Friday, January 13, 2017

Cuba Trip Day 2 - Havana

OAT Itinerary:
Day 2: HavanaCuba - Lost in Time - Let the rhythms of Cuba captivate you in this music-driven video, highlighting everyday scenes from across the island.This morning we fly to Cuba. After we exit Cuban Immigration and Customs at the airport, we’ll be met by our Cuban Trip Leader, who will accompany us to lunch at Il Divino, one of the best of Cuba’s new wave of privately owned restaurants called paladares. After our meal, we’ll stop at the nearby sustainable family farm and botanical garden which supplies fresh produce to Il Divino. Then, we’ll make a brief stop at Havana’s historic Plaza de la Revolución.Continuing on to our hotel, we'll meet our Grand Circle Foundation Representative. The Hotel Nacional de Cuba is an historic hotel overlooking the harbor with views of the sea wall and El Morro Fortress. Our hotel is located in the Vedado section of Havana, across the street from the Malecón, and close to the University of Havana, the U.S. Embassy, and Coppelia ice cream—featured in one of the most widely viewed Cuban films, Strawberry and Chocolate. An orientation walk around the immediate vicinity will show us this modern part of the city. We'll have dinner together this evening at a paladar called La Moraleja in Havana's Vedado district, where we'll have the opportunity to learn about the difficulties and successes these young entrepreneurs have faced with their private restaurant.
  • Meals included: L D Accommodations: Hotel Nacional de Cuba
Wednesday January 11
We were down in the lobby with our luggage at 7:30 am and bussed to the airport where somebody else had already checked us in with our passports and other papers we had filled out at the meeting the night before. But then we stood in line to check in our suitcases. It was a group check in but James and I had no problems anyway because ours weight only 33 and 36 pounds of the 44 aloud. They even weighed our hand luggage. After that and security we had plenty of time to find breakfast. Not very exciting but a bagel with cream cheese and a coffee will do.
And then we really waited. Boarding for this Aruba Airlines flight was supposed to start at 10 with the take-off at 11. I think we started boarding at 11. James and I marveled how the Cubans on board seemed to hop from one seat to another even when we were supposed to be seatbelted.

Finally ... bye bye to Miami

Hello to Cuba

It took a long time to get through immigration and to get our luggage. It was funny because half of the plane's cargo space must have been full with shrink wrapped bales and flat TVs belonging to returning/visiting cubans.
Finally we were all through and our tour guide Migdalia met us. She will take care of us the whole time and also bus driver Raul. The bus is spacious and pretty new.

It was almost 3 pm now and we were late for lunch which was in a private (not state owned) restaurant Il Divino. It was on a terrace and very nice.

We had choices like squash soup and chickpeas to start with. The soup was excellent but we got to taste the chickpeas and that would have been a good choice too. Dick at our table was wondering what was in it and we were told chirozo which explained the nice taste.

Local beer ... very good.

Choice of fish or pork. Guess what James had. Delicious plantains and ocra.

Postre! Choice of papaya and guave. Must have been marinated in sugar but ... we are on vacation. It was worth it.

Afterwards we had a tour of the farm and got the situation explained in Spanish by the lady on the left and translated by our guide. Too much to write! But the owners do a lot for the community and inviroment.

Cuban bees are different. The honey is supposed to be very healthy. No bee should ever try to get in the wrong house. There is always a guard (you can see) and would be killed.

The garden is open for the community to come for picnics, bring their own or buy.

A house in the back for seniors to come every day. They get meals and play games, socialize.

A view into the street to the other side.

On the way to the hotel we stopped briefly at the Revolution Plaza.
I did take a VIDEO for a better impression but I have to plug it in later because it doesn't want to be uploaded to utube here in Cuba.
Here it is: VIDEO!

There are also everywhere these old cars around. The rest of our group seems to be very obsessed about them. James took several photos but I can't seem to get them to the iPad. Something else which needs to get plugged in. And the photo of Cuba's version of the "tuck tuck".

We are briefed at the hotel, got our keys and had a little time to settle in.
At 7:15 pm we were supposed to be at the grandfather clock in the lobby.

Another private restaurant. We had our own room with live entertainment. Everything was very nice ... including the lobster.

The live music was lovely.
VIDEO ... again, has to be added once I am home.
O.k. here it is ... VIDEO!

At the end we were offered complimentary cigars and rum (neet). We gave the cigars to fellow travelers. The rum was very nice, almost like brandy. It settled the stomach nicely.

We had our fun though because somebody said the rum smelled like perfume to her ... so we had to do the dubbing behind the ear.

Bus ride back to the hotel. City is very pretty with buildings and statues in a nice light. No photos. Have to commit it to memory. It's a nice group and we have fun.


  1. Looks exciting! Can't wait for all the updates. I got a book for Christmas with the best (supposedly) travel essays of 2016. It has an interesting essay about Cuba. I've finished the book, but will save it for you all. Have a wonderful trip!

    1. Great. We are looking forward to borrow that book. Always good to get a new idea.

  2. Looks like a marvelous trip so far! Would love to try some of the foods, and would seriously love to get my hands on one of those cigars! I have had one cubano in my life, and it had not been stored well so it was dry. Maybe once the borders open wider....

    Be safe!