About Mike Buick

Mixed media artist and photographer, Marrickville, Sydney, Australia. Artwork available on Bluethumb art on line.

Parc de Grandes Fougeres

45BV3901webA day at the Parc des Grandes Fougeres.

We’ve been alternating our excursions and relaxation days in this humid weather. Our next excursion day was to the Giant Fern Park in the northern mountains with Isabelle and her friend Alex.

It was a long drive there through small towns and cattle farmlands. The road didn’t take us along the coast as we had expected but through an inland route where we sometimes could glimpse the sea. The whole sea area between Sarramea and Poya is marked as one of the World Heritage sites in New Caledonia but we only had time to see a small portion of it.

It was cooler in the forest under the trees and by the stream. We did see the famous giant fern and other species of fern such as the black tree fern. We also saw palm and bamboo trees. We saw and heard small birds, saw a bush turkey type of bird, lizards and flying crickets scuttling and jumping away from our feet, a hairy-legged spider on a rock and a beautiful blue butterfly. I think it was the Papilio montrouzieri butterfly. We kept hearing a strange kind of mobile buzzing sound all through our walk but couldn’t work out what kind of animal it was. We didn’t see the native green pigeon but the natural sights we did see were wonderful.

After our sweaty walk, we headed to the Plage of Ouano. It was all flat land to get there and we found a remote little beach with mangroves on one side and fishermen shacks on the other side. The sand was white and there were a couple of sailing boats a few metres from the shore. There was also one campsite with accommodation nearby.

We were about to go in for a swim when I was startled to see a large starfish with some kind of spikes on top. As we waded along the shoreline, we saw another one and then another one. They were everywhere! Needless to say, we decided not to go in. There were also shells moving with long crab-like legs sticking out. This starfish is referred to as the “knobby star” or “chocolate starfish”. When I found information about this starfish at http://echinoblog.blogspot.com/2008/08/starfish-conservation-protoreaster.html I was saddened to learn that they are being harvested.

Getting out of Noumea for day trips is a great idea if you want to see more of the natural world on land or on the sea but remember to always take maps, a bilingual dictionary, food and water.

We did well with preparing our baguette sandwiches with cheese, pates and veggies. Our hotel always had a basket of fresh baguettes and croissants and the kitchenette in our studio made it easy to prepare food for lazy days or busy outings. The restaurant was only open for breakfast and lunch during this period and having dinner out every night gets expensive so if you do come here think about the practicalities that suit you. There are plenty of supermarkets in Noumea with French and some Australian produce.

I recommend that Australians do come to explore this beautiful island neighbour in the Pacific! There are no hawkers, no hustlers or dramas. People are relaxed and friendly and it’s only a 3 hour flight from Sydney so no jet lag or time difference!

Au revoir Nouvelle Caledonie!

Tjibaou Cultural Centre


To the Tjibaou Cultural Centre after our daily swim.

We’ve been snorkelling right in front of our doorstep in the mornings watching black and white striped fish which I think is the Scissortail sergeant fish, yellow butterfly fish, clown fish, schools of small fish (perhaps anchovies),  sea cucumbers and the purple, pink, yellow and white corals.

For an idea of the kind of coral we saw, go to the interactive image at http://newcaledonialagoon.com/newcaledoniacoralspheres.html?s=pano21 although there is more white coral now.

I’ve learned a lot today. Firstly, Mike’s street French is better than my book French. Secondly, a lot more about Kanak culture at the wonderful Tjibaou Cultural Centre designed by the Genoan architect, Renzo Piano.

Cultural education starts right at the entrance with this lascivious creation story next to a wooden carving of the being it talks about. I’ll leave the wooden carving to your imagination!

“A long time ago, all the men wanted to have sex with an Olal woman who enjoyed lovemaking. But this woman didn’t feel well. In Wisal, a village situated in the region of Willit, a giant heard this story. So he went up Mount Tuvio clearing a path with his penis. Then he ran down to Olal to plant his penis inside the woman. Carried away by his own momentum, he broke the reef with his penis. Half the reef moved west to Magam and the other half went east to Barereo. This is how Olal pass was opened. The giant and the woman threw themselves into the sea then. They both live outside the reef of Olal Bay.”

No, I did not make this up.

Sud Caledonien



45BV3803webSud Caledonien road trip to the Parc de la Rivière Bleue.

