WHAT IS LOCAL LIFE LIKE IN CUBA?
This journey is a chance to meet face-to-face with women and men who live, struggle, strive and thrive in the Cuban context. Guided by Jesus Noguera, a Cuba expert and insider, take advantage of the opportunity to meet local Cubans over meals and cooking classes in their homes. In a relaxed and intimate atmosphere, you’ll have the opportunity to share stories, knowledge, experiences, meals, and music and learn about the country’s history and hopes for the future. Get to know other food lovers and likeminded travelers who enjoy eating their way through a country and appreciate lively, authentic interactions with interesting people.
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Rachel Farnsworth is the internet sensation behind the popular food blog The Stay At Home Chef and is known throughout the world for her food videos on Facebook and YouTube.
Jesus Noguera is a seasoned, Havana-based guide who has lead thousands of travelers across the island of Cuba. An avid traveler himself, Jesus enjoys introducing visitors to the music, art, food, and drink of his native culture.
The designer Hotel Telegrafo offers accommodation in a historic area of Havana. Featuring colonial architecture, the luxury rooms are equipped with modern conveniences and feature a magnificent view over the city.
Stay At Home Chef – Kitchen Rotation
Each participant will learn kitchen secrets from stay-at-home chefs in three Cuban families, getting an exclusive personal look at what it is like to be Cuban today. You’ll share stories and learn how to cook a variety of traditional Cuban dishes in the intimate setting of someone’s home. More than a culinary experience, this is a cultural immersion like no others which will leave you with tasty recipes and brightly colored memories of what makes this country sing, dance, eat and live as passionately as it does.
DAY 1: Arrive Havana
You will be picked up at the airport and escorted to your hotel to settle in. Join optional afternoon activities, such as walking through Central and Old Havana.
Tonight you will get to know the other travelers in the group. Enjoy a welcome dinner together at the Paladar San Cristobal (where the Obama family dined on their only night out) with Rachel Farnsworth.
DAY 2: Historical Havana & Kitchen Rotation
This morning, get a glimpse into Cuba’s transition as you explore a city in the midst of a transformational moment and learn about the country’s history. Enjoy a tour of Old Havana with a focus on its history and future.
In the afternoon, begin your first of three kitchen rotations. You will arrive at the hosting house where the matriarch will be expecting you with some light finger foods. (One of the themes of this trip is to understand the role of the family matriarch in Cuban culture.)
As conversation begins, your host will explain what ingredients are needed for dinner. Together, you’ll set off by car or foot, and she will guide you through local farmer’s markets and supermarkets. One you’ve sourced all the meal components, you’ll return back to her home.
As your host starts cooking, she will teach you how to prepare and cook Cuban-style black beans and chicken. You will also help prepare salads, side dishes, and drinks. As dinner is cooking, you may continue your conversations with your host or relax with a Cuban documentary. Once dinner is ready, you will all share the meal, family-style. The evening will come to a close over conversation and Cuban coffee.
After dinner, you will have the opportunity to learn about the Buena Vista Social Club. As Cuban revolutions go, it was an entirely peaceable uprising – but its impact could not have been more profound.
On the release of the Buena Vista Social Club™ album in 1997, few outside the specialist world music audience initially took much notice of the record’s elegantly sculpted tunes and warm, acoustic rhythms. Then something extraordinary occurred. The Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon is one of the greatest moments in Cuban musical history with the unique possibility of endless reproductions. One of these takes place every night at the Rosalia de Castro Spanish Center in Havana. Old and young generations of musicians get together to sound off the beats of Cuban music in complete and utter authenticity.
DAY 3: Hemingway Tour & Kitchen Rotation
Today, after breakfast at the hotel, enjoy the world-famous Hemingway Tour and escape into nostalgia of the 1950s. Drive through this long-gone Cuba in a 1956 Chevy and imagine Hemingway hanging around sipping mojitos and daiquiris!
Start off with a drink at La Bodeguita del Medio, then walk over to Ambos Mundos Hotel to visit Hemingway’s room – where he stayed before he bought his Cuban estate. Drive over to Cojimar, the fishing town where his boat was docked, then continue on to Finca Vigia — his final Cuban Estate, where many of his novels were written. End up sipping daiquiris at El Floridita, his second watering hole.
This afternoon, you have been invited to the home of the next kitchen rotation host. Here you will have the unique opportunity to talk with your host about her work and food.
Your evening is open; consider joining your new friends for dancing in Havana.
DAY 4: Vinales
Journey away from urban Havana to experience Vinales – a completely different side of Cuba! Driving through the Cuban countryside, stop at the Guayavita del Pinar Rum Factory and the Cigar Factory.
These two stops will provide you with a unique insight in the working environments of Cubans. Learn the processes involved in creating one of the Cuba’s best liquors (Gayabita del Pinar) and cigarmaking. Rolling a cigar is not the job of a factory worker; it is the passion of an artist. You will have the opportunity to chat with a farming family growing their business in tobacco.
When you spy a cigar-chewing guajiro driving his oxen and plough through a rust-colored tobacco field, you know that you must be within striking distance of Viñales. This slow, relaxed, wonderfully traditional settlement is a place that steadfastly refuses to put on a show. What you see here is what you get – a tiny agricultural town that just happens to occupy one of Cuba’s most beautiful natural corners. Grab a sillon (rocking chair), sit back on a rustic porch and enjoy a slice of real rural Cuba.
