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  Life   Travel  15 Dec 2016  Sugar me some Cuba!

Sugar me some Cuba!

THE ASIAN AGE. | LOURD VIJAY
Published : Dec 15, 2016, 12:24 am IST
Updated : Dec 15, 2016, 12:26 am IST

I truly experienced old world charm, fully functional to this day and age, says Lourd Vijay.

Plaza De San Francisco
 Plaza De San Francisco

Having danced Salsa for the last 20 years, I had always nurtured the idea of visiting Cuba. Over time, my fascination with Cuba got me acquainted to its old world charm stuck in the 1950s, known for its world famous music, rums, cigars, Che Guevara, revolutions, Ernest Hemingway, period architecture, classic cars like Oldsmobile, Pontiacs, Studebakers, and some great once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

The statue of Cristo De La HavanaThe statue of Cristo De La Havana

At last, 24 years since then, Byond Travel specially curated the trip for us — a group of friends and my students from my dance school — Lourd Vijay’s Dance Studio. We landed in Havana on October 15 and checked into Hotel Copacabana. On the first day, we hit Casa de la Musica in central Havana with a band playing some Salsa, Reggaeton and Cuban pop music. I had my first Cuba Libre which truly was out of this world.

Lourd with his friends and students.Lourd with his friends and students

On day two, we tasted the world’s best Piña Colada at the Almandares parquet and visited the Revolution Square to understand why Cuba is the land of revolutions. Enroute to old Havana, we learnt about the best cigars — Cohiba, Romeo Y Julieta and Trinidad. We had lunch at Cafe Taberna with a Salsa band playing. We later experienced the marvel of the Buena Vista Social Club with 30 of Havana’s most popular musicians performing live.

On the streets of Old HavanaOn the streets of Old Havana

Our bus drove us to Viñales for the most delicious lunch at an organic farm and a mandatory stop at a Tobacco Farm revealed the secrets of the world’s most prized Cuban cigars on Day 3. On Day 4, we did a classic car tour of Havana. My friends and I had a beautiful Marine blue Ford Mercury 65 to drive across town, hitting the Malecon strip and getting dropped off at the fully restored home and boat of Nobel Laureate — Ernest Hemingway. At a time, when Cuba as a country lost out to the world, people in Cuba gained something wonderful — self-reliance, making the best of the worst and more importantly, how to be happy in times of complete adversity and apathy or at least fake it convincingly. I truly experienced old world charm, fully functional to this day and age. Cubans have evolved into being great engineers, a simple example is the genuine ways to make crude automobile spares to keep 60-70 year-old cars in fully running and pristine condition.

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On Day 5, we headed to Trinidad, where we were treated to a local cocktail Canchanchara made out of sugarcane juice. We checked in to the beach side resort — Costa Sur and the next day, woke up to a stunning view of the Caribbean Sea. We drove and trekked to Topes de Collantes. At night, we danced salsa under the stars at Casa de la Musica where the lineup of bands never ended, after which we hit a club set in a natural cave called Disco Ayala. On Day 7, we drove back to Havana via Santa Clara visiting the Che memorial and headed out to have dinner and some Daiquiris at Floridita, where Hemingway frequented.

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It was time to bid adieu to a piece of history that will soon be lost to commercialisation as soon as the embargo is officially lifted.

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The writer is an award-winning dancer, founder LVDS and Guiness World Record Holder for “Most number of swing flips in a minute”

Tags: salsa, cuba, che guevara, ernest hemingway