Cuba Photo Diary.


Oh, Cuba. Where do I even begin. I returned home from my trip on Monday evening and feel like I am still processing this trip. It was one of the most amazing trips I’ve ever been on.

I am not a big crier and I cried on the plane as we took off. It was such an incredible trip that also brought out a lot of emotions. I’ve traveled quite a bit but never been anywhere remotely like it. I got home and just needed to sit. Besides missing Cuba (the trip was just amazing – the group – the yoga – everything) I was just struck by how MUCH I have and how little others have. Sitting in my big apartment working, with WiFi that is (all things considered), pretty fast. Drinking water out of the tap. Drinking my fancy Nespresso coffee.

Ordering my groceries to my apartment. I’ve always been aware of my privilege and how lucky I am but that’s really in comparison to other Americans. Visiting this country and seeing not only how little these people have but also (and most importantly) how MUCH they do with how little they have is something that really stuck with me.

I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to share our trip and have decided it will ultimately be three posts. Today’s larger post – a diary of photos + some interesting things I learned from the trip. The next post will be a more practical travel guide as I really believe that everyone (if they have the means) should get there (sooner rather than later because who knows what the president will do next). And the last post will be about the yoga retreat – why I did it, what I learned and blah blah blah. There are a lot of photos but I wanted to capture both the beauty of the country (so often overly romanticized) along with the decay. Because there’s a lot. Of both.

I have wanted to go to Cuba for a while – but especially since Obama’s visit in 2016. Two of my friends live there and I’ve had a lot of friends visit in the past few years. I’ve followed Yoga for Bad People for a while now on Instagram and taken a few of Heather‘s classes back when she lived in New York, and when I saw that they were headed to Cuba with CET, I dropped everything and booked my spot on the retreat. (Seriously, dropped what I was doing – I was in Cartagena, checked my calendar and booked the retreat).

cuba photo diary - green house cuba photo diary - yellow car

It’s hard to believe this place exists. Not only that it exists, but that it’s only a three hour plane ride away (just ninety miles from Key West) yet so completely different from what we’re used to here.

Cuba is a city of contrasts. One minute, you’re walking down the road looking at a stunning mansion – the next, a pile of trash and rubble. One minute it’s green and beautiful and the next you are coughing from the gasoline smells.

In a book I’m reading, Cuba is described as a woman who was grand once and has fallen on hard times, and yet hints of her former brilliance remain, traces of an era passed, a photograph faded by time and circumstance, its edges crumbling into dust.” This description, in my opinion, is spot on.

The colors of Cuba are incredible. Any designer should go just to be inspired by the colors. The way that the Cubans have paired colors together… the way the sea has faded some colors… it’s pretty amazing and truly breathtaking. One thing that struck me was the saturation. We all have that friend who over saturates their photos on Instagram. It felt as though I was living in an ultra saturated state the whole time. The greens, the blues… so much greenery and then there’s the turquoise sea.

cuba photo diary dog cuba photo diary green car

A word about the cars / something I found really interesting. Whenever you see photos of Cuba, they almost always include the old American cars from the fifties. Those are all from before the revolution; and symbolize the days of capitalism. They’re also mostly taxis and quite expensive – costing $50-60k to buy one (this number was quoted to me, it could be more or less). If a person buys one it’s as an investment to be a driver as the tips from driving tourists can add up a LOT (the average Cuban government salary is only around $20/month so… there you have it).

The typical Cuban car is a Lada which is a pretty basic, boxy standard-issue Russian car. These cars symbolize Cuba after the revolution and the ties to the Soviet Union.

Regardless, most Cubans don’t even have cars as they are expensive. Even a run down Lada is usually around $15k – the same price as a (small) home.

cuba photo diary taxi cuba photo diary rainbow

This (double!) rainbow appeared on our first night in Cuba. We’d just finished up yoga and were running late to our welcome dinner… we had stop, climb up to the roof of our building, and take these photos! It was definitely a sign of good luck as we had an amazing trip.

This is a post about Cuba and not about shopping but I know someone will ask – my white shirt is from Madewell and you can buy it here, here, or here. It’s a good one and really versatile. It runs really big so size down, especially if you are petite. I’m wearing a small but I’m 5’8 and the XS was too short! My cut-offs are Rag & Bone. They’re also fab though very stretched out from the humidity. And you can get the gold birks here – mine are super old but I love them.

