Captivating Cuba

Thanks to President Obama, who modified the restrictive Cuba travel policy, throngs of visitors are making their way to the island. The change is designed to encourage more contact between Americans and citizens of the Communist-ruled island, the Treasury Department  grants so-called “people-to-people” licenses, which greatly expand travel opportunities for Cuba-bound visitors. However, one still cannot just hop on a plane and visit as an independent traveler.

Boys on the street – a universal scene cool boys & even cooler cars.

Cuba is realistically set in a time warp – the cars are decades old; 1950’s big Buick’s, Oldsmobile’s and Chevy’s – replacement parts, of course are not available, but the drivers amazingly seem to have kept them running. Evident in a door handle workings: almost hidden, a bent nail and some wire; many of the cars are lacking the interior panels – safety is not relevant – style, reflecting a vintage culture is of importance, amazingly the streets are clogged with traffic of another era.

Crumbling buildings, once elegant and refined European dwellings look like they are on their last legs; majestic marble staircases lead to apartments and restaurants – mixed housing development is clearly acceptable. Walking up the three flights of a graceful wide marble stairway to a hip restaurant, one can easily peer into the bedrooms of the apartment dwellers. A scene out of the Honeymooners television hit.

The Malecón waterfront is beautiful and if commerce is allowed to return, it should be a stunning location for rebuilding these fallen treasures. Old Havana is filled with lovely churches, central parks and leafy tree lined squares, cafes brimming with lively musicians and European tourists.  Architecture evoked by Southern Spain, despite the crumbling, one can imagine another time, a time of an elegance and hope.

A trip to the Hemingway Museum is definitely best taken in a vintage convertible, the bumpy ride produces a big smile. Finca Vigia, which means lookout farm, was the name of Hemingway’s residence when he lived there. The Hemingway Museum provides a glimpse of the daily life of Ernest and his wife; the pleasant surroundings and original furnishings make this a must see for anyone interested in the life and works of Ernest Hemingway.

Hotel Saratoga Havana

National Museum of Fine Arts Havana – Museo Nacional De Bellas Artes. The Museum of Fine Arts in two impressive buildings, one dedicated to Cuban Arts and Universal Arts. Beautifully organized, view the work of master Cuban painters – including, Adigio. His work can also be seen in his small studio, paintings stacked three deep in his apartment. Despite the language barrier, he enthusiastically shared his latest work, since my visit he has passed away.

Havana is a very fascinating place to visit, and I recommend it for a fun, safe, and utterly unique travel experience in the Caribbean, especially if you’re interested in history, architecture, the contradictory effects of socialism, lively music and great dining. We enjoyed our best meal at family run La Casa a celebrity dining destination.  Although the Tropicana night club show is a bit campy, it is definitely a fun cabaret evening. Launched in 1939, it quickly spread the spicy Latin culture to the world, the Tropicana showgirls described as “Las Diosas de Carne” or “Flesh Goddesses”, were celebrated for their curvaceous figures and their embellished feather-and-sparkly sequin costumes. Tropicana Club inspired musical revues in New York, Las Vegas and Paris.

Trinidad Cuba

Trinidad – a UNESCO World Heritage site is a picturesque town filled with small taverns and ice cream shops. The Iberostar Grand Hotel Trinidad is the finest lodging and overlooks the charming Plaza Mayor, strolled by the locals on Sunday afternoons. A gathering spot for conga drums, animated singers and percussionists who participate in small impromptu festivals. Don’t miss the Museo Romantico, a 19th-century colonial mansion with period furniture and textiles, evidence of the once opulent lifestyle of this city. Sunday street vendors offer crafts and local cuisine.

Tobacco Farmer, Vinales

Yes, we survived the taxi ride – despite the lack of interior panels and the ancient driver!

Paseo del Prado, Havana

At the Hemingway Museum

And how do you spend a cold stormy day? Spanish Scrabble with your waiter..Mojito, Si! Yes, he won!

Postcards mailed, but never received in the US.

Monthly rations

Trinidad – colorful and curious

Imagine no cell phones ringing on the street, no one walking down the avenues, head down tapping on a keyboard, no billboards or advertising – quite pure in an odd sense. You will see political signs elevating Fidel Castro and other national heroes. A brief visit, not necessarily a place to spend a lifetime. Still one must be a member of an organized tour group to visit.


Havana Dreams…2015. Will you visit?

Already receiving requests for Cuba travel, hoping Congress will allow the embargo modification – we are the only travelers not allowed to visit independently. Those who have visited are mesmerized by the beautiful decaying architecture, obviously a wealthy enclave of a bygone generation. Colonial splendor is still evident in many neighborhoods, however the calendar seems frozen in 1959. Missing are the familiar trappings of our globalized world. Streets are clogged with chrome encrusted behemoths of the 1950’s. Did you know that at one time more Cadillac automobiles were sold in Havana than any other city?

CubaTruly Cuba could use cash infusions for luxury hotels, a degrading infrastructure, and automotive parts! The most unsafe situation for a traveler is stepping into a gaping pothole, darkly obscured in the night due to terminally burned out street lamps.

Atmospheric Latin rhythms can be heard and felt, emanating from small music clubs;  spirited impromptu dancing is often enjoyed in the small hidden squares in Havana. If you find yourself at the crossroads at Emperarado Street, at the Cathedrals Square, look for the popular Bodeguita del Medio, a celebrated restaurant of the Creole cuisine. Sip an icy Cristal Cerveza and enjoy the scene. Cuba 082Authentic family owned restaurants operating in private residences offer the taste of Cuba; a favorite is La Casa Owned and managed by the colorful Robaina family for over 20 years. Inspired by the Matriarchal grandmother María Sánchez and the enterprising spirit of Silvia Cardoso, who is on site every evening to welcome her honored guests. A simple home setting, frequently visited by local luminaries and cinema stars.

Cuba beckons, will you be on the first flight? We have guides in place and know the best of the best!