LA Conservancy's Cuba Itinerary

March 1-9 2015

Cuba People to People Trip with special emphasis on Historic Preservation and Architectural Heritage

Please note that this Itinerary is subject to change and will be continually updated until departure to insure the best trip possible.

[1] Sunday March 1 - Miami

We have reserved the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Miami the first night, and we will gather together that evening.

[2] Monday March 2 - Miami/Havana

Hotel Nacional de Cuba

Airport check in is 8:00 AM. Leave Miami at 11:30 AM & arrive in Havana City at 12:30 PM. You will be met at the airport by your guide and tour study leader. After brief greetings and a drive into the city we will arrive at hotel and in our rooms around 2:30 PM.

En route stop at Havana’s famous Plaza de la Revolucion, a compendium of 1950s commercial buildings that now form the center of the government. This is the site where the most famous speeches in the country are made and where Pope John Paul II held his legendary 1998 Mass.

Gather in the Hotel Nacional bar upon arrival for a welcome cocktail and a brief intro to Havana by Rosa Lowinger.

If we arrive early enough in the day, we can organize a brief walking tour through the neighborhood, visiting the Lopez Serrano building, a 1930 Art Deco masterwork that is still used as an apartment residence and is in great need of conservation.

[6:30 pm]- board the bus for the Maqueta of Havana. Start your visit to Havana with a bird’s eye view of the City as provided by the famous Maqueta de La Habana. This scale model of Havana ranks third largest in the globe for models like this. It was built at a scale of 1:1000 and spans over 144 square meters (1,550 sq ft) which is equal to 144 sq km. A team of nine designers, model makers and architects led by Orlando Martorell worked for eleven years to build a detailed model of the Cuban capital mostly out of Habano cigar boxes, cardboard, sponge, plastic and sand. The model is used as a planning tool by the city’s urban planners.

[8:00 pm]- Welcome Dinner at Paladar San Cristobal, set in an early 20th century mansion. Drive along world famous Malecon Boulevard and see Havana at night. Rosa Lowinger will continue with intro to Havana and the U.S. influence on 20th century Cuba.

Rated by The Guardian as the number one Paladar in Havana, the Paladar San Cristobal is based in an interesting, eclectic space in an early 20th century mansion. The food is Criollo (Cuban Creole): malanga, yucca, cerdo asado (roast pork), lobster, fresh fish, shrimp and other traditional fare finished with fresh flair. The dessert menu is expansive and the wine list is broad. We will have a chance to speak with the Chef and the owner of the establishment to discuss food and new opportunities in the food industry in Cuba.

[3] Tuesday March 3 - Old Havana

[7:00 am] - Breakfast at the hotel

[8:30 am] - Old Havana’s Four Plazas - All day walking and bus tour. Leave hotel on bus to tour Habana Vieja, Cuba's first and most significant UNESCO World Heritage site. We will see the eclectic mix that is Old Havana, focusing on the architecture of the 16th - 19th centuries. Our tour will begin in the Plaza de Armas, the oldest in the city, containing the 16th Century Castillo de la Real Fuerza that is the oldest Spanish fortress in the Americas. We will visit the former Palace of the Captains Generals, built in 1776 that now serves as the museum of the city of Havana, and then walk the streets that form the original colonial settlement. We will continue in the Plaza de la Catedral, the Cathedral Plaza, with its unfinished 1727 Baroque cathedral and the most splendid of the colonial mansions. One now houses the Museum of Colonial Art, which we will also visit. From there we will walk to the Plaza de San Francisco, housing the port, the stock exchange, and the San Francisco convent. We will visit the studios of la Escuela Taller, a workshop-training center that prepares young people to work in preservation trades such as plastering, mural painting, historic ironwork and stone masonry.

Our tour will focus on the mixed-use character of the Old City, that has sought to preserve the local character while offering tourist services that fund the basic needs of the residents. We may visit a school, a workshop for elderly people to sell crafts, or a 17th century convent that now serves as a senior center.

[1:00 pm] - Lunch at Paladar Mercaderes.

Located in Old Havana, "Los Mercaderes" paladar, combines the atmosphere of a typical colonial house with the stained glass, murals and frescoes of the era and original XIX century floors. This paladar offers an excellent variety of plates from traditional to international with a special emphasis on fresh seafood and is ranked as one of the six most important restaurants in Cuba by TripAdvisor.

[2:30 pm] - On our way back to our hotel we will stop by the Havana Hilton (now the Hotel Habana Libre), designed by Los Angeles architect Welton Becket. Opened in March 1958, it was Latin America’s tallest and largest hotel, financed by the pension fund of the union of Cuban restaurant workers but operated by Hilton Hotels. On January 8, 1959, Fidel Castro entered Havana and the hotel served as his headquarters, even as it continued operating as a Hilton (until October, 1960, when all American hotels in Cuba were nationalized). In 1996 the Spanish Sol Melià chain assumed management of the hotel and restored the enormous original mural by artist Amelia Peláez over the main entrance which had spent decades hidden from public view.

