Destination: Havana

Cuba, Undistilled

Cuba, Undistilled (Chris Ryan)

Tired of hearing pundits pontificating about Cuba, Chris Ryan wanted to see the island for himself -- before the coming of Best Western and American Express

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Travel Movie Watch: ‘Chico & Rita’

This looks great. Nominated for a 2012 Academy Award for best animated feature, Chico & Rita is set in Havana, New York and Paris in the 1940s and ‘50s and features some great music by the likes of Bebo Valdés. A.O. Scott just gave it a rave review in The New York Times, calling it “an animated valentine to Cuba and its music.” He also notes that Havana’s streets “are exquisitely rendered and meticulously colored.”

It’s playing in select Landmark Theatre locations; in Los Angeles, it’s at the Nuart through Thursday.

Here’s the trailer:


Hanging Ten with the Havana Surf Club

Hanging Ten with the Havana Surf Club Reuters

In an excerpt from his new book, "Sweetness and Blood," Michael Scott Moore tracks down the origins of surfing in Cuba

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Interview with Michael Scott Moore: ‘Sweetness and Blood’

Jim Benning talks with the author of a new travel book about the spread of surfing around the globe

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Cuban Folk Singer Silvio Rodrígues Touring U.S.

In 1999, two years before we created World Hum, Michael Yessis came back from a month-long trip to Spain and told me about a song he’d heard in a bar in Madrid. Two nights in a row, sometime well after midnight, the bartender played an anthemic folk song on the stereo called “Ojalá,” and as Mike recalled it, each time the song came on, the patrons erupted in singing, with dozens of locals joining in.

He wasn’t sure what the song was about, but he thought I’d like it, and sure enough, when I finally tracked down a copy of it, I did. I’ve been a big fan of its singer-songwriter, Silvio Rodríguez, ever since.

Finally, the Cuban folk singer, now 63, is touring the U.S. He has already played to a sold-out Carnegie Hall—this New York Times piece and this Christopher Baker blog post are well worth a read—and he’s scheduled to play Oakland, Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and Orlando.

Rodriguez is a controversial figure outside of Cuba. Many Cuban exiles despise him because he has, at times, defended the Revolution. I love him for his music, not his politics. Besides, as the New York Times put it, “Through the decades Mr. Rodríguez has become more poet than propagandist.” He sings about life.

How excited am I about this tour? I’m going to reschedule a flight and eat a hefty penalty fee so I can see him play.

Here’s a video of Rodriguez performing “Ojalá” in Madrid’s Plaza de Toros—you can hear the crowd singing along, line for line, and imagine the scene in that Madrid bar. I’ve since heard the song played by folk singers in cafes and bars from Mexico to Argentina. It’s wildly popular. Its meaning is the subject of great debate.

The version of the song below is available on the album “Mano a Mano”—an excellent live album that also features Spanish trovador Luis Eduardo Aute performing.

Photo You Must See: So a Dog Walks into a Bar in Havana

Photo You Must See: So a Dog Walks into a Bar in Havana REUTERS/Desmond Boylan

A dog sits on a stool in a bar in Havana, Cuba

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Super Freaky in Havana

Super Freaky in Havana REUTERS

With some help from the locals (and Rick James), Lauren Quinn lets down her well-learned defenses

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Video You Must See: Habana Vieja

Video You Must See: Habana Vieja Photo by ilkerender via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The faces and daily rituals of Old Havana, Cuba:

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Travel Song of the Day: ‘Ojalá’ by Silvio Rodriguez

‘Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre World’ Premieres Tonight—He Goes to Cuba

Andrew Zimmern’s Travel Channel series “Bizarre Foods” has evolved into Bizarre World, and it debuts tonight at 10 E/P. The first show goes where few American travel shows have gone recently: Cuba. Judging from the description of the show, it would seem that bizarre foods still have a place in “Bizarre World”:

Andrew participates in the Santeria ritual that leaves him covered in blood. He devours the biggest tree rats he’s ever seen, and he discovers how to grow world-class tobacco.

Travel Song of the Day: ‘Me Gustas Tu’ by Manu Chao

Photo We Love: Cubana Con Cigarro

Photo We Love: Cubana Con Cigarro REUTERS/Desmond Boylan
REUTERS/Desmond Boylan

A street entertainer in Havana yesterday.

I Violated the Cuba Travel Embargo and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt

I Violated the Cuba Travel Embargo and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt Photo by walterbjoern via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Photo by walterbjoern via Flickr (Creative Commons)

And a few refrigerator magnets. And a green and red Che Guevara beret. And some postcards.

Crazy story here about an American freelance entertainment news producer who wants to be fined for his Cuba visits so he can challenge the travel ban. So far, to his chagrin, he has been met with little more than indifference from U.S. authorities.

Here’s hoping that U.S. officials have quietly stopped enforcing the stupid law—and that President Obama and Congress will act soon to revoke it.

Seven Images to Inspire Wanderlust: From Nicaragua to New Delhi

Cerro Negro volcano, Leon City, Nicaragua REUTERS

Indulge your armchair traveler with seven wanderlust-inspiring travel photos from around the world

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Havana, Cuba

Havana, Cuba REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa

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