WEEKLY WANDERER: JESS DOES CUBA!

Jess 2 (1)

 

tell us A Little about your time in CUBA 

I did a 15-day tour with a UK based company called Explore Worldwide. The tour was a small group of 18 predominantly UK travellers. We had two local guides and a local bus driver. This in itself added to the experience. I chose the tour because it covered most of Cuba. Key places visited were Havana, Trinidad, Topes de Collantes, Camaguey, Bartolome Muso, Santiago, Santa Clara and Vinales. We travelled by bus but it was broken up by different stops.

The tour was a great balance of bigger / touristy cities, coupled with the untouched smaller towns and time even spent trekking in the mountains.

 

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Jess’ Favourite places

 Trinidad – A UNESCO World Heritage town. This place was beautiful. Cobble stoned streets, coupled with bright coloured colonial architecture. Our time in Trinidad was spent staying at a Casa de Particular. This is a great way to see how locals live. I highly recommend staying in Casa’s rather than hotels. For me Trinidad was all about the musica! We did a salsa lesson while here. We got to try it all out at the Casa de la Musica and Casa de la Trova. Cuba is all about music and dancing. It really is in their blood. Everywhere you go there is live music. It is amazing – a key highlight.

 

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Vinales – Vinales was spectacular, it was a small raval town surrounded by mountain ranges that were formed by the erosion of limestone over a million years ago. Known as ‘Mogoles’ which translates to ‘Haystacks’ this region is famous for Tabaco crops. Cuban cigars are a famous Cuban product that is exported worldwide. While in Vinales we visited a local farmer’s ranch where we learnt about local Tabaco production. Interestingly, it is a lengthy process from soil preparation to harvestry and takes around nine months. We were told that the Tabacco needs to dry for four months. Fermentation then occurs which is where each farmer adds their flavours such as rum, vanilla and cinnamon. Every farmer has their own recipe. All in all I loved Vinales. It was a picturesque town and a look at the real Cuba.

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BEST THING JESS SAW

Sierra Maestra is Cuba’s largest mountain range. We trekked through the rainforest to La Comandancia de le Plata to the Revolutionares headquarters. The rebel headquarters is where Fidel Castro and Che Guevara took refuge for two years until Batista fled Cuba in 1959. Fidel strategically chose this area as rebel headquarters. It was secluded and covered in vegetation which was to the advantage of the rebel army. Seeing this with my own eyes was fascinating and a highlight of the trip.

 

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Most unexpected thing jess did and loved

Two days of the trip were spent at Topes De Collantes. We left Trinidad and were picked up in an old military style truck. We arrived at the park entrance and met our local guide to commence our 8km trek to our accommodation. That night we were staying in a Hacienda. The walk was beautiful. Of course there were some interesting times. Trekking in torrential rain made for some pretty funny slips and trips. The trek was broken up by a swim in an open cave. The walk was amazing. At the time it felt like we were never going to make the accommodation. We were all pleased to make it to the Hacienda, drenched and all. The Hacienda was a beautiful house up in the mountains surrounded by lush rainforest. That evening after a home cooked meal, salsa dancing and a game of dominoes we ended a great day by sleeping on the verandah of the Hacienda, in the fresh mountain air and peace and quiet. This day was really an experience to remember; unexpected, but amazing.

 

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Foods to try

If you’re like me, then food is always a memorable part of any trip. If you’re after a ‘foodie’ destination, then Cuba is not the place for you. Cubans make do with what they have. Imports of certain foods are restricted as a result of the embargo. Spices are limited and there is a lack of variety of food. After two weeks in Cuba I was almost certain what I would be eating everyday. Typically every meal starts with a soup. Main is either fish, pork or chicken served with rice and beans. The sides are always planation chips and a salad consisting of cabbage, avocado, tomato and cucumber.

Dessert is always fruit although one night we had a cheese and fruit puree. Cuba is a sugar producing country yet dessert was pretty much non-existent – go figure!

Some of the best meals we ate were in Paladars which were legalised by the state in the 1990’s. Paladars give you the chance to sample home cooking in someone’s house that has been turned into a makeshift restaurant.

As for beverages, Cuba is all about RUM! Havana Club was consumed daily, every place we went we were greeted with a welcome drink. Rum is definitely the drink of choice. We got to try a variety of cocktails the famous ones Mojitos, Cuban Libre and Cuban special. As a beer drinker, choices were limited between Cristal and Bucanero. Although the food was not a highlight, don’t let that turn you off. As a ‘foodie’ I wasn’t overly impressed with the food but it was an important part of the Cuban experience and the beautiful scenery trumps it all!

 

jess’ Top 3 Must Do’s

1. See live music and salsa, salsa, salsa! Take a lesson and dance like a local – or at least try to!

2. Immerse yourself in the rich history. Cuba’s revolutionary heritage is fascinating. Visiting the revolutionary sites is a must. If you get a chance go to Sierra Maestra, visit the Che Guevara memorial in Santa Clara and Santiago Plaza de la Revolution.

3. Wander the streets of Old Havana, Trinidad and Vinales. The bright coloured architecture with vintage cars is what Cuba is all about.

I absolutely loved Cuba. It met all of my expectations and then some. If you’re after a destination that produces a rich history, vibrant atmospheric towns, music and stunning scenery, then Cuba is for you!

 

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you.theworld.wandering would like to thank Jess (right) for sharing her awesome travel adventures with our readers!

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