Before boarding the bus, we will enjoy a visit to Coppelia, one of the largest ice cream parlors in the world, in an iconic flying saucer-shaped building built in 1966. Architect Mario Girona was influenced by the biomorphic modernism of Italian, Mexican and South American modernists like Pier Luigi Nervi, Felix Candela and Oscar Niemeyer.

[8:30 pm] Dinner on your own.
Tonight dinner is in a paladar of your choice from a list of the hottest foodie scenes in Havana. The tour guide will help make the reservations and book a taxi. This is an opportunity to get away from the larger group and dine with a smaller group of friends. The group will have a chance to speak with the chef and owner of the establishment to discuss food and new opportunities in the food industry in Cuba. The cost of this meal is not included in the trip price.

[4] WEDNESDAY MARCH 4 -Central Havana

[7:00 am] - Breakfast at the hotel

[9:30 am] - Morning visit to Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA).
Begin the day with a visit to ISA, the world famous national art schools in Havana, designed by a trio of architects on the site of the Havana Country Club. Visit the facility in the company of either Professor Javier Leon, director of conservation for the school, or Universo Garcia Garcia, the architect who led the recent renovation of the art school buildings.

[12:30 pm] - Lunch at El Aljibe, an outdoor thatch roof restaurant located in the residential area of Miramar, a few minutes from downtown Havana. The specialty of this family run business is the famous El Aljibe roast chicken, served with a side of delicious bitter orange sauce, French fries, fried plantains, delicious black beans, white rice, salad and, for dessert, traditional Cuban sweets.

[2:00-4:30 pm] - After lunch those who want to can enjoy a walking tour through old Havana en route to the Museum of Fine Arts, passing by the Bacardi Building, of the Murallas neighborhood of Havana. Those who prefer can travel by motorcoach.

[3:00 pm] Arrive at the Museum of Fine Arts - Cuban collections, housed in a prize-winning modernist building that was recently restored. This collection demonstrates the breadth of visual artistic activity in Cuba throughout the colonial and modern periods.

Optional- Enjoy a drink at El Floridita, the bar where “Papa” Hemingway preferred his daiquiris. Return by taxi to hotel. ( not included)

[7:30 pm] - Dinner at La Atelier. The large main room is decorated with sparse modern lines, inside a typically idiosyncratic Vedado mansion. Two balconies with boundless cushions form the outdoor lounge. Scattered antiques offer a retro, but not old, feeling. The food changes every day, every week, hence the charming handwritten menus.

[10:00 pm] - Tropicana nightclub. The Tropicana was the most famous nightclub in the world from 1939 to 1959. Built in the gardens of an early 20th century residence, it contains one of Cuba’s most significant modern buildings, the Arcos de Cristal (1952), a thin-shell concrete structure. The club continues to operate and is the only one of Havana’s famed clubs to survive the revolution. Rosa Lowinger, your study leader, wrote the definitive work on this club: Tropicana Nights: The Life and Times of the Legendary Cuban Nightclub (Harcourt 2005), demonstrating how it was a microcosm for Cuba in the period of the revolution. Rosa will offer a rare behind-the -scenes architectural tour to our group.

Optional additional feature. You can stay for the legendary Tropicana show this evening on your own. The price of the show is not included in your trip price.

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[5] Thursday March 5 -Havana/Cienfuegos/Trinidad

Check-out: Hotel Nacional, Check-in Hotel Las Cuevas

[7:00 am] - Breakfast at the hotel

[8:00 am] - Transfer to Cienfuegos and Trinidad de Cuba

Depart Havana and travel by air-conditioned motorcoach on the National Highway to the Caribbean colonial city of


[12:30 pm] - Lunch at the highly rated Villa Lagarto, a lovely paladar with delicious food and glorious views of Cienfuegos Bay.

[2:30 pm] - Arrive in Cienfuegos. Visit the historic center of the city, guided by one of its longstanding preservation architects. Visit the Parque Martí, center of the city and see several important buildings including the 1889 Tomas Terry Theater, one of Cuba's three exemplary 19th century regional theaters. Visit preservation office and meet colleagues.

[2:30 PM- 4:30 pm] - Continue with tour of Cienfuegos, focusing on preservation projects around coast and bayfront areas.

[6:30 pm] - Arrive in Trinidad. We will be staying at Hotel Las Cuevas

[8:00 pm] - Dinner on your own. We can help make reservations at the paladar of your choice. This is an opportunity to get away from the larger group and dine with a smaller group of friends. The cost of this meal is not included in the trip price.

[9:30 pm] - Night of music in Trinidad. Enjoy extraordinary Cuban music in the historic center. We will all gather at the Plaza Mayor in the center of Trinidad to check out the night scene and stroll to some of the shops and music clubs in the heart of this small jewel of a city.

