Music Port Festival

Music Port is Whitby’s annual world music festival! Encompass Tours will be promoting its famous “Cuban Snapshot” and “Mi Cubita” tours and asking the question “What do you want from a Cuban Holiday?” All input from you the general public will be considered in planning our new tours and increasing our ability to satisfy your holiday dreams!

musicport2013

Join us from October 18th to 20th at the Whitby Pavilion for a “Journey through World Music” a holiday requiring No Visa or Passport!

Bring your dancing shoes and a thermos of tea for a beach party in the comfort of the Whitby Pavilion! For more information please download the flyer and poster from the links below.

Hope to see you there!

http://www.musicportfestival.com/images/flyercomplete.jpg

http://www.musicportfestival.com/images/a2poster2_copy_Large.jpg

 

A stroll down Obispo.Cuba

Obispo is Havana’s Oxford Street!

ParqueCentral1

Let’s take a stroll down Obispo! Turn your back on the central park and head down towards the harbour. Obispo acts as the main tourist route connecting the Parque Central to Plaza de Armas a stone’s throw from the bay of Havana.

BarFloridtaconarbolHavanaCuba

On your right Bar Floridita professes to be “the cradle of Daquiri”  and “one of the seven most famous bars in the world” it attracts crowds and is one of the many places Hemmingway left his mark!  The romance of his novels and the many stories of his years spent enjoying the good life in pre revolution Cuba are legendary.

Take your time! There are many things to delight and surprise the eye, the ear and the nose!

The street has blossomed into a cacophony of bookshops, bars, money exchanges, home goods stores, pets in tiny cramped cages, tacky tourist trinkets, and numerous cafes with musicians supplying the background rhythms.

SanchoPanzoObispo

A couple of blocks on, the figure of Sancho Panza greets you on his mule and musicians play in the shade of some ruins converted into a restaurant and bar.

Obispo2

New relaxations in the laws have triggered a fast growth of small business and enterprising Cubans are making the most of their new opportunities. Tourists have become more abundant and more approachable and hustlers who have always been present now have licenses to offer their services! Tourist police patrol the designated tourist areas and Cuba is very safe for tourists.

LaLLuviadeoOroahavana4

If the heat is getting too much you might be feeling a bit thirsty. Why not pop into “Lluvia de Oro” for a coffee or a cocktail and imagine yourself back in the cold war days, a secret agent in Graham Green’s Film “Our Man in Havana”. It’s normally hot and the bars do well! Back out onto the street, music floats into your ears from all directions.

Obispohavana102Cuba

It’s impossible to walk down Obispo without being approached by someone to buy something, go to bar, visit a restaurant or part with some cash to feed a needy family. The choice is widening and Cubans are learning about competition!

havana110

Museums, tourist information, ice cream sellers, pizza sellers, opticians, artists’ studios/shops, shoe shops, clothing shops, flower sellers and Hotels.

Museums, mainly small, are everywhere! Many free to enter.

CafeParisOboispo

The famous Café Paris is small but great music is usually on the menu, whether you stop for a cerveza or a meal. On the walls are memorabilia and photos of the much loved “Caballero de Paris”

ObispoPasteleriaSanJose1

From here the aroma of baking will attract you in to Pastelaria San Jose and there is sure to be something sweet for a tasty snack.

Pasteles4

 

Pasteles3

You are now on the door step of Hotel Ambos Mundos Hemmingways favourite! The view from the roof terrace is worth a visit in the beautiful old lift!

HotelAmbosMundos2

Continue on past Mercaderes and you enter the colonial architecture of Plaza de Armas surrounding a park with some lovely Palms and flowering Frangipani trees. This Plaza is where second hand book sellers congregate. Beyond the glint of the sea can be seen below the huge fortifications defending the harbour!

havana38

If you would like to see it all for yourself, why not join us on tour this winter to enjoy Cuba at its best!

HavanaCubaTiendaDeLibrosPlazadeArmasHavana CubaPlazadeArmas20134havana109

A Cuban Snapshot  http://encompasstours.com/tours/a-cuban-snapshot-7-days/

Mi Cubita  http://encompasstours.com/tours/mi-cubita-cuba14-days/

To read more of our Cuban news posts please link to Cuban News Posts

Virtual Havana Bus tour!

