Stepping Back in Time: Cuba
I remember looking at my family's old photos from Cuba. Since that childhood memory I have always wanted to visit Cuba.
By some miracle, while visiting Miami, my girlfriends and I randomly found Mayrelis from Copper Bridge Agency who helped us organize the entire trip! (Mayrelis, if you are reading this, thank you for your help! Your recommendations of where to go, where to eat, which driver to use made us feel safe and well taken care of.)
We stayed at the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana which really stands out in Havana. It sits in a beautiful square and has breathtaking views from the rooftop pool. The colors of the city at sunset were simply indescribable. Kempinksy was the very first luxury hotel in Cuba. It has a modern design with colorful furniture and unique accents. I will never forget eating morning pastries with the panoramic views of Old Havana at the San Cristobal or having cocktails at the intimate Constante Bar.
Havana boasts some of the most eclectic and impressive historical architecture. Playing soccer barefoot in the rain between the buildings was one of my favorite moments there. I somehow felt free. Cubans have this unbelievable ability to not dwell on all the hardships but just enjoy the life they have and in that moment I felt it.
The Cuban lifestyle is geared towards outdoor living. Everyone is outside, signing, dancing, drinking or smoking cigars. I enjoyed visiting Colonial Havana, especially the Plaza de Armas, Plaza San Francisco de Asis, Plaza Vieja, and Plaza de la Cathedral. There we met with local book vendors at the book and art fair. I always say give me a book and a garden and I don't need anything else.
The next day we rented vintage cars and drove to Santa Maria beach. The vintage cars are the oldest cars on the road anywhere that are still in service as daily driving vehicles. They are fun to drive but you do smell gasoline which in a strange way adds to the experience.
Cuban beaches are majestic and have soft, powdery sand. Everyone on the beach is smiling, drinking and chatting! We did notice that there were guards with guns which at first felt strange but after a while you get used to them.
After the beach we visited La Guarida, which is hands down my absolute favorite restaurant, not only in Cuba but of all time! It is located on the top floor of a spectacularly dilapidated Havana tenement. The food is certainly among Havana's best, featuring its pioneered brand of Nueva Cocina Cubana into dishes such as tuna with a sugar-cane glaze. The energy of that place was unreal.
We got caught in rain on the way to The Community Project also known as Fusterlandi of Artist Jose Fuster. Completely soaked, we met with the son of Jose Fuster, Alex Fuster. Jose made a major contribution to the fishing town of Jaimanitas just outside Havana, by creating an art wonderland for people to come visit. The project provided work for the locals and allowed them to be a part of this now, well-known, public art attraction.
Institute of Superior Arts School of Ballet
Fidel Castro commissioned a School of Ballet in the 60’s that was never completed and the site has been unoccupied for over 50 years. I wish somebody could bring it back to life.
San Carlos de la Cabana Fortress
Jorge Perrugoria's Art Gallery
San Jose Craft Market
City of Matanzas + The Bridge of Bacunayagua
The mix of my friends, Cuban history, art, music and romance provided for an intense, culturally rich trip.
I loved my time in Cuba despite my lost luggage. Can't wait to go back with my kiddos!