Cuba Things to Do Tips by jadedmuse
Cuba Things to Do: 329 reviews and 443 photos
It's usually pretty hot in Cuba, so it doesn't take much to conjure up the image of a delicious, frozen daquiri....
Even though the tourists love this place, I really enjoyed it for it's history AND yes, for its daquiris. The inside decor feels like a throwback to the 1940s, and the bartenders and waiters give off a likewise impression. If you're any kind of a romantic at all, you'll have to come here to have at least ONE daquiri.
I recommend the banana daquiri - I couldn't seem to get enough of them, I'll admit. Before we knew it, we'd dropped a wad of cash here (the drinks are NOT cheap). But it remains one of the trip's highlights. We'd managed to survive two weeks of starvation AND road-tripping around the island, and this seemed like a just reward.
Oh - the history part: Even though the daquiri was invented around the turn of the 20th century, it is here at El Floridita some time in the 1920s, where it became most famous - thanks to the introduction of the blender....and voila - the world's first "frozen daquiri"! (celeb note: you know it - Hemingway was a fixture here!)
Address: Obispo No. 557, at Av. de Belgica
Finca Vigia Garden Patio
If you only have a few days in Havana, it's worth the short trip to San Fransisco de Paula (a few miles southeast of Havana) to see Hemingway's villa "Finca Vigia".
People are not permitted inside the villa (unlike his other home in Key West, Florida) but the windows are open and offer close-range, comprehensive - almost intrusive - views into Hemingway's domestic life in Cuba.
It's weird to see his closet full of hanging suits and pants, shirts and shoes haphazardly arranged....over on his desk, papers and books are scattered; in the living room, there's an empty glass on a nearby table, with a pair of eyeglasses resting on the chair. It's all kind of eerie...
The nearby town of Cojimar is where Hemingway's loyal boat captain can be found (and, many believe, the inspiration for "Old Man and the Sea"). He was around 98 years old when I was there, so he's probably gone now. Hemingway's famous boat "El Pilar" is also there.
Hemingway was a big fisherman, and donated the first Award Cup for what is now an annual fishing tournament taking place every May at Hemingway Marina in Havana.
Photographs are not permitted of the interior of the villa - but it's open territory outside the home. The garden patio is still lovely, and the view toward Havana is likewise beautiful, if not a little sad....
Mausoleum of Jose Marti
I mentioned this as one of the activities to do while visiting Santiago.
I happen to like cemeteries, so it was interesting to see this one. Among many national heroes, lay the remains of the beloved and exiled Cuban poet Jose Marti. There are "tour guides" available for a dollar, and they are very helpful - I definitely recommend hiring one when you go there. They have all kinds of stories on the famous people buried in this cemetery, and it was interesting to learn about some of the Cuban history.
Directions: Santiago de Cuba
Havana may be Cuba's cultural hub, but Santiago is its historical center. Birthplace of Castro's revolution, Santiago is at the opposite end of the island from Havana. The ocean vistas and mountain backdrop are beautiful.
Activities in Santiago include visiting the old, established upper-class neighborhood known as "Vista Alegre" (OK, this is an odd activity that might not appeal to everyone - but I have some Cuban friends whose parents grew up in this neighborhood, and their homes are now squatters' havens and run down, multiple-family tenements.) Other activities include driving up the Carretera Turistica and the Carretera del Morro (the former offers beautiful vistas of Santiago Bay, the latter houses El Morro, a kind of fortress designed to protect the town from sea-faring pirates); there are museums, parks, and famous buildings boasting neoclassical architecture - like El Ayuntamiento (the town hall), which is where Castro appeared on the balcony immediately after the success of his revolution, back on January 1, 1959; there's the Bacardi Rum Factory - although the Bacardi Family fled Cuba after the revolution, and took the patent with them to Puerto Rico. Local rums are produced and bottled there now; there's also the Santa Ifigenia Cemetary which is where Jose Marti (among other Cuban notables) is buried.
Directions: Santiago de Cuba
Alright - buying a box of cigars in Cuba is still cheaper than buying them anywhere else in the world....but not by much. The State makes sure she gets more than her share of your dollars.
The visit inside a tobacco factory is fascinating. You'll see them rolling the leaves, slapping them, testing the cigars, the whole nine yards. Some people don't like the smell inside - it's kind of earthy and wet - but I liked smelling the cigars before AND after they're lit!
The famous cigar factories are located in Havana and also in Trinidad.
Note: make sure your cigar always bears an "etiqueta" (that little wrapper with the brand name)
Havana street life - with a beat
The side streets of Havana are full of life and people. Unlike the smaller towns and rural areas, Havana is the country's cultural and architectural core, rivaled only by Santiago. There are some tremendous buildings - government seats, theatres, famous old hotels....and the outdoor plazas where books are sold (don't expect any best sellers - we're talking strictly communist propaganda here). Even a walk along the Malecon (the area bording the harbor) is fun...although all of it is tinged with an air of wistfulness and a feeling of sadness.
There's almost a 100% chance you'll see some local musicians either playing or transporting their instruments to and from wherever it is they're going. Like I said, at least communism hasn't been able to stamp out that famous Cuban Cha-Cha beat!
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