Monthly Archives: March 2010

Back from Cuba

One week, four flights, 450+ pictures and about 12 shot videos later, I’m back from Cuba. It was an incredible experience, but I know I will be processing everything — what I saw, tried, learned and the conversations I shared with Cubans, our tour guide and others on the trip — for a long time.

What was, and is still, most salient to me are all the contradictions I realized, learned about and noticed. Cuba is a country where most bellhops make more money than brain surgeons. Havana is beautiful, vibrant and majestic, but it’s decrepit. Music is everywhere; the culture is palpable, yet the streets are practically empty at night because people cannot afford to go out. No one will hesitate to pour you a Cuba Libre (rum and Coke) from their bottles, but many others on the street or in restrooms will ask you outright for money, handouts, anything, because they need it. Cubans’ news and information is government-controlled and only 2 percent of the country has Internet, yet pretty much everyone launched into a discussion with me (in English, mind you) about Barack Obama’s happenings and updates on the Yankees baseball team.

Even when I look back on my hundreds of pictures, I know they don’t even begin capture what Cuba really is, all of the layers and sides to the story. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll update the blog with thematic posts in attempt to offer a better, fuller sense of Cuba. Look for upcoming video from a baseball game, a briefing about tourism and my dinner at a paladar, a post about music, including video from stumbled-upon performances to a (free) Calle Trece concert in front of the U.S. Interest Section and a Buena Vista Social Club performance.

For now, here is a selection of photos I took during my trip that I think serve as appropriate introduction to Cuba.


osé Martí Airport in Havana, Cuba

osé Martí Airport in Havana has a building solely for flights from the U.S. (which are much more frequent now that Obama is President and lifted many of Bush's restrictions). Here, Cubans wait for friends and family to arrive

Cars in Havana, Cuba

Cars in Cuba are old. Any nice, new cars most likely belong to diplomats, and a different color license plate will designate this

Buildings in Old Havana

In Old Havana, restored buildings frame a decaying one

Ration store in Havana, Cuba

A ration store in Cuba, where Cubans pick up their government-allotted food

Baseball is everywhere in Cuba

Che Guevara Memorial in Santa Clara, Cuba

"We want you to be like Che" reads a billboard at the Che Guevara Memorial in Santa Clara, Cuba

A scene in Havana on Calle Obispo, a main street

Karina for TKGO

Princess Diana Goes To Florida

Well, not the living Princess Diana (obviously). The last few dresses she auctioned before she passed away in 1997 are on display at the von Liebig Art Center in Naples, Florida. The 20 dresses are all privately owned by People magazine, WE and private collectors and the exhibit won’t be traveling, so this is the only chance to see the gowns side by side.


Some of the miniature dolls in recreations of Diana


Each of her dresses tells a story about her life and her personality. The Princess was praised for re-wearing and repurposing her gowns, which cost anywhere from $30,000 to over $200,000, to save money. (Apparently other princesses don’t wear the same thing twice?) Some ways she did so were to remove the sleeves and high necklines required on visits to the Middle East, to turn the dress into a strapless gown. A quintessential example: “Auction Dress #18.” Diana had this light blue chiffon and lace gown reinvented after visiting Qatar and wore the altered version to a presidential banquet in Cameroon and a charity event. The Great American Doll Company also used this dress as a model for the dresses its Diana dolls would wear.

Even in business, she had a playful side. For a 1983 Klondike Gold Rush party in Canada, Diana wore a Klondike-era pink dress with tiered rouching, long sleeves and a high neck. (The Naples exhibit is the first to bring this dress to an exhibit in the U.S.)


Me, next to a recreation of a dress Diana wore to the 1966 London


Along with the dresses, display cases full of memorabilia lined the small exhibition room and halls. Christmas cards, royal certificates and miniature dolls donning Diana’s more famous looks are squeezed between the dresses in their own cases. Diana used to spend hours writing thank-you notes to everyone she met each day, and many of those are on display as well. (Her handwriting was almost completely illegible, but it’s the thought that counts, right?)

Taking photos was not allowed at the exhibit because of the owners’ rights, but click here for a video from of all the dresses. If you’re in the Naples area, get tickets to the exhibit ($12), which will continue until June 27.

