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12 May 2016 / leggypeggy

Cuba at work and play and my favourite pic

shoe shine

Poor John gets a personalised shoe shine in Santa Clara

Street life fascinates me. Everywhere we travel, I love seeing locals at work and play. Usually I’m thankful I don’t have to do the job I’m photographing, and often I wish I could join in on the play.

Cuba was no exception.

Last month, we had two weeks there, starting with two nights of homestay in Havana. Then we travelled by bus for stays in Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs), Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Santa Clara. If you keep up with this blog, you’ll know we didn’t have our luggage for any of these stops.

Luckily every homestay included a clothesline so we could do our laundry almost every day. Poor John was pretty lucky my daypack had an extra pair of shorts and, who knows why, a pair of bike pants.

Every destination also included a special activity or two, such as a walking tour (more about those soon) or a salsa lesson (for me, not Poor John). So we had plenty of chances to enjoy Cuba’s colours, sounds, smells, energy, architecture, people, friendliness and, of course, cars.

cigar smoker in Cuba

In addition to the amazing cars, we saw plenty of important monuments and an extraordinary number of souvenir shops. That said, I couldn’t find a single pair of knickers (underpants) and Poor John couldn’t find a place that would sell him a disposable razor.

There were plenty of restaurants. We dined at a couple of hole-in-the-wall eateries and our meals cost next to nothing. Something like $2 for two individual pizzas and two drinks.

The price was directly related to the CUC versus CUP. Let me explain.

Cuba has two currencies—the CUC and the CUP.

The CUP is for Cubans. Tourists use CUCs. The latter is a convertible currency and can be exchanged at the airport on the way out. CUPs stay only in Cuba. One CUC is worth about US$1 and about 25 times (I think I’m right) what a CUP is worth.

fruit stall in Cuba

Some touristy-type places accept CUCs only, which means a Cuban can’t buy in those places unless they’ve somehow managed to acquire CUCs.

The CUC versus CUP issue makes Cuba a somewhat expensive place for a tourist to visit, because except at hole-in-the-wall restaurants, we were always charged at the CUC rate.

On our walking tour in Cienfuegos, I bought our homestay hostess an ice cream in one of the local hotels. The gesture was prompted by the fact that she said she could never buy one in that place.

But don’t get me wrong. Cuba is still fairly cheap to visit, but the CUC makes it more expensive than countries with similar economies.

But I digress on a boring subject—money. Sorry.

Back to street life.

We were lucky to see a whole range of interesting activities.

There was the fellow walking his pig somewhere, and the lass across the road painting her house. She finished the front in one day. Bands were playing in some parks and people were dancing. One fellow danced on his own for more than an hour.

I’m a sucker for the fruit and veg sellers, and the produce in Cuba looked wonderful, if a little limited in variety. Poor John is always on the lookout for an el-cheapo haircut or shoe shine. He got the latter in Cuba, having decided that his hair wasn’t quite long enough yet for a cut.

In Havana, we saw a group of people in wheelchairs. All of them were selling sunglasses. I had to run an errand and left Poor John sitting nearby with his book. He noticed that one of the sellers got up, stretched his legs, swapped places with another person (perhaps a daughter) and walk away. Things are not always as they appear.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy some of the many views we saw. Most pics don’t have captions, because they are self-explanatory.

I’m wondering if you can guess which pic is my favourite. Which one is yours?

P.S. I have two Cuban cookbooks and I’ll be making recipes from them soon. In the meantime, check out this delicious prawn and avocado salad recipe that uses ingredients that are plentiful in Cuba.

thatching in Cuba


Leave a Comment
  1. derrickjknight / May 12 2016 5:49 pm

    A wonderful set of photos

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Yvonne / May 12 2016 5:57 pm

    Well, my favourite is the one you got of me with my cigar! I didn’t know you were in the neighbourhood that day. I hope that’s your favourite too.

