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Cuba - your advice requested please.

Old Feb 7th, 2003, 08:12 AM
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Cuba - your advice requested please.

I'd like your wonderful advice please!

My sister and her girl friend are planning a two week trip from 17 May.

Their choices right now are Cuba, Vietnam or South Africa.

They are looking for somewhere not too expensive.

They want to arrive, have hotel booked for first few days and then go free.

They'd like to know about weather etc in different areas of the country at this time of year. Also whether it will be very crowded.

They'd also like ideas for itinerary and tips on what to include.

Thnks for all you can give me on Cuba to pass on to them.
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Old Feb 7th, 2003, 09:57 AM
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Kavey, I'll be in Cuba with a group from my University during the last two weeks of May. I've never been there before, but have been searching a lot of sites for information. One of the best I've seen yet is:

http://lanic.utexas.edu/la/cb/cuba/
This site lists links to any and everything in Cuba.

My group will be traveling to and staying in five different towns around the country. We're on a budget, so if your sister and friend decide on Cuba, I'll send along the information on where we'll be staying. It will be a good starting point for them. Fodor's has a good current Cuba travel guide, which lists many good itineraries.
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Old Feb 7th, 2003, 11:36 AM
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You'll have to pardon me for saying so, but I somewhat doubt the validity of your request. You don't state where your friends are travelling FROM so with such diverse world locations your statement about somewhere not too expensive is somewhat ambiguous. Assuming you are from the US, then Cuba would be cheap to get to, while Vietnam or South Africa would cost considerably more just for the airfare alone. Not to mention the minimum of 24 hour travel time to Vietnam or S. Africa.

What ages are your sister and her friend. This will also vary what they might find interesting.

None of the countries listed will have much differing weather in various locales in the individual country. However each will be in a totally different climate because of their location on various world hemispheres. May is early winter in South Africa while it would be tropical early summer in Cuba.

I sincerely hope I am wrong in my thoughts about your request, and to that end, here are some links that will provide you with much info on Cuba and the wonderful things to do and see there.

Steve

http://www.1click2cuba.com/menu.html
- General Cuban info and links

http://www.cayolargodelsur.cu/
- info on Cayo Largo

http://www.aduana.islagrande.cu/
- cuban customs site

www.havana-rentals.com
- Casa Particulars to rent in Havana

Other sites.
www.cubalinda.com
http://www.salsadancecuba.org/
http://www.netssa.com/flydrive.html
http://www.cuba.cu/
http://www.gocuba.ca/eng/index.asp


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Old Feb 7th, 2003, 02:18 PM
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Kathleen, thanks very much. They are hoping to travel on a tight budget so your advice would be very very helpful. My email is [email protected] and anything you can offer would be great. Thank you.

Canuck Steve. You doubt the validity of my request just because it doesn't include the information that think it should? How odd! I think your troll detector is set too high!

I didnt mention starting point because flight costs are easy for us to check and I was more interested in budget (and other info) relating to the time spent AT the destination not getting to it.

For your information, we are in London, England. She's 28 and they are on a reasonably tight but not backpacker tight budget.

The list is diverse purely because, as with most people who love travelling, both have travelled reasonably extensively and therefore their wish lists are quite mismatched. These three destinations are ones they both want to visit.

Sister is perfectly capable of researching trip on her own but since she is working all hours and then some and I have more free time, I volunteered to do some initial research for her to help the two of them make some early decisions and get the trip planning moving.

Thanks for the information you kindly provided - I will look through and pass on what's relevant to her needs.

I have experienced some of the weirdos on these forums and even then I am not quite as suspicious and ready to assume the worst. I read my opening post again and still can't see what could cause you to assume it's a troll. How strange.
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Old Feb 7th, 2003, 03:08 PM
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Hi Kavey:

Sorry, don't take it too personally. You are correct in that possibly my troll meter is a tad high, but your message struck an odd cord with me. However if I totally believed it to be a troll message, I would not have provided the noted links.

Unfortunately, as I have been posting to the Cuba thread over the last years, I have often been attacked by US residents who are rabidly anti-Cuba and anti-Castro. So I am a little sensitized to the wording in some posts especially as the destinations were so diverse. Not what one normally expects.

