Havana Spice & The Venice of Cuba with Chef Douglas Rodriguez

May 05 - 12, 2017

From $ 4575

Havana Spice & The Venice of Cuba with Chef Douglas Rodriguez

Price: $ 4575
Single supplement: Add $ 850

Join us on an adventurous journey through Havana and Matanzas with the James Beard Awarded Chef and share in the passion that he has for the people and food of Cuba, and breathe in the energy he has devoted to his craft as he hones his talents.

You will recap knowledge and learn from the very finest culinary instructor on the planet or become America’s newest Nuevo Latino cuisine ambassador. You will not just dine as a spectator, but also learn and take part in how chefs integrate these culinary landscapes into their food in compelling ways. Quite simply, D-Rod Culinary Adventures has put together the greatest culinary journeys through Cuba and the expedition of a lifetime.

Let us show you Cuba first!

Destinations

What's included

  • 8 Days & 7 nights
  • Meet & Greet at Miami International Airport (If CTAT makes the group reservation)
  • Airport Transfers in Cuba (If CTAT makes the group reservation)
  • Cuban Visa
  • US Government Paperwork & People-to-People General License
  • Accommodations for 7 nights at Hotel Capri
  • Breakfast every day at the hotel
  • 6 lunches
  • 5 dinners
  • Cooking demonstration by Chef Douglas Rodriguez
  • Museum, Institutional and Organizational visits
  • Visits with Artists at their studios as per itinerary
  • Visits to Community Organizations & Projects
  • Day Trip to Matanzas
  • Lunch and Recreation at Rio Canimar
  • Motorcoach or Van transportation for entire program (12 hrs per day)
  • Concert & Panel Discussion by Prof. Alberto Faya
  • Classic Car Ride
  • Cuban Experts & Specialists
  • Translation by professional Cuba-based guides
  • Tour management in Cuba by US and Cuba-based personnel

What's not included

  • Airfare to Cuba (priced separately)
  • Airfare from your Home City to Miami
  • Passports
  • Transportation to Miami International Airport
  • After hours activities
  • Trip Interruption Insurance
  • Tips for restaurant and hotel staff; guides and drivers
  • Personal purchases
  • Anything not listed in “What’s Included” above

 

 

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

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Itinerary 8 days

Day 1, Havana City

Meet and Greet at Miami International Airport

The time for your Meet & Greet experience will differ by departure date and you will be informed well ahead of your travel date on your personal itinerary. 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.  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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Check into Hotel Capri & Enjoy a Welcome Cocktail

You will be accompanied by your guide every step of the way to assist with check-in. There will be a brief orientation at the hotel.

Dinner at San Cristobal

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 ambiance 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 hotel

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

Walking tour of the Four Plazas of Old Havana

Tour Old Havana on foot, walking between the four main plazas that comprise Cuba’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Start at Plaza de Armas, the site of the oldest Spanish fortress in the Americas, the 1519 locale of the first mass in Cuba, and the massive Baroque seat of government, known as Palacio de los Capitanes Generales. Continue to Plaza de San Francisco de Assis and Plaza Vieja, where we will visit artists galleries and historic buildings and get a sense of the structure of the colonial city. Wind through historic streets spanning 5 centuries of historic architecture and end at Plaza de la Catedral and see the Baroque cathedral.

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Lunch at Havana 61

Located in one of the oldest colonial areas of Havana, near the beautiful Iglesia del Angel, is a bright and airy, Havana 61. The modern design is in extreme contrast with the six-century-old city and offers traditional Cuban cuisine as well as culinary creations of their own. The seafood is the house specialty as well as the originally concocted libations.

 

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Artist Studio & Gallery Visits

Rising from the restoration and revitalization of Old Havana, impressive art galleries have sprung up all over the colonial center of the city, exhibiting the work of Cuba’s top artists and often housing their private studios. As you stroll through Old Havana you will happen by many galleries and studios where you can view and purchase original art.