    Those street beggars should be on stage, they’re such darn good actors!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Midwestern Plant Girl / May 12 2016 8:26 pm

      Awe! You beat me to the comment about me and my cigar. I love that hat 😉

      Liked by 3 people

    • leggypeggy / May 12 2016 8:42 pm

      Isn’t she a looker!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Worlds Biggest Fridge Magnet / May 12 2016 7:35 pm

    Usually I would definitely the one of the guy sitting on the roof just starting the thatch…. as I have seen a similar one of the old lady smoking a cigar but thought it made up however here, I think we know it’s for real so it goes to No1 for me!!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Stephanae V. McCoy / May 12 2016 8:23 pm

    I like all of the photos but my fave is the fruit cart.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Louise Terranova / May 12 2016 8:27 pm

    I think the one of Poor John getting a shoe shine is probably your favourite and it is mine as well. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Midwestern Plant Girl / May 12 2016 8:28 pm

    My second choice is the girls with the colorful dresses. I love the bright, happy colors with all the flowers. Everyone had smiles also!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 12 2016 8:40 pm

      They are gorgeous. And it was another photo that I ‘shot from the hip’.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. suzyjbarker / May 12 2016 9:57 pm

    Hello Peggy, all of these photos are amazing. I reckon you would favour the dancing pair or the Cuban girls in lovely dresses. For me, it has to be the stringy old bird puffing on a cigar. It’s an absolute classic – with her crazy earrings and her pinstripe suit trousers, not to mention the incredible headdress. My Goodness, you should enter this one for a competition somewhere.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 12 2016 10:41 pm

      What a perfect description—stringy old bird—and my favourite too. But I like all of them.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Vicki / May 12 2016 10:41 pm

    Wonderful glimpses of the street life (and I’m sure it’s the lady with the cigar which you especially loved because I sure did). Having said that, on seconds thoughts, your fav. image would have to involve food? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 12 2016 10:43 pm

      I think my top three are the ‘stringy old bird’ in red, the four gals in yellow and the fruit cart. Like the dancing couple too, but wish I’d got better lighting.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. milliethom / May 12 2016 10:41 pm

    You have so many excellent photos, it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite. I did like the one of the old woman with the cigar, and the one of the street dancers in your ‘Dance’ post. Of the ones in the gallery above (which is what you asked, I think) I like the one of the skip (dumper truck?) To me that sums up ‘modes of transport’ in Cuba. When we were there six years ago, people walked absolutely miles to and from work, simply because there was no public transport. So why not all climb into a dumper?

    Liked by 2 people

  10. spearfruit / May 12 2016 11:50 pm

    I like all the pictures, they all tell a story Peggy. Thanks for sharing your visit with us, I enjoyed the trip! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Oz's Travels / May 13 2016 1:13 am

    Great post. Fruit and veg and markets are always up there in my favourite places to visit as well!!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. poshbirdy / May 13 2016 1:54 am

    Great pics, full of atmosphere. Love the cigar lady. Just love her

    Liked by 2 people

  13. dfolstad58 / May 13 2016 4:10 am

    What a lovely post with unique pictures and information. For some reason I do not desire to see Cuba partly because the people there are so poorly treated and I don’t want to support the Cuban government continuing to do that. Another reason is that there’s so many other places in the world but I’m more interested in. I think your favorite picture is the elderly woman with the cigar I know that that is the one that I had to look at twice she had so much character in in her face. Cuba’s about to change Isley exploit the people even more in order to get American Tourist dollars so you picked a good time to go

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 13 2016 6:28 am

      We thought it was a good time to go and are really glad we did. I get what you’re saying about the people being poorly treated, but tourism is bringing much needed prosperity directly into the hands of the providers.
      We did homestays. A room was about $30 a night and included breakfast. Outside Havana there isn’t a lot of choice in restaurants and most homestays provide dinner for $10 a person. That’s $50 a day (less expenses). Every homestay had more than one room available—Playa Giron had four that were all occupied. Our homestay host in Trinidad said that all of the town’s 1200 homestays were full at Christmas. Given that every homestay seemed to have four to six people (mums, dads, kids, extended family), that’s a lot of financial input at the grassroots level.
      And yes, I’m rather partial to cigar woman, but love all that have closer-ups of people.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Carol Ferenc / May 13 2016 4:29 am

    Thanks, Peggy, for sharing the photos and giving us a tour. I’m guessing cigar lady is your favorite ~ maybe? For some reason my favorite is the men sitting in front of the yellow building with a wrought iron gate. All your photos have captured the culture beautifully.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 13 2016 6:30 am

      I especially like the whole ‘bundle’ of pics that includes the gals in yellow, the three men and the cigar woman. Those three are really special to me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Carol Ferenc / May 14 2016 4:52 am

        Yes! All your photos are great but those three really stand out.

        Liked by 2 people

  15. gerard oosterman / May 13 2016 9:45 am

    Great photos and lovely commentary, leggy. Shoe polishing is big in Latin America. No matter how poor, shoes must shine and washing of clothes gets done promptly. Those countries seem to sing, day and night. When we get under the doona, they get out to dine or just walk the streets. I used to wonder how they could get up and go to work next day.
    There was a movie some years ago, was it The Cuban all Stars?

