The many Faces of Havana
Sunday, February 4 – Saturday, February 10, 2018
“FORGET THE HAMPTONS AND THE RIVIERA!
It’s time for Havana once more, where the streets are moving masterpieces,
the music is hot and the mojitos are cold.”
Town and Country Travel
Within the sexy haze of sun and smoke, rum and rhythm, this is a country that beguiles and intrigues. It is a land of extraordinary beauty and amazing contrasts. From the hustle and bustle of Havana to the lush terraced hills of Las Terrazas, a Cuban Shangri-la, you’ll be captivated by this small nation with the big personality, frozen in time and poised for dramatic change. The art scene is exploding, music is everywhere, the architecture runs the gamut from baroque to art deco, dance is world class and the warm, friendly people welcome you with open arms. From architects to musicians, from artists to farmers, we’ll have the extraordinary opportunity to learn firsthand from those who know it best about this complex island. In a city of verve and vibrancy, our home base will be the Parque Central, one of Havana’s upscale hotels ideally located in the center of town.
Sunday, February 4
Independent flights to Miami. Transfer to airport Courtyard by Marriott Hotel via Marriott shuttle bus. This evening we’ve planned an orientation dinner at a private historic art deco home in Miami Beach, where our hosts will entertain us with the stories behind their extensive Cuban art collection. Overnight at Courtyard by Marriott.
Monday, February 5
We depart early morning for Havana. After clearing customs, our waiting coach and guide will take us to Hotel Parque Central where we will check in and enjoy a light lunch. We will then begin our immersion into the fascinating Cuban culture with a visit to Plaza de la Revolución and the Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón, held to be the most important cemetery in Latin America (second is La Recoleta in Buenos Aries). The endless sea of poignant memorials and architectural jewels is a photographer’s paradise and touching stories behind the elaborate monuments will captivate your imagination. We’ll set the stage for our walking tour tomorrow with a private talk on “Colonial Havana”. You will then have some time to settle in, unpack and get ready for the evening’s festivities – cocktails at an artist studio where we’ll have a chance to learn more about the exciting art scene in Havana before dinner at a paladar restaurant [private home].
Tuesday, February 6
Following breakfast, we will take to the streets for our guided walking tour of La Habana Vieja. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is renowned for its colonial architecture and charming squares. Turn down the right street and you may even think you’re in Paris! Our group lunch will be at La Imprenta, a restored printing house dating back to the 19th century. Continuing on, we’ll have the rare opportunity to attend a private rehearsal by a contemporary Cuban dance company. We’ll then deliver our humanitarian supplies to a local retirement community where the director will give us a tour. Dinner this evening will be at Café Laurent, one of Havana’s trendiest restaurants. (You never know what celebrity may be dining next to you.) Chef Dayron Avilés Alfonso specializes in a Spanish Basque-based menu, having worked in San Sebastian, Spain and Buenos Aires.
Wednesday, February 7
Less than an hour outside of the hustle and bustle of Havana, escape to Las Terrazas, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Once acres of deforested land that had been logged by Spanish conquistadors, Fidel Castro ordered the planting of millions of plants and trees.
Soroa Orchid Botanical Garden is home to more than 700 orchid species, along with other ornamentals, amidst limestone formations, palms, and towering semi-deciduous trees draped in vines. We’ll be guided through the garden by a botanical expert to the terraced lookout offering views of the valleys and countryside surrounding the reserve.
In Las Terrazas, local musicians entertain us while we sip cocktails and are introduced to the history and highlights of this extraordinary planned community. Take a peek into the local primary school and engage with the principal and teachers. The highlight of the visit will be the smiles on the children’s faces as we deliver our treats. Step back in time at a 19th century coffee plantation, Cafetal Buenavista, the earliest surviving plantation in Cuba. Built in 1801 by French refugees from Haiti, the ruins are beautiful and haunting, evoking the memories of slave labor that made the farmers rich.
Lunch is served outside, surrounded by the beautiful indigenous birds and plants, such as hibiscus and papaya at Casa del Campesino, ‘the Farmer’s House’. After lunch, there will be time to explore some of the studios of local craftsmen, and we can’t leave without sampling a cafecito or café con leche at Café de Maria, rated by many to be the best coffee in Cuba. Back in Havana, dinner is on your own at one of the many fine paladars on our recommended list.
