To my fellow rum fans – there is a magical place on the winding streets of Havana that we can call home. It’s the Havana Club Museum, a cultural casa dedicated to the nation’s best known alcoholic export. Havana Club has been my preferred liquor for a few years now, but it wasn’t until my trip to Cuba last autumn that I really considered it’s origins or production – and while you cannot visit the rum distillery itself (I drove past this industrial beast on my journey from Varadero to Havana Airport), you can hear the story of the brand and learn a thing or too about the rum aging process. the most interesting part for me was the miniature models of the sugar cane plantation with working train and infrastructure. The guide takes you around and up through the museum, enabling you to get a look at this impressive model from different angles.
One of the most unusual experiences when visiting Cuba’s the lack of advertising – it’s something you don’t consciously think about at home, but once you hit the sun soaked streets it’s noticeably absent. There are no flyers on lampposts, or even jingles over the radio in taxis. Instead, the only disruption you may see to the authentic Cuban vistas are messages from the government, often in the form of propaganda murals. It’s safe to say Cuba has more Che Guevara stencils than all the bedrooms of teenage boys combined. In this post I’ve included some examples of these public propaganda symbols from my travels through the country.
Cienfuegos is a city in Cuba with a rich a vibrant past – t’s centre is an UNESCO World Heritage Site undergoing rejuvenation to meet the floods of tour buses. The crowds are descending daily to admire the powder blue and crisp white french neo-classical buildings, unique in splendor and scale within the Caribbean and Latin America. But it’s the southern neighborhood of Punta Gorda which got me excited – 15 minutes away from the heart of the city and down the wind-swept and palm tree-lined malecon, it’s a unique ecosystem of 1940s & 50s architecture epitomizes the excesses which catalyzed the country into the revolution.
From quad biking in Cappadocia to Camel Trekking in Morocco, whenever possible I like to try a new activity when travelling. In Cuba, horses are everywhere – a symptom of spanish colonialism suspended by the socialist economy. The town of Trinidad is home to roads lined with rainbow coloured houses where the sound of hooves hitting cobbles fills the air. With cowboys roaming the streets, I was easily tempted into trying horse riding properly for the first time.
The term Malecón is used throughout the spanish speaking world, but it’s in Cuba’s capital of Havana where the word is truly part of the local heartbeat. The 8km coastal esplanade is quintessentially Cubano – one moment the sun will be high with the pavement scorching under foot and wheel, the next waves will be crashing over the barriers blasting the neo-classical facades with the full strength of the Caribbean. Havana is temperamental, unpredictable, thrilling and exhausting all at once.