Colourful Trinidad of markets, fresh food vendors and bubbly locals in the morning, sleepy town during midday, tropical and musical in the evenings. This town has so many sides, as diverse as its colourful architecture and buildings. Definitely one of my highlights on this journey, I felt for the town’s atmosphere and I paid a second visit while in Cuba. Trinidad is one of those places where it doesn’t take you long to become part of the local community, even from just your first evening out. Give it a few more days and you see friendly faces everywhere. Read more.
There are two things in life I approach with a bit of caution; other people’s film recommendations and travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (it makes you never want to leave British soil).
So I headed to Colombia. Villages and cities scattered across the Andes and highest altitudes I have ever been to (or danced salsa for that matter). This relatively undiscovered, but not for too long, from mass tourism country has everything: music, culture, gorgeous colonial architecture, a diversity of landscapes, friendly people and some of the best food I tried on my travels in Latin America. And yes it is safe.
I have been returning to Rio since 2008. It was instant attraction, love at first sight on that very rainy day I arrived. My friend and I decided to enjoy our first caipirinhas at Copacabana Palace where we met an American couple who told us they had been coming to Brazil and Rio for the last 10 years. I thought this was something rather extravagant. Seven years later I know exactly what they meant. It is hard not to fall for the charms of this city, the music, the rhythm, its people and the landscapes which are unique and instantly recognisable even from those that have never visited. Rio has evolved a lot throughout the last years and its ‘rough around the edge’ type of exotic beauty is getting more and more polished – something that opens the door to more mainstream tourism. Still, looking away from the areas of Copacabana and Ipanema there are a lot of gems ‘off the beaten track’ waiting to be discovered and neighbourhoods that have been untouched and still retain their original charms. If you are lucky enough to find yourselves in this amazing city, soak the local colour and culture, do the tourist highlights but explore, discover and experience ‘off the tourist trails’, blend with the locals and live a day like a real Carioca. This is how.
Miami was one of those places I wanted to go for so long, mostly because of the hype, I worried that it would actually flop in expectations. I loved Miami. It felt I was in this little weird planet, it definitely didn’t feel I was in the US. I loved the vibe, I loved the weather, I loved the people. I loved it mostly for its unpretentious style – yes I know this may comes as a surprise to some. But it is always down to the ‘experience’ and in the land of beauty I found a place with the right attitude, friendliness and spotless service. If you are a major culture buff – in the traditional sense – then probably this is not the place for you. Miami offers a distinct culture, dominated by the latin vibe which is evident everywhere from small live music holes to Little Havana and the annual festivals and food…[read more]
Cuba’s people and history have left me incredibly inspired and with a positive life outlook. I have never met people so generous, grateful, well mannered and kind despite their limited means. Cubanos love life and appreciate every minute of it and they will surely make you join in! People went beyond their ‘way’, literally, to help me out throughout my time in the country, they have given me thoughtful gifts and many stories to cherish.
So many stories to write and tell. Martha, who has the same second hand book stand at Plaza de Armas in Havana since she was a teenager, talked to me about Che – how he used to stroll in the evenings at the Plaza, he was ‘elegante’ she said and always kind and caring with the kids playing around and the people he would meet. I heard about Fidel from Amadeo, an Italian who felt in love with Cuba in his youth and after 15 years back and forth decided to take citizenship, about his 8 hours speeches on the 1st of May.
I learnt how proud they are for their past, their revolutionary fathers and the deep respect they have for them. I learnt about their struggles, their dreams, how ready they are to move forward. If I ever was to give one advice on travelling would be ‘talk to people’. They are the history, the vibe and culture of the country.
And another thing… I found Cuba a very safe place for a female traveller. I combined both solo travelling and adventure group travelling. For the latter I joined Cuban Adventures. It was a special experience, this is a company specialising in Cuban tours and offers a truly authentic experience. Additionally this is an ideal introduction to Western Cuba (Havana, Viñales, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Santa Clara), allowing you to return to those you loved most (as I later did with a repeat visit to Trinidad). If you are travelling solo and want to experience Cuba off the beaten track, meet like minded travellers and hear first hand on Cuba’s history and culture from a local this is undoubtedly a great choice.
My travel recommendations on: