  Sleep in them, don’t wear them in public.  When traveling it is important to dress attractively and comfortably.  Slacks, jeans, flowing skirts, cotton tops, sandals, or tennis shoes work great for travel.

It is OK to dress as if you care about who you are.

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It also speaks volumes to those sitting around you.

 

And finally, have A LOT of respect for everyone you come into contact with.  Say “excuse me” or apologize  sincerely when you bump into someone or have your belongings in their way.  Keep your personal items to a minimum so that it is easier for you to get around, avoiding awkward situations.  Plan ahead; have your boarding passes, passport, driving directions, hotel reservations, etc., on hand for easy access.  Don’t hold up the security line by packing everything you own into a carry-on despite FAA regulations (no liquid over 3 ounces, must be in clear bottles, etc…) or wearing shoes that take a lot of time to remove.  Make sure you have information available regarding liquid prescriptions on hand if asked.

You don’t like unnecessary delays, so assume others feel the same.

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Oh yeah, keep your voice down when talking on the phone or to a traveling companion.  No one really cares about Joe-Bob and Flossie’s marital issues or LouAnn’s broken pinky toe.  And don’t assume everyone you sit next to wants to have a conversation.

When I (or anyone else) put headphones on upon boarding, it means, I am shutting everyone & everything out.

My kids (now more of adults) have always been full of life.  All four are such social butterflies, loving to chat with adults as well as their peers, and we constantly reminded them that not everyone has their passion for living when we travelled with them.  They get excited about being with people and enjoying all they can bring to life.  If you have children, please keep them occupied.  Don’t let them annoy other people by running around, pushing on seats, or tugging on them in restaurants, in flight or while you are delayed at a rest stop or airport!

Whether in a car or on an airplane, I have always allowed our kids to carry backpacks filled with activity books, reading material or a couple (not the whole toy box) of small toys to keep them from being bored.  As they get older iPods and tablets are fabulous for entertaining kids and teenagers alike.  They were also taught to sit down and behave, not to bother others.  Not everyone likes children and especially other people who aren’t family’s children.  You will find you are happier because your children are behaving and others around you will appreciate it as well.

And ask my kids.  We have turned around, canceled several trips, and left restaurants due to misbehaving. Sometime’s it’s the only thing to do to show respect to other’s around us and teach a lesson.

It also made our kids better people and more aware that they are NOT the center of the universe.

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And just a note, If you are traveling in a foreign country, learn some basic phrases in their language.  The people there will appreciate you so much more for doing so, even if you mess it up a little!

There is much to do before we leave for our extended weekend, but I think we are off to a great start!  

How do you travel with your family and what are some basic courtesies that you extend?  If you travel often, you know that we need more and more people extending courtesies!

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Biltmore Estate Girls Weekend

Last weekend, my blogging girlfriend Tammie Reed (Talking With Tami) & I took off to Asheville for a really fun girls getaway!

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Weekend of fun coming right up!

 Tammie was reviewing Chevrolet’s new totally electric car, a Bolt EV they provided the trip, and she asked me to accompany her.

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I was able to drive the Bolt EV as well.

Tammie and I left on Friday about lunchtime and we casually drove up, stopping to freshen up the charge on the car in Greenville, SC.  We arrived late in the evening, checked into Aloft Hotel (I’m a hotel snob & I approve), walked down to a local sushi restaurant (who knew that you could find delicious sushi in the North Carolina mountains), and then grabbed some rest for our fun-filled Saturday at the Biltmore House.

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I’ve been a season pass holder for the Biltmore Estate for several years now.  It’s always changing and I think I learn something or see something new with every visit!

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Main entrance… guests of Biltmore have entered this gate since 1898!

This was Tammie’s first visit and she was shocked at the size and beauty of it all.

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We had so much fun walking through the estate and taking in the opulent lifestyle the Vanderbilt family must have enjoyed.  One of the goals of the Biltmore estate is to carry on the many legacies of George W Vanderbilt.  These include a gift of hospitality, sustainability, and education.

Each guest who visits the Biltmore Estate is made to feel welcomed and valued.  The Vanderbilts were known for their lavish dinner parties and weeks of entertaining guests at a time.  While I’m sure Vanderbilt never intended to open his home to the public, he wanted a place designed that had the comfort of his guests in mind.

As you tour the home and see the beautiful tables, you can easily imagine the dinners that were enjoyed by family and guests alike.

When George W Vanderbilt III made the decision to build the estate in the 1890s he was inspired by all of the amazing country homes he had seen in his many travels in Europe.  He wanted a place that he could invite friends and family to enjoy the same hospitable lifestyle he had come to enjoy while traveling abroad.  While this was not his only home, it was one he loved and put a lot of effort into creating.  GW wanted a home that would showcase his love for art and literature (he had an amazing collection of both), while also being a self-sufficient, working country estate.  He used the latest in technology and technique to help achieve his agricultural goals.

When guests came to Biltmore they were celebrated and entertained in a spectacular fashion.  Guest often stayed for weeks at a time and had enough activities planned that they never grew bored with the country estate.

The Vanderbilt’s hospitality was enjoyed by many high-ranking social, political and art individuals including the US Ambassador to Great Britain, Joseph Hodges Choate as well as authors Edith Wharton and Paul L. Ford.

When guests dined at the Biltmore they were able to enjoy large meals served in the banquet hall.  With its medieval decor, large triple fireplace and rich, dark colors it was an impressive setting I am sure!  The tapestries hanging on the wall were antiques from the 16th century when GW acquired them so they are true treasures now!

Biltmore-Formal-Dining-Room | Fiddle Dee Dee

Couldn’t you just see this table set for a large dinner party with pressed linens, gleaming silverware, glistening crystal, and beautiful china?  Seating arrangements would have been carefully arranged so that guests of honor were predominately seated for conversation.  Dinner may have been for a party of 6 or a party of 36!

Menus for guests were planned around the seasonal bounty that was readily available on the estate.  Once a menu was planned, Mrs Vanderbilt would approve it, or even tweak it a little.

I found this menu dated from March 26, 1896 published a current Biltmore cookbook:

Blue Points (oysters that would have been overnighted by rail) w/ celery, olives, radishes, salted almonds

Saucie de Lyons

Consumme Royale (a rich, clear soup that has been clarified)

Parisienne Potatoes

Cucumber Salad

Terrapin ala Maryland

Sweetbreads with French Peas

Sorbet

Lettuce Salad

Cheese & Biscuits

Ice Cream

Fruit & Coffee

That is a huge meal and just a sampling of what a guest of the Vanderbilt’s might enjoy!

Guests were treated with the finest of food, almost all of the bounty from the estate itself, although an ocasional telegram might have been sent North to have a shipment of lobster overnighted by rail to the estate!  Attention to detail was a standard guests came to expect when they entered the home.

Oh how I wish we still entertained and showed such hospitality today!

Edith Vanderbilt’s sister wrote after visiting the estate,

“The dinner table, in the center of the room, being too large for common use, a small cosy round table is drawn up before the central fire, & there we dine each night, with 2 footmen in knee breeches, gold garters, etc. to serve and look de style!”

Biltmore-Dining | Fiddle Dee Dee

The breakfast room was a perfect place to enjoy an intimate luncheon or take afternoon tea.  Luncheons were smaller affairs consisting of only five courses.  It was a wonderful opportunity for guests to gather to talk about events of the morning or plan other activities for the afternoon.

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 I love the blue jasperware tiled fireplace mantle!

Biltmore-Jasperware-Fireplace | Fiddle Dee Dee

Food and drink were an expression of hospitality and home away from home for the guests of Biltmore.

Cooking would have been done in one of three kitchens; the rotisserie kitchen (where meats might have been prepared), the pastry kitchen, or the main kitchen with its large stove and oven, icebox for storage and plenty of workspace!

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There were pantries for canned goods, fresh goods, and a huge walk-in refrigerator!  It was the most modern of its time!

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Total pantry envy!!

After supper, ladies might retire to the salon for conversation and possibly live music, while the men disappeared off to the smoking lounge and gun-room for a nightcap.

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I love the dark masculine interior of the smoking room

Guest lodging was plentiful in the home.  With 250 rooms, you can imagine the space available.

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Mr. Vanderbilt’s own bedroom was set up so that when he awoke in the morning and curtains were open, he could see the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

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Mrs. Vanderbilt’s room was set up in a similar manner, yet much more graceful and elegant!

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There were so many activities available to guest and residents of Biltmore House during the day and evening.

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Outdoor activities including horseback riding shooting sporting clays, hunting, bocce ball, bicycling, hiking (yes they hiked during the Guilded Age), picnicking, fishing were all apart of life at Biltmore.

A July 1908 New York Times article noted that “Mrs. Vanderbilt hosted a fishing party on the estate and landed 20 large mountain trout, the largest catch of the day!”

