Tag: Cuba Travel

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Appreciating Cuba's Clichés: Che Guevara is Everywhere, Everything

Where: Cuba
February 25, 2011 at 11:01 AM | by | Comments (0)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the island risks getting caught up in a hurricane of clichés. Thinking travelers aren’t generally fooled by the shiny veneer of places plugged in a Lonely Planet, but don’t discard Cuba’s clichés. They’re what make this intriguing country so exotic, so vibrant and so darned colorful. A Jaunted special secret correspondent discovers the best of each, all this week.

They tell you Communists and religion don’t mix, but Cuba has a God. His name is Ernesto Che Guevara and he is omnipresent: on walls, doors, museums, shrines, monuments, galleries, billboards, t-shirts, caps, postcards, on people’s lips. Strange that Fidel, who has never been a shrinking violet, is almost nowhere to be seen.

Che’s arrival in Cuba in December 1956 was less than godly, crashing into the coast on the rickety yacht Granma and stumbling onto land half seasick with the Castro brothers. 60 of the 82 men squeezed on board that 12-person cruiser were immediately caught and killed, while Che ran off wheezing (he had chronic asthma) to hide in the Sierra Maestra mountains, near present-day Guantánamo Bay. There he bumped into the Cuban army, who promptly shot him.

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Appreciating Cuba's Clichés: Rampant Capitalism on Varadero's White Sand Beaches

Where: Cuba
February 24, 2011 at 10:48 AM | by | Comments (2)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the island risks getting caught up in a hurricane of clichés. Thinking travelers aren’t generally fooled by the shiny veneer of places plugged in a Lonely Planet, but don’t discard Cuba’s clichés. They’re what make this intriguing country so exotic, so vibrant and so darned colorful. A Jaunted special secret correspondent discovers the best of each, all this week.

If you want to go to Cuba without going to Cuba, you have two choices: Guantánamo or Varadero. It's a toss-up for me; Guantánamo gets a bad press, it's true, but I suspect the north coast beach resort of Varadero only gets good write-ups because tourist dollars depend on it.

There's a rumor that Cubans are not allowed in Varadero, but that's not true. There are plenty of Cubans, serving the food and cleaning the rooms in the vast resort hotels plonked side by side along the skinny white sand peninsula that pokes out into the Atlantic like a knobbly twig. The issue is that ordinary Cubans can't afford to stay in the hotels there.

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Appreciating Cuba's Clichés: In the Steps of Old Man Hemingway

Where: Cuba
February 23, 2011 at 10:31 AM | by | Comments (0)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the island risks getting caught up in a hurricane of clichés. Thinking travelers aren’t generally fooled by the shiny veneer of places plugged in a Lonely Planet, but don’t discard Cuba’s clichés. They’re what make this intriguing country so exotic, so vibrant and so darned colorful. A Jaunted special secret correspondent discovers the best of each, all this week.

If you haven’t read The Old Man and the Sea I highly recommend you do. It's a bearable 100 or so pages of splashing waves, circling sharks and melodrama giving an easy-grip handle on the strength and defiance of the Cuban character—at least, in the clichéd sense. It won Hemingway the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954, after which he famously remarked that “no son of a bitch that ever won the Nobel Prize ever wrote anything worth reading afterwards.”

Aside from that book, I can’t quite see the Hemingway obsession. But plenty of people do, and there’s a flurry of Hemingway-related activities for you to do in Cuba if you’re so inclined.

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Appreciating Cuba's Clichés: Cigars are Nothing to Be Sniffed At

Where: Cuba
February 22, 2011 at 10:45 AM | by | Comments (0)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the island risks getting caught up in a hurricane of clichés. Thinking travelers aren’t generally fooled by the shiny veneer of places plugged in a Lonely Planet, but don’t discard Cuba’s clichés. They’re what make this intriguing country so exotic, so vibrant and so darned colorful. A Jaunted special secret correspondent discovers the best of each, all this week.

