Monthly Archives: May 2017

A great art city on the rise

It’s time to hail Havana as one of the world’s great art cities. The Cuban capital has never lacked artistic credentials, but a growing band of small private galleries, fresh interest in outlandish street art and the emergence of the extraordinary art collectives has sparked a creative renaissance that has truly put the city on the map.

 

Artistic roots

Havana’s artistic roots go deep. The city is home to the oldest arts academy in Latin America, the Academia de Bellas Artes San Alejandro, housed in a colonnaded building in Marianao. Founded in 1818, the academy has bred generations of precocious talent, most notably in the 1920s when it spawned the Vanguardia, a loose collection of painters and sculptors who, rejecting the contemporary penchant for mundane landscapes, invented Cuba’s avant-garde.

 

Where to start

For an introductory exposé to the heady world of Cuban art, proceed directly to the bedrock of Havana’s art scene, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, a huge multifarious art museum spread over two campuses in Centro Habana. The ‘Arte Cubano’ section is the finest collection of Cuban painting in the world. Artists to look out for include Victor Manuel Valdés, executor of the haunting Gitana Tropical, a painting sometimes referred to as the ‘Latin Mona Lisa’ that today is seemingly reproduced on every shower curtain and umbrella in Cuba. Another star is Wilfredo Lam, a colleague of Picasso who absorbed his Spanish amigo’s envelope-pushing spirit, but also nurtured distinctive Cuban themes such as Santería. Lam dominates the middle section of the museum with his dark, abstract works, including his most graphic, Tercer Mundo.

Family friendly fun in Detroit

If Detroit isn’t on your list to consider for a family vacation, it should be. This historic city has automobile and music legends to spare, plus unique outdoor spaces, which add up to plenty of kid-friendly activities.

From chowing down on Detroit-style pizza to learning about automotive history in nearby Dearborn, here are 10 suggestions for family fun in the Detroit area.

 

Catch a game at Comerica Park

Even if you’re not a baseball fan, Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, is worth a visit for the action both on and off the field. There’s a carousel where kids big and small can go ’round and ’round on the back of – what else? – snarling tigers, and the Fly Ball Ferris Wheel, where you can get a bird’s-eye view of the park from a baseball-shaped capsule. Booster seats are available for smaller kids. At least half of the fun of checking out a game is the food, so don’t forget the hot dogs.

 

Make a sand castle at Campus Martius Park

The city of Detroit is decidedly urban, but that doesn’t mean it’s all concrete and tall buildings. Residents and visitors can find plenty of grass (and sand and ice!) at Campus Martius Park. During the summer there’s a sandy beach here, even though the only water in sight is spurting out of the various fountains. Set up a beach chair and umbrella and relax while the kids build a sand castle. Winter finds the park ready for the holidays, with an ice skating rink and an annual tree-lighting ceremony.

 

Grab a slice, Detroit-style

Detroit-style pizza isn’t as well-known as New York- or Chicago-style pizza, but it should be. Square and deep, a Detroit-style pie places pepperoni and other toppings under the cheese – and plenty of it, going right up to the crispy, buttery edge of the pie. Sauce is drizzled on top. Give it a taste in the place it all began: Buddy’s Pizza, which has been serving up thick, crunchy slices since 1946.

Life lessons from long-term travel

Long-term travel is undisputedly one of the most life-changing things you can do – and once that travel bug has bitten, there’s no antidote. Nothing beats the thrill of packing your bags and stepping out of your front door knowing you won’t be back for several weeks, months or even years!

When you return you’ll have a bag full of souvenirs (and usually sand), a mind full of amazing memories and most importantly – aside from a great tan, of course – an arsenal of valuable life skills. Here are some of the key lessons you’ll learn on the road.

 

Expect the unexpected

You plan and plan, and then everything gets turned on its head. Perhaps your flight gets cancelled so you miss that event you were so excited about. Maybe you get food poisoning and spend a week in bed instead of exploring a city you’ve been dreaming about since you were a kid; your luggage gets lost; your wallet gets stolen. You can’t control every situation on the road, so take a beat, deal with any incidents calmly and try to go with the flow. Remember, unexpected circumstances can lead to unexpected adventures.

Where you can, build in a few safety nets. Stock up on medication and first-aid supplies (looking for a chemist at an ungodly hour is never fun), pack a spare set of clothes in your hand luggage, keep some emergency money or a spare credit card stashed in a secret place and always have travel insurance.

Lessons from the road: I arrived in Ecuador with a day to spare before hopping on a cruise – unfortunately my luggage wasn’t so punctual and didn’t arrive until three days later. Thankfully my travel insurance allowed me to pick up some essentials in the meantime, but I’d have been a lot less stressed had I packed an extra set of clothes in my cabin bag.