After my epic trip to Cuba and Mexico, my next adventure was a low-key mini break to Madrid. I have been to beautiful Barcelona and spent time in Andalucia, which I love, but I heard that Madrid is perfect for a short break with great weather, good food and cheap flights. I was sold. I am keen to do as many mini breaks within the EU as possible, before Brexit, in case the ease of travel and no visa restrictions change forever, something I think my generation has sadly taken for granted. But this is not a politics blog, so I will try not to rant! We managed to get flights direct from London to Madrid with Ryanair (from Stanstead) for £60 return (hand luggage only), cheaper than most train fares within the UK! The only thing to be warned about is that even if you pay for a hand luggage only flight, if you end up at the back of the boarding queue, Ryanair will make you put your luggage in the hold as there is not always enough room in the overhead lockers. So if you are in a rush and don’t want to hang around the baggage carousel at your destination, bear this in mind.
One of the first things we noticed in the taxi drive from the airport to the city centre was how grand Madrid felt, with all the hallmarks of a European capital city i.e. grand buildings and lots of wide boulevards. We had chosen to stay in the city centre, as I always feel that when on a short break somewhere, staying within walking distance of the main sights means you can maximise how much you can squeeze in to a mini break! We choose to stay in Hotel Catalonia Las Cortes in Las Letras, and it was the perfect location, a 10 minute walk to El Prado museum with lots of beautiful squares and cobbled streets on our doorstep. I have to give a shout out to the hotel itself with spacious, clean rooms and really warm and friendly staff who were happy to help with recommendations and patiently put up with my attempts to speak Spanish. They also had free snacks in the lobby area every day for tourists like us who were not used to the late eating hours of the Spanish people, just to keep us going throughout the day! Continue reading →
My trip to Cuba in May 2016 was the turning point in my photography, largely because I had chosen to attempt to take my hobby to the next level by booking a photography holiday with Creative Escapes. 11 days of traveling with a pro-photographer, hands on tuition as well as learning about the different styles of photography pushed me to go beyond the usual cliché travel snaps to try and capture the essence of the country instead. I had always wanted to do this in Cuba – there is no greater place on earth to shoot with the colours, sun, music, crumbling facades, retro cars, (retro everything) and amazing people, all offering photo opportunities at every corner. Most of all, I wanted to see Cuba before everything changed and it opened up to the world, especially the Americans. One week after my trip, in fact, the first cruise ship from the USA since the severance of trade relations started, arrived in Cuba!
I have been fortunate enough to have traveled a lot in Latin America and while all countries are unified with a certain Latin culture, Cuba felt truly unique, even within the region. For a little Caribbean Island, with a population the size of London, it is quite amazing how strong a cultural influance Cuba has, especially in music. The best part of Cuba for me was seeing everyday life and how things are different (or not) to what I know as my everyday. With that in mind, comes this collection of photos of The Real Cuba.
This is my favourite shot from the trip, and my best photo to date (even being selected as a staff pick by Creative Escapes! You know you are in Cuba when you see your first classic fifties car, and even though they are everywhere, it is impossible to tire of them. There is no greater sign of the US embargo than these giant gas guzzlers still being driven around (with no seat belts or carbon emission limits!) We were on our way out of Havana when I spotted this carwash and I asked our driver to stop and turn around. What I loved was the fact that this could be a carwash anywhere in the world but yet this image and the classic car screams Cuba.