Travel ~ 31. Iceland

Twenty-one photos of my adventure in Reykjavik, Iceland. Loved it!

Travel ~ Represent Cuba!

Since diplomatic relations relaxed between the U.S. and Cuba, leisure and business travelers (remember the Rihanna cover story in Vanity Fair) have been traveling to the Caribbean.

Known for white sandy beaches, cohibas and rum, Cuba has a variety of historical culture to offer surrounding the beautifully preserved Spanish colonial architecture.

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Crocodile shaped since Christopher Columbus landed in 1942, this warm and welcoming country has changed over time. From Fulgencio Batista‘s dictatorship to Marxist revolutionary, Che Guevara overthrowing the government, fearless Fidel Castro led the nation to a prominent place. Now President, Raúl Castro is maintaining the Communist rule of the sovereign state with style. Hopefully, the country will keep its creative charm while the infrastructure is transitioning its marketplace from foreign investment interests. You notice the little things here.

Leaving Jose Martí International Airport, where will you stay? Well “hello Havana” or should we say, “Hola”. For accommodation, Hotel Florida is a cosy colonial casa featuring a cute courtyard with authentic Cuban cuisine in Old Havana. Hotel Saratoga which I know from my first visit is a great location for exploring on foot and by eye at their rooftop bar that has numerous cocktails and excellent service.

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El Malecon. My favourite memory of Cuba. Photo: Niya Sinckler.

Then Hotel Nacional de Cuba, where I previously stayed on my second visit is a lovely luxury gem over 90 years old in the middle of Vedado. Amazing art deco, beautiful blue skies, exclusive eats, seaside views, a gorgeous garden, a cool cabaret room and celebrities strutting through the lobby are what got me. This is the place to be! Taking a walk along the magical Malecón, you’ll find the Museo de la Revolución, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana and Museo Nacional de Historia de Cuba where one can learn about the art, culture and history of Cuba.

When looking for a casual lunch, support the locals by going to a paladar (family-run restaurant). La Galería (moderate) has amazing fresh fish or Atelier (splurge) offers Cuban continental cuisine, both in Vedado. For the art lovers, you will admire every inch of this island. From the classic vintage cars to locals painting portraits on the cobblestone streets, there is something for everyone. Business is also flourishing more now and I’m rooting for Cuban entrepreneurs. Fashionistas are even in town for Chanel‘s Cruise 2017 collection runway. Follow on Instagram for updates. Who knows you may even brush shoulders with the master of fashion, Karl Lagerfeld or Brasilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen, rumoured to be walking the show by the Paseo del Prado promenade claims Harper’s Bazaar.

Two blocks away, El Capitolio designed by Eugenio Rayneri Piedra stands grandiose with neoclassical architecture. Often a friendly guy, Miguel is hanging out on the steps who will take your photo with an old fashioned camera which I loved since photography is one of my passions. Say queso and smile as you’re taken back to the 1950s. Local music can be found in numerous neighbourhoods. Soon enough, the Latina in you will come out as you hear different beats and sounds around the city. Prepare your Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC, local currency) for drinks at El Floridita to delve into the era of Ernest Hemingway and sip the best daiquiri in the world.

Dinner at the popular eatery, El Aljibe is the best. It’s the pollo (chicken)! Also the open concept and again this is a family run restaurant. I love it. And of course, you get a special treat at the end of your meal. Can you say Cuba Libre y cigarro? I think yes! Dance the night away at Café Cantante Mi Habana with a range of artists representing real rumba, heavy hip-hop, rock and sassy salsa in a mixed crowd of locals and tourists aged early 20s to late 40s. For that midnight bite, stop by Cafe de los Artistas. Lastly, I would be recommend venturing to Varadero in the northeast Matanzas Province, Trinidad in the midwest Sancti Spíritus Province and the second largest city in the southeast, Santiago de Cuba to enjoy the ocean coastline.

Today marked an emotional moment as well. According to Reuters, it was the first time in decades that a U.S. cruise ship entered the Havana Bay area. Get ready to travel. Check flights and peruse hotels. Dare to discover colourful Cuba.

 

 

Travel ~ Lovely London

Fly across the pond this weekend for British hospitality and culture.

London leads as one of the most historical global cities offering a wealth of art, fashion, film, fine dining and fun adventures.

Explore the Tate Britain which has been open since 1897. Currently works by British sculptor, Barbara Hepworth are showing art admirers the relationships of abstract forms, various colours, textures and figures at the exhibition, Sculpture for a Modern World. After take a stroll along Millbank and enjoy the scenery of the River Thames. Soon you will find The National Gallery which displays collections of prominent paintings and the learn about important historical figures in British history at the National Portrait Gallery. The information and images often take you to a different place.

Who knows you may even find yourself among fashion magazine editors, makeup stylists and models strutting around the city for London Fashion Week. Today’s scheduled runway shows include notable contemporary and luxury brands: Mary Katrantzou, Topshop Unique, Vivienne Westwood, Belstaff, Mulberry, Paul Smith and Alexander McQueen. Once caught up in the excitement, visit the high end department store, Selfridges to snag yourself a black and ivory silk skull scarf. Congratulations, this is your entrance to the fashion world.

By now it’s time for lunch and while in the Marylebone district, venture through the areas of Soho, Leceister Square, Covent Garden for moderately priced cuisine: Busaba (Thai), Polpo (Italian), Dishoom (Indian), La Bodega Negra (Mexican) or Spice Market (Fusion). Then there are fine dining restaurants in Mayfair and Belgravia: Hakkasan (Chinese), Novikov (Italian), Nobu (Japanese), Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (French) and Marcus (British). Around all of these wonderful restaurants, you’re sure to recognize buildings and streets as most of them were in films you’ve seen such as Clockwork Orange, An Education, The King’s Speech, Legend and more. Keep an eye out to capture that perfect snap for Instagram.

Continuing the English affair, make a reservation for afternoon tea at The Ritz London. Imagine champagne, cocktails, warm scones with cream and jam as well as diagonally cut sandwiches. Yum! Following the luxurious delight, walk along Piccadilly with sights of Green Park towards Hyde Park Corner and Constitution Hill which leads to Buckingham Palace.Then Knightsbridge is the place to be, experience the alluring upmarket department store, Harrods.

Expand your horizon by booking tickets for the humourous play, Nell Gwynn at Apollo Shaftesbury or spot Ralph Fiennes in an intriguing play, The Master Builder at the Old Vic Theatre. For a bit a of evening banter, pop into a pub and make merry with local residents. Dinner could take you to Hawksmoor (British), Bar Boulud (French), Toto’s (Italian), Zuma (Japanese) or Maroush (Lebanese). Ready to relax? There is music for everyone. Discover a new artist or band at gig close by. If you like classic hits, the bar scene is for you. Sip cocktails with friends at B@1 or Dirty Martini. Dare to dance the night away? I recommend the chic nightclub, DSTRKT for celebrating into the early hours.

 

London is definitely in my top five favourite cities. Book your flight and hotel now!

All photos except logos taken by Niya Sinckler.