An Adventure in Cuba

I consider myself relatively well travelled, but nowhere I have encountered yet, including India, Japan, Russia and Fiji, has been as challenging to travel in as Cuba. I began writing this post on the curb of a Cuban motorway, after our overfilled minibus broke down between towns. The classic cars and coloured streets you see on postcards and brochures are the norm, a trip to Cuba is truly a trip back in time. You have to be a patient traveller as this island, with its own unique set of rules, can be extremely frustrating, but if you can relax into the unconventional lifestyle, Cuba is completely intoxicating and unforgettable.

There is so much to learn and understand about Cuba’s approach to life. Though friends can give valuable pointers to guide you in the right direction, much of it is only understood first hand.



Cuba is the only country in the world to have two currencies: CUC (Cuban convertible pesos for tourists) and CUP (Cuban pesos for locals). The local money is worth 25 times less than convertible pesos, but is impossible to get hold of. CUC is equivalent to US dollars, so £10 GBP is worth about 12 CUC. It’s best to take cash to change into pesos at the airport, though there are a few cash points for card use in Havana now.

Getting around

Transport is vintage and unreliable. Buses are good for getting between destinations but are slow and often full, even if you have booked in advance. They cost around 12 CUC pp for a 3 hour journey. Local internal planes are not recommended. We mostly travelled by shared taxi, in crowded old cars, crammed full of tourists and baggage.

There are classic cars and more modern cars used for taxis, both should cost the same: 25 CUC from the airport to Havana, no more than 10 CUC for journeys within the city. Collectivo taxis are best for cheaper journeys between or within cities. The price depends on four factors: age of car, number of passengers, distance and demand. Within Havana it is normally 1 CUC pp, Havana to Viñales should cost between 15-25 CUC pp, Viñales to Trinidad 35-45 CUC pp and Trinidad to Havana 30 CUC pp.


It’s difficult to stay cheaply in conventional accommodation in Cuba, with expensive Colonial hotels and few hostel options. Instead most recommend booking ‘Casa particulares’ (a room in a private home). These tend to be cheaper and much more authentic. On the whole the rooms are clean with en-suite bathrooms and air conditioning. The hosts usually charge between 20 and 35 CUC per double room a night, and you can add on breakfast (5 CUC) or dinner (10 CUC) too. Those that speak English can often help with travel and food suggestions and reservations, which is invaluable if you can’t get any wifi!


Food and Drink

The Cuban cuisine is basic and generally quite plain, despite the abundance of home-grown produce. Local dishes usually comprise of slow cooked meat (pork is the national meat), rice and beans, yuka, plantain and other vegetables. Eating out in restaurants is more expensive than you might assume and the best options sometimes require booking weeks in advance. State owned restaurants are generally best avoided, instead head to paladars (privately owned restaurants often in people’s houses). Hygiene is good and food poisoning is rare, though I’d recommend always drinking bottled water.

Rum is everywhere, normally a variety of Havana Club. The famed Bacardi family fell out of favour with Castro and so is now banned throughout the country. Mojitos, daiquiris, Cuba libres and pina coladas are served all over the country, and tend to cost about 3 CUC each.


Until a couple of years ago, internet did not exist in Cuba, and it is still a real hassle and cost to obtain. It is now available in some big hotels (generally about 6 CUC for 30 minutes) or from the ETECSA store in Havana. At ETECSA you can buy a 5 hour access card for 10 CUC which is valid for 30 days and can be used on different devices, but only in designated wifi areas.

You will spot these instantly from the crowds staring at their phones in public squares and hotel entrances. There are not difficult to find in Havana but in smaller towns it may be more of a challenge.



After a day of no sleep and 3 hours queuing and waiting at baggage reclaim, we began to fear the worst… it was our first taste of Cuban disorganisation. Eventually our suitcases arrived and we headed to find a taxi. If you can get a room, Miriam y Sinai is a wonderful casa to stay in with exemplary beautiful bedrooms and thoughtful, helpful hosts.