{I feel like we are missing out on so much in this day and time!}

If you wanted something more relaxing, a stroll through the beautiful gardens or conservatory adjoining the house would be just perfect, especially as the sun is beginning to go down.

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Tammie enjoying the garden late inthe afternoon

If the weather was less than desirable a guest could remain indoors and swim, bowl, workout in a gymnasium, play various board games or read one of the nearly 23,000 books in GW’s library!

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It is said George W Vanderbilt III read nearly 4,000 books between the age of 12 and his death at 51.  He kept a journal listing all of them.

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“The vast swimming tank under the great hall is a great resort for the young men after exercising — ten feet deep so they can take a deep dive.  This forenoon we are to drive about the farms and see the wonderful stock.  Mr. Vanderbilt is teaching the farmers about the first rudiments of farming.”

~from a letter written by Joseph Hodges Choate to his wife, January 1902.

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Each activity would have required an outfit change, up to five a day!  Could you just imagine the flurry of fashion in that house?!

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Just an example of attire from the Guilded Age

Not only were guests at Biltmore treated well, but so were the large amount of staff and employees.  House staff had their own kitchen and dining areas with fresh foods and game as well as bedrooms they did not have to share, which was a rare treat in that time!  Employees of the estate were able to enjoy the bounty of the estate farms as well, in their homes or on their breaks.  It was as if they were family.

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House staff dining room

The legacy of hospitality and sustainability are two of my favorite reasons to visit the Biltmore Estate over and over as these are still prevalent around the estate today.  No, it’s not exactly the same, but the staff of Biltmore are gracious and kind, welcoming, and knowledgable.  The restaurants utilize a farm to table program with much of the produce and meats are estate raised!  And while we did not visit the winery on this trip (I did purchase some amazing grape juice), the legacy of Vanderbilt land continues.

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Take a trip for yourself and see just how fabulous the Biltmore Estate is!

 

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Strolling the Streets of Cienfuegos

After spending nine days in Cuba, I now understand why Ernest Hemingway had so much love for the island where he owned a home and spent 30 years off and on (mostly on the last 10 years), and found much inspiration for his writing while living and traveling in this country. He left, partially over politics, in 1960, but always referred to Cuba as his home. It’s also where Hemingway wrote some of his best literary works. Aside from the drinking and women (both of which Hemingway was fond & obviously I am not), the music, vivid color surrounding you at every turn, passion of the people, simplicity of living, meticulously kept Fords and Chevys, and a lovely, strong people will draw you in. And despite the differences between those of us visiting and those who live there with their government dictated lives, the Cuban people are filled with natural pride for themselves and their country.

I had several run-on sentences forming in my own mind describing this amazing country as we spent our time there!

“Cuba is a country with no historical precedents: economically poor, but culturally rich; visibly mildewed, but architecturally magnificent; infuriating, yet at the same time, strangely uplifting. If the country were a book, it would be James Joyce’s Ulysses; layered, hard to grasp, serially misunderstood, but – above all – a classic.”

– Lonely Planet Cuba

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We spent most of our mission trip in Cienfuegos on the southern coast of Cuba. Known as the “Pearl of the South,” It’s the capital city of the Cienfuegos province and a bustling, busy city built around a bay. While much of Cuba has a Spanish influence, Cienfuegos was actually settled by French immigrants in 1819 and has actually earned status as an Unesco World Heritage Site due to its architecture and layout. It is a beautiful city and so unlike cities on other Caribbean Islands and even within Cuba!

“The colonial town of Cienfuegos was founded in 1819 in the Spanish territory but was initially settled by immigrants of French origin. It became a trading place for sugar cane, tobacco and coffee. Situated on the Caribbean coast of southern-central Cuba at the heart of the country’s sugar cane, mango, tobacco and coffee production area, the town first developed in the neoclassical style. It later became more eclectic but retained a harmonious overall townscape. Cienfuegos is the first, and an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble representing the new ideas of modernity, hygiene and order in urban planning as developed in Latin America from the 19th century.”

– UNESCO commenting on the Urban Historic Centre of Cienfuegos

Each morning we awoke in our Casa (B&B) to the sounds of street vendors making rounds on their bicycles selling their fresh baked breads, eggs, fruit and even flowers to homes and restaurants alike. Each had their own unique call to let potential customers know they were coming and what they were selling, many with regular customers waiting in the doorways of their flats to purchase what they might need for the day.