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Dinner at Atelier

A very unique and upscale restaurant, Atelier is the brainchild of Niuris Higueras, who has long nurtured her passion for exciting food.  She has designed a very contemporary space housed in an idiosyncratic Havana mansion in the Vedado district.  The décor has a retro feel including an antique hob and old sewing machines.  While Niuris is the inspiration, Chef Enrique cooks the food on the very eclectic menu that changes every day.  Together they create an international range of dishes than might include from falafels to duck confit to stewed rabbit in wine. The food may vary from day to day, and sometimes be unpredictable, but it is consistently excellent as is the service.

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Day 3, Havana City

Breakfast at hotel

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

Bellas artes Museum - Cuban Collection

Very near El Prado, still in the heart of Havana’s urban center where La Habana Vieja meets Centro Habana, is a notoriously modern structure, housing the largest permanent collection of Cuban art in the world dating from the 16th Century to present. The collection boasts extensive works of the Cuban masters from the 1920s through the postmodernists of the 1980s who influenced a worldwide movement and hang in museums and private collections worldwide. The Palacio de Bellas Artes, curated to show exclusively Cuban works has its international counterpart in the Palacio del Centro Asturiano, devoted to universal art. You might have time for both, but you cannot miss the Cuban collection whose artists exemplify the profoundly multicultural, mysterious and rich history of Cuba and its people.

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Callejon de Hamel

Rumba (guaguancó) is a secular Afro Cuban music, song, and dance tradition that lies at the heart of all Cuban rhythms. In the Callejón de Hamel, a back alley where, 20 years ago, artist Salvador Gonzalez decided to eschew the traditional art scene and paint on the outside walls of his apartment. After the neighbors started to applaud his artistic effort, he transformed it into a large scale mural and public art installation inspired by Afro-Cuban spiritual practices where rumba music, dance, and rituals happen every Sunday.

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Lunch at La California

Dine in a beautifully restored 19th-century colonial building just one block away from the emblematic Malecón. La California is located at the place where legendary Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo used to hang out. Food offerings include many Italian staples such as great wood-oven pizzas, plus a variety of pastas and risottos.

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El Prado – Capitolio, Parque Central, Paseo and more...

El Prado is one of the most exquisitely designed and splendid major avenues in all of the Americas and home to the quintessential structures that define Havana, ranging from Colonial to Baroque to Neoclassical to Art Deco. Designed in 1772 by French landscape architect Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier, El Prado runs for many blocks from the dramatic fountain, La Fuente de la India, to the iconic Malecon, marking the boundary between Habana Vieja and Centro Habana. El Paseo, a marble promenade lined with a natural canopy of trees, marble benches, and bronze lions was recently chosen by the House of Chanel for one of the most dramatic runway shows in the history of fashion. El Prado encompasses all of the mystery and magic, all of the historic and cultural wealth that Havana has offered from the 17th to the 21st century.

 

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Dinner at La Cocina de Lilliam

One of Havana's few family-owned restaurants, La Cocina de Lilliam, is a culinary gem and a true reflection of its owner Lilliam Dominguez Palenzuela´s lifelong passions. Exquisitely composed and pleasantly presented, each recipe has been honed, tested and retested until perfection. She began cooking as a teenager, learning from her mother and a neighbor who shared her kitchen and culinary knowledge.

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Day 4, City of Matanzas

Breakfast at hotel

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

Depart for Matanzas

Known as the “Venice of Cuba”, Matanzas is one of the most historically diverse and culturally rich cities in Cuba, known for its poets, culture and Afro-Cuban folklore. This historical city’s name, Matanzas, means “massacre”, and was named for a slaughter of Spanish soldiers trying to reach an aboriginal camp. By far, one of Cuba’s most emblematic cities, it is a tribute to 19th century architecture, with palaces and large parks and plazas surrounded by neoclassical structures, churches and museums. The magnificent bay that Matanzas grew around, with three rivers flowing into it, make the city a natural location for industry, although they also offered the perfect conditions to be the primary port for the African slave trade.  The city is traversed by three rivers crossed by 17 bridges throughout the that allow for the circulation of pedestrians and vehicles.