Join us for encompass tours virtual Hop-on Hop-off bus tour of Havana, Cuba

HavanaHoponHopoffbus2-001

Got your camera, water, sunscreen, sunglasses, money and maybe a snack??? Yes? “Listo?” Ready? Then let’s go…….
This is your Hop – on Hop – off bus tour of the major attractions of the city of Havana!
Keep your ticket in a safe place, it is valid all day and will be inspected every time you hop on or off!! Remember you can get off at any stop and there will be another bus to pick you up in about 20minutes!!!

HotelInglaterra1
As we are staying in a lovely casa (BnB) in Havana Vieja, we are “hoping-on” in Parque Central just opposite Hotel Inglaterra and Café Francesa. http://encompasstours.com/2012/09/coffee-break-havana/  This small park is surrounded by some of the most popular hotels of old Havana. Shiny new ones like Hotel Parque Central and not quite so shiny old ones like Hotel Inglaterra and Telegrafo.

HOtelTelegrafo
The best seats for city views are on the top deck, so cover up with sunscreen or you will burn quickly in the sun!!

HavanaHoponHopoffbus3
We are off!! Down Prado towards the Malecon, passing the Museum of the Revolution housed in the old Batista palace (recently restored) and a fascinating “must do” visit in itself!

Revolution Museum havana11

The city’s historians have realised the value of the old architecture to the tourist industry and attempts are being made to re build. Restoration of some of the crumbling facades is underway, but for some of the decaying buildings, fronting the malecon, weathered by the sea spray and the winds; it’s too late and they are being torn down. The malecon is always a popular place for Cubans and tourists alike. http://encompasstours.com/2013/02/life-on-the-malecon/

Havana roof tops
Our tour bus stops to pick up people from various hotels en route, then we arrive at the first stop of real interest; Plaza de la Revolucion. This expansive plaza was built to celebrate culmination in 1959 of the revolutionary struggle for Cuba led by Fidel Castro.

havana90

Plaza de la revolucion

Castro used the plaza to make countless public addresses to the masses in praise of the revolution over the years, but more recently this enormous plaza has been used for non political musical events. Famously the free concert in 2009 given by many of Latin Americas most famous and popular stars. This concert was attended by a staggering one tenth of the population of the island and astounded the authorities who struggled to provided security and support!!!

Next stop the Miramar trade centre with a good view of the coast and National Aquarium!

AquariumHavanaCastro announced the Aquarium would be “the best in the world”, but if you do hop off for a visit you will see it has a long long way to go! It’s mainly a day out for Cuban families who have not heard of animal rights or welfare, and sadly there is little information about the lovely fish that are housed here. Turtles are abundant and there are shows daily of trained of dolphins and sea lions who seem to be well fed!

Miramar
Winding through busy streets, a bus ride is a great way to see life going on in this extraordinary city where most buildings seem to be half ruined. Everyone going about their business.

havana8
The CDR and Huge political hoardings remind Cuban’s to be uphold the revolution and this one at the gates of the cities cemetery Cementario Colon broadcasts the words Jose Marti  http://encompasstours.com/2012/05/in-search-of-cubas-national-symbols/ We can hop off here and explore the maze of magnificent tombs within the yellow walls, but If it’s not your thing stay on the bus!!

Capitoli22013
Heading back towards the old part of the city our bus returns to the Capitolio (now closed and being restored) and the Gran Teatro de la Habana,  the majestic grand theatre, which is certainly worth a visit. You can take a guided tour for 2 or 3cuc. If you want to come back in the evening to catch a performance that will cost you tourist price of 25cuc upwards great value!

IMG_0418
More or less the last port of call on our bus tour is the Castillo de la Real Fuerza. These fortifications are situated at the entrance to Plaza de Armas and were listed in a UNESCO world heritage site as part of Old Havana and Fortifications. If you look up at the watch tower you will notice a familiar figure, La Giraldilla, this one is a copy, but she is the symbol seen now on every bottle of Havana Club!!

IMG_0307
In the magic and romance of the old city, maybe it’s time to Hop off for one last time and explore! Find a nice bar to enjoy a cocktail before dinner and digest all you have seen!!

Why not join us for a real tour this year and take your own fotos!

