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Voir Cuba et… y revenir

See Cuba and … come back

This article is the result of a press trip organized by the Holiday Fair, Air Europa, Iberostar and Sud America Tours.

One day or another, like everyone else, see images in explosive colors, of facades – small houses or religious buildings -, old candy pink, lemon yellow, cherry red, turquoise blue or apple green cars, cobbled roads , musicians and singers in the streets – and almost hear them… Images of beaches too. But always images that exude softness, warmth, the joy of living, a certain indolence or recklessness. Images as if from another era, frozen in time.

Saying that we would like, for a few days, to experience this flashback, to admire these colors “in real life”, to feel this warmth, to hear this music and these songs. Secretly dreaming about it. Think about it even more when one or the other tells you about their stay in Cuba. Let yourself be seduced, bewitched.

And, as soon as the opportunity presents itself, go for it. Go for it without hesitation. Then, to tremble with impatience at the idea. Finally, discover this authentic country, a charming destination in the Caribbean. A marvelous archipelago with more than five centuries of racial fusion. Go to meet its inhabitants. Unless it is rather them who come to you, they are as welcoming as we are no longer necessarily used to, smiling, a little nonchalant at times. Happy lovers of music and dance. Descendants of natives, privateers, adventurers, conquistadors … Immerse yourself in this broth of cultures, races, a mixture of Spanish whites and African blacks, to which were added Chinese, Haitians, Europeans, Dominicans, Indians, Americans… Nice cocktail.

Stroll through Havana

Marvel at the architectural beauty of Havana, the capital. From the diversity of architectural styles that rub shoulders there. In the same street, see the baroque, the neo-Gothic, the new art, the neoclassical … Immerse yourself in the colonial past through the small palaces and other particularly well-preserved residences or monuments. Stroll from plaza to plaza, Armas, Cathedral or San Francisco. Go past or why not enter the Grand Théâtre. And do not be surprised that in 2014, Havana was recognized as one of the 7 urban wonders of the world. Take several days to experience Havana, immerse yourself in it and burn it forever in his memory.

Tirelessly, feasting on this parade of vintage cars, oldtimers with improbable colors but so cheerful. Buick, Chevrolet, Ford, Oldsmobile, Pontiac … sometimes two-tone, “jaw-dropping” or completely out of whack. “Todo es posible en Cuba”. A permanent spectacle, a delight for those who are sensitive to these old four-wheeled Americans.

Take the road on which the hitchhikers are legion and the carts pulled by a mount not rare. Let yourself be lulled by the fantastic landscapes alternating valleys and mountains, rivers, cliffs, tobacco plantations, sugar cane fields … Cross its two national parks, a Biosphere Reserve and the Viñales Valley.

Cigars, rum and salsa

Visit the essentials such as a cigar factory where the meticulous and mechanical assembly line work impresses, or a rum factory. Let yourself be tempted by a few purchases that will make people happy. And believe his guide who tells you: “A tourist who comes to Cuba must learn three things: smoke cigars, drink rum and dance salsa.”

But also, stroll in the historic urban center of Cienfuegos, world heritage of humanity on the Unesco list. See El Palacio del Valle, a former palace of the sugar barons, and the Tomas Terry Theater. Discover all of the French heritage contained in the Pearl of the South.

Get behind the wheel of the beautiful American and make a detour to Ernest Hemingway’s house. Let yourself be invaded by all the memories left in these objects, intact, such as the books that line the walls. Take a tour of this mythical house and, through the open windows, discover each room to enter the intimacy of the great writer. Stroll in the gardens and see the graves of his dogs Linda, Negrita, Neron, Black….

Why not, make a stop in Santa Clara, greet the Memorial of Ernesto Che Guevara, for the photo. Even if posters and monuments bearing the effigy of great leaders, including Fidel Castro, of course, are omnipresent in the country.

Under the spell of Trinidad

And, above all, do not fail to let yourself be charmed by Trinidad, where all the colorful images of our dreams come alive, come to life. In sounds and colors. From morning to night, hear this music that is played generously in the street, on the terraces. Succumb to the charm of the museum city of Cuba, founded in 1514 by the Spanish conquistadors and which has retained all of its colonial magic.

Do not hesitate to go into one of these small state stores where you still pay for your beans, sugar, rice, coffee … with coupons. Get off the beaten track and rent a bike for a few pesos. Stroll along the coast to discover the small beach bars and sip, facing the sea, the best Piña Colada of your stay.

Finally, because it is necessary, with regret, to resolve to return. But to promise that we will return, sooner or later, to Cuba.

5 good reasons to come to Cuba

1. World Heritage.

Cuba ranks fourth in Latin America and 26th out of 190 member countries of the World Heritage List Convention in terms of the number of heritage sites. Cuba has eleven heritages of humanity, inscribed on the Unesco list because of the good level of conservation of the places and the safeguarding of traditions.

2. Nature, fauna, flora

The geographical position of the island of Cuba has endowed it with a generous nature and made it a marvelous natural setting, with a wide variety of flora and fauna to discover during hikes, walks, cycle tourism … It is a unmissable destination for the richness of its endemic species.

3. The 300 beaches

Small or larger, more than 300 natural beaches, of white or almost black sand, border the Big Island. 22 km long, Varadero charms visitors for the transparency of its waters, its fine sand and its sunsets. But also its festive nights … Cuba is also a paradise for lovers of deep scuba diving or snorkeling.

4. The feeling of security

Undeniably, Cuba is a country where you feel safe. Benevolence reigns and it is precious.

5. La fabrica de arte

Opened five years ago in particular by the Belgian Thomas Verwacht, who became a permanent foreign resident, the “Fabrica de arte” in Havana is a festive cultural center, which houses temporary exhibitions of three months, bringing together mostly Cuban artists of all kinds. (painter, sculptors, photographers, actors). This Belgian has also opened high standing guest houses.

Visit Cuba, go there and stay there

Go : Air Europa offers daily flights with the Dreamliner 787 from Brussels via Madrid to Havana. Price from € 831 in Economy Class and € 1,861 in Business class. Rens. : www.aireuropa.com

To stay there: Several formulas are possible including the hotel. Present in Cuba for 25 years, the Iberostar chain has 22 hotels in Cuba, including 3 in Havana and a charming colonial-style hotel, the Iberostar Heritage Grand Trinidad. Rens. : www.iberostar.com. Another option: stay with the locals, the “casa particular”, a very authentic and well-organized way of discovering the country. Rens. : www.cubachezlhabitant.com

Getting around and visiting: For an à la carte trip, Sudamerica Tours is a Belgian tour operator, specializing in stays and tours in Latin America and the Caribbean. It offers various circuits, according to the desires. Rens. : www.sudamericatours.be

Ask about

The country in the spotlight at the Holiday Fair Cuba is the country in the spotlight at the Holiday Fair, which will be held from February 6 to 9, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., in halls 3, 4 and 5 of Brussels Expo. The show will be an opportunity to discover all the little-known facets of Cuba, which welcomed more than 4 million visitors in 2019, including nearly 17,500 Belgians. Online tickets: www.salondesvacances.

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