Today we went for a drive exploring the coast to the village of Plum and where the mountain roads in the east lead us. Along the way to the coast, we stopped at a refreshing water fountain where people were filling their bottles. We stopped at an empty beach full of stones and dead white coral. The sand is black here.

As advised by a friendly ex-pat British living there, we had to turn back to the roundabout to take the road to Lac de Yate and La Chute de Madeleine. It was a winding road around the mountains but the view was spectacular. We could see wind turbines in the distance and back burning by the fire brigade and the military. We passed rivers where the locals were swimming and picnicking. All around was low bushland and pine trees on red earth, reminding us of the red centre back home. It’s not what we thought we would see in New Caledonia but it has shown us a glimpse of how diverse this tropical island is. To learn more about the biodiversity in New Caledonia go to https://newcaledoniaplants.com/ 

The lake is artificial but striking to view as it is surrounded by mountain peaks with dark clouds dropping rain as they roll through at intervals. The sunken forest has left twisted and mangled grey and white branches across its expanse. Unfortunately, the national park entrance to the waterfall was closed on New Years Day but it was a good drive and picnic at the lake. Sadly we also passed remnants of chrome mining from the past and from one mountain view we could see the mining industrial area in the distance. Nickel? All around us through these mountains were dirt red tracks for hikers and mountain biking.

In the evening, the fireworks from the Sainte-Marie artificial islet revived my delight over fireworks. Magnifique! Practically everyone in Noumea came out and it still wasn’t crowded. It started with a longish speech in French which we didn’t understand but it sounded beautiful. A few metres in front of us the fireworks display charmed us. There were smiley faces fireworks. There were snake light fires leaping into the water, wriggling and leaping up again out of the water. It’s one of the best fireworks I’ve seen in years. It was so close! And the crowd was so polite and orderly. After that everyone just left as quietly as they came. Isabelle’s host said they always had it on the 1st January in New Caledonia and sometimes a few days later if it rained. New Years Eve is a time reserved for family here. At least, it didn’t compete with my birthday. Bonne Annee!

Île de Canards – Duck Island

_MB07355webÎle de Canards – Duck Island – was our destination on the last day of the year. There are no ducks.

On the 31st December 2017, the glass bottom taxi boat to the Ile de Canard was the better option as you could see the fish. And in fact, it was cheaper than the modern water taxi service of which had queues. A ten-minute ride takes you to a tiny island set up with red umbrellas, a bar, a cafe and nothing else but that is not what we came for.

We came for the snorkelling and swimming and luckily we came early in the morning before the French and Australian tourists all disembarked an hour later. We had the underwater snorkelling trail mainly to ourselves following the marked buoys with attached information on the coral and fish we saw. It took about an hour. We were warned to stay out of the fragile area in the centre even though the coral there had more colour. There was a lot of white coral with intermittent bursts of colour which means that this is evidence of bleached coral. There was a global bleaching event last year but my marine biologist niece, Elissa, tells me that they are still alive if they have no algae on them. It has a chance to recover perhaps. Mike thought that the reef in Lemon Bay had more colourful coral. He was right.

The fish that we saw in the underwater track is listed on this site at http://www.newcaledonia-diving.com/DIP/snorkelingtour/seagardenuk.html

Hiring two beach chairs with an umbrella will set you back about $AUS45 and renting a snorkel is about $12 per hour. No wonder the rental scheme was set up.

We were accompanied by our lovely new French friend, Isabelle, who is travelling around the world solo before her thirtieth birthday. She has already been on the road for three months. It reminded me of my solo travelling days.

We finished the day with another swim in the pool and my birthday seafood dinner in a festive, friendly restaurant, Le Bilboquet Plage. There were long tables set up for groups of locals. They were all dressed colourfully with flowers in their hair and glitter on their bodies.

Baie des Citrons – Lemon Bay

45BV3961webBaie des Citrons – Lemon Bay – was the highlight today.

We picked up our car from a friendly local at Europcar who was so pleased to see us because we were the last customer before she shut shop. All businesses close down for the next two days on 31st December and 1st January so we stocked up at the supermarket. However, we couldn’t buy any wine. The rule is that from Wednesday to Saturday you can only buy alcohol before 11.30am. We will have to wait for our next opportunity!

