Archive for September 14th, 2018

September 14, 2018

Two souvenirs from La Habana!

Ok this is just a nostalgia post on a quiet Friday in my Morbihan Breton of  Brittany, France. I am remembering my early life and thought about Havana , and search for some photos , hardly any left but at least the memories still lingered of what it was. My Havana.

When I was just a little boy back in the 60’s I remember my mother taking me on bus rides the 27, 99, 35 etc into Havana as well as with some friends and family by car; old Oldsmobile and Chevrolet Bel Air’s mind you.

One of the essence of Cuba is the cooking, coming from mixtures of races European, African, and in between some Orientals. The choices were big back then, and notice some resurgence recently with the easing of provisions for private businesses.

One of my old time favorites that I have found photos are El Conejito (little rabbit) and El Potin (coming from old French Gossips). They are still in my heart today thanks to my dear late mother Gladys or mima as I called her.

The El Conejito was created by 1966 in Vedado district of Havana. On Calle M and 17 . It was a sumptuous restaurant serving many dishes all with the rabbit as main course. I do not recall how many variarities of it they did but it was a full menu carte.  There is not much information now but found one popular webpage with some information on it here: El Conejito on Cuba Junky site


I remembered we always had to make reservations and it was packed back in the late 60’s. We would be visiting old Havana and on the way home we stopped here; just great souvenirs. Luckily for you,the restaurant is still there and I highly recommend you try it while in Havana. A family hairloom memory photo above. I believe they are still open.

The El Potin cafeteria restaurant was even closer to home at Linea and Paseo del Prado in Vedado district as well. This is actually a French name meaning gossip, and we really enjoy the cafeteria style sandwiches that are so famous in Paris such as croque monsieur and croque madame as well as French desserts like the Paris Brest! Coffee of course was sublime from the mountains in eastern provinces of Cuba like Oriente; where many French landowner colonists from Haiti settled after the Haiti Revolution of 1805 made them leave there.

We came here even more often I recalled, and sat by the terrace looking over Linea street which is a no number street in Vedado. It is one of the modern historical streets there. Linea was for the streetcar (tramway of today ) tracks that ran along this street. It was renamed to Avenida del Presidente Wilson in 1918 and to Doble Vía General Batista in the 50s, but people kept calling it by its original name. One thing that is peculiar about this street is that it has a tunnel across the Almendares River. The below photo was passing by car as had no will to entered, too many memories.

Again not much information online but the same place as above has some directions here: El Potin in Cuba Junky

I again highly recommend coming here, is not what it was but the feel of Havana and Cuba is still there, and you will mingle with locals. Enjoy it

Some webpages to help you plan your trip are

Cuba Junky

La Habana guide to Havana

Tourist office of Cuba on Havana

Ministry tourism of Cuba

Hope it helps you enjoy your stay and visit some unique places that are still hanging in there after so many years, around 52 years!!!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

September 14, 2018

Some news from Spain LXVII

On a sunny bright day in the Morbihan breton, its time for me to bring you up to date on my beloved Spain. Some of the latest and a bit of history I like.  We have 82F and sunny at Madrid right now.

One of my favorite , I read since birth, has a happening, here is the story.

A statue in the district of the Letras(  letters), in the beautiful  Plaza Santa Ana in front of the Teatro Espanol ,(Spanish theater) which in its time was the place that would occupy the old Corral of the prince. In the spring of May 1681, with the definitive absence of the lustrous presence of Pedro Calderón de la Barca, one of the greatest writer/poets of Spain leaves in inheritance a monumental literary work matter of study in thousands of universities all over the globe

He witnessed three reigns, neither one more nor one less (that of Felipe III, that of Felipe IV and that of Carlos II). He suffered from the Europe of the Thirty Years War, the slow decline of a tiring monarchy of resources invested in poor investments, and probably one of the most complicated moments in the history of our country. It synthesizes in short, that contradictory 17C, in which we still remained installed in the belief that we were the masters ,that it was so, but already with gray and with many fronts that we approached to the shipwreck announced of the unforgettable nation. Calderón of the Barca, soldier, priest, poet, playwright, etc. was the critical consciousness of a time that evoked the knell of bells with worn clapper.

