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Discovering the Heartbeat of Cuba

Timeless Journey: ’58 Chevy, cruising down memory lane

Cuba is almost impossible to explain. 

It is both beautiful and decaying, rich in history, tradition, potential and oh so poor and limited. 

Jan, who had always dreamed of experiencing Cuba’s unique blend of culture and history, and I fell in love with the country almost immediately. 

Nestled in the classic embrace of a ’58 Chevy, we’re transported back to the magic of our first encounter

This instant connection was made all the more profound thanks to Valentina, our unparalleled guide, and Luis Manuel, our driver whose few words were far outnumbered by his quick smiles. 

Our driver, Bennie and his 58 Chevy….It purred!

Their care and hospitality were a reflection of the warm encounters we had with many other Cubans throughout our journey. 

For those seeking a place that truly makes you feel welcomed and cared for, Cuba is your destination.

Our adventure began with an extraordinary experience—a cooking class at the Ajiaco Restaurant. 

Capturing the essence of culinary artistry

 

In the heat of the kitchen, the chefs from Ajiaco Restaurant
Absorbing the traditional Cuban culinary techniques

 

Not only did we dive into the culinary arts under the guidance of the chefs, but we also learned the art of mixology, crafting an authentic mojito at the bar. 

Crafting an authentic mojito

Chef Daniel introduced us to “Baby,” the Cuban rum traditionally offered to the ground as a tribute to the ancestors before any culinary endeavor. 

He then led us through the fiery dance of sautéing onions, bell peppers, and garlic, the flames licking ever closer to our hands, a test of courage and skill punctuated by Daniel’s infectious laughter. 

The grand finale involved flambéing our dish with “Baby,” the flames soaring high into the air—a spectacle of fire and flavor that seemed a world away from the safety regulations back in the states.

Masterfully pouring “Baby” into a fiery sauté

Despite our active participation, it was the traditional Ajiaco soup that captured our hearts—a dish we had no hand in making but thoroughly enjoyed. 

Traditional Ajiaco soup

This delicious soup, made with squash, taro, plantain, sweet potato, corn, and yucca, and seasoned with a symphony of flavors including onion, bell pepper, garlic, cilantro, and the unique guascas, offered a taste of Cuba’s rich culinary heritage. 

The raw essence of Ajiaco soup

Guascas, with its savory and minty notes, added a distinctive flavor to the dish, which we savored as a major rainstorm provided a natural backdrop, the sound of raindrops mingling with our culinary delights.

The first day’s exploration didn’t end there; it also included a guided tour of Havana’s art museum, earning enthusiastic approval from both of us, a visit to Hemingway’s beloved fishing village, and a scenic ride around Miramar, showcasing early 20th-century American architectural influence. 

The Ernest Hemingway Monument, a tribute to a literary giant

After a tranquil dinner at a Parador next to Casa Brava, our cozy lodging in the Vedado district, Luis Manuel whisked us away to the National Hotel for a musical journey through Cuba’s history. The National hotel is also an important part of history since it is where Lucky Luciano and Myers Lansky met to set up mob business in the 50’s!

Inside the National Hotel of Cuba, where history’s melodies meet the rhythm of today
Cuba’s vibrant past to dynamic present

Despite the long day, the vibrant singing, dancing, and dazzling colors left us rejuvenated and awestruck.

Cuba revealed its contrasts and complexities, its vibrant spirit and rich cultural tapestry, leaving us with an indelible impression. “Wow,” we thought, “this is just the beginning.” 

Jan’s long-held dream was unfolding beautifully, each moment in Cuba weaving into the tapestry of an unforgettable adventure.

Chef at Cafe Laurent in Havana
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11 Responses

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I understand that Cuba’s political system may raise concerns for some visitors. My intention in writing about my visit was to share my personal experience and observations, without engaging in political debates. Each person’s perspective on travel and engagement with different cultures is unique, and I respect your viewpoint.

  1. Reading your post makes me recall my own first visit to Cuba. We are all so glad you enjoyed your time there. I hope you plan to post more about your trip. All of us are dying to hear more about it.
    Warm regards from the insightCuba team!

    1. There is no way to describe our trip in one blog. The difficult part is filtering all the many, life changing experiences in Cuba. More to come!

  2. WOW!
    Thank you for sharing this incredible experience. Reading – I was transported to Cuba along side you Both! Thank you. 🙏🏽💗🍷

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