Join the Multnomah Athletic Club on a cultural exploration of the isle of Cuba. Enjoy the rhythms of Latin jazz and the beat of hot salsa. Visit the National Museum of Fine Arts and Hemingway haunts. In addition, you’ll stroll through the plazas of Old Havana, enjoy salsa dance lessons, visit colonial villages on Cuba’s south coast and enjoy the music and dance of this once forbidden island nation. This custom “people to people” journey has been specially designed for the MAC traveler who is interested in music, art, history and culture.
Please make sure to arrive in Miami no later than the late afternoon of October 28. We will stay at the Crowne Plaza - which offers a complimentary shuttle service to and from the airport. Note: There will be a group dinner and a group orientation meeting this evening. Sleep in Miami. (D)
Check in for our charter flight (normally a Boeing 737) from Miami to Havana, Cuba After clearing Cuban immigration and customs, you are welcomed by your Cuban National guide holding a MAC sign outside the terminal, who will assist with the transfer to Old Havana (Habana Vieja). There we will have lunch together in the heart of Old Havana. After lunch, our guide will lead us on a stroll through the colorful cobblestone streets of Old Havana. We will check into our hotel later this afternoon and freshen up and relax (with a cool mojito) on the patio in comfy couches overlooking the sea. 7:00PM: Walk to dinner this evening to one of Havana’s best known Paladars (private home restaurants). Sleep in Havana (L, D).
This morning we depart for the Callejon Project which is conducted in collaboration with the community in the Centro Habana municipality. Its aim is to rehabilitate traditional folk culture there, taking into account the spiritual, cultural and material needs of this population. Here we’ll have the chance to visit a private Santeria house. The Santeria religion is a system of beliefs that merges the Yoruba religion (which was brought to the New World by enslaved West Africans sent to the Caribbean to work on sugar plantations) with Roman Catholic and Native American traditions. These Africans carried with them various religious customs, including a trance for communicating with their ancestors and deities, animal sacrifice and sacred drumming and dance. In addition we’ll attend a neighborhood Rumba performance. After lunch we are off to Cuba's National Art Schools (Escuelas Nacionales de Arte, now known as the Instituto Superior de Arte), whose structures are considered by historians to be one of the most outstanding architectural achievements of the Cuban Revolution. These innovative, organic Catalan-vaulted brick and terra-cotta buildings were built on the site of a former country club in the far western Havana suburb of Cubanacán, which used to be Havana's Beverly Hills and was then mainly reserved for Communist Party officials. The schools were conceived and founded by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in 1961, and they reflect the utopian optimism and revolutionary exuberance of the early years of the Cuban Revolution. Over their years of active use, the schools served as the primary incubator for Cuba’s artists, musicians, actors, and dancers. The schools’ design fell out of favor by 1965 and were nearly completely decommissioned until preservation efforts were mounted in force in the 1990’s. Now tentatively on the list of World Heritage sites, they are in use, though still in various states of disrepair. We’ll have dinner together at another wonderful Paladar. Sleep in Havana (B, L, D).
Early birds may wish to soak up the sun and walk along the Malecon before breakfast. Today we will depart for Las Terrazas in ARTEMISA Province, a must see in Cuba and known worldwide for its magnificent scenic beauty. Las Terrazas was founded shortly after the Cuban Revolution in 1959 as a model community, where local farmers, known as campesinos, moved closer together in order to help each other overcome the hardships of sleeping in huts with thatched roofs, of living without electricity and of living without local schools or medical services. Further, Las Terrazas is now part of UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve, much of it reforested coffee plantation. Real reforestation began in the late 1960s by the local farmers (campesinos) who were concerned that their land had been degraded by former French coffee barons. We also will visit the art studio of Lester Campa when he is in residence. Today you’re in for an authentic, country-style Cuban lunch prepared and served outdoors at a local farmhouse near Las Terrazas. En-route back to Havana after lunch we will have the distinct pleasure of visiting Fusterlandia, the home and surrounding neighborhood of The Picasso of the Caribbean, Jose Fuster. Starting with a small wooden home as his canvas, Mr. Fuster has turned his dream into reality and transformed not just his own home but the entire neighborhood into a unique and colorful artistic landscape. Using the money he makes from selling his artwork, Jose adorns the community with sculptures and mosaics galore. Dinner this evening will be at another wonderful paladar. Sleep in Havana (B, L, D).
