Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Top 10 USA Cities

Every American city possesses some unique qualities and attributes that distinguish it and make it special to its residents and visitors.  My personal TOP 10 MOST SPECIAL USA CITIES are:

*  Boston, MA
*  Charleston, SC
*  Key West, FL
*  Los Angeles, CA
*  New Orleans, LA
*  New York City, NY
*  San Francisco, CA
*  Sedona, AZ
*  Savannah, GA
*  Washington, D.C.

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What are your favorite American cities?

To go to other posts in my TOP 10 LIST category, please click here.

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Top 10 Places to Go

So many places, so little time.  What are the places I still want to visit?  Here is my current TOP 10 LIST OF PLACES YET TO GO.

*  Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Chile
*  Bora Bora, French Polynesia
*  The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
*  Luang Prabang, Laos
*  Lhasa, Tibet
*  Cairo, Egypt
*  Palermo, Sicily
*  Thimpu, Bhutan
* #10 is to be determined

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Create your own list of TOP 10 PLACES TO GO.  To go to the official website of 1,000 Places To See Before You Die, click here.

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To go to previous posts in the “TOP 10″ category, click here.

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Happy Fat Tuesday

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Happy Fat Tuesday to all Jankenpon friends and visitors.  Please join Jankenpon in wishing the people of New Orleans a wonderful Mardis Gras celebration.

Support the City of New Orleans in its ongoing recovery efforts by planning your next visit to this great American city.  To learn more about New Orleans and to get visitor information and tips, visit the New Orleans Online website by clicking here.

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Conde Nast Traveler Gold List

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Conde Nast Traveler released its annual Gold List for 2010, which lists the top-rated hotels according to the readers of Conde Nast Magazine.  The list is available online through the Concierge.com website, where you can filter the list according to a variety of categories, including:

*  Best Rooms
*  Best Service
*  Best Food
*  Best Location
*  Best Design

You can also browse hotels by geographic area.

To go to the official Gold List 2010 page on Concierge.com, click here.

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To subscribe to Conde Nast Traveler Magazine (12 issues for $12), go to their official website by clicking here.

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Travelers Choice 2010

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TripAdvisor.com, the online community for travelers, announced its 2010 Travelers Choice Awards, which includes the top-rated choices in various categories, including:

*  Bargain
*  Romance
*  Luxury
*  Best Service
*  Relaxation and Spa
*  and more…

To read the rankings in all of the categories, go to the official Travelers Choice Awards 2010 page on TripAdvisor.com by clicking here.

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Where are the Feet?

 Where are the feet?

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The feet are pausing at the “Top of the Rock” on the 70th Floor outdoor Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center, New York, to admire and absorb the stunning views of Central Park and Midtown Manhattan.  Top of the Rock is situated on the 70th Floor of the iconic General Electric Building in Rockefeller Center and was reopened in 2005, after undergoing a $75 million renovation.  Although the deck at the Top of Rock is not as high as the Observation Centers at the Empire State Building (located on Floors 86 and 102), the views from the Top of the Rock are considered by many to be more impressive, since it includes a sweeping view of Central Park and the Upper East and Upper West sides, as well as Midtown Manhattan.

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The Top of the Rock is open to visitors from 8:00 AM to midnight, 365 days of the year.  The entrance is located on 50th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenue.  Tickets may be purchased online, in advance, through the official Top of the Rock website, which can be accessed by clicking here.

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Above:  A view of the 69th Floor outdoor deck, which is encased with clear glass panels to provide unobstructed views of the city, as seen from the 70th Floor deck at the Top of the Rock.  Below: A commanding view of Central Park taken from the 70th Floor of the Top of the Rock.

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Above:  A northeast view, looking toward the Upper East side, from the Top of the Rock.  Below:  A view of the Empire State Building, located on Fifth Avenue, between 33rd and 34th Streets, and Midtown Manhattan.

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Above:  A view of the Upper West Side and the twin towers of the Time-Warner complex, located at Columbus Circle.

To go to previous posts in the “Where are the Feet” category, click here.

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The Big Apple

The journey to The Big Apple gets underway with a non-stop flight on United Airlines PS (Premium Service) Flight 892 from SFO to JFK in their attractively-appointed B757-PS, which features three cabins of service– First, Business and Economy Plus.  The PS service between LAX-JFK and SFO-JFK are the only domestic United flights that use the B757-PS aircraft and which offer full First Class Service.

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Above: United’s Premium Service aircraft are specially outfitted B-757’s with three interior cabins.  Below: The First Class cabin has 12 seats with lie-flat beds and generous legroom.

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Below: The lunch service starts with a chilled appetizer(asparagus with shaved parmesan cheese, and couscous) and a mixed green salad with sesame ginger dressing, and a glass of wine.

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So, it’s New York or bust!

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Travelers Choice 2009

TripAdvisor.com recently released their “Travelers Choice Awards” for 2009, based on an annual survey of their online travel community.  The Awards are organized in the following categories:

* Best Bargains
* Best All-Inclusive
* Best  for Families
* Best Inns and B&Bs
* Best for Romance
* Best in the Top 25 World Cities
* Best Service
* Best Luxury

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To download the FREE 33-page report, go to the official TripAdvisor.com website by clicking here.