Sorry again if you took offense, and I will try to set my troll meter a tad lower in future.

As to Cuba itself. I have been there six times and love it. My suggestions for two weeks would be to NOT take an all-inclusive. Try to fly to Havana, then the following.

4 days in Havana to explore the city and sights.
3 days in the Pinar del Rio area which is very pretty and there are eco type tours in this area.
3 days in Trinidad/Cienfuegos to see the history and sights.
4 days in Varadero to simply relax and lay on the beach and do some local exploring.
1 open day at the end for travel to the city where your flight connects to. Just in case there is a local transportation problem. You don't want to miss your flight.

Those are my thoughts and I hope a local TA can help you make the arrangements. You might consider using a Casa Particular (local, legal Cuban guest houses. They make the trip most unique when you can live with local residents.

Hope they have a great trip.

Steve
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Old Feb 8th, 2003, 02:55 AM
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Aah yes I see. Here in the UK we forget that there are still such strong anti-Cuban sentiments amongst some of the US population!

Worry not, I've been posting on Fodors for 4 years now - on the Europe forum for all of that time and on the Africa one over the last 2 years.

I'm keen to visit Cuba too, but it wont be this year for me.

I can assure you that the last thing my sister wants to do is the AI route! I am on holiday from tomorrow but will pass this all on to her when I get back and then come back with further questions, if I may.

Thanks again
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Old Feb 17th, 2003, 10:38 AM
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Sis and friend are now firmly decided on Cuba so any further advice on such a trip would be wonderful.

Thank you.
Kavita
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Old Feb 18th, 2003, 07:57 AM
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Hi Kavey:

Well, one of the things I like to do while travelling is to explore the local cuisine. In Havana, I would recommend the following....

1) EL ALJIBE in Miramar offers a great house specialty, Lemon Chicken. Grand and not too pricey. Their wine selection isn't too bad either. Mostly from Torres, a Spanish company, but good none the less.

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

3) EL PATIO in Plaza de la Catedral (Cathedral Square in Habana Vieja) is also great. You can dine inside or outside in the square under unbrellas. I have always preferred the outside because the music isn't quite as loud, and also 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 Mojita 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 the Bodeguita.

5) LA DIVINA PASTORA. 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 one place to go.

In addition, on Calle Obispo in Old Havana there are many outdoor cafes and other cafes as well. My favourite of these are just off the edge of Plaza de Armas at the corner of Obispo and Oficios. There are three cafes in a row. Cafe La Mina, Casa del Agua la Tinaja, and Dulceria Dona Teresa. All offer good food and great ambience on the outdoor patios.

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

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

NON-American bank Visa and Mastercard are used in major hotels and SOME restaurants. Ask first as it is embarrasing when they don't take it after you have eaten.

Take LOTS and LOTS of film. Many things to photograph.

Have fun and enjoy Cuba.

Steve
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Old Feb 18th, 2003, 08:03 AM
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Here's some more Cuban info. I didn't realise that Fodor's limits the amount of text you can put in each message.
I take small gifts of toiletries etc. Fragrant soaps, toothpaste etc. Also I carry a small Spanish/English dictionary with me and never have I returned home with it. It is always appreciated when you leave the dictionary (about $7.95 at Coles) because if their English gets better, it opens up a better job for them in the tourism industry. A hand up, not a hand out always brings a smile. Also bring lots of chewing gum for the children as they seem to know to ask foreigners for it. They ask for "Chicklets" which is almost universal among Cuban kids for gum.

While in Cuba, you MUST have a Mojito to drink. Here is some info on the Mojito and to my mind, The Bodeguita Del Medio is THE place to have one.

Mojito: pronounced Mo-hee-toe.

A drink made famous by Hemmingway in his years in Havana.

Highball Glass

Ingredients
1 shot light rum.
For the authentic Cuban Mojito cocktail we recommend
3-year-old, or silver dry, Havana Club Rum.
Half a teaspoon of sugar
Juice of half a lime
Sprigs of Mojito Mint - crush stalks (not leaves) to
release essential oils

Method
Add all ingredients, fill glass with ice cubes, top up
with soda or mineral water, and shake or stir well.
Decorate with a sprig of Mojito Mint.