Encyclopedic illustrated, he reincarnated several times in his beloved Cervantes. A friend and contemporary of Velázquez clung to the Baroque as a lover or ballast marked by blood and fire for the creed he practiced, a religion closed to new and unventilated that would condition his enormous creativity out of respect for suffocating principles. In this orbit of literary, artistic and scientific creation, he coexisted in space time with the conspicuous Góngora, with the ubiquitous and scathing Quevedo, the enormous philosophers Hobbes, Descartes, Baruch ,Espinoza, Locke and other enlightened ones touched by the genius and a talent beyond doubt.

Calderon born in the labyrinthine city of the cats, Madrid, in a winter apotheosis by the recurrent snows and the heavy cold , dawns one day January 17 of the year 1600. It coexists with the distance of rigor, with Felipe III and its hustler Duke of Lerma. His mother left him in this  strange place in 1610 and a deeply authoritarian father sends him to the Imperial College of the Jesuits, regardless of a direct education and a responsibility that he did not want to assume in the raising of his three children. The universities of Alcalá de Hénares and Salamanca, gave him an order and a sense that protects him in his doubts and reorients him to the first celebrity that sprouts in it in a natural way. The theater lives in it and his rhetorical persuasion is of an undeniable and overwhelming power, innate and unquestionable. Soldier in his youth (he was part of the campaign against the rebellion of Catalonia in 1640), and cleric in old age, in his younger years appears wrapped in several brawls, he was an excellent swordsman, and probably following a challenge to hardly punish an accusation of homicide and the breaking of a convent of nuns, one does not know with which intentions. His enormous fondness for the profane history perhaps the true one, and the canonical one probably that of the half-truths, its rapprochement with the natural and political right were the tools with which he would face his vast literary creation coupled with the fascination generated by the comedy of Lope de Vega, his great artistic reference, which at that time swept the corrals of the capital. Calderon is basically a comedy writer.

For 1623 he already has a good shot at his back and Felipe IV appoints him as the official playwright of the court. But the splendor reaches him when he leaves the militia and becomes part of the group of protected under the patronage of the Duke of Alba. It is the moment where his tremendous creativity with volcanic power emerges to devote himself to literary creation. The top work of his dramaturgy is undoubtedly La vida es sueño ( life is a dream), an incredible clash of trains between the freedom of the individual and the borders of the reason of State. In 1636 it receives the accolade of Felipe IV with the concession of the habit of Knight of the Order of Santiago it is not known whether to placate the ire of the cold winter in Madrid or to protect itself from the thick prevailing theological substance. This rise in internal reformism and the empowerment of Spanish projection with more emphasis on international policy.  It becomes Calderón de la Barca in the decade of 1630-1640 in a classic of his time installed in the international  Top Ten of literature. It is the decade of the great Biblical dramas and of honor with Los cabellos de Absalón, and El médico de su honra, etc. It is, also the time of the debate between the individual and the absolute power of the State and perhaps, in my view, when personal virtue reaches perfection in the  celebrated El alcalde de Zalamea (the mayor of Zalamea). The famous philosophical comedy depicted in the life Is dream  is probably the most universal work of this eclectic man of the world. It has been staged in more than a hundred countries, and in England it is a work of worship. And that, not to mention the historical comedy of the  mayor of Zalamea  that only in Spain between private schools and institutes, theaters of first row and micro theaters, in the year 2016 was interpreted more than a thousand times.

