Virtuoso Life - July/August 2018 - 92
WE WANDERED THE
OF OLD HAVANA
WITH A PHOTOGRAPHER
DOCUMENTING OUR DAY
AS WE NAVIGATED NARROW
PEEKING AT COURTYARDS
AND BALCONIES FOR A
GLIMPSE OF EVERYDAY LIFE.
V I RT U O S O L I F E
emotions. Travel can be a force for good,
helping to connect cultures, break down
barriers, and benefit the local economy,
but knowing your tourism dollars may
support an oppressive government is
unsettling, which is part of what makes
Cuba so perplexing.
Our first stop was Revolution Square,
a monumental public space where former
president Fidel Castro delivered many
political addresses, before we headed to the
iconic Hotel Nacional for an alfresco lunch
and a rum tasting with Havana Club's head
sommelier. Later, we toured the world's
oldest cigar factory - home to Cohiba, Partagás, and Romeo y Julieta, among others -
and even tried our hands at rolling our own.
Lee can book clients in casas particulares
(private homes), boutique hotels, and classic celeb favorites such as Hotel Saratoga,
but we were able to stay at the city's newest
and most luxurious property, the 246-room
Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski.
We settled into our suites (complete
with high ceilings, marble bathrooms, and
balconies overlooking the Capitol building) and reconvened for poolside cocktails
Cultural creativity on display, from left:
An exhibit at the Cuban Art Factory, those
famed cigars, performers with Habana
Compás Dance troupe, bartenders as
showmen at El Floridita, and a Che Guevara sculpture at Revolution Square.
on the rooftop, where we took in a lively
performance by the Habana Compás Dance
troupe. After dinner at an intimate paladar
(a small family-run restaurant, usually in
a private home), we stopped for a nightcap
and live music at former Hemingway hangout El Floridita. The 200-year-old establishment proclaims itself "the cradle of the
daiquiri," with a richly lacquered bar that
runs the length of one wall, where seasoned
bartenders sporting red tuxedo jackets
ceremoniously whirl blender drinks for a
constant crowd. Touristy? Sure. Essential?
Absolutely - and a perfect way to end an
exhilarating first day.