Notes on the mint.
Yerbabuena, is the name of the Cuban variety of mint
that gives a Mojito cocktail its distinctive subtle
flavour. Nothing can compare with the flavour
Yerbabuena gives to the Mojito cocktail. Yerbabuena
has a mild sweet flavour, and a light and heady
fragrance.

Simply wonderful and refreshing on a hot day, of which
there are many in Havana.

Enjoy
Steve

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Old Feb 18th, 2003, 08:50 AM
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Steve
This is fantastic and just the kind of information they are looking for!
Thank you!
I will print it out for her as she is coming to visit this weekend. In fact she may have follow up questions to ask you directly.
Given your advised itinerary above, do you have any ideas about accommodation? Clean, comfortable, preferably private bathroom, not dingy but not luxury. I like your advice to stay with Cuban families. Will look into those sites you've given too.
Thanks again,
Kavey

Kathleen
Would love to receive any info you can share on your planned trip also. I can be emailed at [email protected]
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Old Feb 18th, 2003, 09:45 AM
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Kavey, Did you receive the email I sent several days ago listing web sites and links for the hotels at which we're staying? If not I'll post it again tomorrow. It's a long one, and on my home computer. Kathleen
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Old Feb 18th, 2003, 09:49 AM
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Steve, I've been meaning to ask you, do you know anything about the University in Havana? Specifically, do they have a weekly newsletter listing the gallery exhibits, films, theatre performances? Kathleen
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Old Feb 18th, 2003, 12:24 PM
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Kathleen,
Sadly I didn't get it and I did check both inbox and junk folder before deleting anything.
If you wouldn't mind please resend to [email protected] with heading of CUBA or some such.
Many many thanks,
Kavey
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Old Feb 18th, 2003, 01:04 PM
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Message to Kathleen:

I have walked thru the U of Havana campus and it is very nice, but other than tha I have no info on newsletters etc., like you ask. As to galleries, museums etc., I have just wandered through Old Havana and walk into any gallery that looks interesting.

I also have the Moon Travel Handbook, by Christopher P. Baker and it offers a wealth of information and I take it with me, though I do leave it in the hotel or Casa and plan each days travels from it. In Old Havana, there are many galleries in the Cathedral Square area.

Hope this helps you out some.

Steve
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Old Feb 19th, 2003, 06:50 AM
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Steve,
Thanks for the reply. I do need to get the Moon book, as others too have said it's very good. I've only been looking at Fodor's so far. But it also have a small section on the arts, so I'll start with that.

Your suggested itinerary for Kavey sounds terrific. What about adding the eastern part around Santiago de Cuba and Barocoa to it? Kathy
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Old Feb 19th, 2003, 06:52 AM
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Kavey, I have sent it again today.
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Old Feb 19th, 2003, 06:57 AM
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Just got it, thank you so much. Will pass it on to my sis. I am sure she will find it useful and a good starting point, together with Steve's suggestions...

Thanks again
Kavey
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Old Feb 19th, 2003, 07:13 AM
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Blimey, that was good timing Kathleen - I logged on to Fodors (on finishing teaching my class) and then went into my hotmail, found your email, replied to it and came back here and posted and all within 5 minutes of your post!!!
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Old Feb 19th, 2003, 07:51 AM
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Steve, I've been looking through past posts and can't seem to locate the one listing your web site with your Cuban photos. Is it still out there? Now that I've been reading more on Cuba, I'd like to look at them again, if possible.
Kavey, you're welcome.
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Old Feb 19th, 2003, 08:14 AM
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Hi Kathleen:

I did have my Cuba photos posted on the PictureTrail.com website, but they have removed them. It seems that the free album you are allowed was for a limited time only, and now they want a subscription to keep my photos posted. So now I am looking at other alternatives. Perhaps a personal website might be a better option for me.
Sorry I can't share them with you at this moment till this is sorted out.

Steve
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