Eat, Drink, Think HAVANA!

Oct 28 - Nov 02, 2016

From $ 3430

Join us for a food-trip of a lifetime!

Price: $ 3430
Single supplement: Add $ 650

Enjoy a rare and special opportunity to join food writer Nancy Nichols on an exciting and informative People to People trip to Cuba. Learn about the new cuisine of Havana and the exciting young Cuban entrepreneurs creating a new economy. Meet the new cooking talents creating a new gastronomic revolution on the island. Experience the must-visited restaurants and paladares, and some out of the way delights. Discuss the menu items with the chefs in their kitchens. Meet the Cuban People, see the architecture, experience its soul moving music and its deep rooted culture. There will be lots of time devoted to meeting everyday Cubans and to make substantive connections with them through frank discussions of both of our countries’ policies related to these fields. Cuba’s warm and welcoming people are waiting to engage with you and learn first hand about Americans and our values.

 

Destinations

What's included

* Meet and greet at the Miami International Airport

* Round trip air Mia-Hav-Mia, Departure Tax in Miami

* Cuban Visa

* US Traveler paperwork management (People to People General License)

* Transfers in and out from the airport to hotel

* Medical Insurance in Cuba

* Accommodations for five (5) nights at excellent four star hotel

* Daily breakfast at the hotel

* Four (4) dinners

* Four (4) Lunches (Thirteen meals total)

 

 

* Luxury Motor coach transportation as per itinerary

* Full time, bilingual, professional Cuba based guide

* Program Management in Cuba

* City tours and visits to a variety of scenic places in Havana

* Visits to Cuban institutions as listed on the itinerary (museums, markets, factories)

* A private tour of Muraleando, an award-winning community art project

* Visit to Finca Marta Farm

* A visit to Hemingway’s Finca Vigia

* Our Cuba Travel Tips publication and extensive traveler guidance

What's not included

*Passports
*Tips for (Guide and Driver, baggage handlers & waiters)
*Single room differential ($650 per single traveler)
*Trip Interruption Insurance
*Air from Home City to Miami
* Departure tax on day of departure from Miami & Havana
*All other items not listed in “PROGRAM PRICE INCLUDES”

 

Please note: This itinerary is subject to change and you will be kept informed of changes to final itinerary.

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Itinerary 6 days

Day 1, Havana City

Meet and Greet at Miami International Airport

Your group will be met by a Cuba Tours & Travel customer service representative to assist you with check-in and answer any last minute questions.  The details will be provided in your final itinerary. We pride ourselves in giving you the best Cuba experience possible and it starts before you even get on the plane.

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Arrive in Havana

A remarkably short flight away from Miami International Airport - just enough time to reach altitude and descend, Havana lies waiting in all her glory.  In just 45 minutes, you are transported to another place in time.  Havana’s enchantment is not limited to her time-worn charm or rich and diverse cultural identity -- it’s in the light, the sounds, the Caribbean Sea at her feet and most of all, in her people.  Welcome to Havana!             

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Revolution Square ( Plaza de la Revolucion)

One of the most dramatic examples of modern architecture in Havana, if not the world, is the Plaza de la Revolución José Martí. The Plaza is among the largest civic plazas in the world, measuring nearly 24,000 sq. ft., surrounded by modern construction and featuring the enormous obelisk monument to Jose Marti, built on the highest ground in Havana. It is major attraction for visitors of all walks of life, world leaders and dignitaries, including Pope Francis who held mass there recently and Pope John Paul II who visited in 1998. The plaza was constructed prior to 1959 during the government of Fulgencio Batista, but gained popularity afterward as the center of public celebration and demonstration in Cuba. Two of the government buildings in the square, both mid-century modern (1958), are best known for the iron sculptures of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos that cover their facades, both by Cuban artist Enrique Avila. This grand plaza is also home to the Teatro Nacional de Cuba, built in 1979. This plaza is another one of those magical locations in Havana that throw you back in time but simultaneously offer you a great vision and hope for the future.

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Check in to Hotel

Dinner at San Cristobal Paladar - Eat like a President!

Set in an early 20th Century mansion in the “Centro Habana” district of the city, San Cristobal Paladar is probably, the best restaurant in Havana. Restaurateur and Executive Chef, Carlos Cristobal Marquez, has created a uniquely engaging ambience within a cluttered, but warm, eclectic décor; each room offering a journey through a particularly iconic aspect of Cuban culture.  The cuisine, Cuban Creole with a very refined and international twist, has a five-star rating by many international food critics and was enjoyed by President Barack Obama and his family during their recent visit to Havana.