We snorkelled and swam in the picturesque Baie des Citrons (Lemon Bay). Mike brought the snorkelling gear so he dunked in first. We saw pretty fish, purple coral and a sea snake! When we asked the information centre where we could purchase snorkels, she said: “Why would you buy them when you can rent them!” True enough, there was not one snorkel to be found in any beach shop at Anse Vata.

We had lunch at Uncle Ho Vietnamese restaurant in Lemon Bay but were confused about the bill. First, they brought out the wrong order. Then they served us tofu with noodles instead of the tofu salad we ordered. We hadn’t been sure if that was their version of a tofu salad. Mike disputed it because it was their error but they still charged us more despite their apologies. The food could have been tastier too.

We ended the day relaxing with the lapping waves and breeze on our little beach again. It gets dark pretty quickly by 7.30pm and it’s light early from 5ish! The sun drops and rises in seconds closer to the equator but the sky showed us pink and purple hues before it set.

Noumea, New Caledonia 



45BV3668webOur first day in Noumea, New Caledonia.

Working out the buses was a good half day orientation for us. It’s a chance to travel with the locals as well. Look out for information on Lignes de Bus. Bus 42 in front of Le Stanley Hotel in Ouemo gets you to the central bus stop in town. Bus 11 does the loop along the coastal road of Rue de Garnier to the pretty and touristy Baie de L’Anse Vata and back. Bus 70 follows the Route de L’Anse Vata that runs in the middle of town passing hotels, supermarkets, shops and car rental businesses.

Today’s highlights were the Marche near the central bus stop where we bought fresh fruit and vegetables. There was a mix of cheap and expensive options. Lettuce and bananas were pretty expensive but parsley and mangoes were a good price. Perhaps because some of it was imported or considered a scarcity.

Swimming in the hotel pool, having a go at the Aquagym class and reading on our little beach were the rewards at the end of the day. The sandy beach and lagoon waters are right out front of our sliding door! It’s hot and humid most of the day and then the wind picks up in the afternoon. We will definitely be swimming here every day this summer holiday!

Check out the highlights we experienced during our short stay in the following posts.

Bars and hotels

_MB02521webBack in Havana after our Vinales trip. Our last full day in this city ended up being a Monday so missed out on seeing more museums as they are closed on Mondays. But hey Havana is a museum so we browsed Havana again and we checked out the bars and hotels too as we finalised some housekeeping tasks.

Near Sloppy Joe’s Bar we had a look inside an antique shop, full of old posters, black and white film photographs and albums, postcards and old magazines including Time. One of the photographs was of Frank Sinatra at Sloppy Joes in the 1950s. Hemingway also patronised this bar amongst many others. We then stopped in the 5-star Parque Central Hotel to change some money so that we could pay for our casa particolare expenses. The doormen let all tourists pass inside easily. Inside it’s all shiny and new with the most modern toilets we have seen (no way no lady standing by with a bucket of water), expensive cafe and restaurant menus, hotel guests on their devices because of the wifi (some locals around the corner outside managing to get it too) and a cambio office.

In Calle Obispo, one of the main colourful colonial streets populated by dedicated tourists, we browsed through the artisan markets mainly selling jewellery, wooden sculptures, clothes and souvenirs. In this street, we saw some famous buildings such as the Droghuiera Johnson building in use again today. Across from the pharmacy is the famous Hotel Ambos Mundos where Hemingway stayed. This hotel was full of citizens of the USA and a whole wall was dedicated to photographs and a signature image of Hemingway. Outside the hotel near the Plaza de Armas we watched a group of businessmen, some wearing Texan cowboy hats, huddle around a tour guide as a Cuban woman circled around them watching them very closely. Further along, looking inside the Hotel Florida, formally a British Club in early 19th century, we found a beautiful art deco sculpture and a marble floor.

I was interested in the plaque dedicated to Garibaldi on the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales building marked here in 1982 : “La ciudad de Roma dedica esta homaneje al hombre que alento la idea de la independencia de Cuba. De el escribio Jose Marti.”  (The city of Roma dedicates this tribute to the man who encouraged the independence of Cuba. ) Garibaldi was considered an inspiration for the revolution of independence. I’ve come across Garibaldi a few times on my travels in this part of the world. It brings home the Garibaldi stories my dad used to recount to me in my childhood. In front of the captains building was a healthy looking dog with a paper tied around its’ neck saying “esterilizada” (sterilised) and “no me maltrates” (don’t mistreat me). That’s good news and when we enquired about this dog and some of the others we were told that the dog belonged to the building and that they looked after it. That is good news.