In Havana there are plenty of paladar restaurants to choice from. La Guarida and San Cristobal are the most well-known, thanks to their prestigious clientele, and beautiful settings. We enjoyed the food just as much at the stylish El Cocinero (tapas food in an amazing old peanut oil factory) and Cafe Laurent, found in an apartment flat. However our favourites were El Atelier (with the most beautiful dining room) and Doña Eutimia for local cooking at its best (try the Ropa Vieja made with lamb). For ice-cream the iconic Coppelia emporium is a must, try to sneak into the locals-only area where you can experience the spectacular building while enjoying tropical flavours of ice-cream.

Cuban coffee is strong and delicious, and though you can guarantee a good breakfast spot, a satisfactory caffeine kick is not hard to find. I loved Cafe O’Reilly both for the rich espresso and the enchanting interiors. You should also try El Escorial in Plaza Vieja for a nice afternoon cortado and great people watching. Head to La Floridita for the best daiquiris and La Bodeguita del medio for an original mojito. Music is the heartbeat of Cuba and is infectious, head to Casa de la Musica to watch bands play or just wander through the streets and stop to try some salsa dancing.

Museums are run down and expensive to visit, but for an education on Cuban history they can be interesting. Museo de la Revolución is a little confused but illustrates Castro’s influence and importance in the country. Look out for the impressive hall of mirrors. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is a good contemporary art museum displaying the work of celebrated Cuban artists.

Wandering round the old town (Habana Vieja) is a museum in itself, and I loved exploring and soaking up the colourful street life. There are many lovely old buildings and beautiful squares: we liked the book fair at Plaza de Armas and peeking inside some of the amazing old hotels, like Hotel Florida and Hotel Sevilla. For last minute help and bookings the hotel concierges are extremely useful, when in need we wandered in and received invaluable assistance from the kind, English speaking staff.



Viñales is a sleepy mountain town two hours drive from Havana, and is a popular getaway from the chaotic capital city. Los Jazmines is the most popular hotel or there are plenty of colourful homes to stay in. We were comfortable at Hostal Haydee but did get woken up frequently by the loud resident cockerels.

The verdant landscape is home to Cuba’s top tobacco plantations, underground caverns and serene lakes. Excursions and activities can be booked at the local tourist office. Take a tiring tour of the valleys on horseback or opt for a walking tour with an informative guide, learning the process of making a cigar, visiting a coffee farm and drinking cocktails in a rum shack.

There are two beaches an hours drive from Viñales; Cayo Jutias and Cayo Levisa. Both offer an idyllic setting for a day of sunbathing with soft white sand and warm turquoise waters. Though some say Levisa is prettier, Jutias is much less touristy and so was our beach of choice. There are a few places to get a simple lunch and fresh, hydrating coconut water.

The restaurants in Viñales are limited and repetitive. On the main street (Salvador Cisnero) we tried El Olivo for classic Italian dishes and La Cuenca for slow service but tasty meat dishes. I can also recommend Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso, 2km outside of town for panoramic views and a feast of local cuisine made from the produce from the organic farm that surrounds the restaurant.



It’s a long journey from Viñales to the Southern coastal town of Trinidad. Candy-coloured colonial buildings and cobbled streets have made this UNESCO world heritage site extremely popular with tourists, and tour buses drop off loads of visitors every day.

There are some beautiful homes to stay in. We were lucky to find a room at Casa Sueca. This amazing, high-ceilinged casa is run by a smiley mother and daughter who cook well and speak some English. If you fancy going out to eat, head to La Redaccion (which translates to The Editorial team). The building was once used as the office for the local newspaper, El Liberal, and there are still plenty of design quirks hinting to this history. Bar Giroud offers good (and cheap) homemade pizzas and cocktails. The Casa musica in Trinidad is wonderful for drinking and dancing after dark, Disco Ayala offers a unique cave clubbing experience.

There are several options for day trips… buy a 10 CUC return ticket for the local steam train to Manaca Iznaga. This tiny town was home to one of the most famous sugar planters in Cuba and most tourists head straight to the 45m tower for panoramic views of the entire valley.

