Chris Weatherhead & Connie Miller from Montecito Village Travel at 3329 State Street were among a highly select group of only 50 travel advisors nationally who have just returned from an exclusive Globus Cuba Experience to Havana and beyond. The unique people-to-people educational exchange enabled Montecito Village Travel – including Chris Weatherhead locally – to experience the groundbreaking Globus program that has been sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
“When we ask our clients which destinations are on their wish list, the one place that a growing number of them tell us is Cuba. That’s why we accepted the invitation to join with a very select number of our fellow travel colleagues from across the United States in making this extraordinary journey in which we could thoroughly understand the options we can legally offer,” explained Chris Weatherhead, Chief Information Manager of Montecito Village Travel. “We were very excited to take advantage of this rare opportunity that Globus provided to experience a cross-section of Cuba as few other Americans have. The cultural exchange has been truly enlightening by providing us with an understanding for what travelers from California can expect when they participate in one of these government-sanctioned tours.”
Highlights of the Globus Cuba Experience included:
Saturday, February 22, 2014 – Miami–Havana–Varadero The Globus Group Leader briefed participants prior to departing for Miami’s airport. After a short flight to Havana, we were met by their Cuban National Tour Director. Participants continued through Cuba’s countryside and arrived at their Varadero hotel for a welcome dinner with music.
Sunday, February 23, 2014 – Varadero. Excursion to Matanzas & Cardenas The group met with members of the Danzon Club to learn about Cuba’s national dance and enjoyed an interactive dance lesson. They then traveled to Matanzas, known as the “Athens of Cuba” for the many renowned artists and intellectuals it has produced. They visited the Triolet Pharmacy, which dates back to 1879 and is preserved in its entirety.
Following lunch, the group interacted with the workers at Ediciones Vigía, a print and binding shop, where they learned about a traditional craft that is still done by hand. They continued to the historic town of Cardenas, where the Cuban national flag waved for the first time on May 19, 1850. They next visited an artist’s gallery to interact with the artists and musicians. That evening, they enjoyed a banquet dinner at Casa du Pont, built in 1926 by American millionaire Irénée du Pont.
February 24, 2014 – Varadero to Havana
The group traveled through the heart of Cuba’s agricultural and sugar cane-growing industry to Havana, where they explored Old Havana, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From graceful 16th- century castles to modern high-rises, Havana is acclaimed as one of the world’s most visually diverse cities. They participated in a discussion with a local architect on topics including Havana’s unique architecture, the challenges of renovating the city’s exquisite historic buildings, and the future of these restorations.
They started their evening with a discussion and choir performance at Casa de la Amistad, then capped their day with dinner at the illustrious Hotel Nacional de Cuba – a landmark hotel long identified as a symbol of history, culture, and Cuban identity.
February 25, 2014 – Havana
We met with a former Cuban baseball player and joined in a discussion regarding the history and the love of this favorite pastime in Cuba and in the U.S. This was followed by an examination of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Ernest Hemingway, whose 30 years in Cuba provides an enduring legacy.
During lunch at a local organic farm, the group joined a discussion with the owners and learned about organic urban farming in Cuba. Then they returned to Havana and Callejón de Hamel, a neighborhood known as “Salvador’s Alley” showcasing eclectic artwork, vibrant street music, Santeria shrines, and colorful murals by local artist Salvador Gonzales. They discussed how the artist gives back to the community and the beliefs of the Santeria religion.
Prior to dinner, we met members of the local Old Styler Car Club and heard why Havana’s streets are filled with vintage American automobiles, as well as how these cars are obtained and what it takes to keep them running. The group then rode in an Old Styler car to their farewell dinner at Café del Oriente, considered one of the city’s finest restaurants.
February 26, 2014 – Havana to Miami
“While travel to Cuba remains heavily restricted, our sincere hope is that it is only a matter of time before this nation – that’s only a mere 90 miles away from the southernmost part of the Continental United States – opens up completely,” Chris Weatherhead stated. “When that day inevitably comes, we will be prepared to help guide our clients on what they can expect through our first-hand knowledge.”
To begin your journey, contact Montecito Village Travel at 3329 State Street Santa Barbara, CA 93105 or online at www.ytc.com or simply call 805.969.5096.