A bit on Calderon de la Barca in English here: Pedro Calderon de la Barca

More in Spanish: Calderon de la Barca literature

The Teatro Real  (Royal Theater) inaugurates its 22nd season in September with Faust, by Charles Gounod, in a new co-production with the National Opera & Ballet in Amsterdam. A new reading of the inexhaustible myth of Faust, original work of the romantic German Johann Wolfgang von Goethe , which began its historical journey with a cold reception of the French public in the Parisian Théâtre Lyrique in 1859 and which has been imposed little by little in the universal operatic repertoire. This new season, marked the bicentennial of the Teatro Real. Already in 1865, in this same theater, Faust (Fausto)  seduced the Madrid public, being one of the most represented operas until its closing in 1925, which would continue until the reopening in February of 2003. Therefore, one of the main subjects outstanding in the celebration of the two hundred years of the institution is to recover the artistic repertoire lost in this long parenthesis during the 20C. Gounod’s Faust moves away from the French Grand Opéra, with the beauty of the melodies, the formidable choral parts or the sarcasm in the dialogues, but with a very German style. It is very clear that the primary source of inspiration is in the original work of Goethe which precisely reached its true popularity in Germany. More info here: Faust at the Royal Theater

El Centro Cultural Conde Duque  ( Conde Duque Cultural Center)  bets on the new course to rediscover its physical space and rescue the memory of Madrid. These are the two lines that define the more than 100 artistic proposals that will take place this Fall in the municipal center, in the middle of this green space, located in the theater of the cultural center, during this week will take place concerts, sessions of Micro Open, Yoga and performance classes, among other activities. Conde Duque presents of all the People in all the World, a sample located in the vaults. The project, which starts this Wednesday and can be visited until September 29th, is an installation that uses grains of rice to present different statistics, many of them in the city of Madrid, in which a grain is equivalent to a person. 17C barracks that today houses the cultural center, is the objective of the La Ronda, a night walk with lanterns in which, together with two security guards, participants will travel the bowels  of the Conde Duque (count duke). Libraries, archives, theaters, offices… will be some of the corners that will be shown in the activity, which will be on Wednesday nights Thursday and Friday, between September 19 and 28. The entrance is 5 euros. More here: Centro Cultural Conde Duque Madrid

Malasaña, where in the years 80’s emerged, of the hand of rock bands, the first generation of what is known as R’n’B underground. The Malasaña sound cycle will rescue some of these formations, as well as emerging artists, which will offer up to ten concerts between September 22 and October 18 for a price of between 8 and 15 euros.   Different venues, see about the district here: Malasana Madrid

Traveling on the Al Andalus train is traveling in the times,  passenger moves instantly to the years of the Belle Époque. Yes, with all the comforts of the 21C. The car suites and saloon cars that today compose this palace on wheels belong to the same series as those that were built in France for the displacements that the members of the British monarchy carried out between Calais and the French Riviera. RENFE’s tourist train has different routes around the Spanish geography. The classic rides seven days in Andalusia discovering all its diversity and essence. Another option is to cover the route between Sevilla and Madrid by Extremadura, following the historical route of La Plata. More info here: RENFE AL Andalus

The culminating moment of that infatuation with it was undoubtedly the transfer in 1990 to Madrid of the Goizeko Kabi that Jesus Santos born in land of Campos, but raised in Bilbao as many other Castilian immigrants of the mid-20C had become the most prestigious restaurant of the capital of Biscay since its opening in 1982. He was the first Michelin-starred chef to move with tools and baggage from the Basque country to Madrid, and the expectation was remarkable. In the district of Tetuán, where it soon opened also another more informal food house, Gaztelupe, before focusing its efforts on the most ambitious Goizeko in the Wellington Hotel in 2000. And in 2012 the rupture was consummated: Luis Martín, chef of Gaztelupe, stayed with this restaurant and Goizeko Kabi, and Santos continued  and continues today, with the recognition of always in the Goizeko Wellington. In the current Goizeko Kabi-local correct, just decoration and rather outdated, with a profusion of electric plugs quite surprising; The tasty baby squid with three onion textures. The Canutillos of Bilbao stuffed with cream and custard return to the tradition and culminate well a meal completed by some interesting wine as the elegant pink blue oranges that Chuchi Soto elaborates in the Sierra de Gredos. Located at Comandante Zorita, 37. More info here: Kabi Goizeko Restaurant Madrid

There you yo for now another edition of your Some News from Spain episode in my blog. Enjoy Spain, everything under the sun!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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September 14, 2018

The Reunification Hall or Palace, HCMC!

