Traveler: Zeynep Bilgin – Blogger

What is your most unforgettable escape? I had many unforgettable escapes like going to Bhutan, Moustique Islands or Mexico City but the most current and special one was my  trip to Cuba.

What was the purpose of your travel? I wanted to see this country where time stopped 50 years ago. I love Cuban art and especially their music. I always wanted to go to Cuba before Fidel Castro passed away; I guess my timing was correct since I saw Cuba just before Cubans and us are opening up relations.

With how many people did you travel? We were in a group with 12 friends, mostly couples…

Where did you stay? We stayed in Melia Cohiba Hotel in Verado district of Havana. The hotel is quite a low profile hotel for European standards , but if you think of the Cuban standards it is probably the best place to stay. It is a large hotel with comfortable rooms and suites and with its professional service ,descent food and clean sheets…..

What did you most like about the trip? I loved the people in Cuba. They are so friendly and know how to have fun. the music and the dance is a part of their culture and their life style. Of course rum and cigars are too…

Could you share an unforgettable memory about the trip? The parties… Every night of the week there are parties going on in different places within the city. but you don’t know the location till that afternoon… then at 3 or 4 pm a message appears on your phone telling you where and when; if you are ready to party…

Your most surprising find during the trip? The small Coral Islands, Cayos (keys) in the South of Cuba… These amazing small Carribian islands are only accessible by long boat rides or old Russian planes… One of them was Cayo Largo… near Cayo largo there is a small island full of iguanas. the size of the iguanas are amazing but they are so friendly within their own environment. They are like house cats begging for food from the visitors.

Favorite restaurants or food you have tried during your trip? Before my trip everybody warned us about how bad the food will be… but this was not true.we were very lucky to learn where and what to eat so we ate really good food  in Cuba. one of my favorite restaurant was La Guarida… It is in an  old run down building in old Havana…. after climbing the stairs and pass through local people’s apartments with clothing lines between the old run down walls  you suddenly are welcomed by a magical restaurant. It welcomes you with a contrast to its surroundings… This was where “fraise y chocolate” had been filmed. It has a bar on top and the food was excellent.

What is the must tries of the city? Lots actually…. dance is a must, you have to be able to do salsa in the cafes, in the streets.. everywhere… music especially jazz was incredible, we found some small local jazz clubs with amazing musicians performing. Then there is art everywhere so a visit to the old harbor art market is a must. rums with different ages, cigars and then lobsters according to the season are a must…

Any hidden gems you could whisper to us? Art… I was amazed with art pieces and galleries in Havana-Habana. i visited a young artist and painter Damian Aquiles… his house was spectacular and his arts were speechless….

Would you go back? Definitely I would love to go back and this time love to try scuba diving in Cuba.

Could you list a few of your favorite finds you came back with? these can be anything from traditional finds to airport finds to hotel creams! Art pieces, rums and cigars.

Any tips that might be useful to know before going there? It can be quite chilly at nights if windy.  

Next stop you would like to visit? I am planing to go on a photo safari trip in February to Morocco.