February 6-11, 2019
In Cuba, cars are not just a means of transportation; they are an obsession, a point of pride and a history lesson in U.S.-Cuban relations. The classic Fords and Chevrolets from the 1950s — repaired countless times over many decades and still on the road — are a perpetual reminder of the U.S. embargo that has lasted almost 60 years. Meticulously maintained and restored, these classic cars are the epitome of the Cuban spirit, resourcefulness and the ability to turn utility into art. Meet with mechanical “artists” to discuss and observe the restoration process and experience these automotive masterpieces.
Charles Fleming writes about automobiles and motorcycles for the Los Angeles Times’ Business section. He also writes the urban hiking column L.A. Walks. A former staff writer for Newsweek, Variety and the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, he is the author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller “High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess,” the New York Times bestseller “My Lobotomy” and “Secret Stairs: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Los Angeles” and its sequel, “Secret: A Walking Guide to the Hidden Trails of Los Angeles.”
¡Bienvenidos a Havana!
Depart Miami on a group flight, and arrive in Cuba in the late morning. En route from the airport, visit Museo Ernest Hemingway, in the author’s former home at Finca Vigía. During a tour of the grounds, make a private visit to see Hemingway’s 1955 Chrysler, which is undergoing a restoration. Check in to your hotel on the famed Malecón for a reception followed by a welcome dinner in one of Havana’s best paladares (privately owned restaurants). (L, R, D)
This morning, take a walking tour of Old Havana. Enjoy a special visit to the Museo del Automóvil to meet with the director, Eduardo Mesejo Maestre, to learn about the restoration of the oldest car in Cuba, a 1905 Cadillac. Tour a private car-painting workshop and speak with the owners. After lunch, visit A Lo Cubano Car Club, which was featured on the reality show “Cuban Chrome.” Meet with the founders and members of the club. After dinner as a group at a paladar, you may choose to attend a show at the famous Tropicana nightclub (optional activity — not included in tour price). (B, L, D)
This morning will focus on another hallmark of Cuban culture — cigars. Visit a tobacco factory to speak with and observe rollers and other workers to learn about Cuba’s signature export. Then visit the workshop of Luis Enrique González to learn about the mechanical wizardry required to keep pre-revolution cars running without state-of-the-art tools. Luis will display his homemade lathe and welding equipment in addition to his personal collection of pre-revolutionary motorcycles. This afternoon, visit the NostalgiCar Workshop to continue your discussion of car restoration and upkeep. This evening is yours to enjoy Havana at leisure. (B, L)
Depart for the beach town of Varadero. February departure: Experience the annual Harlistas Cubanos Festival, which includes car exhibitions, races and live music. Here you will have the chance to have an exchange with the Harlistas, a group composed of mechanics, tour guides, retirees, musicians and others who share a love of all things Harley-Davidson. November departure: Participate in car-inspired activities and visits with Harlistas Cubanos who are eager to show you around . Return to Havana for an evening at leisure. (B, L)
After breakfast, travel as a group to José Martí International Airport for a group flight to Miami and individual flights onward. (B)
The 22-story Meliá Cohiba is in the modern Vedado district of Havana and faces the Havana coastline, with its renowned Malecón ocean drive. The hotel, just a 10-minute cab ride from Old Havana, has comfortable rooms, a spacious and elegant lobby with fountains, classical furnishings and panoramic views. A wireless internet connection is available in the lobby, and several restaurants, bars and cafes are nearby. http://www.hotelmeliacohiba.com/