Cuba: A Tale of Four Cities May 28-June 5, 2015

Cuba: A Tale of Four Cities May 28-June 5, 2015
Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce hosts trip to Cuba May 28-June 5, 2015

DAY 1 MIAMI:

Your cherished Cuba adventure begins with an overnight stay in Miami, Florida. Arrive at Miami International Airport and transfer to your hotel. Tonight, join Central Holidays for an introduction to your Cuba people-to-people program. Meet your fellow program participants and U.S. Tour Director, review your travel documents and itinerary, and get ready for the experience of a lifetime in the fascinating island nation of Cuba.

 

DAY 2 MIAMI – CAMAGÜEY, CUBA:

This morning, a short flight takes you to Camagüey, Cuba’s third-largest city. Upon arrival you will meet your professional, English-speaking Cuban Tour Director, who will take you to discover the city’s historic center. Unique and beautiful, the oldest part of this city is a labyrinth of narrow winding streets and alleys that begin and end in public squares or “plazas” purposely designed in this manner to protect the town from pirate raids in colonial times. As one of the first seven villages founded by the Spaniards, much of the city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant then engage with artists on such topics as their work, how it impacts their community, and how art motivates people. Afterwards you will head to the hotel, check in and prepare for dinner at a local “paladar,” a privately-owned small restaurant serving homemade Cuban dishes. During dinner you will participate in an exchange with the restaurant owner and learn about Cuban food and the free enterprise system in Cuba. After dinner, meet members of the American Car Association and enjoy a ride back to your hotel in an antique American car. (L,D)

DAY 3 CAMAGÜEY – KING RANCH – CAMAGÜEY:

First on today’s schedule of exciting activities, you will meet and get to know dancers of the world renowned Ballet of Camagüey, the prestigious Cuban ballet company that has performed across the globe in more than 40 countries. You will enjoy a cultural exchange with the dancers, teachers, set designers and costume makers. Next travel along to King Ranch originally developed as an expansion of the famous ranch of the same name in Texas. Here you will experience a Cuban rodeo and have the fascinating opportunity over lunch to engage with Cuban cowboys that have called this ranch their home for generations. After lunch you will visit the local village that subsists to service the ranch. Here you will share time in one of the local homes to see how they live, cook, eat, and more. Then, head over to the local school to meet teachers and students and learn about rural life and education. On the way back to Camagüey you will visit Casanova pottery studio and learn about the unique earthenware pots called “tinajones” known as the symbol of Camagüey. Used to store rainwater historically and even to this day, these red clay pots can measure up to two meters in height and are still seen outside of homes and throughout the city. In an educational exchange you will see the traditional way these vessels are made and interact with the artists. Tonight, savor dinner at a local paladar and enjoy a fiery Flamenco dance performance, featuring an opportunity to dance and interact with the performers in an open-air setting. (B,L,D)

DAY 4 CAMAGÜEY – TRINIDAD – CIENFUEGOS:

Today you will journey south to the Cuban province of Sancti Spíritus to visit the colonial city of Trinidad. Along the way you will experience the Valley of the Sugar Mills, home to approximately 70 historic sugar mills that are representative of the importance of sugar to the Cuban economy over centuries. Founded in 1514 as the third Spanish settlement in Cuba, Trinidad is acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its colonial architecture, dating back to the 18th century. This verdant valley  embedded between mountains and the sea features one of Cuba’s most well preserved cities often referred to as a living museum. Enjoy sharing time and interacting with local residents as you stroll along the pedestrian, cobblestone streets of Trinidad, lined by pastel-colored houses with wooden shutters and wrought-iron grilles. Having songbirds in ornate birdcages outside the home is a tradition in Trinidad that is still kept alive today. Partake in an insightful guided walking tour of the colonial city and have meaningful cultural exchanges with local residents, musicians, and new business owners. After lunch you will have a sit down with doctors and nurses at the local clinic to learn about the Cuban medical system and have an educational exchange on topics such as the use of herbal medicine and how the facility is sustained. (B,L,D)

DAY 5 CIENFUEGOS:

Today you experience Cienfuegos – known as Cuba’s “Pearl of the South” due to its impressively beautiful bay. Founded in 1819 by French settlers, Cienfuegos is one of Cuba’s newest cities. In 2005, UNESCO inscribed the Urban Historic Center of Cienfuegos on the World Heritage List, citing Cienfuegos as the best extant example of the 19th-century early Spanish enlightenment implementation in urban planning. The French influence is seen in many traits, particularly in architecture, including the city’s many mansions. During your time in this breathtaking city, you will enjoy a panoramic overview of its historic center. Next you will meet with a local historian to learn about the Thomas Terry Theater, built in 1889 by Leno Sanchez Marmol. The theater remains in its original state, beautifully embellished with painted ceiling frescoes. While in Cienfuegos you will experience a performance by the local choir and have the opportunity to interact with them to learn about the musical history of this group and the music culture of Cuba.