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Day 2, Havana City

Breakfast at the Hotel

You will be met by your guide in the lobby after breakfast to begin the day’s program.

The Four Plazas of Old Havana - a favorite pastime of the locals!

The morning begins with a walking tour of the Four Plazas; a magical journey through five centuries of history and architecture that culminate to comprise Cuba’s first of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites – “La Habana Vieja” or Old Havana. The tour takes you on a stroll through the four main plazas, Plaza de Armas, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de San Francisco de Asis and Plaza de la Catedral, giving you an insight to the truly magnificent and powerful place Cuba held in the Caribbean for centuries. You’ll see colonial fortresses and opulent palaces highlighting the majestic architecture spanning from Spanish Colonial to Neoclassical interspersed with a mix of Baroque. Old Havana is packed with churches, cathedrals and monuments, as well as a homogeneous ensemble of private houses with arcades, balconies, wrought iron gates and internal courtyards -- many evocatively time worn, but many restored to their original majesty.  The plazas host outdoor cafes, bars and restaurants where live music is always playing, as well as art galleries and quaint shops that can range from touristic items to hand crafted gourmet chocolates and exotic spices. You will want to return to explore La Habana Vieja on our own to explore and discover its magic and mystery for yourself.

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Lunch at La Moneda Cubana

In the early 1920’s an Asturian businessman, Don Ramon, arrived in Cuba only to fall madly in love with a Cuban woman whom he married. He remained in Cuba for the rest of his life. In 1924, he founded what became a very famous food and liquor store – the first of a chain throughout La Habana Vieja - located at the entrance of the Plaza de La Catedral.  As he was an avid coin collector, the restaurant that is now housed at this exceptional location was named “La Moneda Cubana” or The Cuban Coin. Situated up a narrow staircase, when you dine on the rooftop terrace, the passion that Don Ramon felt for the Cuban girl he fell in love with is almost palpable. Enjoy exquisite traditional Cuban cuisine and take in the colonial beauty of Old Havana.

 

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Muraleando Project

When local artists Manuel (Manolo) Diaz Baldrich and Ernesto Quirch Paz began teaching art workshops in the neighborhood school in 2001, they had no thoughts of starting community development project. They quickly moved the workshops into the streets, and there the seeds of Muraleando (literally "muraling" or mural-making) were sown. The murals that started springing up throughout the neighborhood were a natural outgrowth of the art classes. The murals depict fanciful celebrations of Cuban life. In a country where nothing is disposable and everything is useful, broken typewrites, old telephones, tire rims, wrought-iron chair parts - all were fair game to weld and paint and turn into sculpture. Muraleando also helped address community fragmentation with a recurring Peña Comunitaria, a block party when streets are blocked off, tables and chairs are set up, and young and old arrive to share in the festivities. Invited artists include musicians, dancers, singer, actors and poets from local, national and international realms. The Peña also gives emerging and aspiring artists from the neighborhood a venue to demonstrate their talents. Food is served, of course, neighbors and visitors come together in a cultural celebration.

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Dinner at StarBien

The art and style of the 1930’s can be seen in every detail of this El Vedado mansion. The friendly staff offers very tasty fusion cuisine, combining traditional Cuban and international dishes. StarBien has always attracted artists, cultural figures and businessmen, whom we are loyal customers. You will enjoy the tranquil setting and professional service. 

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Jazz Club La Zorra y el Cuervo (On your own)

Listen to the finest jazz performers in Cuba. This famous jazz club is considered as one of the best in town. You can't miss the location on La Rampa, the entrance is a replica of a red English telephone box and lead you to the basement where the club with a capacity of 120 people is situated. The venue is popular among Cubans and tourists, many renewed names like Roberto Fonseca and Chucho Valdes have given performances at this club. After the music you can casually stroll back the two blocks to the Hotel Nacional and enjoy a nitecap a the hotel’s vibrant inner courtyard.

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Day 3, Havana City

Breakfast at the Hotel

You will be met by your guide in the lobby after breakfast to begin the day’s program.

People to People Experience - Shop like a Cuban

Cuba is known for its fertile lands, diversity of ecosystems and its agricultural productivity.  The local farmers markets are strategically located throughout the towns and cities are the source of this spectacular selection of produce for the Cuban population.  Daily, folks purchase their fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and other produce at the local market in local currency.  Your guide will escort you to one of the best of these markets in the heart of the Vedado district on 19th St. and B.  Pick up some fresh fruit for your room or just feast your eyes on the tropical delights that grow on this island paradise.  