The only people I saw tangoing in Argentina were tourists and, in the years I lived there, the only people I saw eating frogs’ legs in France were British schoolchildren. So I learned to distrust clichés and genuinely expected that the only people puffing cigars in Cuba would be foreigners.

It took three seconds in Havana’s arrivals terminal to learn that I was wrong; the tobacco smell hung heavy in the air like great thunderclouds. Smoking is banned inside the airport; this was coming from people’s clothes and breaths. Until recently, the Cuban government heavily subsidized cigars and cigarettes for people born before 1956. Read into that what you will. Suffice to say that smoking-related diseases kill around 6,000 people each year in Cuba. Castro himself doesn’t figure in that number, having given up smoking for health reasons in 1985.

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Appreciating Cuba's Clichés: Streets Full of Classic American Cars

Where: Cuba
February 21, 2011 at 9:45 AM | by | Comment (1)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the island risks getting caught up in a hurricane of clichés. Thinking travelers aren’t generally fooled by the shiny veneer of places plugged in a Lonely Planet, but don’t discard Cuba’s clichés. They’re what make this intriguing country so exotic, so vibrant and so darned colorful. A Jaunted special secret correspondent discovers the best of each, all this week.

Cuba is an automobile enthusiast’s wet dream.

If you are one—a car enthusiast, that is, not a wet dream—then close your eyes and fantasize for a second. Imagine a catwalk of Chevys, Buicks, Chryslers and Plymouths, swinging their giant pink, mint-green or firey-red hips down a street lined with extravagant, crumbling mansions. In any central Havana square you’ll see them posing in the sunlight, radiator grilles pouting sexily for tourists’ cameras. (Off-stage they’re just as narcissistic.) All announce their arrival and departure on the scene with a thunderous drum roll from a thirsty engine and a dramatic puff of thick black smoke. The sight will blow you away, if the smoke doesn’t.

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Cuba, Now: Beyond the Hustlers to the Best Beach on Cuba’s South Coast

Where: Cuba
February 18, 2011 at 10:42 AM | by | Comments (0)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the focus on future trips to the country is growing wildly. A Jaunted special secret correspondent just returned from a period in Cuba, and she'll be sharing her impressions of the country, the people and their hopes all this week.

I was expecting an “ethereal colonial jewel,” a “sparkling colonial diamond,” a “perfectly preserved Spanish colonial settlement where the clocks stopped ticking in 1850.” At least that’s what I read in the Bible (aka Lonely Planet Cuba), as I rumbled slowly down a desolate six-lane motorway half-built with Soviet funds before the Berlin Wall collapsed. The surprisingly smooth tarmac stops abruptly when the bus heads south—via a pit stop for a Cuban version of a croque monsieur—towards the sparkling Caribbean sea and Cuba’s second-most popular tourist city of Trinidad.

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Cuba, Now: The Word You Need to Know for Edible Food is 'Paladares'

Where: Cuba
February 17, 2011 at 10:15 AM | by | Comments (0)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the focus on future trips to the country is growing wildly. A Jaunted special secret correspondent just returned from a period in Cuba, and she'll be sharing her impressions of the country, the people and their hopes all this week.

In my last post on Cuban food I quite rightly dissed cocina Cubana and its partner in crime comida criolla for its unimaginative, repetitive, lukewarm drudgery. But I wasn’t being entirely fair to the Cuban restaurant scene: I didn’t mention paladares. For there are glimmers of hope appearing at the Cuban table, at least if you’re a tourist with a wad of Convertible pesos and the latest Lonely Planet guidebook.

Paladares—privately-owned restaurants, run mostly in people’s living rooms or in crumbling and unlikely-looking mansions like the one pictured above—have brought spice to the Cuban menu. Legal since 1993 but operating clandestinely long before that, they’re obliged to serve only Cuban home cooking (rice, beans, pork) and no beef, so as not to compete with the uncompetitive state-run restaurants.

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Cuba, Now: Sacred Cows, Spit-roasted Pig and Peso Pizza

Where: Cuba
February 16, 2011 at 10:31 AM | by | Comments (0)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the focus on future trips to the country is growing wildly. A Jaunted special secret correspondent just returned from a period in Cuba, and she'll be sharing her impressions of the country, the people and their hopes all this week.