Stops in Vinales include:
Los Jazmines Lookout – If you need a picture that encompasses the natural beauty of Vinales, this is your spot.
Mural of Prehistory – The work of Gonzalo Morrillo, this rock painting is an interesting interpretation of the geological transformations the area has undergone through the centuries.
Cueva del Indio – One of Vinales best cave hikes, this easy walk is less than one mile long. At the end, a boat that will take you through the cave’s internal river to the exit. The cave was discovered in 1920, along with remnants of the Cuban indigenous culture.
Enjoy lunch at Finca Agropecuaria El Campesino Restaurant and time at leisure to explore town.
Upon return to Havana, the rest of the evening is at leisure, and dinner is on your own. If you need support, your local guide will be available to advise you and make reservations.
DAY 5: Havana & Kitchen Rotation
After breakfast you will have the opportunity to explore the Afro-Cuban Religion. Ride the ferryboat over to Regla, and visit the Church of Regla and the Virgin of Regla – the patron saint of Havana. Visit the Museum of African Religions in order to understand the role and impact of African religions in Cuba and their syncretism with Catholicism. End this exploration with a drive to Centro Havana (the inner city party of Havana) for conversation with Dr. Aleman, President of the Yoruban Religion Association.
Kitchen Experience Rotation # 3 (Same as Days 2 and 3, different host, different recipes.)
After this special cooking experience, the group will meet back up at the Fabrica de Arte. This venue is located in the shell of a defunct oil factory which has become a space that is designed for people to not only appreciate art, but also consume art and be consumed by it. It is simply the stage where all forms of arts (visual arts, performing arts, music, dance, fashion, cocktails, and cuisine) cross paths. This is a must visit while in Cuba!
DAY 6: Beach Day – Varadero
Some call Varadero Beach the world’s greatest beach, and it’s easy to see why. The glistening white sands, cool tropical breezes and tranquil Atlantic waters provide the perfect backdrop for a broad range of resorts, from family-friendly to all-inclusive, and everything in between.
For those looking for adventure, Varadero is well equipped to handle almost any water sport you can think of, from scuba diving to sailing to swimming with the dolphins. You can even sneak in a round of golf at the Varadero Golf Club’s breathtaking championship course or hike through the history-rich Ambrosio Cave. If pampering is what you have mind, Varadero boasts an abundance of spas to help you unwind.
Just beyond the spectacular beaches, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for local excursions. Explore the ecotourism options offered on the nearby Zapata Peninsula – the largest wetland reserve in the Caribbean – or within the Varahicacos Ecological Reserve, where you can hike along vegetation-rich trails and gaze at the colorful array of exotic birds.
For a more cultured diversion, visit the city of Matanzas, nicknamed the “Athens of Cuba” because of the wealth of celebrated European poets and writers living there during the mid-19th century.
5:00pm: Depart for Havana.
Upon return to Havana, enjoy the rest of the evening at leisure. Dinner is open tonight.
DAY 7: Fusterlandia & Farewell Dinner
Enjoy your last day in Cuba exploring the markets with ample time to bring back some gifts. A step inside “Fusterlandia” is like taking a walk inside a Disneyland of art. The entire community surrounding José Fuster’s studio and home is decorated in Fuster’s unique style, mixing painting and ceramic, and it is utterly surreal. Fuster began transforming Jaimanitas – a community on the northwestern side of Havana – over thirty years ago when he moved to the run-down neighborhood and set up his studio. As Fuster’s work became world-famous, he decided it was time to give back to his community. Fuster followed his dreams by creating “Fusterlandia“ – a living, growing community art museum that began from his studio and has spread out around the entire neighborhood. The community art project now incorporates over 50 houses in the neighborhood in which the residents have allowed Fuster to use their homes, walls, and benches as an artist’s canvas. The early-16th-century harbor in Old Havana is being given new life. Many former trade areas are being refurbished and restored to their former glory, and it is here where travelers will find the city’s famous open-air crafts market. Situated in the former Almacenes de San Jose, the harborside
warehouse that plays host to the handicraft market is Old Havana’s oldest depository, constructed in 1885. The handicraft market is more than simply a place to purchase locally-made items, although this is undoubtedly the biggest draw for most of the venue’s visitors. It was also created as a true center of the island’s culture, designed to play host to art exhibits, children’s activities, and even theatre performances.
Lunch is not included today, in case you would like to linger somewhere or venture off on your own.
Leisure time in the afternoon for explorations.
Enjoy a special farewell dinner together this evening before you depart with new friends and a changed perspective.
DAY 8: Departure
Check out of Hotel El Telegrafo. We will provide a transfer to Havana Jose Marti International Airport for your departure home.
- Ground transportation.
- All activities mentioned in the itinerary.
- All breakfasts.
- One lunch.
- Welcome dinner and farewell dinner.
- Three kitchen rotations. These are designed to have afternoon snacks that lead into dinner.
- Cuban Visa.
- Local English-speaking guide.
- International flights to/from the United States.
- Travel insurance.
- Meals not mentioned in the itinerary.
- Alcohol and personal expenses – e.g. room service, laundry, etc.
Please note that the itinerary above is subject to change, and that meetings with specific people are based on their availability. Elevate Destinations may substitute meetings and activities with reasonable equivalents.
Interested in joining this unique adventure? Contact us to learn more and register. Space is limited.