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 13 2016 4:18 pm

      Poor John has had his shoes polished in almost as many countries as he’s had cheap haircuts.

      But the hours the Latins keep! Unbelievable. As you say, when we’re heading to bed, they’re heading our for the night. The movie, I think, was Buena Vista Social Club.


  16. IreneDesign2011 / May 13 2016 3:10 pm

    Great post and it seems like you got some good experiences at your travel 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Deb / May 13 2016 9:17 pm

    Besides Poor John getting his shoes shined, is your favorite pic the lady with the cigar? That’s mine! I can’t even imagine doing all this traveling without your clothes, razors, toothbrushes, and the niceties we are so accustomed to! Great pics, love the dancing and the farmer’s market too! Interesting about the currency… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 14 2016 7:07 pm

      Love the pic of the woman with the cigar. It is my top favourite, but I like them all.
      The lack of luggage was a pain, but I did have my electric toothbrush (with a spare brush head) and some German travellers gave us a tube of toothpaste (we couldn’t find any to buy).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Deb / May 14 2016 11:29 pm

        Wow, that’s amazing that you could not find toothpaste, or underwear or razors…boy are we that spoiled? I’m grateful that we are!! Apparently hygiene is not high on their list or does the government control that?

        Liked by 2 people

      • leggypeggy / May 15 2016 8:45 am

        Hygiene did seem important. I’m sure we could have bought all those supplies, but the problem was finding the right places. I think part of the issue was the difference in currency. Everyday items such as toothpaste may be sold only in shops that deal in CUPs. They probably figure tourists come with everything they need.


  18. Sheryl / May 14 2016 9:14 pm

    What a fascinating country! I enjoyed being able to virtually visit Cuba via your wonderful pictures and story of street life.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 15 2016 8:37 am

      You are most welcome. We thoroughly enjoyed Cuba and I’m pleased to be able to share it.


  19. findingnyc / May 15 2016 7:09 am

    They are all great photos, but you really captured the personality of the woman holding the cigar. I love all of these photos of “real life” – it’s like having a window into Cuban culture. Thanks for sharing them!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 15 2016 8:39 am

      My pleasure. The cigar woman encapsulates everything I expected Cuba to be (except for a car and some music). If only she had a radio beside her. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  20. susan@marsha'sbungalow / May 15 2016 11:50 am

    Love that street life! My favorites: the dancing man and the fruit cart. Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Lynz Real Cooking / May 15 2016 1:29 pm

    I love these pictures!

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Curt Mekemson / May 16 2016 10:24 am

    My favorite, Peggy, has to be grandma with a cigar… such a wonderful character study. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

  23. jerseydreaming / May 17 2016 12:00 am

    Great shots!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Orlando Wilson / May 17 2016 12:13 am

    Very nice pics!!

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Peta Kaplan / May 17 2016 8:39 am

    Ah brought back terrific memories of our trips to Cuba over Christmas two years successively. The best part was as you say, I agree, the street life and the people. We loved it and are so glad we got there when we did before the huge influx of Europeans trying to get there before the invasion of the Americans.


    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 17 2016 12:59 pm

      It must have been such a thrill to be there at Christmas. Can hardly imagine how lively the streets were at that time of year. Our host in Trinidad said all 1200 homestays in his town were full last Christmas. Will be interesting to gauge how the invasion goes. I think Cuba will change slowly.


  26. legominifigurestravel / May 17 2016 12:04 pm

    You went there just in time! Such an amazing trip and what an awesome memories.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Aquileana / May 17 2016 8:03 pm

    Very nice gallery and anecdotes… I liked the fact that you took photographs of regular people, in daily situations… A country is always far more than its brighter turistic side…
    Sending love and best wishes. Aquileana 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 17 2016 10:35 pm

      Thanks so much. The day-to-day activities of a place almost always hold the most interest for me. Glad you like them too.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. mommermom / May 18 2016 12:16 am

    I love the photo of John getting a shoe shine. It made me think about my husband. Since he almost never wears anything except tennis shoes, I guess he’d be out of luck!

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 18 2016 12:18 am

      Poor John was almost out of luck. He usually wears thongs (flip flops in your language) and only had shoes to be shined because our bags were lost for a while.

      Liked by 1 person

      • mommermom / May 18 2016 12:24 am

        Oh yeah, I forgot about your bags!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / May 18 2016 12:39 am

        In the end, we forgot about them, too. Well almost.


