City Scene: Havana, Cuba

 

The unobtainable finally obtained.  Thanks to recent changing of procedures, it has become infinitely easier for Americans to travel to the once impossible Cuba.  A country that feels as if it has almost entirely stopped in time, filled with beauty and culture, it is a travel destination that is not to be missed.  Though to travel to Cuba as an American still requires plenty of rules, once you arrive you will feel as if it has been worth the wait. A rich culture filled with diverse art, colorful art nouveau architecture and deep love for family, Havana is a spectacular destination that awaits.

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The architecture in Havana is nonstop amazing.  There is such a diverse contrast to every building, from quality to color, each structure stands out.

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If you are fortunate enough to be in Havana during a ballet performance, I highly suggest you make it a priority.  The Gran Teatro de La Havana Alicia Alonso ticket's may be hard to come by which is why it is helpful to have a tour guide who may have connections.  The art and performance community in Havana, Cuba is a force to be reckoned with and the chance to see it live is something not to miss.

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Across the street from the  Gran Teatro de La Havana Alicia Alonso is Havana's Central Park, home to the statue of José Martí (shown above).  Havana's Central Park is the gateway to wonderful restuarants, Old Havana and even a stone's throw from El Capitolio (top center).  

Filled with people, cars and buildings, Havana's Central Park is a must see. In fact, its almost the perfect place to begin your trip.  Some amazing local icons are within close proximity, such as the Floridita, birthplace to the Daiquiri.

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Not in the mood for a walk?  That's fine, Havana has got you covered.  Or actually, uncovered.  Make it a point to take a driving tour of this gorgeous city in a cherry 50's convertible.  Not only will you see amazing sites such as the Plaza de la Revolución (top left) you can finish your driving tour through the city's back alleys (top right), all which are decorated with colors, open windows and lined with cafes permeating delicious smells of coffee and delectables.

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Do not pass up any chance to try the local cuisine.  By the end of the trip, I left with a love for Limonada frappé (top middle) and croquetas.  Some favorite dining during our trip were:

  • La Guardia, an amazing restaurant set in a dilapidated palace with the best plantains and carpaccio I've ever had.
  • Amigos Del Mar, a wonderful seafood joint and views.
  • Cafe de los Artistas, a cafe and bar with a small yet amazing menu (ask for the best rum drink on the menu.)
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If you are looking for a quick get-away from the city while you are in Cuba, I strongly urge you to visit Vinales, Cuba to dine with Mr. Alberto Vitamina. Otherwise known as the man who roasts the best pig...ever.  

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Alberto will roast you the best pig you've ever tasted and roll a fresh Cuban cigar at the table once your meal is finished.  This meal is something to be savored.  Courses of plantain chips, sweet potatoes, yucca, roast pork, rice, beans, lobster and more, all set on a huge family style table.  Visiting Paladar Bella Vista is a refreshing break from the city life of Havana and an eye opening experience to the way people live in Cuba as Mr. Vitamina will gladly give you a tour of the home he is so proud of, rightfully so.

 

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This will not be the first and only time I visit Cuba.  Havana is an amazing city, and because of the locals hospitality and sights, I am hungry to explore the other parts and learn even more about this amazing country whose people are so proud and for many a good reason.

A city that feels as if it has been trapped in time though cared for and maintained by the person who lives in it.  Sadly, it may be a bigger project than they can handle.  While this city is gorgeous with colors and art, don't be fooled.  There are plenty of wasted and forgotten structures that desperately need some TLC.  A quality that contrasts within itself lending definition to its sadness and ultimate beauty.