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The Bridges of Matanzas

The city of Matanzas is built around the huge Bay of Matanzas, which cuts deep in the island and into which three rivers flow inside city limits. The Yumuri, San Juan and Canimar Rivers flow through the city, traversed by seventeen bridges, making it the Venice of Cuba or The City of Bridges. A guided tour of the bridges is fascinating and offers a great perspective of the city before you enjoy lunch at a local paladar.

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Ediciones Vigia

These creators of hand-written, hand-made books is among the most inspired and innovative publishing projects in Cuba. Ediciones Vigia is an independent publishing collective that began production in 1985. It produces handmade books, each not only of literary value but also a unique work of art. Located in a restored colonial house in the Plaza Vigia, the books are manufactured by dedicated artisans and no trip to Matanzas would be complete without a visit to this gem and tribute to the intellect and talent of the Cubans.

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Rio Canimar

Traditional Cuban lunch/river ride/horse-back riding (Lechon asado). This is natural park crossed by a beautiful river that flows between two hills and where you can enjoy many activities: Boat tours, swimming in the river, swimming, horseback riding, rowboat rides, fishing, or simply relax and observe the tick jungle-like vegetation.

 

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Yumuri Valley and the Bacunayagua Bridge - Pina Coladas and Panoramic

Pina Coladas and Panoramic view of the Valle Yumuri and the Caribbean. On your way back to Havana, you will make a stop for Pina Coladas at the mirador of the Bacunayagua Bridge. The Yumuri Valley is among the most beautiful and breathtaking natural phenomenon of Cuba. Over 89 Acres wide and reaching the altitude of 150 meters, extending to the shore of the Caribbean Sea, it is also a unique ecosystem and home to important archeological sites. The Bacunayagua Bridge traverses the valley, a fete of engineering that offers spectacular and unforgettable panoramic views from the mountain ranges, across the lush and verdant valley all the way to the Caribbean Sea.



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Return to Havana

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 5, Havana City

Breakfast at hotel

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

“El Agro de 19 y B” Farmers market

A trip to a Cuban farmers’ market or “agro” as they are referred to by the locals, is often among the most anticipated visits on any trip to Cuba. The tropical fruit and the local vegetables represent the surplus crop after the farmers have fulfilled their quotas, but it is the delectable, natural, purely organic flavor and the variety that impresses most. The farmers’ markets were a great example of the “opening” of the Cuban economic system, a true market of supply and demand where the economic incentives of profit can affect productivity. This is where the Cubans buy their produce and it’s a great way to interact with the locals and get a feeling for what it’s like to live like a Cuban.

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Chef Douglas cooking demonstration (TBD)

This Cuba culinary adventure would not be complete without a meal prepared and cooked by Chef DRod himself! Chef will create a delightfully creative lunch from the ingredients and inspiration gathered throughout the previous days. In Cuba, the term “farm to table” is not so much a treat as it is a way of life and this will prove to be a delectable, unique and exclusive culinary gift from Chef Douglas Rodriguez and Cuba.  Buen provecho!

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“Fusterlandia” - Walking tour of Jaimanitas and visit to Fuster’s studio

Visit the Gaudí-like whimsical park-residence of Cuban painter, printmaker, and ceramicist José Fuster. Fusterlandia, the studio, residence and wild kingdom of José Rodriguez Fuster is how it is better known. Located in the fishing village of Jaimanitas, at the northwestern edge of Havana, the town has changed a lot since Fuster (as everyone here calls him) got to town 30 years ago and set about remaking the neighbourhood in his own image.

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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 6, Havana City

Breakfast at hotel

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

Visit to 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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Lunch at Finca Marta

Enjoy a delicious meal at the first organic farm in Cuba.

