Birthday Cuban Style…

Veredaro, Cuba
Toby & David at Playa Mayor, Varadero, Cuba

Indulge me..today it is all about me.

I just celebrated my birthday in Cuba. Definitely made the top 5 list along with past observances in France, Vietnam, Africa and Peru.

I’m not a big fan of domestic birthday celebrations. Somehow, when you are in a foreign land becoming another year older, the truth does not register similar to caloric intake not counting when you are 32,000 feet off the ground. At the very least, I have convinced my husband of that reality. Plus, he gets to join in geographically desirable merriment.

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I arose at dawn to witness my birthday sunrise at Varadero, a serene and majestic beach resort town on the Peninsula de Hicacos, facing the straits of Florida about a two hour drive from Havana.

We made our way to the white sand and aqua water, claiming our lounges on the deserted beach. The day was already intoxicating.

We ordered Cuban coffee, read and swam for hours. We were able to negotiate a four hour room extension for the amazingly reasonable rate of $8 per hour with lunch for three included. Such a deal.

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My fabulous daughter arranged for a one hour massage on the beach, the sound of waves lapping on the shore lulled me into total birthday bliss.

Ford Chariot
Ford Chariot

At 4pm our Ford chariot arrived and were reluctantly whisked off by our lovely driver, Fernando. We cruised through the town, hit the highway and were practically alone on the road to Havana.

San Felipe Hotel
San Felipe Hotel

We forfeited the Capri Hotel and moved into the charming San Felipe Y Santiago de Bejucal Hotel smack dab in the middle of Plaza de San Francisco.

Plaza de San Francisco
Plaza de San Francisco

The small boutique hotel dispelled the notion that there is a real lack of nice hotels in Havana. High ceilings, charming decor, spacious bathroom and fabulous breakfast. The best part is that when you exit the hotel you are surrounded by the beauty of Plaza de San Francisco in the heart of renovated Habana Vieja.

Lobby San Felipe
Lobby San Felipe

We changed for dinner and threw ourselves into the picturesque hustle and bustle of the city.

Floridita
Floridita

We revisited the four main attractive plazas with the ultimate destination of Floridita, Ernest Hemingway’s favorite haunt.

Ernest Hemingway, Floridita
Ernest Hemingway, Floridita

The decor screams classic Havana. There is even a life-size bronze statue by sculptor Jose Villa of Hemingway anchored at the mahogany bar.

Floridita Daiquiri
Floridita Daiquiri

Fresh lemon daiquiris are a must and we indulged. We were warned that they were pricey for Cuba…$6. An amount worth toasting for Americans accustomed to NY and LA cocktail pricing. A five piece band entertained us during our one hour stay.

Prado
Prado

We left and strolled the Paseo de Marti known as the Prado, a beautiful tree-lined walking boulevard in the middle of the busy city center. It was initiated in 1772 and completed in 1852. Biennal artwork was prominently displayed on the path.

At night, the Prado is illuminated by brass gas lamps with globes atop wrought-iron lampposts in the shape of griffins.

Biennale Artwork, Prado
Biennal Artwork, Prado

We checked out the two top hotels in Havana, The Parque Central and Beyonce and Jay-Z’s home while in Havana, Hotel Saratoga…cubans constantly mention musical royalty’s visit. I have to admit I would take the San Felipe over the purportedly top 2.

La Guerida
La Guarida

We grabbed a cab to the most acclaimed paladar in town, the amazing restaurant, La Guarida. The location alone is worth the visit. It is situated in a grungy neighborhood on the third floor of a once glamorous 19th-century townhouse.

La Guarida
La Guarida

You enter and there is laundry drying in the lobby and cars parked indoors, but what bones. It is now a crowded ciudadela (tenement).

La Guarida was the setting for the Oscar nominate 1995 movie, Fresa y Chocolate.

La Guerida Staircase
La Guarida Staircase

You ascend the spiral staircase three floors to a surprising revelation. The restaurant decor is very charming and eclectic. There is also a Philippe Starck inspired rooftop bar with a spectacular view of Havana.

La Guerida Rooftop Bar
La Guarida Rooftop Bar

The meal was magical and the server outdid herself with champagne, lobster and mango ceviche and a delectable vegetable soup as a surprise starter to my birthday celebration.

Lobster & Mango Ceviche
Lobster & Mango Ceviche
La Guerida
La Guarida

Ebony, our Guide Goddess, alerted them that it was my birthday. The lights were extinguished, the disco ball whirled and Happy by Pharrell filled the restaurant. Dessert arrived with candles blazing.

Cigars and rum shots all around.

I will have to start working on next year…not sure how you top this year’s Cuban birthday celebration.

Veredaro
Varadero

3 Comments

  1. paula lopez says:

    Marvelous!

  2. I am over joyed you chose Cuba for your celebration. Despite the years and much lack, Cuba still holds a charm, a beauty and mix of old and new, few will get to experience !!
    Awesome Pics of Cuba, my Cuba!!
    Im nostalgic!!

  3. Happy Birthday! Thanks for sharing your great adventures!!!xo

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