Long off-limits to American travelers, this colorful and fascinating travel feature takes you on an adventurous road journey throughout Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean. Havana, its capital, is the most beautiful and beguiling of Caribbean cities. This 17th century fort guards the harbor entry to Havana. Winston Churchill, approaching Havana by sea in 1895 wrote that he felt "delirious - as if I had sailed with Long John Silver and first gazed on Treasure Island. Here was a place where anything might happen. A place where something would certainly happen." The fortress protecting the city overlooks Old Havana.
Old Havana, Habana Vieja, has some of the best Spanish colonial architecture in the Americas. This is the pocketsize La Real Fuerza Castle, finished in 1582. Its walls are 20 feet thick and 30 feet high. It's the oldest of the four forts that guarded the New World's most precious harbor. Spanish galleons, heavy with South American silver and gold, provisioned here before making their run to Europe.
The most important plaza in Habana Vieja, and the oldest - originally laid out in 1519 - is Plaza de Armas. The Plaza de Armas is ringed by some great old Spanish colonial architecture, like the Palace of the Governors. Spain's harsh rule was enforced from here. Arched colonnades rise to all sides, festooned with vines and bougainvillea.
The hearts of Americans that come to Cuba can't help but be warmed by the sight of so many old American classic cars. Dodges, Chevy's, and Chryslers. It's a rolling museum of romantic American escapism. With the Revolution, all U.S. car imports came to a screeching halt in 1960, thus ensuring a rusting metallic time capsule of Americana. Most are in pretty bad shape, puffing along the avenues, some now covered with of house paint, the only paint available. A typical scene in the narrow streets of Old Havana are people standing around happily talking away, with a grand, yet dying old American classic languishing nearby.
One of the best things to do in Cuba is find one of these classic cars and hire its owner to take you on a road trip into the Cuban countryside. The freeways are nearly deserted since people have a hard time finding gas and can't afford it anyway. With no real opportunity to use trucks, farmers and ranchers must rely primarily on animal muscle to move their farm products along the edge of the freeway.
Cowboys ride the range next to the almost empty freeway. Teams of bullocks pull man and plow through the banana and sugarcane fields, preparing the soil for a fresh planting. On average, agricultural workers are paid the equivalent of 12 US dollars a month.
Parts of Cuba are absolutely covered with sugarcane fields, and though some of the fields are harvested with heavy machinery, others must be harvested with human sweat. With machete accidents and snakebites, this is one of the most dangerous jobs around.
West of Havana is the Pinar del Rio Province, and the lovely Vinales valley. A Caribbean island version of Yosemite, here is the most spectacular scenery in all Cuba. Pinar del Rio is one of Cuba's poorest regions, but it's also the country's best tobacco-growing area. For more than 400 years, tobacco growers have worked the rich reddish-brown sandy loam, producing the world's finest tobacco wrappers, fillers, and binders. From Pinar del Rio, the leaves are taken to cigar factories, most in Havana. The Partagas factory specializes in full-bodied cigars. It's one of the oldest of the Havana brands, started in 1843. The workers turn out 5 million cigars a year, in dozens of types.
Beautiful mountains and fertile fields surround one of Cuba's oldest cities, Trinidad. Founded in 1514, Trinidad is maintained as a living museum, just as the Spaniards left it in its period of greatest opulence. It's the veritable crowned jewel of Cuba's colonial cities. Trinidad is one of Cuba’s nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
On the southern coast of Cuba, facing the Caribbean, are some great beaches, like this one, called Playa Ancon. The dazzling and deep blue Caribbean massages the power-white sand beaches of this area. Locals and foreigners flock to these beaches during their holidays.
Santiago is Cuba’s 2nd largest city, and it is the most Africanized of Cuba's cities. It faces Jamaica and Haiti and has close cultural links to those islands. This port city is also a major industrial center: the distilleries of the original Bacardi rum are here.
This wonderful tour program will also take the viewer to several other locations throughout Cuba, such as: the Bay of Pigs; the beautiful French-influenced city of Cienfuegos;Cuba’s oldest and most intriguing cities, Baracoa;the little visited but fascinating towns of Las Tunas and Holguin; and the UNESCO World Heritage site, the unique city of Camaguey.
The program concludes with a return to Havana to see an even that should not be missed, Carnival in Cuba. An unforgettable program that introduces you to a fresh, thorough, and entertaining view of the island nation of Cuba. The embargo will be lifted soon and Cuba will quickly become the most popular Caribbean destination for millions of Americans each year.