This morning we're off to visit Finca Vigía where North America's literary giant, Ernest Hemingway, spent twenty-one of his most important and productive years penning building blocks of English literature. Claimed by both the United States and Cuba as their son, it was Hemingway himself who declared the island his true home. Before returning to Havana we will stop by the quaint fishing village of Cojimar, which served as the setting for The Old Man and the Sea. After lunch, we will visit the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts), known for its international and Cuban art. The comprehensive Colección de Arte Cubano comprises three floors of art, spanning works from the 16th to the 20th Centuries by prominent Cuban artists concentrating mostly on pieces from the 20th Century. Across the street from the Fine Arts Museum is the impressive Museum of the Revolution. Sitting outside are the American Jeeps and planes used during the failed Bay of Pigs landing. Also worth noting, the very yacht named Granma that was used to transport 82 fighters of the Cuban and Fidel to the shores of Cuba from Mexico in 1956.
Tour highlight this evening: We behold a most dramatic ceremony – El Cañonazo – the Firing of the 9PM Cannon at the Fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña. This enchanting colonial reenactment dates back to 1519 when the city of Havana was enclosed by a tall, thick rock wall to ward off attacks from pirates and the English. The cannon firing signaled the closing of the city gates for the night. If you were outside at the time, you were in vedado or the forbidden zone. Today, Vedado is an important cultural hub and a beautiful section of modern Havana.
After breakfast, we’ll depart for Cienfuegos province, also known as the Pearl of the South. In Cienfuegos, you’ll see remnants of French-style architecture built by immigrants from Bordeaux. The majority of the city, however, displays 19th-century early Spanish Enlightenment implementation in urban planning and was declared UNESCO heritage for that reason. Upon arrival in Cienfuegos, we’ll take a brief city tour before enjoying lunch at the former Cienfuegos Yacht Club ocean-side restaurant (Club Naútico de Cienfuegos). After lunch, enjoy a special music performance. Later this afternoon, we’ll make the short drive to Trinidad and check into our hotel. There will be time to freshen up before dinner. Enjoy dinner at the hotel. Sleep in Trinidad (B, L, D).
After breakfast, we’ll head off to the stunning and lush Topes de Collante National Park. Boasting caves, rivers, falls, grottos, canyons, and natural pools with crystal clear water, this is a park for nature lovers! There will be time to hike to the gorgeous Caburni Waterfall. Lunch will be at Mi Retiro restaurant. In the afternoon, we’ll have a walking tour of the Old Center of Trinidad and an opportunity to enjoy a dance and music performance by the Ballet Folklorico! Sleep in Trinidad (B, L).
En-route to Havana, we’ll stop in the town of Santa Clara to learn more about one of the 20th century’s most complex and controversial figures, Che Guevara. The Mausoleo Che Guevara (Che Guevara Mausoleum) is a memorial that houses the remains of executed Marxist revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara and twenty-nine of his fellow combatants killed in 1967 during Guevara's attempt to spur an armed uprising in Bolivia. The monument contains a bronze 22-foot statue of Guevara, who was buried with full military honors on 17 October 1997, after his exhumed remains were discovered in Bolivia and returned to Cuba. At the site, there is also a museum dedicated to Guevara's life and an eternal flame lit by Fidel Castro in Che's memory. Santa Clara was chosen as the location in remembrance of Guevara's troops taking the city on December 31, 1958, during the Battle of Santa Clara. This final battle of the Cuban Revolution resulted in Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista fleeing into exile.
Afterwards, we’ll stop and visit a cigar factory to learn why Cuban cigars are thought to be the best around the world! We will arrive back in Havana in the late afternoon and will enjoy one final night on the town and a beautiful farewell dinner (B, L, D).
Today we will transfer to Havana’s Jose Marti Airport, where we'll check in for our flight to Miami. (Charter flight time TBA) (B).