Most of the Havana bars and hotels claim to fame rests on a famous person going there so these places are full of tourists now especially after they have been renovated. The old Havana uses this history to attract tourists even though they had gotten rid of the debauchery I thought they had detested long ago. Even in the Vedado area, hotels like the Habana Libre where we had waited for our Vinales bus uses its’ past, Fidel Castro, Che and Elizabeth Taylor were all here at various times but so did the Mafia come to play here._MB02589web

Well enough of the tourists. We followed our nose down Calle Cuba into the ruinous areas again for Mike to snap away. Then up the Acosta we discovered a lovely little bridge. This was the Arco de Belen which apparently had been part of a Jesuit Convent. I lingered in front of the stained terracotta arch watching a Santeria woman cross the road.

Looping back to the Parque Central we took a break in the oldest hotel, Hotel Ingalterra, where there were more photographs of the rich and famous including the Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. We enjoyed a drink in the bar with beautifully tiled walls and then we tried the internet to check up on our flights and emails after a week without internet. It was 2 CUCS for an hour. It was very slow but worked. I wanted to do the Aeromexico web check-in as I did from Mexico to Cuba but it was blocked. A pop-up box appeared saying that I had to do the check-in at the airport. Walking through the plaza behind the hotel you come across the square where the Cubans can access free wi-fi. They were all there connected but I understand that it is a limited connection with each other.

This time we stayed in the same casa as Mike and Monica had east of Havana Viejo, Deysi Casa Particolares, located in Calle Blanco across from a hospital and next to a fruit market. It’s a gritty and grimy area but lively in the evening with it’s laid back and social vibe. At night there were men sitting outside seated round a table playing backgammon and other games. There were kids in the street playing and hanging out in the dim light. There was music blaring from inside homes and dancing in the rooms that we could see into. Cats on the hunt and prowl. Little takeaways from a window or hole in the wall. We could see high ceilings in some of the homes. Our casa is a two-storey house with high ceilings but Deysi, a colourful and lively personality, built another  mezzanine storey onto the first level so she could squeeze several rooms with ensuites on the top and bottom of it. Most of them a boxy room without windows. Ours has a window into the hall which leads to the kitchen where we have breakfast. In the evenings, her daughter has piano lessons in the room next to us. We can hear them in the kitchen chatting and watching TV but they mostly live on their private second storey. In this casa, you definitely know you are inside or under a family home. They live a limited life except for the tourists bringing the world to them and their satellite TV connecting them to US Hispanic channels. They told us that people still live by food rations and restaurants are organised according to how many patrons they get every evening. We only ever saw a couple of supermarkets in the tourist areas and then not much inside either.

In the evening, our favourite bar ended up being the LLuvio de Oro, the Bar de Oro on Obispo, not particularly famous for anything. A relaxed environment, a band playing a mix of Cuban jazz and salsa, a sharp looking Cuban man in yellow trousers smoking a cigar at the mahogany bar bench, reasonable prices, friendly waiters and happy patrons, locals and tourists. Generally Obispo has a nice social vibe in the evening. Walking back past the bright neon light of the El Floridita bar, another Hemingway spot, we noticed the calles seemed a little cleaner on the Monday night. Did they really clean them or was it the mojitos working?

The next morning our taxi took us to the airport, past the Plaza de Revolucion and the Jose Marti memorial. Past the three Havana’s we had discovered. Past the gated mansions of the fourth Havana we had seen a glimpse of. Adios Havana! In some ways, Cuba is one of the strangest countries I have been to. It was almost as if we were paying first-world prices for third-world standards (if I can exaggerate a bit), which made me wonder how long they could sustain this two-tiered setup. We spent more in one week in Cuba than in two weeks in Mexico. On the other hand, good on them for figuring out a way to attain funds. Isn’t it a crime to allow  a city to crumble and have people and animals live in it’s poor conditions? Underneath it all people are hungry for change, to improve their standard of living and to become connected again to the world.


_MB02650webVinales, our getaway with Monica and Mike K. Monica and I referred to them as “los dos Mike’s” because both our partners names are Mike!_MB02811web

We arrived in Vinales after about a three and a half hour bus ride we had organised by the helpful lady at the Cubanacan cruise terminal office the day before. Best to get the tickets first thing in the morning before they run out. The bus was full picking up tourist after tourist at several hotels in Havana and that added to the time and then finally it stopped one street back from the main Vinales square, where the cathedral and Casa de la Cultura sit.

