- A commando stands guard inside the court house in Santo Domingo where the suspects that police say plotted to kill famed Dominican baseball player David Ortiz face charges.@cubajournal in our favorite Old Havana coco spot. Have to love the seats made from a bath tub cut in two.The Norwegian Sky, one of the last two cruise ships in Havana harbor, departs Cuba this morning ahead of a deadline by the Trump administration for US cruise lines to cease operations on the communist-run island by the end of the day Wednesday. Cruise lines are scrambling to reroute ships following the surprise announcement. It's true that cruise ships didn't do much to help the average Cuban but with their enormous pools, climbing walls, monster TV screens and abundant WIFI, they were a sign of a better future or a future. I saw countless Cubans come and take photos with their whole families in front of the cruises, marveling at them as if they were alien spacecrafts. The ships were a rare connection to the US that is now gone. I know Cubans that are pro-government and Cubans that are anti-government. I have never met a single Cuban that didn't want Americans to visit. We are their neighbors.The end of Cuba... visiting Punta Maisí last year. There is something incredible about reaching that last bit and looking out at only ocean.Kite weather.Me and the sea.Old Havana dance performance.Very excited for the publication of a book of photography by my friend @garyhershorn. Gary’s talent for finding the perfect shot is only matched by his love for New York City. He has explored nearly every corner of the city and day after day comes up with the most stunning images. This is his best work which says a lot. The link for Gary’s book is below and in my bio. www.newyorkcelestial.comFrom the last time I visited Santiago de Cuba.Don’t mind us.Happy Mother’s Day to supermom @cubajournal, always cool and calm despite the hurricane around us.A march against homophobia went forward Saturday despite being suddenly cancelled by the Cuban government. Every year a government organization run by Mariela Castro holds a pro-LBGTQ “conga” but this year after the government failed to include gay marriage in the new constitution, the activity was suspended because officials said they feared “foreign interference.” The march went ahead though with a heavy police presence and I witnessed a handful of arrests. UPDATE: Police stopped the march at Prado and Malecón and refused to let people go any further. Not clear what led to the first arrests when it was a peaceful march without any anti-government activity. Organizers say at least seven people were taken into custody.Balancing act.Looking out from the Teatro Alicia Alonso.Catching the fish is the easy part.The photo is straight, the lifeguard stand not so much.Big mean green machine.Thought this was a statue that was part of the Havana biennial until he moved.May Day.We took our circus to the circus. Like so many things here the performers made up for the lack of resources with talent and enthusiasm. Halfway through the show my son asked, “Where are the lions?”
Cuba is not an easy place to visit. Information is often outdated. Many government-owned, supposedly five-star hotels suffer from glacially slow service and inedible food. Used to constant long waits themselves, Cubans sometimes don’t understand visitors’ impatience. But for the traveler eager to experience a unique and changing country, it is a one of kind destination. I recommend renting an apartment or house from Cubans and eating in privately-run restaurants. Not only will your money go to help the island’s growing class of small entrepreneurs, you will experience true Cuban hospitality.
El Paseo del Prado this boulevard is a wonderful place to go for a walk from the Capitolio building to the Malecón seawall. On Saturdays, the Prado is packed with people selling and buying houses, which is now legal to do under recent economic reforms.
El Cementario Colón one of the largest cementaries in the world, El Colón is the place to come to really learn the history of Cuba. There are several centuries of scandal, intrigue and myth buried here. Make sure to visit “la milagrosa,” the woman whose tomb has become a shrine for many Cubans.
Plaza Vieja in Old Havana has been restored recently to its former glory and become a popular area at night with a row of bars and restaurants.
La Rumba del Sábado A great neighborhood block party that takes place every Saturday afternoon (I usually go around 4p). Live music, cold beer and lots of dancing. Calle 4 e/ Calzada y 5ta. Vedado. PALADARS Cuban slang for “privately owned restaurant,” paladars are the place to eat in Cuba. Often you are eating in people’s homes although slowly paladars are becoming quite sophisticated. The food at paladars is more inventive and uses fresher ingredients that what you get at a government restaurant.
Café Laurent one of my favorites, this upscale paladar in a Vedado penthouse offers some of Havana’s best seafood. Its great for dinner but I recommend going before sunset to take in the stunning view of the ocean and city. Ask to sit outside. Tel. 8326890
O’Reilly 304 in Old Havana breaks out from the usual routine of Cuban food, offering excellent ceviche, seared tuna and tacos. Tel. 53 5 2644745 Also not to be missed is
La Guarida. On the top floor of a crumbling former mansion in Centro Habana, la Guarida recently expanded, adding a cigar bar, and is one of the great success stories of Cuba’s private restaurant scene . The classic movie “Fresa y Chocolate” was filmed here. You’ll need reservations. Tel. 2644940
El Corte del Principe in Miramar offers up Cuba’s best Italian food. Fresh pasta served by a professional staff. Tel. 72559091
Doctor Café Simple, fresh food and one my favorite places to eat lunch. Everything they cook on the grill– deer, snapper, octopus— is outstanding. Tel. 2034718.
El Cocinero is one of the new stars of a resurgent Havana nightlife. Cuban artists and musicians are among those who frequent –and can afford– this restaurant, known for its small bites and inventive cocktails. El Cocinero is set atop a former cooking oil factory and you walk up stairs in the old smoke stack to get to the roof-top bar. Check out the Fabrica del Arte next door as well. Tel. 8322355 WHERE TO STAY
Casa Vitrales feels more like a boutique hotel than a casa particular. It is well located in the loma del angel part of Old Havana and offers a fantastic roof-top terrace to take in the city. The casa’s nine rooms have all been recently restored. http://www.cvitrales.com
Habana Vista Enjoy beautiful views and the roof top pool at this well-located Vedado high rise apartment. Tel: 53636181 email@example.com
Villasol has been redone to resemble a Miami Beach boutique hotel. This casa particular is a testimony of the inventiveness of Cubans and their desire to treat visitors well. Tel. 53600456 MarbelyZG@hotmail.com
Café Teatro Jazz Miramar is the best music venue in Havana. Many of Cuba’s top musicians play here and its frequented mainly by Cubans.
The Bertolt Brecht is a very cool club with contemporary music. Like many venues here it starts late.
Sangri-La where Cubans with money to burn come to party. “El Sangri” is loud, dark and always packed.
Espacios is perhaps best known for being the first bar in Havana to have valet parking. The staff have attitude but the back terrace is a great place to enjoy a cool drink at night.
Don Cangrejo Cuban rock played at a seaside mansion.
Alma is a new store co-founded by my wife Alexandra that sells the best Cuban handicrafts, jewelry and artisanal items. Working directly with the artisans, the store aims to refine and take Cuba’s amazing hand-crafted treasures to a wider audience. Calle 18 y 5ta, Miramar.
Mercado de Artesanía Avenida de Puerto Havana’s largest craft markets allows you to buy directly from artisans.
La Plaza de Armas The booksellers in one of Havana’s oldest squares hawk vintage posters, classics of Cuban literature and relics of pre-revolution society.
OUTSIDE HAVANA Not to be missed: The beautiful countryside and tobacco fields near Viñales; the colonial homes in Trinidad and sleepy seaside town of Baracoa.