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Culture and Connection in Cuba

Culture and Connection in Havana, Cuba

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.

OLD HAVANA

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.

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.

 

Belmond Cap Juluca

BELMOND CAP JULUCA

Maundays Bay, Anguilla

Waterfront escape

Beach

Get around the resort in turquoise VW vans!

Being able to “swim to breakfast”

Beach lovers, rejoice: The Belmond Cap Juluca in Anguilla recently re-opened after extensive renovations—and the result is what vacations are made of. That is: A white sand beach, stunning water views, villas with private pools and seafood served sea-side, with the chance to unplug and relax against a truly gorgeous background.

Location:

Just 20 minutes from the airport, Belmond Cap Juluca occupies an enviable location right on Maundays Bay, a stretch of turquoise beach on the western side of the island. The resort is Belmond’s second property in the Caribbean, with the first on the island of nearby Saint Martin.

Vibe:

The property’s description of its “barefoot luxury” couldn’t be more accurate—and can be felt throughout the resort, from the green-tiled pool to the limestone floors to the 108 rooms and suites, which all overlook the ocean. The rooms, suites and villas are outfitted in whites and grey and other neutrals, with pops of blue and green, which all feature a private terrace (equipped with lounge chairs that are just begging to be napped on), while others allow you to walk straight out to the beach.

Why we love it:

Let’s start with the colors: From the white Greco-Moorish buildings to the blue of the water to the botanical designs and greenery throughout the resort, the surroundings alone can quickly transport you to a place of pure chill. Then, add everything else: While relaxing can easily get top billing, lots other cool offerings abound. There are pedal bikes and turquoise VW vans to take you around the resort; to relax and re-set, there’s a spa, The Arawak Spa (with its own pool!), and 24-hour fitness center; and a resident yoga instructor to lead classes throughout the day. Plus, there’s a whole slew of activities to tug at the heartstrings of water lovers, like kayaking and snorkeling, and sports fanatics, like golf and basketball. When it comes to drinking and dining, there are four options: the signature Pimms, which offers a chance to try local eats, the Cap Shack with its vintage food truck, where you can sip on a cocktail while you dig your feet into the sand, as well as Maundays Club, serving Peruvian tapas and Cip’s by Cipriani.

 

Why you should Go F1RST:

When you’re ready to jet off to the beach, booking through F1S will earn you a welcome treat, breakfast for two, $100 food and beverage credit, and complimentary upgrade at check-in, if available.