As we walked to our casa, Mike and I mostly hungry on account of missing breakfast at an early start and Monica and Mike anxious to check in, we saw lots of tourists in the little shops, restaurants and markets. Nearly every little colourful pink, yellow or green casa we passed had signs “2 habitaciones” indicating the two rooms available to guests. I was also immediately struck by the mix of horse carts, old fifties cars and modern cars all driving pass each other as if it was normal.

Our casa particolare, Villa El Ranchon, was comfortable and tranquil. Ignazio and Raiza were immediately hospitable, warm and welcoming right from the minute we met them. They are a really lovely quiet unassuming couple who have set up two rooms with double beds, both with ensuites, at the back of their modest home. Perfect for the two couples occupying them. In front of the two rooms is an outdoor eating area under a charming thatched-roof pergola overlooking the country side. They were generous with their breakfasts and our first dinner there was a delicious home cooked feast, including vegetable soup and pescado. We soon realised that eating here was a better choice than eating in town where nearly every restaurant has the same formula and is a hit and miss affair. We felt very relaxed and safe in our casa. Ignazio’s English is also excellent and he was always helpful. It was a peaceful stay, quiet after the hustle and bustle of Havana, so you could catch up on a good nights sleep if you needed to, especially after a Mojito. Muchas gracias Ignazio y Raiza!

To the right of our casa was a short walk to the tobacco factory. In fact we were surrounded by a tobacco plantation which you could view from the casa rooftop. Just a short five or ten minute walk turning left is the village. The air wasn’t as choked with fumes as in Havana but not entirely clear of it either especially in the village centre. There was rubbish strewn about in town as well, it’s tossed anywhere, in the countryside or the city.

At the hop-on-hop-off bus stop we changed our plans when a better offer came along, offering us a package including the factory, a walk and a private driver to take us to the places we wanted to see. So we toured the tobacco factory and the plantation, a short walk into the pretty valley surrounded by the round hills. We felt this to be a better idea than just walking in there by yourself so you don’t feel like you are intruding even though the locals are friendly. Whilst I’m not a smoker it was interesting to see how their biggest industry operates. Our factory tour guide was a lady who’d been working there for thirty years and never smoked a day in her life. There was one worker who read literature and all kinds of entertaining stories to motivate and entertain the workers who were sorting out the tobacco leaves. They were paid according to how many they could do per hour. It was also interesting to speak directly with the farmer on whose property we were on. They were obliged to sell 90% of their crop to the government, the value depending on the quality, and they could keep 10% to make their own cigars. Mike K was inspired to buy organic cigars directly from the farmer.

Getting to see the Cueva del Indio took a lot longer than expected as we were sandwiched between two German groups in a tunnel in the cave with the sound of water droplets. I was becoming slightly claustrophobic but finally after about an hour we saw the cave opening and took the boat ride around. It was beautiful even if touristic. We opted out of the other caves and chose to see the Mural de la Prehistoria from a distance. Otherwise our CUCS would keep on disappearing and what we saw gave us enough of an idea. The last item on our list was really worth going to. From the Hotel Horizontes Los Jazmines we saw the most beautiful view of the valley – a panorama of a green lush valley surrounded by round mounds._MB07537web

We spent two nights in Vinales and on our last night we checked out the village in the evening. It had a lovely atmosphere with a live band in the plaza, an all-girl band. Mike and I watched couples salsa together, young men doing their moves solo, teenagers checking each other out and in particular an older man asking the blonde female tourists for a dance. Well I didn’t fit his criteria, did I?

Had we stayed on an extra day I would have joined Mike and Monica on their beach day at Cayo Jutios. Although our journey together was short and sweet, we enjoyed sharing new experiences together. Instead we went to the Botanical Gardens while they headed to the water. Adios amigos and bien viaje!



Photo for our driver Andy


Plazas and parques

We explored parques, plazas, museos, fortresses and libros with Monica and Mike K.