Tara for TKGO

Re: Your Naked Coffee Table

When the trip calls but the bank account prohibits, it’s time to decorate your coffee table. We found four photo-heavy volumes to last through your travel dry spell. If your bank account is really tight, you can always leaf through three (almost) entire books online. Click the link at the bottom of the description. Have a safe flight!

Los Angeles, Portrait of a City by David L. Ulin, Kevin Starr and Jim Heimann


Photo courtesy of


Los Angeles is a misunderstood city — we’ll admit we’re still figuring it out — but that’s probably because most of us have a superficial understanding of what’s projected as a superficial city. The 572 pages of this weighty book work to get you deeper into the City of Angels; its nostalgic and often charming (see: cover) photographs guide you through its history, icons, culture and development in a calm, absorbing manner. It’s an ode, a tribute, but also an invitation to understand iconic L.A., all through images. Leaf through the book here.

Mario de Janeiro Testino by Mario Testino


The cover comes in three colors, courtesy of


Famous fashion photographer Mario Testino’s coffee table book is no high-fashion joke. Originally from Peru, Testino now frequently does work for high fashion ad campaigns and Condé Nast publications like Vogue and Vanity Fair, but before his fashion fame, he spent many summers of his early teen years in Rio de Janeiro, gawking at the “tiny bathing suits” and the “carefree and wild” young people of the Brazilian city. After so many years, he finally returned with a camera and a risque, semi-nude itinerary. The book is hefty and the photos are trendy, but the faces and unique poses of the Brazilians in these mixed black and white and color photos will leave you curious about the Portuguese-speaking population of South America (not to mention have you thinking about sand, surf and tropical drinks even in the dead of winter). Plus, you’ll find text from famous Brazilians like supermodel Gisele Bundchen to add additional points of view. This is a book for the ages — the kind your grandkids would buy in a vintage shop decades from now. Leaf through 166 of the 200 pages here.

D&AD 2009, The Best Advertising and Design in the World from TASCHEN


An inside page, courtesy of


Advertising can tell you a lot about a city, like the typical sense of humor, popular foods and how people get around. And why not narrow it down to the best advertisements in the world? In this beautifully designed hardcover, find everything from screenshots of Visa Europe’s TV commercials to images from the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation’s Asia Pacific campaign, all with a description on why the campaigns were successful and other interesting details. Leaf through the entire 576-pager on TASCHEN’s site.

Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips from National Geographic


Courtesy of


This list would be incomplete without a tome from National Geographic, the touchstone for international, cultural and travel-related photography. The shots are consistently awe-inspiring and informative, and this book especially — a compilation of National Geographic writers’ most treasured trips — sparks some serious wanderlust. Aside from the stunning photography, what appeals to us most about this particular National Geographic book is its unconventional organization. The categories destinations are grouped under are not countries or even continents, rather subjects such as modes of transportation (“By road,” “By rail,” “On foot”) or motivation (“In gourmet heaven,” “Into the action”).  As for the bits of travel advice included, we encourage you to do outside research to round the recommendations. Grab a pen and paper when you sit down with the book, because you’ll be doubling (at least!) your life trip list after flipping through.

Tara and Karina for TKGO

Irish Sweets: Yellow Man

The other week I was watching the Food Network while getting in my cardio at the gym (ironic, I know), and the Bobby Flay special “Tasting Ireland” was on. I was intrigued, because all I’m aware Ireland’s homeland cuisine consists of is meat and potatoes, which is an impression I’m sure many others share. Inspired by Bobby Flay and his brethren, once home (and showered), I began to investigate Irish recipes. I wanted something simple, traditional and sweet, I decided. After some digging, I settled on Yellow Man, an Irish toffee candy.

Below is a little video I shot of my attempts, which in the end, I declare successful despite some small setbacks. (Overheard in the background at one point is my roommate Hannah, by the way.) The Yellow Man tasted like butterscotch and was much stickier and chewier than I expected, but still good. The recipe, which I followed as closely as possible — no candy thermometer to be found, oops — is courtesy of Saveur and can be found here.

My recommendations: Place the pan in the refrigerator to accelerate cooling, which I can almost guarantee will take longer than 30 minutes. And if you have a filling or anything else in your mouth you think could easily get yanked out, I would probably choose something else for dessert. Perhaps “Rhubarb Financiers with Vanilla Ice Cream and Poached Rhubarb“? Maybe next year’s St. Patrick’s Day will inspire me to tackle that one.

Karina for TKGO