CAA Manitoba Fall 2018 - Page 50

Havana nigHts Castro’s childhood home Add a side trip to Cuba’s colourful capital EAT O n the road from city to city, we learn that Cuba is deceptively large. At nearly 110,000 square kilometres, it’s the biggest island in the Caribbean. While it’s possible to cover the distances between towns by renting your own car, the country’s main roads are cluttered with horse-drawn carriages, pedestrians, cyclists, farm animals, heavy trucks and crowded buses that would confound the average North American driver. The easiest—and safest—mode of transportation is to hire a car and driver. Internet access is spreading across Cuba, so make arrangements online before you leave Canada. Or, if you really want to travel in style, look for a driver of one of the many vintage automobiles found throughout Cuba. The American trade embargo, in place since 1959’s revolu- tion, severely limited imports of foreign cars, meaning 1950s-era Chevs and Fords still dot the streets. In North America, road-trippers are used to making pit stops at service 50 FALL 2018 CAA MANiTOBA centres with clean toilets and fast-food restaurants. Don’t expect the same here. Instead, families post signs to welcome travellers into their homes when they need a bathroom break or a quick bite to eat. En route to Holguin, we stop at a small farm called Finca Framboyanes. The family matriarch, Elda Leiva, greets us warmly and offers heaping plates of guava, coconut, cheese and cake alongside fresh-brewed Cuban coffee—in exchange for a nominal tip. “We enjoy meeting people from around the world and hearing their stories,” she explains in Spanish. “I only wish we could communicate in their own language. If everyone in the world spoke one language, it would solve a lot of problems!” Before returning to our own homes in Canada, we can’t resist spending at least one day on the beach, so we head north to Playa Pesquero. While the warm weather is definitely a great reason to visit Cuba, our road trip reveals that the true warmth of the country lies in its people. DRINK For a nightcap, head to Roma, an apartment- turned-bar in Old Havana. The loft space has a house-party vibe that’s carried through the lavatory—which is the bathroom of a neighbouring apartment. STAY For old-school luxury, check into the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski. The five-star hotel boasts a rooftop pool and spa. Even if you don’t stay here, grab a table and sip a café con leche (coffee with milk) in the sumptuous Constante bar with a view of El Floridita, Hemingway’s legendary watering hole. FOy/ALAMy Elda Leiva preps coconuts; American horsepower (left) El del Frente is a trendy new paladar and magnet for local creative types. Dig into lobster tacos or risotto. One of Havana’s top mixologists serves world-class mojitos and daiquiris on the rooftop patio, surrounded by Old Havana’s magnificent architecture.