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Return to Havana - Free time to stroll Vedado

Free time to stroll Vedado, La Rampa, Craft fair, have some ice cream at Coppelia or just live like a Cuban. If you would rather walk off the calories from your delicious lunch, your guide can drop you on Havana’s Malecon, the seaside avenue that borders the Caribbean Seas through Centro Havana and Vedado. The quintessential sea wall is a gathering place for Cubans from all walks of life. Strolling the Malecon as the waves break on the rocks below, you might hang out on the sea wall with friends and enjoy a cigar or a sip of rum, run into musicians playing to the rhythm of the city and tides, pass a couple in love or a whole bunch of local kids swimming in the pools created waves on the rocks. The Malecon is the city’s artery and the heart of social interaction in Havana and there, you are truly living a Cuban experience like a real “Habanero”.

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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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Day 7, Havana City

Breakfast at hotel

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

Ferry Ride Across Havana Bay to Casa Blanca

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 towns 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 Casablanca or Regla. Most locals who live and/or work in portside towns travel across the harbor on a pedestrian ferry boat which crosses to the landings in Regla and Casablanca all day long at 10 minute intervals.

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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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Drive by El Morro for a photo opportunity

Built on the high rock entrance to the Bay and completed in the early 1600s, El Morro Castle guards the Port of Havana, complete with dungeons, cannons and the iconic lighthouse. Known as “El Morro”, the castle is actually The Castle of the Three Kings, named for the biblical Magi. 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. You will make a brief stop here for photo opportunities of the colonial fort and the magnificent panoramic views of Havana.

 

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A Journey through Cuban Music with Professor Alberto Faya

Experience a rare, intimate encounter with what Cuba is best know for – the music.  There is an old saying, “In Cuba, if you turn over a rock a musician jumps out”. You will take a musical journey through Cuba’s rich and exciting musical history guided by world-renowned and award winning musician and musicologist Alberto FayaFaya, recipient of multiple awards for musical accomplishments, will be joined by a quartet performing authentic Cuban music. Enjoy this magical and interactive experience and feel free to engage the speakers and musicians.

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Classic Car driving tour

Classic Car driving tour - La Rampa, Vedado, Cementerio de Colon, Plaza de la Revolucion, El Bosque, 5ta Avenida and the Malecon. You will be picked up at your hotel  in perfectly restored vintage 1950s convertibles and enjoy an amazing drive tour through some of the most iconic sites in Havana including the most dramatic and opulent cemetery in the Americas, the dramatic staircase of the University of Havana and more of the beautiful Vedado district, exemplary of art deco, art nouveau and modern industrial architecture.

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Farewell Dinner at Rio Mar

Amazingly for a city by the sea Havana has precious few places to eat with a view to the deep blue ocean. Rio Mar has a whole terrace overlooking the Caribbean where the Rio Almendares flows into the sea. This little bay is sheltered but gives you a sense and smell of the ocean without the waves. Considered one of the best restaurants in Havana, the selection of fresh seafood is wonderful and the service is five star.

 

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Day 8, Havana City

Breakfast at 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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Depart Havana for Miami International Airport

Cuba and her people bid you  Adios! Hasta la proxima!

Meet Chef Douglas Rodriguez!

As you may know, I’m a son of Cuban Immigrants, my first visit to Cuba was 2013 I was invited to cook at an Art Festival Biennial. Ten American chefs where paired with Cuban chefs to prepare a dinner, I sincerely can say that this trip changed me. The chefs in Cuba have none of the tools that a chef like us take for granted, limited food resources, limited equipment, no internet access and may other challenges that a Cuban chef can experience on a day to day basis, yet this chef all have a great outlook, I call them true Iron Chefs.

After returning home from this trip I wanted to find a way to help my fellow Cuban chefs and began to organize culinary trips to Cuba. I have been back 13 times since my first trip, meeting culinary Players in Cuba and finally found a way to help my fellow Cuban chefs get some exposures. I have created a culinary exchange event, where we can cook together with a Cuban chefs.

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