Billings, MT, Oct. 4, 2011– Award-winning tour operator Austin Adventures (ALA-http://www.austinlehman.com/), the active travel company setting adventure vacations standards in The Americas, Europe, Africa and now the Caribbean, begins in mid February the first of six 10-day / 9-night cultural tours of The Real Cuba scheduled for 2012.
The double occupancy, per person rate is from $4,498 plus charter air from Miami. Tour dates are Feb 11-20; Feb 25-Mar 5; Mar 17-26; Apr 28-May 7; May 26-June 4 and June 9-18. See: http://www.austinlehman.com/cuba-trips-107.php. Required visas will be coordinated and handled by ALA that is among only a handful of adventure tour operators to be granted a special license to engage in travel-related transactions involving Cuba.
The Real Cuba itinerary was developed expressly for Austin Adventures by noted Cuba travel expert Christopher Baker. Baker or an assigned associate will personally accompany each ALA group, leveraging their years of hands-on experience and countless connections to Cuban individuals of all walks of life.
The Real Cuba begins over a welcome dinner where Baker’s Cuban friends spanning a spectrum of ages and professions provide insights into Cuba’s political, social and economic environment. After this it’s one handshake after another, with Eusebio Leal, Official Historian of Havana, conducting a walking tour of Habana Vieja (Old Havana), and visits to private homes and community projects such as colonial mansions turned into rehabilitation centers, maternity clinics, and schoolrooms.
Guests meet Casa-Estudio de Fuster, the studio-home of Baker’s friend José Fuster, commonly called the ‘Picasso of the Caribbean’. Fuster’s dwelling represents a remarkable urban community art project. After lunch at El Aljibe comes a walking tour through the upper middle-class Vedado region, including the Hotel Nacional, the Hotel Habana Libre and the University of Havana.
The tour journeys through the province of Pinar del Río to Finca Pinar San Luís, the private residence of the late legendary tobacco farmer and Cuban cigar ‘ambassador,’ Alejandro Robaina. His son and workers explain tobacco growing, cigar production and the daily life of tobacco farmers. The time-warp colonial village of Viñales reflects on yesteryear’s rural lifestyle. Over a dinner at historic Casa de Don Tomás, performing troubadours inform on traditional Cuban country music.
Gardener Ana Lydia leads a tour of an orchid garden at Soroa before guests arrive at Las Terrazas, a post-revolution model rural community built in a sustainable manner around a lake. Another friend of Baker, artist Lester Campa, welcomes Austin Adventures visitors. Among possible visitation sites are a women’s artisan cooperative, a serigraphy workshop, a colonial-era coffee plantation to learn about the restoration of this colonial enterprise and a community center.
Meetings with The Real Cuba continue with photographer Julio Muñoz at his colonial home (featured in the October 1999 issue of National Geographic). A 1906 steam train transports guests to the Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills). Over lunch at Hacienda Iznaga, a former slave plantation, light is shed on the roles of sugar and slavery in Cuba’s history, and nearby local women showcase traditional lace making. In Trinidad a babalawo (high priest) introduces the santería religion. In the industrial-university city of Santa Clara, a local historian explores Che Guevara and the battles that he led here that resulted in the toppling of General Fulgencio Batista in 1958.
Eduardo Monsejo, Director of the Museo de Automóviles (the Car Museum) and members of the Club de Autos Clásicos de Cuba, provide classic, pre-revolutionary autos for an escorted VIP ride to Museo Hemingway where another Baker friend, Ada Rosa, Director of the Museo Hemingway, introduces a Cuban perspective on Hemingway, his associations with the isle and the difficulties of restoring and maintaining Finca Vigia, his former home. Following is lunch at a seafood restaurant in Cojimar that the author favored.
Private restaurant dining, exemplary lodgings and optional horseback riding are additional pleasures of this ground-breaking adventure.
“Excitement about an ALA tour program in Cuba has been running high among staff and past trip alumni," said Austin. “There’s already a wait list with enough interest to fill the first two departures!” Austin recommends that interested travelers contact ALA as soon as possible to ensure space availability.
About Austin Adventures
Austin Adventures, with a 38-year legacy, provides adventure vacations on five continents, has built an international reputation for small group active travel to destinations in North, Central and South America, Europe, the Pacific Rim and Africa. The company specializes in adult and family multi-sport, hiking, biking vacations that emphasize history, culture and nature’s charms. Trips are limited to 12 guests (18 on family departures) and feature excellent regional dining, distinctive accommodations and all-inclusive rates and services. In addition to scheduled group departures, ALA offers customized trip planning. ALA offers each traveler a money-back satisfaction guarantee.
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