The last day of our trip, while Dad was meeting with the Cienfuegos preachers, Mom, Madeline and I ventured into downtown to see this lovely city we had been passing through all week. We had fabulous tour guides through our friends Oscar and Angelica as we strolled the city streets. Oscar is a 5th year medical student at Universidad de Ciencias Médicas.Cienfuegos (The University of Medical Sciences, Cienfuegos) and Angelica is in her last year of what we call high school.20638774_1165878766847583_947183016067189798_nDuring the day these streets are filled with pedestrians, bicycles, carts, buses, an occasional shiny classic car, dogs, chickens and even turkeys! When you head out you might ride in a cart, take a taxi, or walk, after all, that’s what most of the locals do!

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Our taxi ride

We took a stroll down the Prado with it’s eclectic buildings with beautiful facades, bright colors, and vibrant life, stopping to snap pictures and even shop a little and then headed down the pedestrian Boulevard where we enjoyed the Walking the streets of Cienfuegos you feel like you are caught up in a glorious time warp, yet it is 2017!

Here are a few of the highlights of our day sightseeing Cienfuegos.

Our Casa was in the area of Cienfuegos known as Punta Gorda.

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Two mornings I slipped out of the casa just after sunrise to explore the area. It’s very safe and such a lovely stroll. Punta Gorda is home to beautiful estates built by money in the late 1910s and 1920s. Many of these have been turned into restaurants, B&B’s or hotels now, but they are still stunning to look at. I also adore the natural chippy paints and colors some faded from the weather and others as vivid as if they were freshly painted.

Club Cienfuegos, once a Yacht Club is now the home of several restaurants with a variety of flavors. While we didn’t venture inside, I loved the beautiful lines and curves of this representation of a bygone era.

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Built between 1913 & 1917 the beautiful Palacio de Valle is now home to a restaurant, hosts cultural events, and is a museum.

Punta-Gorda | Fiddle Dee Dee

The Palacio Azul (Blue Palace) is a former private residence built in 1921 for a tobacco baron. It was renovated in 2004 and turned into a hotel. While I didn’t have the time I’ve read that you can actually stop in for a tour as it was renovated to match it’s 1920s ambiance and is stunning!

Blue-palace | Fiddle Dee Dee

The Prado is the main thoroughfare in Cienfuegos. Here you will soak in a little local history, find shops, businesses, restaurants, and maybe the occasional parrot to talk to.

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Cienfuegos was home to the famous Cuban bandleader and singer, Benny More’. It was a place he called home and stayed even after the Cuban revolution and many other musicians left. He referred to Cienfuegos as the “city he loved best.”  The statue on the Prado is a selfie stop, even for the locals.

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If you continue onto the pedestrian Boulevard you will find yourself at the Parque José Martí, a gorgeous city square. Off the square you will find the Benny More’ Cultural center featuring art and photography from locals. There is also a little cafe inside that is a great stop for a bottle of water or a soda made with real cane sugar!

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The Parque José Martí (also known as the Plaza de Armas) is the heart of Cienfuegos City.

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Cienfuegos City Center

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Here the architecture is stunning and history abounds as you find Government buildings, the cathedral, theater and other gorgeous structures.…

Stop in at the old Cathedral de Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción that was first begun in 1833 and finally completed in 1869! It is undergoing renovation right now, totally funded by donations.

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Each of the stained glass windows are being sent one at a time to Spain to be restored, and locals are doing the structural work.

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The arts in Cuba are so important! Our friend Oscar was telling us about how wonderful the ballet is and the shows he has seen at the ornate Tomas Terry Theater. For just 2 CUCs you can wander around the horseshoe shaped auditorium theater built in 1888.

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Tomas Terry who wanted the people of Cienfuegos to have access to the arts.

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We walked up to the top of  The Casa de la Cultura Benjamin Duarte (formerly Palacio de Ferrer), built in 1918. While it looks like it is falling down, this beautiful historic building is currently being restored to her original elegance and is just stunning, crumbling features and all.

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From the top we were able to take in a unique view of the Government building and city in general.

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While the park, Prado & Boulevard areas are lovely the people here still live in poverty.  Even so, they are still a proud, hardworking people!

The Palacio de Gobierno or Government Building is  stunning as well. I could not find a construction date for this stately building, but is acts as the city hall of Cienfuegos and is not open to the public.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this little pictorial journey around Cienfuegos.  There is so much more that I can share, but that is for another day.

