First in Service co-founder and CEO, Fernando Gonzalez, spends a long weekend soaking up the history, architecture and food scene in the Caribbean Havana.
From the moment I landed in Havana, I knew there was something special about the city. Open to U.S. travelers just a few short years ago, Cuba is one of those places I’ve always wanted to visit—and Havana was the ideal starting point. As a Cuban-American myself, the country is a gateway to my own family’s story—and an experience I couldn’t wait to share with my wife, Awilda, and our daughter, Sofia.
Appreciating the architecture
I’m an architecture and design aficionado, and the sheer beauty of the buildings throughout the city was unparalleled—I was blown away. From the colors to the architectural elements, the detail and creativity that went into crafting each one was evident. Walking through the streets of Havana is a great way to take it all in—and booking a tour guide to provide historical context and background information makes it even better.
Taking in the culture
At 13, my daughter Sofia is an avid traveler—she’s been to some 30 countries—but this trip allowed us to take in a culture that was at once familiar and totally new, and see the country from a totally different perspective. From our home base at the Hotel Saratoga in Old Havana, we were able to see and experience much of what makes the city tick. That included going on a tour with a music historian to learn more about the history of Cuban music, visiting amazing art galleries, and shopping at places like Clandestina, a shop where almost all the wares are exclusively designed in the country.
Plan your trip
“If you’re a food lover, this is the place to be: the burgeoning culinary scene in Havana is tremendous.”
Savoring the cuisine
If you’re a food lover, this is the place to be: the burgeoning culinary scene in Havana is tremendous. In the course of our five-day visit, we ate at about ten different restaurants and they were all excellent. Some to consider on your trip: Al Carbon in Old Havana, El Cocinero, and Otramanera in Havana’s Playa neighborhood. Since we were there over New Year’s, we also enjoyed an amazing gala and dinner at the Plaza de la Catedral.
Overall, if the goal of traveling is not only to enjoy the food and music of a new place, but also to experience the culture and open your eyes to what it has to offer, than going to Cuba—and Havana, in particular—allowed us to do just that. I know my family and I are already planning to visit again soon.