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Farm Tour and lunch in Finca Marta

Fernando Funes Monzote will probably go down in history as the well digger who saved Cuban agriculture. We will meet with Fernando and his co-workers at Finca Marta to hear the tale of his amazing agricultural achievement. Fernando acquired the rocky land from a farmer who’d lived there for 40 years. He spent seven months hand digging a dry well in search of water. Fast forward 4 years: Fernando operates a self-sufficient (solar power, biofuel from cow poop) organic farm that produces over 60 varieties of fruits and vegetables. He sells to local restaurants (paladares) and farmers markets. Although tourism is growing in Cuba, Fernando only allows one, maybe two, visits a week to his farm. “I don’t want to become a circus act,” he said. “And we have lots of work to do.” We will enjoy a delicious lunch harvested from the garden.

 

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Fuster Studio/Home

Visit the Gaudí-like whimsical park-residence of Cuban painter, printmaker, and ceramicist José Fuster. For more information see, www.josefuster.com

 

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Dinner on your own

Tonight dinner is in a paladar of your choice from a list of the hottest foodie scenes in the City. The tour guide will make the reservations. This is an opportunity to get away from the larger group and dine with a smaller group of friends. You will take a taxi to the meal that we will find for you. The group will have a chance to speak with the Chef and owner of the establishment to discuss food and new opportunities in the food industry in Cuba. The cost of this meal is not included in the trip price.

 

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Day 4, Havana City

Breakfast at the Hotel

You will be met by your guide in the lobby after breakfast to begin the day’s program.

Ferry Ride across Havana Harbor

When driving or strolling along Havana’s “malecon”, the coastal avenue that hugs the city of Havana along its majestic port and iconic sea, you have a constant view of the iconic lighthouse that stands proud atop a cliff guarding Havana’s spectacular natural harbor. The lighthouse stands on the end of a promontory strongly fortified with huge walls and battlements built by the Spanish Conquistadors to defend the city against pirates and bounty seekers. The town of Casa Blanca sits at the end of the promontory, across the harbor from La Habana Vieja, and home to the famous statue of Christ, the Blanco Cristo. From the ferry landing on the portside of Old Havana, you will board the ferry and enjoy the views for the 10-minute crossing to Casa Blanca. There, you can climb the hill to the Christ statue and take in the panorama of Havana’s majestic skyline.

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Finca Vigia - Ernest Hemingway's Home & Museum

Your transportation will await you at Casa Blanca for the short drive to Ernest Hemingway’s home in the rural village of San Francisco de Paula, also just east of Havana. Named Finca Vigia or “Lookout Farm”, the home was built in 1866 and purchased by Hemingway in 1940.  This property, emerging from a lush tropical flora and fauna, was his primary home from 1940 until his death in 1961.  Hemingway loved Cuba and according to close sources, he spent more time there during those two decades that any of his homes around the world.  Here, Hemingway wrote his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “The Old Man and the Sea”, and his famous fishing boat, El Pilar, is also on display here.  In 1962, Finca Vigia was turned into a museum making it the first institution in the world devoted to Ernest Hemingway and his work. Recently, the feature film, “Papa” was filmed on location in Cuba and much of it at Finca Vigia.

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Lunch at Ajiaco Cafe in Cojimar

“Papa ́s” passion for fishing and drinking has left an indelible mark on Caribbean seaside the town of Cojimar, the picturesque fishing village where Hemingway docked his boat, El Pilar, and where some old timers might still remember Hemingway and his guide, Gregorio, whom the “old man” was based on.  Café Ajiaco is a Cojimar favorite. The fare is as varied as the drinks, but given that you are so close to the coast it is almost mandatory that you go for some seafood. The choice of fish changes daily with the catch. Enjoy this seaside fishing port village that is almost frozen in time since Hemingway made it his favorite hangout.

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Afternoon on your own

Dinner at Mediterraneo Havana

A true “farm to table” and “sea to table” restaurant, Mediterraneo Havana features fresh plant and protein from their own two private, organic farms and fresh catch and seafood fished every other day from their own fishing boat.  It doesn’t get any more fresh or real than this in Cuba.  The food is prepared fresh daily without preservatives or additives, the pasta and the desserts are homemade and the menu, created by Chef Luigi, executive chef and founder, is a work of art.  Enjoy an extraordinary fusion cuisine and exceptional service in this lovely, airy, Mediterranean environment in a beautifully retrofitted Vedado home.  This extraordinary restaurant is the recent recipient of the coveted British farm to table award, the International Quality Crown Award in the “gold” category, chosen by culinary experts from 49 nations.

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Day 5, Havana City

Breakfast at the Hotel

You will be met by your guide in the lobby after breakfast to begin the day’s program.