DAY 6 TRINIDAD – BAY OF PIGS – HAVANA:

This morning you will journey to Havana through the countryside’s sugar cane regions. Our first stop will be at Playa Girón for a guided visit and interaction with docents of the Bay of Pigs Museum, housed in an old sugar mill and used by Fidel Castro as his center of operations during the 1961 conflict. Enjoy lunch at the Cave of the Fish, named for the nearby “cenote” or sinkhole filled with multicolored sea life. You will join in a cultural and educational exchange with a local naturalist as well as an interaction with the family that runs the restaurant. This afternoon you will arrive to the vibrant capital city of Cuba, Havana. (B,L)

DAY 7 HAVANA:

After breakfast you will enjoy a photo stop at Revolution Square, one of the largest public squares in the world. Continuing onwards you have an educational exchange with a local architect who will speak about Havana’s unique architecture, the challenges of renovating the city’s exquisite historic buildings, and the future of these restorations. Then, you will explore the charming cobblestone streets of Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, while participating in open dialogue with the local architect on architectural topics of interest. Next, visit the Maqueta Vieja Habana Museum that houses the scale model of the City of Havana to see the whole city, and learn about its architecture as well as more about restoration efforts. Following lunch in Old Havana, you will tour the Museum of the Revolution that displays a vast array of documents, weapons, relics and even planes from the revolution. The museum is housed in the former presidential palace that was the home to Cuba’s leaders from the 1920s until 1959. Heading out of the city you will arrive at the fascinating fishing village of Jaimanitas and visit the home, studio and gallery of world-renowned artist, and painter Jose Fuster, known as the “Picasso of Cuba.” Roofs, walls, doorways and benches, stretching for blocks around his studio are adorned with his brightly colored sculptures and mosaics. Here you will engage with the Fuster family and meet Fuster himself, if his schedule permits, as well as local residents of the town, to discuss the influence of the artist’s work on their lives and the community. At dinner this evening, take-in the incredible views of Havana from the top floor of the Habana Libre Hotel, Havana’s most symbolic hotel that was originally built as the Habana Hilton and inaugurated in 1958 — offering the perfect end to your first full-day in Havana.(B,L,D)

DAY 8 HAVANA:

Today we experience Havana’s world-famous Colon Cemetery to see elaborately sculpted stone and marble memorials. You will discover the cemetery’s captivating history and folklore, and hear stories about the many prominent people laid to rest here, including musicians, filmmakers, writers, politicians, and Major League baseball players. You will also visit the tomb of La Milagrosa – the “Miraculous One” visited by Cubans as a pilgrimage site believed by many to have healing influences. Next it’s off to the district of Guanabacoa, known for its rich religious diversity. This town boasts some of the finest colonial churches where locals worship both Catholic and Santeria saints. Santeria is a fusion of religious influences from West African, Caribbean and Roman Catholic beliefs and was created by slaves who were brought to Cuba to work on the country’s sugar plantations. You will visit the intriguing Guanabacoa Museum of Santeria Orishas and see many displays of Afro-Cuban culture. Here you will also experience a Santeria musical performance and get to know the dancers and locals via a personal exchange. As the day’s activities continue, you will enter the realm of Ernest Hemingway with a visit to Hemingway’s Farm, Finca La Vigia. The house where the Nobel Prize winner lived with his wife Martha for 21 years is situated on this beautiful property overlooking Havana. Tour the perfectly preserved home where many of Hemingway’s personal belongings remain today, as well as his wooden yacht “Pilar.” On this vessel, Hemmingway patrolled for Nazis and it was also featured in his novel “Islands in the Stream.” Next you will enjoy lunch at a local restaurant in Havana before a tour and interaction with the founder of a world-famous Spanish Ballet Company who will share the history of her company and dance education in Cuba. As the day proceeds, it’s off to the Cuban Literacy Museum where you will learn about a national effort to educate rural farmers and families. Education and the development of human capital was a post revolution priority for the Cuban government. After the Revolution in 1959, the country suffered from an exodus of educators and intellectuals. A nationwide program, known as the Cuban Literacy Campaign of 1961, was instituted in response. More than 250,000 literate adults and children, some as young as 11 years old, formed brigades of people, or brigadistas, and traveled throughout the countryside to teacher their fellow Cubans how to read. Through interactions with the museum director and docents you will learn about this highly successful campaign. Further along, you visit El Morro Castle, built in 1589 to protect the mouth of Havana Harbor. Perched on the headland opposite the harbor from Old Havana, it can be viewed from miles around as it dominates the port entrance and is therefore used as a navigational landmark. Before dinner, meet a former Cuban baseball player and join in a dialogue regarding the history and the love of this favorite pastime in Cuba. This evening, experience a farewell dinner with tour at the renowned Hotel Nacional de Cuba, which has hosted many celebrities and world figures over the decades, including Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali, and Steven Spielberg. (B,L,D)

DAY 9 HAVANA – MIAMI, USA:

After breakfast, bid “adios” to Cuba and depart for the airport and your return flight to Miami with unforgettable memories of your people-to-people journey to this captivating and engaging Latin country in Caribbean. (B)

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