Coming back to my new frontier of Asia, and having visited Vietnam on several occassion and blog posts galore here, I like to bring you to one building that emcompassed the different periods in Vietnamese history.  Again ,I take you bak to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) or old Saigon and the Presidential palace or Reunification  Palace or Hall.

Now as said before Saigon is also a district in the city ,and you may hear many Vietnamese calling the city still Saigon; but it does not mean they oppose the current Communist system there. Simply a matter of traditions. Just a tip.

Now, I passed by several times and was enthusiastically by the locals about it, until one day , they asked if wanted to see it. Been in love with history , of course, told them yes. It was a very nice experience to now see what I have heard for many years.

Let me tell you a bit more about it ok.

The Palace of Reunification formerly known as the Palace of Independence or Palace of Norodom, is a historic building of Ho Chi Minh City.


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In 1858, France launched an attack on Da Nang, starting its invasion of Vietnam. In 1867, France completed its conquest of southern Vietnam (Cochinchina), comprising the provinces of Bien Hoa, Gia Dinh, Dinh Tuong, Vinh Long, An Giang, and Ha Tien. To consolidate the newly established colony, in 1868,,the governor elect held a ceremony to lay the foundation stone of a new palace to replace the old wooden palace built in 1863. The new palace was built between 1868 and 1873 for the king of Cambodia Norodom Ier. The complex covered an area of 12 hectares, including  the palace with an 80-meter-wide façade, a guest-chamber capable of accommodating 800 people, with spacious gardens covered by green trees and a lawn. Most of the building materials were imported from France. From 1887 to 1945, all Governor-General of French Indochina used the palace as their residence and office.

In 1945, Japan defeated and replaced  France in French Indochina in a successful coup. Norodom Palace became the headquarters of Japanese colonial officials in Vietnam. In September 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allied forces in WWII and France returned to Vietnam and Norodom Palace was restored to its position as the office of the French local governement.

In 1954, France surrendered to the Viet Minh after its defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. France agreed to sign the Geneva Accords and withdrew its troops from Vietnam. According to the accords, Vietnam would be divided pending general elections. The 17th parallel  would act as the temporary border until a vote based on universal suffrage was held to establish a unified Vietnamese government. North Vietnam was under the control of the Việt Minh communists, while South Vietnam was under the anti-communist State of Vietnam. Of course, wishful thinking this never happened as the North stay in power on their side and the South on theirs for many years afterwards.

In 1962, the Presidential palace was bombarded by two fighter jets manned by two lieutenants from the South Vietnamese Air force. They wanted to assassinate President Diem and put an end to his extremely unpopular policy. The bombing was a failure, but the building was heavily damaged. The president then gave the order to have it demolished and built in its place the present palace, according to the project of the Vietnamese architect Ngô Viết Thụ, the first winner of the Prix de Rome in 1955. The President, who was assassinated in a coup d’état in 1963, did not see the end of the work. The new palace was completed in 1966 and remained a presidential residence until April 1975.

The USA been heavily involved after the French left on the pretext of a UN resolution but more for the oils reserves along the Mekong Delta was finally defeated , leaving the country on the whims of the Viet Cong of NorthVietnam.  Their tanks came crashing in on the Presidential palace in 1975 to put an end to the divided country.

In November 1975, after the negotiation convention between the communist North Vietnam and their colleagues in South Vietnam was completed, the Provisional Revolutionary Government  renamed the palace Reunification Hall . As well as the new Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Offical Reunification palace webpage in English

Tourist office of Vietnam on the Reunification palace

Several pictures of the inside of Reunification palace to follow:

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Hope you enjoy it and if visiting the city a must to see and understand better the conflict of wars in this country.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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