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[6] Friday March 6 - Trinidad de Cuba

[7:00 am] - Breakfast at the hotel

[8:30 am] - Leave hotel for historic city center.

[9:00 am] - Meet Nancy Benítez, former director of the department and an active

voice in preservation in the city. Nancy has directed most of the major projects in the

department, which was elevated in 2000 to the status of a regional satellite conservation office like the one in Havana. She will explain the structure of regional preservation in Cuba. Tour the museums and historic center of Trinidad, Cuba's second UNESCO World Heritage site and a bastion of Caribbean vernacular earthen architecture. Begin at Office of the Conservator of Trinidad where we will see the studios and meet with preservation colleagues who are spearheading preservation efforts throughout the region. Visit will include numerous historic mansions now turned into decorative arts and historic house museums, including the Museo Romantico and Palacio Cantero as well as public squares where pilot conservation projects have been carried out, and visits to numerous private homes representing all stages of preservation of the regional art and architecture.

[12:30 pm] - Lunch at the Manacas Iznaga sugar plantation and the local craft market.

[2:30 pm] - Afternoon visit to the Valley of the Sugar Mills, part of the UNESCO World Heritage designation for Trinidad. Visit the archeological site of San Isidro and the Guaímaro mansion with historic mural paintings. All sites are in process of stabilization. We will learn about the plans for using said sites to reduce the burden of tourism on Trinidad's historic center. Return to the city at 5 PM, in time for a drink at La Canchanchara, a bar that is in the oldest historic building in the city and surrounded by the best craft markets in town. Markets are open until approximately 7:30 PM. (Optional)

[8:30 pm] - Dinner on your own. We can help make reservations at the paladar of your choice. This is an opportunity to get away from the larger group and dine with a smaller group of friends. The cost of this meal is not included in the trip price.

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[7] SATURDAY MARCH 7 -trinidad/havana

[7:00 am] - Breakfast at the hotel.

[8:30 am] - leave for Havana.

[12:00 pm]- Pit stop for a light lunch and refreshments at Aguada de Pasajeros. This is a long used stop on the National highway. Recently it was upgraded to a full rest stop with a traditional thatched dining room/bar and new bathrooms. (Lunch not included)

[3:00 pm] - Visit to Finca Vigia, Ernest Hemingway’s hilltop home in the rural village of San Francisco de Paula, on the outskirts of Havana. The home has recently been the subject of a massive preservation effort by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as the author left it in 1961. At this farm you will be able to see his sport-fishing boat, the Pilar. This place houses the Hemingway Museum. The Finca Vigia estate and the fishing village of Cojimar are considered the most significant locales for those interested in Hemingway’s history.

[5:00 pm ] - Check in Hotel Nacional de Cuba

[7:30 pm] - Dinner at Vista al Mar. This paladar is located right on the ocean. Enjoy sunset views with excellent food and mojitos.

[10:00 pm] - We recommend an evening of live Latin jazz at La Zorra y el Cuervo or Gato Tuerto, depending on who's playing. Both these clubs are very close to the Hotel Nacional. On your own.

[8] SUNDAY MARCH 8 -havana

[7:00 am] - Breakfast at the hotel.

[9:00 am] - Vedado and Modern Havana: Beginning in 1940, Havana’s architects defined a national Cuban identity by adapting the principles of International Style modernism to Cuban buildings. Bolstered by the burgeoning economy of the post-war period, and an intellectual moment of creativity that spanned all of the arts, an extraordinary building campaign was put into effect. The result was a period of amazing building that was nearly unparalleled in Latin America. Cuban Modernism is characterized by exuberant building materials, the combination of art into architecture and stunning domestic as well as public buildings.

[10:00 am] - Morning visit to the Cementerio Colon. Built in 1876, this is the oldest, largest and most important necropolis in Cuba, and among the two most significant Latin America cemeteries in historical and architectural terms. It contains over 500 monuments, many of architectural splendor, including tombs designed by Rene Lalique.

[1:00 pm] - Lunch at La Ferminia, a swanky restaurant in an elegant converted colonial mansion in the leafy neighborhood of Flores.

[3:00 pm] - Visit the Richard Neutra house, now the Swiss Ambassdor's residence. (Subject to availability)

[7:00 pm]- Classic cars. The group will be picked up by a fleet of classic American cars and ride through Havana in style to dinner tonight.

[8:00 pm ] - Farewell dinner at La Guarida, the most famous paladar in Cuba, set on the second floor of a characteristic eclectic mansion from the late 19th century. This elegant setting compliments the "Nueva Cocina Cubana" cuisine.

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[9] Monday March 9 -Havana/Miami

[8:30-10:30 am] - Those who wish can visit Temple Beth Shalom, the Jewish community center. It is in a modernist building designed in 1955 by architect Aquiles Capablanca and restored in 2010. Return to the Hotel via the Riviera Hotel, designed by Miami-based Igor Polevitzky and developed by mobster Meyer Lansky.

[1:00 pm] - Depart from hotel to Havana Airport.