I am madly in love with the world. All I want to do is embrace it. I just want to shout it out all of the time- I LOVE THE WORLD! I jump up and down and scream and smile until my face hurts each time I book a trip or leave for a trip. The world keeps me alive. Even when I am heading on my next destination I am already thinking about the one after that. The best trips never end. If I start looking at a world map I am in trouble because my brain wanders off to a million possible adventures. I get excited to plan trip itineraries for myself and anyone else who is traveling. As long as my passport is involved I am a happy girl. The world is the love of my life and has been for many years. I want to know every secret, every place and every scene. I am a curious individual who loves to explore. I have the strong desire to fill up my passport and to create the best memories. Everything about me is travel related. Everyone who knows me knows I love to travel and talk about travel. This is one of the many reasons I love writing this travel blog so much. I think about travel all of the time. I can never be sick of it. Actually, I think I would be sick without it.
1- Plaza de Catedral & Plaza de Armas- beautiful cobble stone squares and architecture to admire. Great book stands and places to buy antiques.
2- Plaza de San Francisco de Asis-great religious museum housed in an old convent in this square and it is enjoyable to view the details of the buildings in this square.
3- The Malecon is a beach front promendade. People walk along the Malecon and hang out along the water’s edge. It is breathtaking to view the spectacular water and see the locals enjoying each other and their surroundings. As you sit along the Malecon you can stare at crumbling baroque buildings and imagine what they must have looked like at their prime.
4- Los Presidentes Avenue and Plaza de la Revolucion- Revolution Square which is the site of many rallies led by Fidel Castro.
5- Finca Vigia or “lookout house” is a few miles east of Havana. It is where you can visit the home of Ernest Hemingway. At this home is where Hemingway is said to have wrote two of his most well known novels- For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.
6- The beaches in Cuba are long with white sand and one of the country’s greatest assets. The town of Varadero is situated on the Playa Azul. It is one of Cuba’s top resort areas. Mansion Xanadu is a must see and if possible stay for lunch. The views are breathtaking.
7- Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes [Fine Arts Museum]- it is housed in two buildings that display cuban art and international art. Some of my favorite pieces include the Cathedral of Havana by Fabelo, “kidnapping of the mulattos” 1938 by Carlos Enriquez who was influenced by Friedo Coelho, “el tercer mundo” 1965-66 by Wilfredo Lam who was influenced by Pablo Picasso and his work reflects Afro Cuban culture. Enriquez was able to introduce ideas in Cuban religious society. His use of colors helps to enhance meaning. For example, green to depict woods and open spaces in which people need to live in order to display energy. Picasso said, “I had to travel to Africa to know about the beauty, but you had all the ingredients in the Cuban society.”
8- Art neighborhood- Jose Fuster’s Home is a magical place. This artist has transformed his house and neighborhood into a beautiful homage to famous Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi.
9- Tropicana- a fixture of Havana’s night scene. It opened in 1939. It is a Vegas style cabaret show that has more than 200 performers including showgirls and amazing gymnasts.
10-Vintage cars- one of the most iconic symbols of Cuba is the classic car. Time seems to have stood still for five decades on Cuban roads. Roughly one in every eight cars dates back to before the revolution. Most are American classics from the 1950’s. The majority of these old cars can be found in Havana. Some of the vintage autos you will see include 1955 Chevrolet bel air, 1958 Edsel Corsair, 1951 Pontiac Chieftain, and 1950 Studebaker Champion just to name a few.
"Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today."
Traveler’s Notebook- a few quick tips useful to know before traveling to Cuba!
Passport & Visa: Valid Passport & People to People Visa
Currency: Cuban Peso
Shopping: Rum, Cigars & Wooden Sculptures
What to watch: Buena Vista Social Club & Fidel
What to read: Paradiso
What to bring: Small gifts for your hosts
What to eat: Ropa Vieja & Cuban pastries
“Cool means being able to hang with yourself.” – Prince
Cuba has recently increased its tourism. I traveled to Cuba solo during my spring break from school in April on a People to People Visa. As US- Cuba relations develop travel rules will change, but for now you must align to a cultural exchange tour which satisfies the educational category of the People to People Travel led by tour operators licensed for Cuba travel. This specific visa includes cultural activities and lectures as well as visits to schools, artists’ studios and cooperatives.
The country’s attractions include hundreds of miles of coastline, mountains to hike, lively cultural traditions like salsa music and dance, colonial architecture and a warm reception by the people. Cuba is the Caribbean’s largest island and is a land of beauty and amazing contrasts. It offers a diverse terrain with beautiful beaches, seas, valleys and mountains. The country’s population is a combination of Spanish, African and indigenous people. Jose Marti is their national hero. He was a leading Latin American poet and journalist in the 19th century. Marti led the independence movement and he wrote profusely about cause of social justice, pan Americanism and liberty. Steeped in history, this Communist nation is a time warp and is full of colonial buildings, pre- revolutionary 1950’s cars, and rural villages. Traveling to Cuba is not for everyone. You must have a desire to learn and interact with locals. I think a love for history is essential and an open mind is required to visit this beautiful island. Cuba is full of hidden gems and every traveler must be flexible with their time and plan of action while in Cuba. The country has a lot to offers its visitors and for me it was a history teacher’s dream to spend time in such an interesting place. It is the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.
The largest and complete colonial complex in the Americas can be found in Habana Vieja, Havana. It is the most classic and touristy city in Cuba. Havana is a European city in a tropical setting. Just like me it has a historic heart. Old Havana was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. It is the highlight of the capital city and at one time was the wealthiest city of the New World. It has almost 1000 buildings of historical importance and is an intimate location. As you walk the streets you will marvel at the spectacular colonial baroque architecture. It is full of street life and extraordinary castles, cathedrals and palaces. It is hopeful to see and learn about an ongoing restoration program that is transforming some of the finest structures the area has to offer. As you walk down the cobbled stone streets and visits the plazas you get a sense of the old colonial charm and think what this must have been like long ago and you may also worry what is going to happen to it as we move forward into the future with more tourism and visitors. History is more than just facts, dates and timelines and takes on many forms.
When you travel you become enlightened by varying stories of the people and culture you embrace while abroad which leaves you with questions and yearning to know more about that way of life or place you are absorbing. I love that travel connects you to people and I believe people are capable at anytime in their lives of doing what they dream of. While traveling on my own in Cuba I met some of the greatest people who were receptive to learning about me as much as I wanted to learn about them. I was also blessed to meet some similar minded Americans to share in this once in a lifetime experience with me. A good analogy I learned about Cuba- US relations while listening to a lecture from a former Cuban diplomat is to think of the situation as Romeo & Juliet by Shakespeare. The politics of the families hate each other, but the individuals love each other. I have already been infected with the travel bug, but now I have been bit by the Cuban travel bug. I cannot wait to return and explore more of this fantastic island. I look forward to spending more time with the friendly Cuban people and absorbing more of their beautiful culture and history.
I am a high school Social Studies teacher and have been teaching since 2002. My passion in life is to teach, travel and be happy. I feel that I am married to the world and my passport is my baby. Education is essential in life, but there is an abundance of knowledge that is unattainable in a classroom and some that you can only receive from experiencing the world around you. I believe the more you wander the more you wonder. Everytime I have been to another country I come back home a slightly different and better version of myself. I feel that when I travel I come alive. I gain a greater understanding of the culture and history I am involved with during my travels that builds a deeper appreciation in my heart for what I have and where I live.