Exploring Havana

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The island once named “the Pearl of the Caribbean,” and at one time the playground of America’s wealthy, the movie stars and the gangsters that adored them, the city of Havana is still a marvel.  It is one of the most cultured cities in Latin America and the Caribbean, outstanding for its architecture, art and music scene.  It’s busy, bustling.  It’s still got the rhythm and the beat of that old world Latin flair.  Exploring Havana you’ll find a dynamic city full of art, culture, history, still enchanting and well worth a visit.

Nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, Americans can still visit Havana whether through a government sponsored visa, or through countries such as Canada, Mexico or Costa Rica.  The border controls do not stamp passports, so don’t bring back any souvenirs which show you’ve visited the forbidden fruit called Cuba.

If you don’t feel like going overseas this winter but still want a vacation which combines the resort atmosphere with a little European flair, try a one week all inclusive to Varadero, Cuba. Look for vacation packages which include both a Varadero resort and two days in the city of Havana.  If you book an all inclusive vacation to Varadero, it is possible to book your own tour to Havana or hire a private taxi to drive you there.

Top 12 Things to do Exploring Havana:

1) Hero of both America and Cuba, take an Ernest Hemingway tour where you’ll visit La Vigía Farmhouse where he lived with one of his wives. The house is now a museum and a monument to Hemingway. The tour will take you to Cojimar, a fisherman village where Hemingway was inspired to write “The Old Man and the Sea.” Hemingway loved his drink and the Ernest Hemingway tour will also include visits to his favorite bars, Terraza de Cojímar, La Bodeguita del Medio and the Floridita.

2) Enjoy a night of 1950’s style song and dance by the famous dancers of the cabaret at the Hotel Nacional in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana.  Dinner and drinks can be enjoyed while watching the performance.  Definitely a worthy night out.

3) Hop on and off the big bus tour to get a great overview of the city of Havana.  Catch the bus opposite the Hotel Inglaterra.

4) Enjoy fine dining at the beautiful Anacaona Restaurant in the 5 star Hotel Saratoga.  The Anacaona was once famous for its all-women orchestra in the 1950s. Too bad they didn’t hire another all-women band to continue the tradition and history.

5) Take an Art tour.  Start off at the Cuban Fine Arts Museum.  Cuba not only produces too many doctors but also produces a large number of artists many of which have achieved world fame.  Cuba’s art scene is dynamic and if you can afford it – buy some Cuban art.

6) Interested in history?  Tour el Morro Castle – the oldest fortress in the Americas – on the shores of Havana at one end of the
Malecón.

7) Interested in seeing the place where the Cuban people went to listen to Castro?  Visit Revolution Square, otherwise known as Plaza de la Revolución.  This can be seen on a bus tour of Havana.  Stop off here to take some pictures.  Hop on the next bus which comes and go on to the next tourist attraction in Havana.

8) Drink a cool Mojito with fresh mint on the terrace of the Hotel Inglaterra and listen to live Cuban music when various Cuban musicians come round to play.

9) Take a horse carriage tour of Havana.  Your carriage driver will show you the sights and the history of Havana.

10) See how Cubans enjoy their leisure time, living by the sea.  Take a pleasant stroll along the Malecón during the day.  Children swim, men fish, lovers walk, musicians play music.

11) Visit the Capitolio, just down the street from the Hotel Saratoga.  The Capitolio is the national capital building, once the seat of government and a splendid example of neo-classical architecture.  Check to see if it is closed for renovations, but if open, do visit.

12) Write your name on the wall at the famous La Bogedita del Medio, another Hemingway haunt he frequented during his life in Cuba. Great food can be had here, so do stay at this lively restaurant for lunch or dinner.

Can senior travelers explore Havana? Yes of course.  It’s safe, easy to tour, a few sidewalks watch out for little potholes, has many great hotels, tour companies.  Only advice:  watch out for tourist scams and you’ll be fine.

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Havana, constantly re-building itself is a massive collection of resplendent architecture. The history of Cuba and Havana lends this “pearl in the Caribbean” both old world charm and Latin vibrancy.