For more of my Cuba posts, you can click here to check out the Cuban Car Show, or click here to check out our mission trip and all the lovely people that we met!

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A Cuban Car Show

Wednesday-09/13/2017 — I started working on this post last week, just as hurricane Irma made it loud and clear which direction she was finally going to take.  I’ve had it sitting in my cue for days, finished, but not published for several reasons.  First, I was worried about all the people in the path of this horrific storm and was a wee bit more focused on that.  Second, we lost our internet (which honestly I could have cared less).  And finally, because after I wrote this post, I was worried to death over the beautiful people in Cuba we came to love and treasure on our trip last month.

I wasn’t sure it was appropriate to publish this right now, and I’m still not positive.

 Tonight as I write this addendum, as far as we know our friends are safe, but they are hurting and are faced with what could be years of recovery.  Cuba prided itself on hurricane preparedness, but how do you really prepare for a direct hit from a Category 5 Storm?!  Like the other Caribbean Islands hit by Irma, the category five storm did massive amounts of damage.  People there are hurting for food (this is an agricultural country, you don’t just walk into a store and purchase groceries) and fresh water.  It will take a long time for Cuba to fully recover.

So I have decided to hit publish on this post, and I will continue to share other elements of our trip.  I want you to see Cuba as it was, what we saw and what we experienced.  It’s a beautiful country, with amazing people and a wonderful culture.

The people make Cuba what it is, and that will last whether these cars made it or not.

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Cienfuegos-Cuba-Street | Fiddle Dee Dee

Cienfuegos, Cuba

For years I’ve only seen Cuba in history books and an occasional travel magazine.  The architecture is unique, the colors are so fun, and the classic American cars?

They are everywhere!

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A row of taxi’s on the square in Cienfuegos, Cuba

These last American imports  (the trade embargo was implemented in 1960) are carefully cared for by their owners and mechanics to keep them in top running order.  Many are privately owned and treasured by their owners, and other have become taxi’s for taking tourists and locals alike to their next destination.

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Couldn’t you just see a surfboard secured to the top?  I would love to travel around in this old jeep!  How fun would it be?

As we drove through the country, especially while we were in the resort community of Varadero, I was reminded of the old beach movies with Frankie Avalon & Annette Funicello… you know the old cheesy ones where the kids were piled up in the large classic cars, headed off to the beach with their surfboards on top?

{I always wanted to be like Annette!}

Cubans and tourists alike head to the beaches year round in a classic car if they choose!  How cool is that?!

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For Americans to see cars of this caliber, and so many at that, we pay $50 to attend a weekend car show in Pigeon Forge!

But in Cuba, they are real, they are common and an old-fashioned soul like myself soaked up the view the entire trip.

Take a peek for yourself and see if you catch a glimpse of some of the varying architectural styles as well!

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Not only are the cars a lovely reminder of days past, but this B&B with it’s mid-century modern look is like you have just stepped out of a time machine!

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I absolutely fell in love with this beauty while we were in Varadaro!

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The owner of this car wash it no less than four times while we were staying just down the street in a B&B in Cienfuegos!

Cuban-Car-Show-8 | Fiddle Dee Dee

While it’s not black, this car totally reminded me of an old gangster’s vehicle… something you might see in the streets of Chicago way back when.

Cuban-Car-Show-9 | Fiddle Dee Dee

A quick stroll before worship on quiet Sunday morning in Matanzas … It reminded me of a scene from an old WWII movie set in France…. Or I have a vivid imagination!

Cuban-Car-Show-13 | FIddle Dee Dee

My Dad almost wrecked the rental van as he slammed on the brakes in the middle of the road and told me to “get out and take a picture of that FORD!”

Cuban-Taxis-Cienfuegos | Fiddle Dee Dee

I just loved the taxi’s lined up.

Cuban-Car-Show-3 | Fiddle Dee Dee

At a service station between Cienfuegos and Matanzas; a group cooling their car while traveling to go hiking in Cuba

Cuban-Car-Show-18 | Fiddle Dee Dee

Cuban-Car-Show | Oh Fiddle Dee Dee

This was out in the country after a little rain.  The colors seemed so much brighter to me!

Cuban-Car-Show-15 | Fiddle Dee Dee

 

Cuban-Car-Show-14 | Fiddle Dee Dee

Did you like the cars?  Which was your favorite?

It’s a true time capsule of American Classics!

I’m looking forward to sharing a peek of Cuban culture before I head off an another adventure this weekend!  Be sure to stop back by & enjoy your day!

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