If you have more than 1o days in Cuba it is also worth visiting Cienfuegos, Barbacoa and Santiago de Cuba and all the lovely towns in between.

Cornwall by Weekend Journals – BLACKFRIDAY20 Discount Code

Cornwall by Weekend Journals is a new, inspirational, travel book for design-conscious travellers, featuring a curated selection of places across the county.


Following extensive research and time spent travelling round Cornwall, the Weekend Journals team have uncovered unique and special venues: from verdant gardens to visionary galleries, independent shops and exceptional restaurants. The book is written by Milly Kenny-Ryder and produced by Simon Lovell. They both have strong family links to Cornwall and have been visiting since they were young. Using these connections they have gone off the beaten track to discover the venues that the locals love, while also showcasing some of Cornwall’s most iconic sites and stories.

Coombeshead Farm Feature

The book features 40 venues including: Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Gardens, Chapel House, Leach Pottery, No. 56, Coombeshead Farm, Plumbline, Paul Ainsworth at No. 6, Hotel Tresanton, Fifteen Cornwall and Jubilee Pool, as well as many other hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops, galleries and places to visit all over Cornwall. It includes exclusive interviews with 2-michelin starred chef, Nathan Outlaw, prestigious hotelier, Olga Polizzi, up-and-coming designer, Tom Raffield, and Cornwall’s only hotel concierge, Sid Williams of The Idle Rocks.

Photography is by Gabriel Kenny-Ryder and is exclusive to Weekend Journals. All venues have been visited personally by the Weekend Journals team.

Lay-flat photo

The book is available to order through the Weekend Journals website here. For this Friday and Saturday only WJ are offering 20% of all orders with the code BLACKFRIDAY20. Limited Edition gift packs also include a signed, large-format, fine art print of a photo from the book, or you can order a set of 10 postcards featuring images from the book.

Giftpack Print (Logan Rock)

Book Specification:

165 x 215 mm
Threadsewn, 128 pages
Printed full-colour on FSC certified uncoated paper
Debossed and foiled cover
RRP: £15.00
Published in the United Kingdom in 2016 by Weekend Journals Ltd
ISBN: 9781527200869

© Weekend Journals Ltd. All rights reserved. All text and images are exclusive to Weekend Journals Ltd and may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, in part or in whole for any use without prior written permission.

The book is a high-quality physical product – contemporary and minimal in style with a focus on the pictorial element. It has been designed to appeal as a collectible memento that people will want to keep and display, rather than as a functional, throw-away guidebook. It is a limited edition of 2,000 copies. There is no advertising or paid promotion within the book.


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A Rajasthan Adventure

I was warned that India would be a ‘massive culture shock’, but also reassured by two of my best friends that it was the ‘most amazing place’ they had ever visited. And so I boarded the plane with trepidation and excitement about what my two weeks in Rajasthan held in store.



Delhi was our first stop in India. With a population of around 25 million it is the second most popular city in the country, after Mumbai. Though not as immediately beautiful as other parts of Rajasthan there are plenty of pretty places to admire and learn about in the city. I recommend visiting the impressive Red Fort, built originally for the emperors, and Raj Ghat is a peaceful park with a memorial where Gandhi’s ashes were scattered.

Hauz Khas village is a trendy neighbourhood where you’ll stumble across hip shops like Nappa Dori, who make leather accessories and stationery. Dilli Haat is also a good market to visit, especially if you are looking for Indian materials and souvenirs to take home. There are some very prestigious fine dining restaurants now established in Delhi, but we decided on the more casual United Coffee House for lunch, a traditional restaurant with a great atmosphere and flavoursome food. We chose to ‘go vegetarian’ for the entirety of our trip: while good restaurants in India should be reliable, it seemed easier to just cut meat and fish entirely to help us steer clear of tummy bugs.

We stayed at Lutyens Bungalow, a lovely family-run b&b which offers simple but stylish bedrooms and delicious home-cooked meals. Tuk tuks are a fun and cheap way to get around, but do haggle with the driver to get a fair price.