  29. MK / May 19 2016 12:17 pm

    My favs are the cigar lady & the girls in yellow dresses. I especially like her rosary. And I enjoyed your story about the sunglasses vendors. We saw a poor-old-crippled-arthritis-bent-over-woman begging outside the Baptistry in Florence. And then she straightened up & walked off for a cigarette break. Silly me, I was so shocked.

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 19 2016 2:13 pm

      I’m especially partial to those two pics. I’ve heard so many beggar stories like yours, and seen a few too.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. David Stewart / May 21 2016 1:28 am

    Hi Peggy,

    We went to Cuba in the summer of 2014 and loved it! A friend of mine forwarded me your blog and we are really enjoying reading them. Not sure if you are interested, but in case, here’s a link to our photobucket album of our trip to Cuba. &page=1

    Happy Trails!

    David and Julie Stewart

    Liked by 2 people

    • leggypeggy / May 21 2016 8:48 am

      Hi there, thanks so much for stopping by and for the link to your pics. You got some great shots during your stay.


  31. voulaah / May 24 2016 8:09 pm

    xhat a wonderful pictures
    thank you for sharing Leggy

    Liked by 1 person

  32. lizskincare / May 28 2016 9:28 am

    The last time I was there was in the year 2000 thank you for sharing ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / May 28 2016 12:11 pm

      Glad you stopped by. I’m in the midst of posting pics from our walking tour of Havana. Should be up later today.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Sharon Bonin-Pratt / Jun 3 2016 11:55 am

    I see you did interact with everyday Cubans. Your photos are wonderful – love all of them but you really captured the personality of the woman with the cigar. Exactly what I would expect – spunk, pride, beauty, and a big smoke.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 3 2016 6:44 pm

      Most people were pleased to be photographed. But I confess that I did not ask this woman, because it would have undone her pose. I was across the street. I turned on my camera and shot from the hip. It’s one of my favourite people pictures.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. jeanleesworld / Jun 10 2016 9:21 am

    I love these images, too. It’s an excellent cross section of what outsiders are expected to see, and what they aren’t. I personally love the elderly woman who seems dissatisfied with her cigar. She took out her dentures to enjoy it properly, but clearly, something’s amiss. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 10 2016 2:46 pm

      Oh Jean, I love your description of her. I’ll be laughing for the rest of the day. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jeanleesworld / Jun 11 2016 6:42 am

        Did I pick your favorite shot, did I did I did I? 🙂 But thanks. It’s the expression on her face. I feel like she’s about to let out an exhale that says, “Well, poop.” 😛

        Liked by 1 person

      • leggypeggy / Jun 11 2016 10:25 am

        Yes, she is my favourite, although there are several close seconds! And yes, she may well have said ‘oh poop’ under her breath as we walked on. 🙂


  35. thetravellingswan / Jun 15 2016 1:09 am

    I love the picture of the old lady with the cigar!

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Ray / Jun 18 2016 6:02 am

    Santa Clara has to be my favourite city in Cuba at the moment only because it is so “untouched” by tourism I find. With the exception of the Che Guevara Mausoleum, you really don’t see a lot of tourists staying in the town centre.

    P.S. I am also guessing the lady with the cigar is your favourite photo simply because it is an authentic moment of her enjoying it. No posed photo for the Gringos here! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Jun 18 2016 7:53 am

      We liked Santa Clara too. I need to do a post on it, even with the Che Guevara Mausoleum.

      As for cigar lady, I was thrilled with that pic. I turned the camera on and took a few shots from the hip so as not to distract her pose. Got only her feet in one shot. 🙂


  37. inesephoto / Aug 3 2016 4:50 am

    All your stories and pictures are great and very interesting, but of course the Lady with Cigar is a stunner!

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Deepak Singh / Aug 31 2016 12:47 am

    I like the culture.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Roberta Pimentel / Sep 3 2016 8:27 am

    Do you have an email? I would like to ask you about something 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Pru. / Aug 17 2017 9:17 am

    I have enjoyed travelling through Cuba through your eyes and experiences. I particularly like the picture of the cigar lady and the dancing man. I look forward to my own journey there next year. I’m anxious to get there before it changes too much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leggypeggy / Aug 18 2017 8:34 am

      So pleased for you that you will be able to visit Cuba next year. It is a fascinating country and I don’t think it will change too fast.


  41. Margarita / Jun 5 2022 7:41 am

    Reblogged this on Dannielle.


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