Tag Archives: travel

Life after Fidel

YOU have to search long and hard to find any statues of Fidel Castro in Cuba.

Unlike just about anywhere else you care to mention, consumer advertising was replaced by stirring revolutionary imagery, snappy slogans and useful cultural announcements decades ago.

There is no shortage of statues and images of Castro’s revolutionary compatriot Che Guevara. The iconic stencil-style image based on Alberto Korda’s photograph of Che is everywhere. From murals and T-shirts to tattoos and three-peso notes in Cuban pockets, Che’s black beret, flowing locks and smouldering eyes are never far away.

IMG_3628Cuban kids start the school day by pledging that they “will be like Che”. There’s even a song about Guevara, Hasta Siempre, Commandante that, inevitably, you’ll hear sooner or later.

Similarly, every street corner seems to have statues and memorials to José Martí, the poet and writer who gave a voice to the earliest notions of Cuban independence in the 19th century.

You’ll sometimes see Fidel, wearing his trademark beard and peaked military cap, alongside Che and fellow revolutionary hero Camilo Cienfuegos, on colourful and appropriately heroic murals throughout the island.

Occasionally, there are inspiring quotes from Fidel on roadside hoardings (although many have him eulogising his martyred comrade-in-arms Che). But there’s not a single road named after Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz anywhere in Cuba.

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There’s no place like Rome

ROME has an eerie familiarity for anyone who has a trace of history and/or movie geekery within them – though if you have seen La Dolce Vita, Roman Holiday and Ben Hur, you should be warned that bathing in the Trevi Fountain is strictly forbidden, it’s very easy to bump into people on the Spanish Steps and the Circus Maximus has been grassed over.

On my first trip to Rome a decade ago, I remember being a little unimpressed by the fact that our coach just slowed down so we could take pictures of the Circus Maximus – through the windows – before spending half an hour at the Coliseum and the Trevi fountain and about five hours at the Vatican. I probably would’ve chosen a radically different itinerary.

Me and the little lady were long overdue some holiday sunshine so we put together our own little week-long trip over a couple of nights online, with ruins and records for me, sunshine and shoes for madam.

Sights, shopping, fantastic food, booze, peace and quiet, rest and relaxation. What more could we ask for? There’s something for everyone.

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Stoned Love in Negril

SUDDENLY it’s five am, neither of us can see straight and Beyoncé’s Crazy in Love is booming out of the battered bass bins that teeter above us like so many rickety skyscrapers. The crowd goes bananas. Time for another drink.

Jamaica takes the birthdays of its heroes seriously and Bob Marley’s birthday is the cue for celebrations right across the island. The main event in Negril is an open air all-nighter fifty yards up the road from our hotel. The mighty Stone Love soundsystem rock a good-natured but progressively more boisterous crowd of fantastically well dressed locals in their Friday night finery and lamentably shoddy tourists in their day-glo holiday drabery.

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Ramblas association

THINGS rarely go to plan in Barcelona.

It’s the start of the city’s annual Mercé festival and Mayor Joan Clos is trying to make a speech. Unfortunately, as well as hundreds of local culture vultures and tourists waiting for the appearance of the neighbourhood Gigantes, Plaça de Sant Jaume is also packed with anarchists, trade unionists and community activists protesting against the Forum, police brutality, new hotel developments, Mayor Clos himself and, well, what else have you got?

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