For the intrepid traveler in this country, Cuba has to be one of the most exotic and challenging spots on earth to visit because of the US/Cuba embargo that did not allow Americans to go there.
For this reason, we decided to interview Christina, an adventurous world traveler, who has always wanted to see this fascinating island that’s located 90 miles from the southernmost tip of Key West.
Incredibly, just as she was delving into her research, President Obama lifted this 53-year-old ruling -- thus making it easier for all of us to visit this island country in the Caribbean.
WHERE HAVE YOUR TRAVELS TAKEN YOU?
I love to travel and so far I’ve visited South America (a two-week Spanish language immersion program in Buenos Aires, Argentina), Europe (Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland) and Kraków, Poland – a very beautiful city. I’ve also been to Morocco and Dubai, which was an unusual experience to say the least.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO VISIT CUBA?
I became very interested in salsa dancing and this sparked my interest in Cuba. Also, photos of the grand, old buildings and the “Yank Tank” cars made me very curious. This island is a time capsule that I wanted to experience before things change, as they inevitably will after Castro goes.
HOW DID YOU HANDLE ALL THE DETAILS?
Part of my research involved figuring out how to visit Cuba legally. I did not want to do anything illegal. I contacted Cultural Island Travel* -- they were great partners in this venture.
We booked a “cultural tour” which means you are assigned a guide and you meet with the Cuban people and learn about their daily lives. I was allowed to customize our visit according to the interests of the four of us traveling together.
We spent our time meeting artists and musicians. We went to a private jazz concert and visited the home of one of the island’s residents. I also took salsa lessons -- which were fantastic.
Salsa dancers at an outdoor club
WHAT STRUCK YOU THE MOST WHEN YOU ARRIVED?
Probably the colors of the country impressed me the most. The very lush, green vegetation – this was wonderful coming from the wintery northeast.
View from lookout point at Pinar del Rio
And when we got off the plane we were right on the tarmac. No fancy walkways.
HOW DID THE CUBAN PEOPLE REACT TO YOU?
They’re very friendly, warm and talkative. They’re extremely open about their lives when speaking with foreigners and when you say you’re from “the United States” they get excited and tell you where their relatives are living, e.g., Miami or New York.
The people we met were optimistic about the future, but also fearful that nothing is going to change. We saw this when we spoke to the younger generation who were frustrated about the lack of opportunity and their options for the future.
DO THEY HAVE ACCESS TO THE INTERNET?
They do. They have cell phones, so they have access to the Internet through their phones. The major hotels supposedly have Internet service, but when we tried it was impossibly slow – like the old “dial-up” speed.
Two Cuban guys on the street
HOW DO THEY FEEL ABOUT AMERICANS?
They have a very favorable opinion about the United States and Americans in general. They’re excited about any contact they have with us. It was very refreshing because we’re always being bashed in different spots around the world.
NEXT WEEK: STAY TUNED FOR MORE NEWS ABOUT CUBA
*Planning to visit Cuba, this is a good start:
Cultural Island Travel, www.culturalislandtravel.com
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