Thursday, February 8
After breakfast, we’ll clock in with the workers at the H Upmann Cigar factory, one of the oldest in the world and a favorite of connoisseurs including President Kennedy. We’ll explore La Universidad de La Habana, the largest, oldest and principal university in Cuba. Two academically distinguished students will guide us through the historic campus, the alma mater of Fidel Castro. Enjoy a light snack en route to Finca la Vigia, Ernest Hemmingway’s home. More than just a home, this time capsule is where he wrote “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and where his fishing trips inspired his last great classic “The Old Man and the Sea.” Although visitors are not allowed inside the house, large open windows in every room give us the sense that Hemingway will return at any moment to sit at his desk with his typewriter and a tumbler of scotch filled from the still-full bottles nearby. We’ll drop in on a farmer’s market for a quick look at the produce and meats available outside of the ration markets before dropping you off at the extensive craft market in Havana. You’ll have time to shop or relax at the rooftop pool with fabulous views and a refreshing mojito. Before dinner, we’ll have a thought-provoking discussion with a local author on life in pre-revolutionary Cuba before heading to dinner at El Aljibe, one of Havana’s most popular, open-air restaurants and a must on every visiting V.I.P.‘s list. And what better way to get there than in vintage American cars!!!! For those who want to experience one of Havana’s most talked about night clubs, an optional outing to the Tropicana can be arranged.
Friday, February 9
Our private talk this morning will be on Contemporary Art in Cuba followed by a visit to the campus of Havana’s Institute of Superior Art [ISA], the national Cuban art school housing five schools in the arts. The professors here are all active musicians, dancers or artists. [Studying at ISA is comparable to conservatory work in the United States]. Then it’s off to lunch at the home and studio of Jose Fuster, one of Cuba’s most original and quirky ceramists and painters. The Picasso of the Caribbean, as he is known, has created a fantasy land the locals call Fusterlandia, with 80 homes decorated with ornate walls, splashes of color, fanciful sculptures and colorful mosaics, all suited to the personality of each of his neighbors. You’ve never seen anything quite like it. Our day ends at the Museo de Belles Artes where we’ve arranged a guided tour of their extensive Cuban Collection. Or you may choose to spend the afternoon on your own. Perhaps you’ll want to interact with local artisans while meandering through the biggest street market in Havana or pull up a bar stool at El Floridita, Hemingway’s favorite hangout where the Pappa’s special daiquiri was invented. After all---this is Cuba.
Farewell dinner this evening will be at Chef Justo, in Old Havana, always one of our favorite meals. We’ll toast our adventures with drinks on the lawn overlooking the Malecon at the famous Hotel Nacional. Make this last night special with an optional performance at the Grand Teatro de la Habana.
Saturday, February 10
As this is our departure day, we’ve left you some free time this morning for last minute exploration and shopping. You’ll surely want to take advantage of the fact you can now bring back $100 worth of cigars. Sadly we will then head to Jose Marti International Airport for our flight back to Miami. Once we know our estimated arrival in Miami, you will then be able to book your connecting flight home.
What a rare opportunity to better understand the many paradoxes of this complex culture. We look forward to the pleasure of your company on this heart-warming journey to a country that has been unavailable to so many Americans for so many years.
*Overnight at the Courtyard Miami Airport Hotel on Sunday, February 4, 2018
*Private dinner on Miami Beach
*Round-trip charter air service between Miami/Havana
*English speaking Cuban guide throughout
*Private air-conditioned motor coach throughout
*Cuban medical insurance
*Cuban Travel Card
*Cuban Airport Exit Tax
*Five nights at the Parque Central Hotel in Havana (Standard colonial room)
*Program and meals as described
*All gratuities including porterage, guide and driver
*U.S. Treasury license for this Humanitarian Program
*Round trip air to Miami
*Personal expenses including excess baggage fees, room service, telephone,
laundry, optional events and meals, etc.
*Medical supplies required for the humanitarian program [approximately $50]
Please contact Diversions at firstname.lastname@example.org for price and terms and conditions.