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Notes from Cuba

wow, wow WOW!

Tom and I were blown away by the vibrance and energy of this island nation. And as with most places, we learned so much about the country’s complex history with the US. Overall, I would highly recommend Cuba as both a gapper destination or vacation destination. But here’s the caveat: don’t just enjoy the great food, music and art; go deeper. Speak with every local you can and dig below the surface in order to get the most out of this outstandingly unique travel opportunity.

Here are some vignettes from my most recent adventure:

Cars!

Vintage cars are everywhere in Havana – we hired a car and guide for a half day to explore the city, but we also used them for shorter rides as taxis. Whether it was a cherry red ’56 Buick convertible or a jumpy Ford Model T from the 1920’s (yes, still functional!), experiencing these cars is a joy for anyone who appreciates the craftsmanship of early American cars.

Art!

Gorgeous installation by a Dominican artist in a historic mansion in Old Havana

I was expecting great music, but I did not expect such a thriving contemporary art scene in Havana. Art is everywhere in the city – especially this month during the city’s biennial, which showcases Cuban and international artists in pop-up installations throughout the city. The national art museum, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, did not shy away from challenging and provocative art. Similarly, the avant garde haven
Fábrica de Arte boasts some fantastic pieces that really get you thinking.

Natural Beauty!

Outside bustling Havana, the rural parts of Cuba abound with wildlife and natural beauty. My husband is an avid birder, so we spent a night in the eco-village Las Terrezas and spent a morning bird watching and enjoying the slow pace of life. We spotted at least seven species of endemic birds, including the national bird, the colorful trogen. We even spotted some species of bird that were only temporary visitors, as they were on their migration up to Vermont from winter grounds.

Music!

Music flows from every restaurant in Old Havana. Whether you are simply eating out or deliberately go to one of the famous shows, there are so many ways to enjoy music and dance in Havana.

Pineapples?

This lucky gap year group gets to spend a whole month exploring Cuba and its culture! I caught up with them in Matanzas province, where they were staying on a farm and learning about the agricultural system in Cuba. I spent the morning helping out at a pineapple farm and then enjoying a fresh farm-to-table lunch. As always, it was fabulous to see gappers in action!

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