This people-to-people independent educational group journey will focus on Havana's contemporary and historical creative-arts community, exploring the relationship between personal expression, history, culture and identity, and how the arts are integrated into Cuba’s Socialist culture. We’ll feel this vibrant city through its fine arts, architecture, dance, literature, music and theater, and visit places that have been the setting and source of inspiration for important literary and other artistic works, and encounter the new entrepreneurs – owners of privately-run restaurants and other sanctioned businesses.
This unique opportunity for cross-cultural engagement will reach far into the creative spirit. Participants are encouraged to share their specific interests, skills and wisdom to enrich the experience for all. As our group will consist of creative professionals, discussions and personal time for writing/journaling, photography, etc. and a guided walking tour, cultural arts events (dance, theater, musical, literary), culinary adventures and – most excitingly – conversations with and performances by Cuban writers, artists and musicians. You will experience and understand Cuba in a way most visitors never will.
Nov. 30 - Dec. 8, 2016
Revised Sept. 23, 2016: As an independent group of traveling friends, you are free to do your own thing, as long as you keep the organizers informed. All the activities and meals (except dinner Tuesday night, Dec. 6) are part of the itinerary and will be booked in advance of our arrival. Alcoholic drinks and tips for personal services are the responsibility of each individual.
While every effort will be made to follow this plan, please be aware that it is impossible to guarantee anything in Cuba and last-minute substitutions and changes in activity day and time may be made. In your free time, there is a plethora of activities, live shows, art gallery opens, exhibitions, etc. and spontaneous music and "happenings." We will aim to provide you with lists of these upon arrival, as nothing is published far in advance.
Tuesday Nov. 29
Make your way from your departure city to Benito Juarez International Airport (MEX) Mexico City where we'll meet up at the Marriott Courtyard Mexico City Airport that evening.
Wednesday Nov. 30
Convene at MEX Airport, Terminal 1, at 8:15 a.m. for Interjet Flight 2900 to La Habana (HAV) at 11:15 a.m. and arrive José Marti Airport, La Habana around 3pm. (Airfare not included). You will be escorted by your tour coordinators, helped with money exchange, and transported to your casa in beautiful Vedado, helped with check-in and given time to relax. Please check out our on-the-ground coordinator's site and note Ruby's contact info for your family and friends: www.CubaRuby.com
Also note: in Cuba, Aysha's cell phone is: +53 5515 2909
In Mexico, Aysha's cell phone: +52 (1) 415 113 2248
5:00pm – Welcome drinks, introductions, orientation and Q&A with Susana Haug, our translator who is an author, senior professor of Latin American Literature at the University of Havana, and professional lecturer on Cuban art, history and literary subjects.
7:30pm – Welcome Dinner at El Penthouse 17 y K, a paladar ((privately-run restaurant) with stunning views of the city. It is a 5 block walk.
Thursday Dec. 1
8:00am –10:00am Breakfast (served daily at our casas)
10:30am–1:30pm – A Walking Tour of Habana Vieja. Our guided tour includes a brief history of the city’s important sites with a focus on the diverse architecture of the city. The walk takes us through Havana’s oldest neighborhood to understand the historic, architectural, and cultural significance of this area, declared a World Heritage Site in 1982 by UNESCO. We'll explore the four main plazas of the 18th-century colony: Plaza de Armas, which originally housed the main administrative buildings of the colony; Plaza Vieja, the oldest of the plazas (where we'll stop for coffee at El Escorial, where beans are roasted on site); Plaza de la Cathedral, site of the baroque cathedral of Havana, and Plaza de San Francisco, site of the basilica of San Francisco and the old Havana stock exchange, and visit El Taller Experimental de Gráfica (printmaking studio). The actual sites and history of this area figures largely in much Cuban literature and all the arts.
1:30pm – Lunch in Old Havana at at Doña Eutemia
3:00pm - Continue your explorations of Old Havana on your own - art galleries, museums, shopping, absorbing "the vibe" or...
5:00 – Meet at assigned point to return to your casa and relax.
7:30 – Dinner at Restaurant 1830 - and dancing
9:00 - optional: stay for music and dancing (often lessons & demonstrations too!) - NOTE: You must check your bags there for security.
Friday Dec. 2
8:00am –10:00am Breakfast
10:30am–1:00pm – FIART Cuban artisan crafts fair
drive past some grand embassies in Miramar
1:30 - Lunch - El ArteChef - Chef's talk/demonstration Cuban food, Vedado
3:30 - Cuba Libro - After lunch, we'll visit with author and Havana expert, Conner Gorry, owner of Cuba Libro, Cuba's only English language bookstore/cafe and also a community arts center engaged in a number of local projects. A New Yorker who married a Cuban, Conner has been living in Cuba for 13 years and writes an insightful and entertaining blog.