Old hacks love to joke that the sole Cuban contribution to world cuisine is rice “a la Cubana”—with an egg. "Take tins of tuna," scream the guidebooks. Carry peanut butter! Cereal bars! Vitamins! Laxatives! I thought they were exaggerating.

After a couple of weeks on the Cuban tourist trail, it’s with a heavy heart (and stomach) that I confirm everything you’ve heard about Cuban food is true. That is: the endless plates of Moros y Cristianos—"Arabs and Christians" or "rice and beans" to you and me—the soggy, gray tinned vegetables, the thinly sliced cabbage "salads," the powdered milk, the inevitability of the waiter’s apologetic smile when you dare ask for anything that isn’t fried pork, fried chicken, or, if you’re lucky, fried white fish.

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Cuba, Now: The Two-Tier Society of Standing in Line

Where: Cuba
February 15, 2011 at 10:56 AM | by | Comments (2)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the focus on future trips to the country is growing wildly. A Jaunted special secret correspondent just returned from a period in Cuba, and she'll be sharing her impressions of the country, the people and their hopes all this week.

As a patriotic English girl I thought—hah!—I knew how to queue. I’d never been to Cuba before.

Masters of the art of standing in line, Cuban people have cultivated both infinite patience and a set of queuing rules more complex than the small print on a bureaucrat’s brain. It’s partly practice. Socialism is supposed to create equality, but Cuba has two currencies and two sets of people: those who earn in Cuban pesos, or moneda nacional, and those with access to Convertible pesos, which in 2004 replaced the US dollar. Meager salaries—around $15-20 a month for most jobs, including doctors—are supplemented by ration books. And rationing means queuing.

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Cuba, Now: Viva la Commercial Revolución

Where: Cuba
February 14, 2011 at 12:20 PM | by | Comments (0)

With President Obama working to lessen Cuba Travel restrictions, the focus on future trips to the country is growing wildly. A Jaunted special secret correspondent just returned from a period in Cuba, and she'll be sharing her impressions of the country, the people and their hopes all this week.

What struck me most powerfully on arriving in Havana was the complete absence of advertising.

Traveling to Cuba from the world’s commercial super-center—the USA—is like diving from a hot, sweaty and crowded monkey cage into a refreshingly vast and empty pool. There is nothing in most Cuban shops beyond a packet of dried black beans and some powdered custard—the same brand, always the same brand. You can’t buy or sell a car made after Castro’s 1959 communist revolution. Toasters and other domestic essentials were until recently banned. Decadent, capitalist toasters!

So the question is: are Cubans ready for the commercial revolution that will sweep through the island like a rainy-season hurricane the moment the US embargo falls?

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More Airports to Get Havana Flights as Obama Lessens Cuba Travel Restrictions

Where: Cuba
January 17, 2011 at 8:40 AM | by | Comment (1)

You know, ever since President Barack Obama entered office, we've been doing stories on the ever-so-gradual opening of Cuba, including everything from Orbitz's "Open Cuba" campaign to WestJet's direct flights from Canada. And now we are yet another step closer to drinking many a Cuba Libre as Obama has made several changes, all which go into effect in about two weeks and do not require congressional approval.

Here's what's going down:

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Obama May Take Cuba Travel into His Own Hands

Where: Cuba
August 11, 2010 at 8:54 AM | by | Comments (0)

While the first family has enjoyed several unique vacation locations, we think that they really want to go to Cuba this winter. President Obama seems eager to open up the travel channels between the United States and the island nation, and it might just happen before the summer is over.

Rumors suggest that Obama could ease travel restrictions to Cuba through a change in US policy without necessarily getting approval from Congress. However, the new rules won’t really apply to everyone, so once again, we’ll have to hold off on getting our tickets and transportation booked. The changes would allow more Americans to head to Castro-country for cultural and educational trips. That sounds kind of vague, so maybe checking out an art museum or two would suffice for cultural experience.

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