By Ya’lla traveler DJ McCoy
My excitement was peaked as we touched down in Havana. I had waited all my life to visit Cuba and now I’m actually here. What wonderful adventures would soon unfold.
Our group of 20 was greeted with smiles by our guide, Ari, and driver, Jorhey. We set off for a short drive through the streets of Havana and paid a visit to the historical Revolution Square. While there, we got our first up-front look at those beautiful vintage automobiles from the 40s and 50s. Then, we were on to our beautiful 5-star accommodations. A lavish welcome dinner awaited us at a beautiful paladar in Havana. The food, atmosphere, and people were a delight. What a wonderful welcome day to Cuba.
Over the next seven days, our days were full of scenery, architecture, history, art, music, culture, cuisine and Cuba’s beautiful people.
Our visits included a 16th-century monastery, cathedrals, Christopher Columbus Cemetery, the Capitol building, museums, craft markets and even a Salsa lesson.
In the midst of all this touring, we had the opportunity to visit community projects, day care centers and senior centers, where we had the opportunity and privilege to deliver much needed donations to these beautiful people.
One evening, we were escorted in vintage automobiles to our paladar for dinner.
We drove through Havana in style, as we got to enjoy these beautiful cars.
We toured the home of Ernest Hemingway and visited the famous El Floridita Bar, which was Hemingway’s favorite haunt as it still stands as a major landmark in Havana. The famous Havana Club Rum museum was a great stop, as we sampled our way through the tour.
For lunch one day we were taken to a great restaurant where WE were all chefs and got hands-on instruction into the local cuisine; complete with a chef’s apron to take home. We enjoyed many different dishes that we learned how to prepare, and, of course, the traditional Mojito.
A visit to the Bay of Pigs and Museum was fascinating as we retrace this part of the history of this country that has separated so many from visiting it. To see it all in person, Amazing.
A visit to a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the city of Cienfuegos, full of beautiful architecture and culture.
We loved the city of Trinidad, a living testament to its beautiful history of Spanish colonialism – its buildings, restaurants, artisans and cobblestone streets, leave you feeling completely at home. Sugar mills and plantations surround this beautiful city and we saw them all.
It was yet another highlight to visit Hector Luis’ Tobacco Farm, where we were greeted with lunch, drinks, and of course, the famous hand rolled Cuban cigars. As we departed, we saw some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. A visionary delight.
As my trip draws toward a close, I reflect on the many things I’ve seen, the places I’ve been, and the beautiful people of Cuba. Their hearts are open and their smiles are sincere. They are a resilient people, with kindness in their souls.
I will always cherish my trip to Cuba as one that exceeded my expectations. The experience was life-changing and I will always be grateful I was able to meet the Cuban people and share just a little of what I have with them. I felt like I received so much more than I could have ever imagined.