4:30 - back to Casa
5:30 - Hotel Nacional - walk from casas, relax under the portal or on the beautiful grounds of this iconic hotel and former Batista-era casino.
7:30 - Dinner at Cafe Laurent (or Resones) nearby Hotel Nacional (6-7 block walk back to casas)
Options for late-evening outings will be provided. Havana music clubs tend to start late, often after 10p.m. or midnight.
Saturday Dec. 3
8:00am –10:00am - Breakfast
11:00 - Cuban Art Museum Tour - Taxi back to Habana Vieja (overview of Cuban Art: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_art)
1:30 - Lunch - Cafe de Los Artistas
3:00 - Associación Yoruba Tour - and learn about the Santaria religion
4:30 - Free time to wander near Capitolio and ChinaTown: ideas: Galleria Continua, an art gallery based in San Gimignano, Italy, has also just opened a nonprofit branch in Havana in a decayed Chinatown theater; Vista from top of Inglaterra, Bacardi Building
6:30 - Dinner at Los Nardos
possibly: 8:00 - Gran Teatro - Ballet Nacional Rehearsal
9:00 - 11:00pm Saturday music at Casa de La Amistad, a beautiful mansion walking distance to casas, popular with locals
Sunday Dec. 4
8:00am –10:00am - Breakfast
10:30 10:30 - Omar Diez de Arce – friend and Buddhist astrologer will talk to us about his personal Cuban experiences and as director of the Buddhist center, affiliated with the Diamond Way Foundation; he'll also offer astrology readings, excellent at transits (please let me know before we arrive)
12:00 - Callejon de Hammel – Rumba dance in the street or other public dancing
2:00 Lunch - TBD Possible La Roca
3:00 Visit to Hemingway's Finca Vigia
7:00 - Dinner at El Cocinero
9:00 - Fabrica del Arte - unique newer and unique art/performance space with music, art, installations, etc.
Monday Dec. 5
8:00am –9:00am - Breakfast
9:30 - 1:30 - Finca Marta - day trip: 10am-1pm. Much has been written about Fernando Funes-Monzote (Google 'Finca Marta') and he will host us on a tour of his model organic family farm, including lunch at the farm.
Free Time - optional: An informal walking tour of Vedado, past famous early 20th century mansions (many now government buildings or converted post-revolutionary apartments), stop by the Sephardic Jewish Community Center to learn about the little-known Cuban Jewish population, visit a Mercado Agropecuario (farmer's market) and have a peek in a "peso store" where Cubans use their monthly ration coupons and buy basic goods. (Always leaving time for the unexpected and Serendipitious, such as stumbling upon a rehearsal of modern dance troupe, Malpaso, in the Jewish Center's auditorium last time there).
7:30 - Dinner - Atelier Paladar, Vedado
Tuesday Dec. 6
8:00am –10:00am - Breakfast
11:00 - Camerata Rameu at Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Assisi, Habana Vieja - We are special guests of the rehersal of this renowned 17-piece women's string orchestra. Afterward, conductor Zenaida Romeu, considered a 'force of nature', will talk with us about Cuban music and join us for lunch.
1:00 - Lunch - El Paladar San Cristobal - Habana Vieja
After lunch - Free time to wander in Habana Vieja - Fototeca, Desarrollo de Artes, Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, Maqueta de la Habana (faces house of spices - Marco Polo), House of wine and cheese, artists market Almacenes along the waterfront, ferry to Regla or Casa Blanca, etc.
Dinner - on your own - suggestions provided: Mediterraneo, Vedado; or see this list - check against those we plan to visit; or research others.
suggest: evening dancing Jardin 1830 or other.
Wednesday Dec. 7
8:00am –10:00am - Breakfast
10:30-12:00 - studio/gallery home of Glenda Salazar and Harold Vázquez in Vedado - meet young and upcoming photographer and painter couple.
1:00 - OPTIONS: Beach or City. You may be taxied to Playa Santa Maria, one of the beautiful East Beaches, about 30 minutes east of Havana to enjoy a day at the beach
OR be taxied west to Fusterlandia, a wild art project of artist José Fuster and visit the Cemetario de Cristobal Colón on the way back.
7:30 - Farewell Dinner - Los Naranjos, Vedado (near casas)
Thursday Dec. 8
7:00 - early morning photo shoot from a classic convertible taxi
8:00am –10:00am - Breakfast together and wrap up.
Noon - Leave for airport or other destinations