“A Cuban Snapshot” http://encompasstours.com/tours/cuba/a-cuban-snapshot-7-days/

“Mi Cubita” http://encompasstours.com/tours/cuba/mi-cubita-cuba14-days/

Lolo: Artists Flourish in Cuba

Food and other commodities can be hard to come by in Cuba but Art is abundant and gives us all hope!

MatanzasCubaOsmanyBatencourtArt3-001

We recently visited a well know artist’s studio in Matanzas. Cuba’s sculptor “Lolo” or Osmany Betancourt Falcón is one of Cuba’s flourishing artists.He is a local to Matanzas and his studio can be found on Calle 97 known as Narvaez facing onto the San Juan river.

MatanzasRioSanJuanCuba

He was busy at work when we arrived, up a step ladder on a huge piece supported by various pieces of wooden scaffolding and ropes. In the back ground a radio played some lively tunes and one of his colleagues with whom he shares his studio was working on some glazes. We wandered around admiring various pieces and looking at his array of tools and machinery for moving large works.

MatanzasCubaOsmanyBatencourtArt10

We chatted to Lolo when he took a short break to wash the rich red clay off his hands, and we asked him about his studio and his wonderful creations! Materials can be hard to come by in Cuba and so artists tend to work with what is easily available locally. Lolo likes to works in clay, and it is sourced from Pinar del Rio the neighbouring province. Then he likes to casts his pieces in Bronze and wood is another favourite material he incorporates.

MatanzasCubaOsmanyBatencourtArt10-001

For the piece he’s working on now, he plans to send it to the US to be cast in bronze.

Asking Lolo where we could see his works, he told us there was one in the Ceramic Museum in Havana. This is a small museum is on Calle los Mercaderes just off Plaza Vieja, entry is free and it’s well worth a visit!

MatanzasCubaOsmanyBatencourtArt11

Lolo has had some recent fame winning first  prize in Matanzas, in the 11th Summer Exhibition 2011 with a piece entitled “Sargento” an installation in enamelled ceramic, metal and wood.

He has won other prizes in the Bianual Amelia Peláez Ceramic Competition and in the Roberto Diago Salón. He has also had pieces of work on show in Canada, Holland and Germany.

MatanzasCubaOsmanyBatencourtArt1

The government actively supports “the Arts” and over the last 53 years of revolution, Cubans artist have enjoyed support and opportunities that others have been denied. Art of all types and forms is everywhere and accessible, mainly free of charge or very cheap for Cubans. Tourists pay a lot more. Artists have an almost free expression in music, dance, sculpture, and painting, the resulting works interpreted by the viewer.

MatanzasCubaOsmanyBatencourtArt8

Art schools are over subscribed and its a career  that the younger generation are drawn to. The arts attract tourists and sales to tourists bring extra cash bonuses.  If you are talented and produce popular works you might get a chance to travel with a show or get a contract to perform abroad. The young have a thirst to see the world beyond Cubas shores!

Why not book a holiday in Cuba this year?

The Castro days are numbered and change will steamroll this fragile and unique island.

Cuban Snapshot 7 days  http://encompasstours.com/tours/a-cuban-snapshot-7-days/

Mi Cubita 14 days     http://encompasstours.com/tours/mi-cubita-cuba14-days/

 

 

 

Coffee Break Havana!!

Coffee  Break al la Francia!

Its not VERY French but “Café Francesa” is the closest most Cubans have ever been to Paris! It’s a popular spot in a busy area and attracts an interesting mixture of clients!! Photos of the Eiffel Tower and other famous views of Paris in black and white are on display inside which is decorated in delicate shades of pink! !

On the covered terrace facing onto Parque Central, there are about ten tables and chairs and inside another five. The menu is not extensive, but you can buy basic sandwiches, and a good range of cakes, pastries, and bread to eat in or take away The coffee is normally good and the usual soft drinks, beers and spirits are available too.

Francia is located between Hotel Telegrafo and Hotel Inglaterra on Parque Central and is a very popular spot day and night where you can while away some time watching the world go by. The opening hours are 8am till midnight and due to its central location in the Hotel zone of old Havana where all tourist pass through, the colourful ladies and independent businessmen it attracts for commercial opportunities and meetings is apparent!

You won’t hear any French music, but the outdoor group playing daily at Hotel Iglaterra  always  provides a nice background of Cuban popular tunes.

 

Want to see for your self?

Join us on tour in October!

http://encompasstours.com/tours/a-cuban-snapshot-7-days/