I’m sure I’ll never be able to write a master piece such as “For Whom the Bell Tolls” as Hemingway is one and the inimitable. But, what I can do is travel to Cuba and visit some of his favourite places for relaxation with a glass of mojito or daiquiri in El Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio.
If a genius like Hemingway recognized Cuba as a magical place, who are we to question that magic?
Pearl of the Antilles, Cuba, consists of one large and several small islands in the Caribbean Sea south of Florida, which already paints a picture of warm sunsets, doesn’t it?
If you think that Cuba has beautiful beaches, revolutionary spirit, old-timers, colourful buildings, beautiful nature, and more beautiful women; you are right of course.
Let’s start our imaginary (for now) journey through the most beautiful places and landscapes of Cuba.
Before we “fly”, I have to draw your attention to something.
After 50 years, the USA and Cuba reached an agreement of direct flight and now there are 110 daily flights from the US to Cuba. What you might find peculiar, especially if you are a beer lover, is that there is a possibility that you will not get the expected cold beer in a café. Why? Americans drained out a lot of Cuba’s beer supplies and the brewery Bucanero is planning to build a new factory to meet the needs of tourists for beer.
If you think that Cuba has beautiful beaches, revolutionary spirit, old-timers, colourful buildings, beautiful nature, and more beautiful women; you are right of course
Old Havana (Havana Vieja)
OK, the first stop is of course Havana. It took me long time to decide what to write when it comes to Havana. There are so many things that could not fit into ten blog posts, so I decided to tell you about “Old Havana” or “Havana Vieja” which is also a UNESCO world heritage site.
The “Old Havana” depicts the life of Cuba exactly how it was more than a century ago. Again, we are back to Hemingway and the well known place where he enjoyed spending time, La Bodeguita del Medio.
If you lost your friends, or need to meet them somewhere in the “Old Havana”, the meeting spot will certainly be the most famous squarePlaza Vieja.
For those who love stories about pirates, battles, castles, and fortresses, there is a 16th-century fortress Castillo de la Real Fuerza. Why I am mentioning pirates you ask? The main role of this fortress was the defence against pirates, but since the attack never came it served as a storehouse for values and military residence.
If you lost your friends, or need to meet them somewhere in the “Old Havana”, the meeting spot will certainly be the most famous square Plaza Vieja.
Originally built in the 16th century, it was a popular market place turned into an underground parking lot in the modern times and then at the initiative of Havana citizens restored.
Ernest Hemingway also had a house at the popular Cuba-wide (Calle Obispo). It is near the Cuban Central Park, rich in history and architecture, full of old hotels, museums, restaurants and there is even a herbal pharmacy museum where, needless to mention, you can buy herbal medicine.
That is not all you can see in “Havana Vieja” but it will get you started.
You will enjoy in naturally rounded limestone mountains, lush and mesmerizing vegetation that rest the eyes
For lovers of what only nature can create there is one of the most beautiful provinces, Pinar del Río. You will enjoy in naturally rounded limestone mountains, lush and mesmerizing vegetation that rest the eyes. Some of the notable people born here are painter Mario Bencomo, singer and songwriter Willy Chirino, boxer Yunieski Gonzalez, composer Rudy Pérez, and perhaps the most known today considering the popularity of Cypress Hill, Sen Dog.
„Insane in the brain“ – for real.
Our next stop may not include hedonism, however it doesn’t lack in historical significance.
Museum at Playa Girón depicts scenes of the Bay of Pigs invasion where you’ll see tanks, and soldiers’ personal items, while Museo de la Ciudad exhibits items from the time of the revolution.
Moving on to the incredible diving sights.
Diving in Cuba
The perfect place for diving is the Treasure Island. Varadero alone has 30 diving sites, while Isla de la Juventud (the island of youth) will literally make you feel younger while exploring the reefs around it. The island is not crowded (yet) and the ample marine life is something you want to see. Another reef, which is also one of the world’s biggest reefs, is Cayo Coco, just find María la Gorda diving centre.
Back to the lands of Cuba
Once you reach the land again, another UNESCO world heritage site and one of the favourite tourist cities to head to is Trinidad. Once a city of slave trade, and from the 17th century to the present day a city of diverse architecture, squares (like Plaza Mayor), churches (Church of the Holy Trinity and Church and Monastery of Saint Franci), galleries, and museums (Museum of Colonial Architecture).
If you are wondering where to next, consider visiting Baracoa, the city in Guantanamo province. Now, why is this city worth mentioning?
First of all, it was founded by the first governor of Cuba, Spanish conquistador Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar. Then, it is the oldest Spanish settlement in Cuba and the first capital. Colombo landed here on his first voyage. Due to the secluded location, the mass tourism here is at a low level, so if you want to enjoy and avoid other tourists and their cameras; this is the place for you.
A perfect round up for the first trip to Cuba must include food and a night out.
What to the in Cuba at night
The uniqueness of Cuban food lies in its diversity and the blend of different cuisines. One cannot eat Cuban dishes without knowing a little bit of history. The prevailing influence is definitely Spanish, blended with African, French and Caribbean culinary traditions. If you have a lot of money to spend and want to eat in restaurants, it will not be difficult to find such; however, eating on budget and eating like a native Cuban will make you enter some oddly and shabby looking food houses, but there’s the true charm! (just be careful, I heard that the food is not always something).
The prevailing influence is definitely Spanish, blended with African, French and Caribbean culinary traditions.
After having a nice meal, we should search for the genuine Cuban night life. Although, salsa, mambo and cha-cha-cha are known as one of the trademarks of Cuban evenings, today, young Cubans do not enjoy them so much. Luckily, tourist can still experience the atmosphere by taking dance lessons or looking for clubs such as the Jazz Cafe (at Galerías de Paseo) where the night brings live jazz and occasional salsa dancing.
I hope you got as interested, inspired and convinced as I am that Cuba is the right destination to take and it should be visited before its charm is taken away by the foreigners who will rush now to indulge all of their senses in this still rather authentic place.