Taj Mahal


The only reason to visit Agra is to see the magnificent Taj Mahal. Stay at the nearby Trident Hotel, which is smart and reasonably priced. It is best to see the Taj at sunrise so wake up early and get in line for this world wonder. The glowing white temple was a labour of love built by 20,000 workers over 20 years, completely made from ivory marble for Maghal Emperors Shar Jahan’s wife’s tomb.

The Agra Fort is another nice site, with an amazing series of red and white buildings. We had a tasty meal at Dasaprakash, a local restaurant which serves vegetarian thali with dosae and sweet lassi.



Jaipur is known as the pink city as most of the buildings in the old town are painted a dark shade of pink. It is said that the city was painted this colour to welcome the Prince of Wales in 1876. I loved this artistic city, the stunning architecture and the magical history. We stayed a little outside the city at The Farm, a relaxed eco-hotel which has creatively decorated rooms and wonderful regional cuisine.

There are so many important sites to see, we managed to tick off the grand Amer Fort (with painted elephant trail), the floating water palace Jal Mahal, the sundials at Jantar Mantar and the Jaipur city palace. For something a little different visit the Anokhi Museum to learn about the art of block printing.

It’s worth spending an afternoon wandering the streets of central Jaipur. There is endless street food to try, if you dare. We indulged in sweet kachoris at Ram Dev’s, kulfi (Indian ice-cream) at Randit Kulfi and fragrant chai from Sahu Chaiwalla. We also stopped at Tikam Chand’s old-fashioned photobooth in the street, for a black and white portrait taken with his 1860s Zeis camera.

The second morning we headed to Phool Mandi, a vibrant local market which sells flowers, vegetables and spices. Afterwards I couldn’t resist travelling out of town to visit Kalpana, an amazing paper making factory, which sells the most unusual handmade stationery.

For a very luxurious experience, the Sujan Hotel – Raj Mahal Palace is the perfect spot to enjoy afternoon tea… ask to sit in the 51 Shades of Pink room!



This bright and sunny city enjoys warm weather all year round. Many of the houses in the old city are painted blue, which looks amazing from up high. Mehrangarah Fort offers some of the best views of the blue city and is also a wondrous and educational museum to explore, best to visit in the morning when there are less tourists around.

We stayed in the stylish RAAS Jodhpur, a historic hotel, located in the centre of town but carefully hidden amongst the narrow streets. Ask the hotel reception about having a little trip out in their baby blue tuk tuk. We ate many of our meals in the hotel, but when we did venture out we enjoyed the vegetarian cuisine at Jhankar.

There are lots of shopping streets in Jodhpur. I had great fun choosing bangles for my family at Bibaji Churi Wale. This tiny shop has the best selection of glass bracelets in an endless variety of patterns and colours. A box of ten will cost you around £1.50.



For a quiet few days’ escape from the chaotic Rajasthani cities, head to Rohet, a rural countryside town which offers visitors a more authentic side to India. Choose to stay in the one of the luxury hotel rooms, or opt for the tents in the wilderness, for the full immersive experience. During your stay you will be taken on a village safari to see local wildlife like Blackbug antelopes and Siberian cranes and meet different tribes who live nearby (we even took part in an opium ceremony with the Bramen elderly men).



This enchanting city is a must on any Rajasthan itinerary. This scenic city is on the water, and a few of the most luxurious hotels are only reachable by boat. Devi Garh, on the outskirts of town, is a lovely tranquil place to stay, with panoramic views and magnificent suite rooms. If you’d rather stay in town, Leela Udaipur is a decadent and special option, with regal decor, thoughtful service and outstanding food.

For an alternative tourist experience, pay for a driver to take you in a tour in a vintage Chevrolet Fleet Master and enjoy the views while learning about Udaipur’s history. The main tourist site is the City Palace, an ornate building which has been beautifully restored to its former glory.

Udaipur has plenty to tempt keen shoppers, Hathipol road is a great place to buy gold and silver jewellery, and I loved the artists’ workshops which sell the miniature paintings for which the city has become known.