Color Study: One Photographer Charms Us With Postcards From Cuba! When scrolling through Anna-Alexia Basile’s Instagram feed it’s easy to garner her aesthetic is highly influenced by color and light. Color through light. Light impacting color. It seems only natural that she booked herself a ticket to Cuba just a few months after the country settled differences with the U.S. and opened its welcome gate. Retrophiles have shared in worry — Cuba will soon be impacted by our tourism, and will no longer feel like a moment stuck in a time long, long ago. However, you see here, this has yet to unfold. Cuba is still a land of charisma — each photo almost bringing to life the sounds, smells, visuals of Havanas streets, all swirling together into one visceral treat. We wanted to know everything Anna could tell us about this until-now forbidden place, so grab your café cubano and read on…
My world is ruled by color so Cuba was a no brainer. Everything — the house, the cars, the people — are so vibrant. Cuba speaks my visual language, so it was the ideal place to make some color-heavy magic. Plus I’ve always been enamored w salsa dancing and salsa music– you can barely walk the streets there without getting pulled into the rhythm. You may be dancing with a stranger, but the moves are perfectly familiar.
What cities did your Cuban adventure take you to?
We flew into Havana and immediately drove to Viñales, a small rural town on the western side of Cuba. Viñales is so dreamy — it has one main road that’s lined with tons of colorful houses that lead you to the main square. The streets are filled with locals and travelers alike who are all mixing, mingling and dancing in the square into the wee hours of the night. By day we rode horses through the avocado groves and tobacco farms and sampled local rums and hand-rolled cigars. By night we’d always find ourselves back at the main square dancing with strangers and dipping in and out of bars with live music.
We ended our trip in Havana, Cuba’s capital. We spent our days soaking in the ocean air and exploring the winding streets of old Havana. We made friends with young locals and would explore art galleries and beautiful pools by day and then dance into the night on timeworn rooftops.
How did you prep for this trip?
I did a lot of pre-planning because I knew we were going to have very limited access to the Internet once we arrived. My tips for anyone considering making this beautiful adventure are to:
Download an offline map — enter in all the destinations you’re interested in before you leave the States. This will show you what’s near each other so you can group activities in close proximity together on the same day
BYOB: Bring Your Own Basics — Because of the embargo, Cuba doesn’t have a lot of the basics that we’re used to having day-to-day. I didn’t realize how much I took for granted elementary first aid until I got some gnarly blisters on my feet. Not only did the stores not have Band-Aids, but neither did the emergency room…in Havana, nonetheless!
Embrace the Bike Taxi — Bike Taxis are a great way to quickly shimmy through the skinny streets of Havana. On our first day there we had a young kid Bike Taxi us around Havana Vieja and point out all the big landmarks so we could familiarize ourselves with the area.
Talk to the locals — Make friends with people you meet in the street and spend time with your hosts. Chances are they’ll turn you on to something unexpected!
Tell us about Cuban life: What stood out? What impacted you? Where did you feel the most inspired?
I was blown away by how friendly and welcoming the locals were — both in urban and rural settings we were greeted with open arms. It felt easy to experience the culture because everyone was excited to share it with us. I was most inspired by the colors. My eyes were constantly on sensory overload. I never knew where to look—the corners where the colorful houses meet, the vibrant cars whizzing past each other on the street or the striking older Cuban women smoking cigars alongside ancient buildings.
Let’s get down to it: Where do you suggest travelers go, eat, shop?
Viñales | Eat: At the Casa Particulare that you’re staying at! The hosts will often cook you a really delicious local meal that’s a nice change from the usual nosh
See: Tour the tobacco fields on horseback and take a day trip to Cayo Jutías, a wistful crystal-clear beach where the locals drive their old cars right up to the water
Do: Salsa dance with someone new in the main square!
Havana | Eat: At El Dandy for quick and delicious vegetarian friendly meals and free popcorn, La Guarida for a nice sit-down date, $0.30 street pizza!
See: Get lost in the streets of Havana Vieja and walk the Malecon (the big wall along the sea)
Do: FAC (Fabrica de Arte Cubana) for an evening experience of the young and modern in Havana
Shop: Clandestina for locally designed really rad clothing and bags