Joey, Lauren and Grace in Cuba

These are my amazing friends Joey and Lauren who I mentioned above. We met in New York several years ago. Joey has a small film production company with my ex-boyfriend. He just produced a documentary about Cuban food which I cannot WAIT to watch. He’s married to my friend Lauren, who is Cuban. Lauren is opening a fashion/art concept store in Havana which will be the first of its kind in Cuba. It will also be the reason for my next trip back to Cuba – seriously cannot wait for the opening!!!

The photos above don’t look like much but they are photos from the construction site for DADOR, Lauren’s store in Habana Viejo (Old Havana). It doesn’t look like much in these photos but the space is stunning and has great bones (tall ceilings, loads of light, interesting original elements).

The tile they chose is identical to the original tile from the space but pink. On my day off from the retreat we went and visited it – I’m just so excited for her, and for what this will do for the city. We’re spoiled here – there are beautiful boutiques everywhere. DADOR is going to be something new and really special for Havana. They’ll host events, feature local artists… it’s going to be really amazing. There isn’t anything like it there just yet.

It rained… a LOT… but we weren’t phased… there was still so much to see and do and explore (and the rain made for some pretty photos taken from inside our cars!).

cuba photo diary old lady

(That red car in the photo above right is a Lada – the typical Cuban car!)

cuba photo diary se vend la habana

If you can’t tell, I am completely, utterly, in love with this place. I can’t wait to come back. Next week I’ll share a more practical travel guide (there is a LOT to know before you go), but like I said, I hope that everyone can find a way to go – it’s such a special place!

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  1. Cuba looks incredible! If the streets looked this colourful where I live, I’d totally be strolling around the city instead of just staring at my computer screen at home, haha! 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

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  2. What beautiful photos. Thank you for sharing! I always feel grateful for my life, but reading about how people get by on $20 a month reminds me that the list of things I have to be grateful for, especially clean daily necessities, is so long.
    Happy Friday, xAllie

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  3. What an amazing trip, Grace! All of your pictures are gorgeous!


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  4. How lovely! Cuba looks breathtaking, and you look radiant in all of the pics. Can’t wait for the future posts, especially the feedback about the yoga retreat!

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  5. Butch Quick:

    Loved loved your story; like you I recently returned from Cuba with a heart torn asunder for I too have found love that can’t be denied.
    “…day by bay I’ve fallen more in love with you and that’s no lie, cross my heart and hope to die….”
    Check out my 1st batch of pics (butchquick) on instagram, i eagerly await reading more of amazing travel and love your photos that shot the real Cuba!

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  6. Gail Whitcomb:

    Great architectural photos! Colors remind me of other cities in the South that aren’t afraid of color.

    Question for you – I used to blog for Talent Zoo, but was never an influencer as you clearly are….palm leaf kimono no longer available at Macy’s 🙁 I read a really cool blog regularly and on occasion, see a homophone – as a fellow blogger, would you leave well enough alone or tactfully point it out? Maybe it’s done ironically?

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  7. Jessica:

    THANK YOU for having a real, honest conversation about the beauty and also the struggle that is Cuba. So many people go to places like this and have zero recognition that many people live without water or electricity and just post their insta photos of the perfect “Cuban image” and then go. Your approach is perfect and authentic and so respectful. I’ve always loved your blog, but you just got a life time follower from this post.

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    • aw thank you so much Jessica, this comment means so much to me as I really wanted to do the city justice while also showing the real side of things.

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  8. Beautiful photos! I can’t wait to see your future posts (:

    Narhee | Made in Mauve

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  9. it makes me feel like being teleported back in the past time. those colourful buildings and doors are so pretty.

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  10. Sara Moulton:

    Amazing post — I love that some trips really make us see traveling with new/fresh eyes. Thanks for sharing!

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  11. Oh Grace, I loved reading this so much! I’m so desperate to visit, and I’m so glad you showed it for what it is (not just some perfect filtered highlight that’s only a tiny snapshot of such a beautiful, complicated country). Going to try to make it happen next year!

    Briony xx

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  12. K.C.:

    Amazing photos!! Thank you so much for sharing!

    6.5.18 Reply