Cigar Factory

We will visit a working cigar factory in Havana to learn the art and craft of the cigar world. We will take a guided tour through the building and see first hand the process of preparing and rolling cigars. We will end the visit at the factory store where you can purchase the most fresh and aromatic cigars on the island.

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Museum of the Revolution

Political history buffs will want to come back for more. This museum was built between 1913 and 1920 and used by a string of cash-embezzling Cuban presidents, culminating in Fulgencio Batista. (Boo!) Tiffany's of New York decorated the interior, and the shimmering Salón de los Espejos (Room of Mirrors) was designed to resemble the eponymous room at the Palace of Versailles. The museum descends chronologically from the top floor starting with Cubas pre-Columbian culture and extending to the present-day socialist regime (con mucho propaganda!). The downstairs rooms have some interesting exhibits on the 1953 Moncada attack and the life of Che Guevara (the stud muffin of the revolution!), and highlight a Cuban penchant for displaying blood-stained military uniforms.

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Lunch at El Litoral Paladar

Dallas chef Stephan Pyles turned me on to this place. It’s an elegant, high-ceilinged modern restaurant overlooking the famous Malecon, the five-mile long seawall along the coast of Havana. Chef Alain Rivas’ menu has Japanese, Cuban, and Mediterranean accents. He features maybe the largest variety of organic vegetables and salads in Havana. The tapas menu features foccacia de papa, pulpo y ajo tostado (focaccia with octopus and garlic), mejillones rellenos ‘tigres’ (stuffed tiger mussels), cazuela de chorizo al vino, and pimienta y pan (Spanish sausage with wine and pepper). Chef Alain will talk with us about procurement of ingredients and spend time answering your questions.

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Afternoon on your own

We will make recommendations for additional visits to art studios, museums, and crafts markets.  

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Dinner at Kadir Lopez studio

Kadir Lopez, and his brother Kelvin Lopez are graduates of the Instituto Superior de Arte. Their expansive studio and exhibit spaces are located in A 1930’s Havana mansion that has been re-purposed by the artists for their home-workspace. Here the group will enjoy a great and delicious traditional Cuban home-made dinner cooked by the family of the artist.You will have a chance to talk with Kadir, Kelvin and other artists who will join us and beyond having a fabulous dinner you will enjoy warm conversation about everything Cuban.

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Private concert by Polito Ibañez

Polito Ibáñez, born in 1965, is a Cuban singer and composer who is among the generation of contemporary artists in Cuba known as troubadors. He is known for his rock ballads and for being part of a generation of Cuban musicians who enjoy international success and perform and record with major artists from around the world. He is a formally trained musician with a degree from Cuba’s highly acclaimed ISA (Instituto Superior de Arte) and joined the Nueva Trova musical movement in 1985. He won a Premio Cubadisco in 2001 with "Para no Pensar", produced by spanish producer Jaime Stinus, in the rock music and musical production categories. He has toured in Trinidad & Tobago, Argentina, Venezuela, Spain, France, and the Netherlands with Pablo Milanés, Silvio Rodríguez and Joaquín Sabina.  An intimate concert by Polito is a rare and exclusive treat that you won’t soon forget.

 

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Day 6, Havana City

Breakfast at The hotel

You will be met by your guide in the lobby after breakfast to begin the day’s program.

Check out of Hotel

Transfer from a Havana hotel to Jose Marti International Airport

You’ll be met by your guide and transportation for your airport transfer from the hotel to Jose Marti International Airport.  Your guide will remain with you at the airport, assisting with check-in and to see you off, ensuring a smooth departure.

 

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Meet Event Organizer Nancy Nichols

Nancy has been the Food and Travel Editor at D Magazine for 18 years. She says it's a perfect job for her as she loves to eat and travel and travel to eat. Nancy’s culinary adventures have taken her to Africa (8 times), Vietnam, Thailand, Borneo, Brazil, Uzbekistan, Czech Republic, and many other destinations. She has studied cooking in Bangkok, Singapore, France, Italy, and England. Besides writing about food, Nancy has led successful group culinary tours through Cornwall, Italy, the Caribbean, Alaska, New York, Los Angeles, Texas and Havana.

 

In February 2015, she spent two weeks traveling all over Cuba and living with families. She learned to cook (and eat!) local foods from home cooks. Her hosts took er to local markets and restaurants where she was introduced to Cuban chefs, cooks, and agricultural workers at fresh food markets. In February 2016, she participated in a tour of Havana focused on the music scene. In May 2016, she led a culinary exploration of Havana.

 

Nancy is also the editor of SideDish, the most popular food blog in Dallas.

 

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