There’s a lot of talk about Cuba these days and for good reason. Separated by only 90 miles of water, it has remained virtually inaccessible to Americans. Like the forbidden fruit, we are ever so curious. But President Obama has decided to chart a different course. He relaxed the travel restrictions last year, making it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba with a licensed guide in one of 12 categories. More and more Americans are descending upon this Caribbean island that seems to have stood still in time. Why? For myself and the group of 9 other travelers we escorted on a recent trip, we wanted to see Cuba before it changes. For us, it was our Bucket List trip.
The above picture was taken in old town Habana!
Musicians playing music in Trinidad
Sitting in the square in Trinidad
Cuba has been known as the vacation playground for Canadians and Europeans for years. Quite frankly, I’m sure they would prefer to keep this little piece of paradise a secret. And now I know why. Having experienced it first-hand back in October, I now know myself just how beautiful the country is. The beaches are pristine white sand with warm, clear Caribbean water, the history and architecture abound everywhere you go, and a much simpler lifestyle surrounded us as we started our tour in the countryside and made our way to the city. No cell service; no internet.
Equipped with an English speaking guide and a non-English speaking driver, we began in Santa Clara where we landed and were completely immersed in the culture. We hit the ground running and never looked back. Visiting churches, old sugar plantations, century old steam locamotives, monuments, animal sanctuaries, culinary schools, cigar factory, rum tour, the UNESCO site of Las Terrazas, salsa dancing , the experience of authentic Cuban food and the true mojito. We were as far away from Western Civilization as you can imagine.
The photo above was from lunch at Las Terrazas, an UNESCO World Heritage Site at the old coffee plantation where we had a family style lunch.
We ate every day at the local paladars, which In Cuba is a small independent (self-employer) who operates a restaurant with home-cooked meals out of a converted part of their home. We stayed in casa particulares, Spanish for “private house”; or private homestays in Cuba, very similar to bed and breakfast accommodations. Even though the homeowner may not necessarily speak English, they definitely do their best to converse and make you feel welcome in their home.
We visited the Bay of Pigs (featured above) and toured the countryside as we made our way to the Capital city of Havana. Once in Havana, you realize that the 1950’s era was still very much alive and well. Those old, pristine cars that have been well preserved, humming along the streets were such a delight to see.
We were lucky enough to ride in 3 of the most beautiful cars in the fleet as we toured the city and then went to dinner at the Culinary Academy. The Cuban people were warm and charming. Those that spoke English loved to converse with us. They too hope that the new course President Obama is charting, happens soon. They look forward to welcoming Americans with open arms. After all, we are much better tippers than the Europeans! (Their words, not mine).
After clocking over 500 miles from the coast to the city, I left Cuba thinking how lucky I was to have had this experience and live life through their eyes. I look forward to going back again.
For a copy of our itinerary or more information on future trips, please contact me. We sell Cuba for as few as 2 travelers with groups up to 25, all year long. March and April are the months for optimal weather. Thank you to Bob Older for orchestrating such a fabulous trip. Another one checked off the Bucket List!