My husband, Michael and I have had Cuba on our bucket list for many years. As soon as Obama lifted the travel ban, we decided to take a short trip with one of our favorite couple friends. I could really write 2 or 3 blogposts about our trip; as we did so many wonderful activities; so this blog is rather simplistic as I’m covering alot of territory. I’m not even covering the fascinating history of Cuba and its revolutions.
Our trip was organized by JourneyCorp Travel and my friend Nurit Kahane Haas who has been to Cuba 12 times and is now an expert on all things Cuban, especially Cuban art.
Jetblue Airways now has a direct flight to Havana. We arrived mid afternoon.
When we checked into the Saratoga Hotel in downtown we literally dropped our bags, and began our tour.
The moment we saw the 1950’s cars, my husband had a huge smile on his face. He felt like he was transported back in time. Those cars added so much color, fun and spirit to our trip. Our driver told us that his grandfather owned his car and handed it down to his father and then his father to him. Now they use them for taxis and to make money, which they very badly need. The drivers were adorable and so were the cars and kept in immaculate shape although I don’t know how they do that!
We started our walking tour in the footsteps of Havana’s colonial past visiting the four key squares of Old Havana, a UNESCO world heritage site. Visit Plaza de Armas, Plaza San Francisco de Asis, Plaza Vieja and Plaza de la Cathedral.
Our first night was a little rough in the eating department but after that evening we kind of knew what to expect and the rest of our meals were delightful… not gourmet food if you will but very good… mostly seafood, a lot of lobster and some fresh fish. They tried very hard ! And the food was so inexpensive. $4 for cocktails and $12 for entrees. Here are a few photos and recommendations: We loved El Cocinero where we had the freshest fish and ate on the very romantic terrace and Vista Mar, a seafood restaurant right on the water as well as La Guarida in an old crumbling paladar.
My favorite frames from our trip were many… Seeing Ernest Hemingway’s home outside of Havana was a full day and quite a trip into history.
We had an art day and met many Cuban artists. I am sure that one day their paintings and photographs will be worth mucho dinero and they are on their way to art stardom for sure. In fact, many of them are already very well known; especially Jose Foster who’s tile work you can see in what they call Fusterlandia. He started decorating his own home and then asked his neighbors if he could decorate their homes. This village is so enchanting and a much loved art community in Havana.
And then you cannot have a trip to Cuba without salsa dancing. Unfortunately we didn’t go out dancing at night because we were exhausted with so many other activities but we did take a salsa lesson. I have to say that. I was very good. Can’t wait to take more. Then the rum and cigar tasting was such a huge highlight of our trip. After touring the cigar factory in the morning, it was really interesting to taste what the big fuss is all about.
Cigars and Cuba are like pasta to Italy… A huge part of their culture. It’s amazing to me that the cigar rollers only make $70 a month and they roll 8 hours and day and 6 days a week. But they are fed lunch everyday which is huge and they have a steady job which is also huge!
My husband has been indulging in cigars occasionally for many years but never learned how to smoke one correctly. Our cigar aficionado was brilliant and even got us girls to smoke them. We were smoking hot for sure!!!
Question??? Should you go to Cuba? Yes and No!
If you want to see a country stopped in time for 50 years, I would say yes, because it will change… but I think very slowly… and of course that will depend on what happens after Raul Castro dies. And no if you’re used to luxury. Things are a laid back in Cuba. I’m afraid that the infrastructure in Cuba cannot handle so many tourists. So I say to visit with caution.
The people are dynamic and smart and gracious and I’m grateful that I was able to experience the country today still vulnerable but growing steadily.
Have you been to Cuba?
What did you think? Love to hear your experiences.
Please leave your comments below.