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Where Should I Go in Cuba?

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Hello,

After about a year’s worth of pondering, I finally decided that I want to go to Cuba very soon. This year I need to flush any crazy traveling out of my system, so going to Cuba is conducive to that. So, I just need input from everyone regarding where I should visit. If you don’t already know, I am predominately interested in city, town and/or sometimes village architecture and sightseeing (basically beautiful and historic buildings all over the place with charming side streets, good ambiance and etc.).

The places that have caught my eye are Santiago, Trinidad, Havana, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, Matanzas, Baracoa and Remedios. Based on my interests, please tell me which of these places you would recommend and which ones you would discourage. Furthermore, if you think there is an additional place that I would like-again, based on my interests-then please let me know.

Thank you for your help,
Greekness

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    Hola Greekness2004

    You don't say how long you plan to be in Cuba for but for sure I wouldn't miss Havana and Trinidad.

    You can easily plan on spending 3 to 5 days in Havana and that will only scratch the surface. I've spent weeks wandering about the city and am always discovering new sights and experiences.

    You can get a little idea of what to see from my website at....

    http://photopilot.tripod.com

    Another town that is a MUST SEE is the colonial era town of Trinidad on the south coast. It's about a 5 hour bus ride from Havana and again, depending on how many of the museums you actually want to walk through, it can take you a few days easily.

    You can get a pictorial idea of this town from my last trip there between Christmas and New Years. I spend 5 days in Trinidad and these are some of the highlights. Copy the whole link into a browser window.

    http://photobucket.com/albums/y55/Steve_YYZ/Trinidad-1/?action=view&slideshow=true&interval=6

    Santa Clara is where the Che museum is located and the other cities on you list I haven't visited.... YET!

    Oh, and here's what I call my BIG LIST of things to see and do in Havana and also some places to eat. Note that in addition to this eating list, there are also many Paladares or private restaurants that also offer good food.

    ==============================

    WOW!!! Havana and what to do?

    Here in no particular order are some of my favourites. You can't possibly do the whole list in one day, but it might give you some ideas of where to start.

    1) Plaza Revolution and Jose Marti monument and museum. View from top is great. Postal Museum is right around the corner as well if you like stamps.
    2) Coppelia for Icecream at top of La Rampa. (Calle 23 esq. a L, Vedado.) 30,000 a day are served. Cubans love icecream.
    3) Parisienne Cabaret (at Hotel Nacional) for show, or Tropicana Club for dinner show.
    4) Muesum of the Revolution (Just down the street from Parque Central on Ave. Agramonte (Zulueta)
    5) Calle Obispo. Very bohemian with lots of galleries, shops, cafe's. Just around the from Parque Central and the Capitolo.
    6) La Floridita Bar for Daquiri (just at Parque Central and Calle Obispo)
    7)Cathedral Square.
    8)La Bodeguita del Medio for a Mojito. Just around the corner from Cathedral Square.
    9)Plaza Armas for Sunday bookfair (if it fits your schedule)
    10)Free Market (hard currency) on Tacon in Parque Cespedes, at the waterfront just behind Castillo la Real Fuerza for hand made souvenirs.
    11) El Morro Castle. Canon firing at 9:00 p.m. ceremony. Make sure to climb Faro (the lighthouse) for a fabulous view across the harbour at old Havana.
    12)Bocoy Rum factory (Fábrica de ron Bocoy, Calzada del Cerro No. 1417, Cerro) or the Havana Club Fundacion Outlet (San Pedro y Sol, Ave. del Puerto #262) Here's the link to the Havana Club Fundacion website.
    http://www.havanaclubfoundation.com/en/default.asp
    13) Plaza Vieja at the bottom of San Ignacio for the tremendous architecture and also there's a microbrewery in the southwest corner.
    14) Museo de la Revolucion, Calle Refugio #1, Habana Vieja.
    15) Hemmingway Marina
    16) The Capitolo. 3rd largest indoor statue in the world inside under the dome.
    17) All the rest of Habana Vieja (Old Havana) right in your neighbourhood.
    18) Chinatown. Just to the west of the Capitolo by a few blocks. Walkable distance on Dragones at the south end of the Capitolo.
    19) Castillo Real Fuerza. Right off Plaza Armas and very nice to walk through.
    20) The Malecon. Oceanfront drive that is very popular for strolling along the seawall.
    21) University of Havana (up near la Rampa and Coppelia)
    22) Cemetary Colon. Many mausoleums and artistic graves. Very historic. Near Plaza Revolution.
    23) Parque Lenin and Las Ruinas for lunch. Very pretty.
    24) Partagas Cigar Factory (Casa del Habano Partagas, Industria No. 320) Phone 537-33-8060 Tours every 15 min, 9:30-11:00 and 12:00-3:00

    So that's my basic starting list. In addition in Old Havana there are many galleries, museums of various types and it's nice to sit in one of the many small cafes and just soak up the ambience, a cold beer, and listen to some great music. Usually a combo, trio or quartet. For me personally that is the real soul of Habana... it's music.

    For shopping and souvenirs, there are several places that are almost a must see/do.
    There are many small shops along Calle Obispo in Old Havana that have some nice stuff. Also in Parque Cespedes located between Av. del Puerto and Tacon (right behind Castillo de la Real Fuerza) is an Artisan Market where lots of handmade handicrafts and stuff is available. It's also a neat place to just wander about. Keep an eye out in this park for the guys that husk/slice and open fresh coconuts for the tourists. A fresh coconut and a straw is a nice refreshing drink. Not too many as fresh coconut milk can upset your GI system.

