A Taste of Cuba
Here’s a snapshot of my 5 days in Cuba, with highlights of what you can experience on this controversial island.
Visit the Capital – Havana – and Drink Like Hemingway
Varadero is only a couple of hours from the Cuban capital of Havana. This is where you’ll find the iconic historic buildings in old Havana, with cobble-stoned streets full of classic 1940’s and 50’s cars. Some Varadero resorts will arrange to have a classic car pick you up for a private tour of Havana. History buffs will enjoy museums like the National Museum of Fine Arts that will give you a glimpse of Cuba’s story via art.
As a die-hard shopper, I suggest the Almacenes de San José, an open-air market where you’ll find colorful handicrafts like wooden classic cars, shell jewelry, linens and cotton clothes. Every item is unique, nothing comes from a factory and the money your spend supports local artisans.
Make you last stop one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bars, the El Floridita. This birthplace of the daiquiri (legend has it that Hemingway downed 16 in one sitting here!) can be a bit crowded but the chance to sip a cool drink where the famed author once sat, is too satisfying to pass.
Take in a Cuban Musical
Music is at the heart of Cuban life. So much so that, during the mourning period for Fidel Castro, no music was allowed. I arrived during this period and immediately noticed that the city seemed oddly silent. When the mourning period ended, I got a real sense of what music means to Cubans. The wait staff hum songs while they serve, the bartenders will routinely break into ballads, and loud dance beats compete with the breaking waves.
This musical spirit translates into nightly entertainment at the biggest show on the island – Tropicana. The cabaret is a Vegas-style show featuring local sounds and dancers. If you like a classic, sexy cabaret, then you’ll love the performance. There’s no Cirque du Soleil spectacle here, just show girls in colorful costumes showcasing a bit of old-world Cuban nightlife. All the same, I just can’t get enough.