We began by heading for Parque Central not far from the casa where Monica and Mike were staying. On our way through Animas and the surrounding calles we could see the state of the buildings and the work going on everywhere. A mix of dilapidated buildings falling apart, others standing upright, some were just a concrete skeleton, some lots were empty except for rubble and other buildings were colourfully painted. You had to watch where you walked dodging the rubbish, puddles of water and what not. Stray dogs roamed and laid about. Washing hung from lines above us. There were fruit and vegetable market stalls, usually bananas, on the corners of the streets. Some doors and windows were open to let the air in so we could see some homes were tiled but others only had concrete and unplastered walls. Along the Prado or Paseo de Marti piles of rubble lined the main street as workmen concentrated on repairing the infrastructure under the road. We passed the newly restored Francais Alliance building but the blue Centro Cultural Cubano Arabo building was not quite as polished yet. You could see that there were so many different styles of buildings as well as the different conditions they were in. Stepping over the rubble we saw Hotel Inglaterra, then a row of colourful and polished old cars lined up by the park and the Roman-like white dome of the Capitolio Nacional building ahead of us. With all the work going on at the moment, we realised that it’s far better to walk in the centre pathway of the Prado and walk across the road when you need to._MB02557web

We went to the Museo de Revolucion which used to be the former government building. The museum was basically a series of rooms on three levels with old black and white photographs (some of them disturbing war images) accompanied by Spanish and English explanations of battles, heroes and heroines as well as the new socialist society they founded. There were some war artefacts too, guns, clothes including Che’s and typewriters as well as a wax replica of Che in guerilla action. You could get a sense of what this building was like before the revolucion from the Hall of Mirrors. You can view the rooms where the new socialist government reigned from, one of them with a gold telephone and once you’re out of the building there are more revolucion artefacts, rockets and the famous yacht that Castro and the revolutionaries used. This is the museum to go to if you want to know all about the revolution and you could easily spend a few hours here if you wanted to digest it in detail but even two hours of it was enough for me.

As we continued on our walk, it was easy to notice clues everywhere that indicated Havana’s different pasts and not just in the renovated buildings. We went by a boarded and locked up building that had Bolsa De La Habana, inscribed on it, the former stock exchange building I presume. Another inscription on the footpath that read New York Hotel but when you look up you just see the encased concrete walls of whatever building is behind it. Fading art deco signage of restaurants and shops. Chipped tiles around doors and windows which must have been elegant in their time. The Chinatown gate still stands in a dilapidated state as a record of El Barrio Chino which had been a buzzing Chinatown by the 1920s but is now run down except for a done up area of restaurants and the street sign with both English and Chinese writing, Calle Zanja. I don’t think the Chinese run it anymore. While Mike and Monica went to the Museo de Belles Artes we followed our nose to this barrio, Mike snapping away and me trying not to breathe in the exhaust fumes as I studied the map and sprayed some lavender water onto my face.

Then deeper in Havana Vieja there are the old beautiful plazas, very Spanish style, surrounded by churches and grand buildings: Plaza de la Catedral, Plaza de Armas, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de San Francisco. These plazas come as a surprise after walking through streets of crumbling buildings. Coming out of ruinous areas are colourful and beautifully restored buildings with shops, bars and restaurants, markets, performers dressed in costumes. In these places there were also jineteros (hawkers and sales people) but they leave you alone after you say no. A no gracias or fuimos ya or lo tenemos ya or no lo necesito gracias sufficed to get them off our back only once (no thanks, we went already, we have it already, we don’t need it thanks). These areas are also full of tourists because it’s close to the cruise ship terminals and plush hotels. No wonder the buildings have been renovated here.

We wanted to see books and forts so to the book fair we went. The Feria Internacional de Libros was held inside the fortress across the bay, la Punta Fortress. It was a 10 minute pleasant short ferry ride from the terminal to Casablanca to get there and then just a short walk up passing the Cristo of Havana statue. Many countries from Latin America participate in the book fair but on first impressions the range of themes and authors seemed a bit limited to me although we were only spending a short time there. Even Mexico City bookshops had a wide range of translated authors. However, we did find some English books that were taken out of a locked cupboard that inspired Mike and Monica’s purchases. Plus it is fantastic to see a book fair so well attended by the public. From the fort beside the old cannons you get a wonderful panoramic view of Havana stretching from the terminal to the Malecon.

We tried a Cuban traditional meal in a restaurant near another 16th-century fortress, the Castillo De La Real Fuerza. Called Ropa Vieja, old clothes, it is a kind of a stew, either with beef or lamb. I tried some of Mike’s otherwise I usually ordered vegetarian like Monica and Mike K. even if you only always got rice, beans and salad. Cuba still has a long way to go in terms of food variety.