Getaways: Visiting Cuba, again and again
Over 14 years, Mamaroneck author has visited Havana, Pinar del Rio, Santa Clara, and all kinds of places along the way.
Why I went: I began traveling to Cuba in 2002 when I went under the license of the University of Texas. I have been there 14 times to date. Across the years I have visited Havana, Pinar del Rio, Santa Clara, Remedios, Cayo Santa Maria and all kinds of places along the way. My focus has been on education systems and have therefore visited schools from pre-school to university including the famous National Art Schools, special education residences, the University of Havana, dance schools, medical schools and hospitals.
The curiosity that led me to Cuba arose from the fact that Cubans outperform students in most other countries in academic subjects as well as all the arts. It seemed to me that there might be some things to learn from their long experience and unusual commitment to public education. I am currently writing a book about what I have learned about education in my travels.
Although I didn’t anticipate it, this has been a period of historic diplomatic and cultural change. By coincidence, I was in Havana last December 17 when President Obama announced declaration of the two countries to restore diplomatic relations. By mid-morning there was much flag-waving and happy celebration in the streets.
What to pack: I just returned on Aug. 1 from Cuba where there was a tropical heat wave. I was able to fly directly from JFK to Havana on JetBlue (two hours and 55 minutes), which made it a relatively easy trip. Would not recommend June-August for first time “norte-americano” travelers. Always think about taking summer clothes, plus good walking shoes, washable items and a HAT. I sometimes travel with a carry-on only.
Where to stay: I have stayed at 5-star hotels, casa particulars (rented rooms in homes), once I slept through a tropical rain storm in a thatched hut outside of Santa Clara, but my best times were staying with my Cuban friend, Dora, and her dog, Cachita, in their apartment in the Vedado section of Havana.
Good to know: Whenever you decide to travel to Cuba, you will find the people very welcoming and friendly. There are now American flags flying everywhere. But, as one travel writer cautioned, “Go now... before the Golden Arches appear!” Buen Viaje!
If you'd like to contribute a story about your latest getaway, such as Kate Moody's trip to Cuba, please contact editor Karen Croke at email@example.com or 914-826-1654.