    There is also another craft market located on the Malecon (shoreline drive) between the Hotel Nacional and the Melia Cohiba Hotel. I walked the full length of the Malecon and this craft market is on the south side between E and F. For regular shopping in a Cuban version of a shopping mall, there is the Galeria Paseo located at Av Paseo & the Malecon (across the street from the Melia Cohiba.
    Another Galeria is located on the south side of Av Salvador Allende between Calzada de Infanta y Oquendo. You can walk to it from the Capitolo quite easily in about 20 minutes by walking up Av Simon Bolivar.

    To orient yourself, here is a good map site for Cuba.
    http://www.cubaroutes.com
    Select the City of Havana map on the left & when that opens select List all Places in City of Havana on the right hand side. You can check the boxes for Accommodation, attractions etc. Will give you a good map showing where stuff is located. Zoom the map in closer for a better look.
    Here is the site of INFOTOUR, the City of Havana Tourist Office. Good info and there's a map showing the location of their stores in Havana. A good place to get maps, info etc., once you are actually in Havana.
    http://www.infotur.cu/index.html

    And what's Havana without EATING. So here's my favourite list of good places to eat.

    1) EL ALJIBE in Miramar (Calle 7ma. e/ 24 y 26, Miramar. Playa. Ciudad de La Habana Phone:(53 7) 204-1583 · 204-1584) offers a great house specialty, Lemon Chicken. Grand and not too pricey at $12. Good wine selection as well. El Aljibe is popular with the Cubans and I've always enjoyed eating there. It's one of my "Must Eat" places everytime I am in Havana.

    2) EL FLORIDITA in Habana Vieja serves the absolute BEST frozen daquiri imaginable. But at $6.00 per drink it is a little pricey. But that's the bar and drink made famous by Hemmingway and there's lots of photos of Papa Hemingway on the walls (with Fidel no less). Food is pretty good as well, but I've only eaten in the bar section, not the dining room.

    3) EL PATIO in Plaza de la Catedral is also great. You can dine inside or outside in the square under unbrellas. I prefer the outside because the music isn't quite as loud, and I simply love to soak up the atmosphere in the Plaza. Service can be a bit slow however. I often stop here for lunch (Sandwich Cubano) with a cold Crystal Beer. Very nice.

    4) LA BODEGUITA DEL MEDIO
    If you are in Havana and want a great Mojito at the legendary bar made famous by Ernest Hemmingway, then you have to have a drink at The Bodeguita Del Medio, Empedrado 207, Habana Vieja (Old Havana). Comida Criolla y Mojitos (Native food and Mojitos), what a great place to eat and drink. Located just around the corner from Cathedral Square. The walls are covered with signatures of its patrons from the day it opened. Famous signatures such as Hemmingway's and Salvadore Allende's are protected under glass. No visit to Havana is complete without a Mojito at la Bodeguita.

    5) LA DIVINA PASTORA. Parque Histórico Militar Morro-Cabaña. Tucked into the berth of the sailing ship El Galeón at the foot of El Morro Castle, it is a good spot for dinner after the cañonazo (cannon blast) at La Cabaña. I took my girlfriend here and the atmosphere is terrific. Soft breeze, soft music and soft lips. What a treat. Very romantic spot with the lights of the harbor glimmering. The food is good too. Not a place where you have paid for the view and get substandard fare. Worth every penny, though it does take quite a few of them. If you only have one night and want to make it special, then this is the place to go.
    Also, right alongside La Divina Pastoria is a small annex bar called BAR EL MIRADOR which also offers terrific city views and the same menu as the main restaurant next door. A breezy terrace makes it one of Havana's romantic getaways. Standard criollo dishes -- plátanos a puñetazos, frijoles negros, ropa vieja -- are available along with international specialties.

    6) AMELIA - Also in Miramar suburb in the Miramar Trade Center directly across the street from the Melia Habana Hotel. (Calle 3ra. e/ 78 y 80, Miramar. Playa. Ciudad de La Habana) Classy dining but won't break the budget. I've eaten there three times and have always enjoyed it and felt I received value for the money.

    7) La TERRAZA - which is an outdoor patio/grill at the Melia Habana Hotel which I had a very nice steak dinner at. Also their fish was good the night I ate there.

    8) Cafe La MINA - Calle Obispo No. 106 esq. a Oficios, right at the edge of Plaza de Armas at the corner of Oficios. Excellent food and a reasonable wine list. There's a nice Cuban Chardonnay called San Cristobal that is quite enjoyable at $14 / btl. You can eat outside and watch the world pass by, or for a more intimate dining experience, the central patio courtyard with it's lush vegitation is a nice spot. The food is great and dinner for two including a nice bottle of wine and dessert will set you back about $50.

    9) DULCERIA DONA TERESA - Also on Calle Obispo just north of Plaza Armas. Good food and here is where I usually have a nice sandwich Cubano for lunch and a cold beer. They also have good hearty chicken soup that I have enjoyed. Outdoor patio area only.

    To the west of the Capitolo on Ave. Dragones is a small China Town. Not bad actually. I wandered around and ate at a place that looked nice. Sorry, didn't note the name.

    Also, in the Miramar suburb just about opposite the El Aljibe (and near the Canadian Embassy is a place called Sandwichteria (not sure of exact spelling) which is a very cheap place to eat. Sort of a cross between a sub-shop/burger stand/ice-cream parlor where you can eat cheap but good. Six of us ate there (3 adults, 3 kids) and got out for less than $30 US. It's very popular with the local Cubans so its also a fun place to eat. Very informal.

    You must think all I do is eat, but it is a great hobby. In my trips I have found some nice spots and plan to spend more time just relaxing and absorbing the atmosphere.

    Have fun and FORGET THE DIET...... ha, ha, ha.

    I've been to Havana many times and still have lots more to see.

    Hope you enjoy yourselves and have a Mojito for me.

    Steve

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