Jankenpon highly recommends this annual survey, which has included some great recommendations in previous years, including the Park Hotel Tokyo, a contemporary, spacious and value-priced property in the new high-rise district of Shiodome, which was named the Top Hotel Bargain in a previous annual survey by TripAdvisor.com and Budget Travel.

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Skytrax Top Airports

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Each year Skytrax names the Top 10 Airports in the World as part of its annual consumer survey of the best airlines and airports.  In June, Skytrax announced that the World’s Top Airport for 2009 is Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea.  Opened in 2001, the Incheon International Airport is located about 40 miles from the capital city of Seoul and is the international hub for Korean Air, Asiana Airlines and Polar Air Cargo.  It is the world’s eleventh busiest airport in terms of international passengers.

According to Skytrax, more than 8.6 million passengers from over 95 countries took part in the 10 month survey of 196 airports. The survey measures perceptions on over 35 elements of the airport experience, determining how well each airport performs against customer expectations.

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Hong Kong International Airport, which ranked Number 1 for three consecutive years, was bumped to the Number 2 position by Incheon International Airport, which has steadily been climbing the list.  

Not surprisingly, no USA airport was included in the list of Top 10 Airports in the World.

I’ve passed through seven of the Top 10 Airports in this year’s list, but have not yet been to Incheon, Centrair Nagoya and Auckland.  (My last visit to the Auckland Airport was more then 20 years ago, so I don’t think that qualifies.)  My favorite airports are Hong Kong International, Beijing International (Terminal 3) and Kansai (Osaka) International, in that order.

What is your favorite airport?

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To read the full results of the 2009 Skytrax Best Airport Awards, go to their official website by clicking here.

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Farewell, Mendocino

Peggy and Lucy both had a wonderful stay in Mendocino; however, the time has come for them to say farewell to their many new friends and admirers and to get back on Highway 1 and US 101 for the ride home.  Before leaving, Peggy and Lucy take one last pause to admire the stunning view from the bluff opposite the historic Mendocino Hotel on Main Street in Downtown Mendocino.

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Above: Peggy and Lucy are enjoying the dramatic view (and gusty winds) on the cliffs overlooking the waters surrounding Downtown Mendocino.

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To plan your next visit to Mendocino, CA or to learn more about Mendocino County, go to the Mendocino County Official Travel Website by clicking here.

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Photo taken: 7/26/09

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Auberge Mendocino

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While in Mendocino, CA, Peggy and Lucy are staying as guests at the pet-friendly Auberge Mendocino, a bed-and-breakfast inn located off Highway 1, near Big River on California’s scenic Mendocino Coast.  Auberge Mendocino features 12 guest rooms in several small buildings clustered on a lovely grass-covered property on a cliff above Mendocino’s dramatic, rugged coastline.  Most of the guest rooms and suites include wood-burning fireplaces and some units have their own private deck.  Guests enjoy a delicious breakfast of fresh fruits, juices, bacon/mushroom quiche, toast and coffee served in the main building.

Most rooms have complimentary wireless Internet access and three rooms are designated as “pet-friendly.”

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Above:  Peggy and Lucy were guests in the Merlot Room, one of three guest rooms at Auberge Mendocino that are specifically designated for pets and their owners.  Below:  A view of the charming Merlot Room, with a wood-burning fireplace and deck overlooking the garden.

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Above:  A view of the modern and handicapped-accessible bathroom in the Merlot guest room.  Below:  A partial view of the comfortable sitting area provided for guests in the small building that houses the Merlot room and two other guest rooms.  This shared space is made available for reading, lounging and relaxing.

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Above:  A view of the side entrance to the Merlot Room, which can be accessed via the main entrance of the building or via this private deck.  Below:  A view of the comfortable deck for the Merlot Room at Auberge Mendocino, which is the perfect setting for morning coffee or an evening cocktail or glass of wine.

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Above:  A view of the charming landscaped garden outside the Merlot room at Auberge Mendocino.  Below:  Peggy (left) and Lucy are relaxing in the comfort of their room at Auberge Mendocino after a long and tiring outing at the beach.  

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To learn more about Auberge Mendocino or to make reservations for a stay in one of their guest rooms, go to their official website by clicking here.

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Photos taken: 7/26/09

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Where are the Feet?

Where are the feet?

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The feet are pausing along the long gravel walkway leading to the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, located between Point Arena and Cape Mendocino, in Mendocino Country, CA.  Built in 1909, the Lighthouse is named after Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and occupies a dramatic site on a promontory overlooking the jagged Mendocino coastline.  The US Coast Guard manned the station until 1973, at which time the lighthouse was modernized with an automated, rotating beacon.  

The lighthouse building now houses an exhibit that describes the rich history of the lighthouse, with photographs and artifacts.  Souvenirs are also for sale in the lighthouse.

The lighthouse was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1991 and was purchased by the California State Parks in 2002.  A variety of events are planned this year in honor of the Centennial of the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.  

The grounds are open to visitors daily from sunrise to sunset.  The lighthouse and other exhibits are open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, daily.

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Above:  The sign marks the entrance of the Point Cabrillo Light Station and Preserve, which is operated by the California State Parks.  Below: A one-half mile road leads visitors along a lovely walk to the Light Station.  (Only emergency vehicles and vehicles with handicapped visitors are allowed on the roadway.)

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Above:  A view of the Light House, taken from the walkway along the bluff.  Below: A photograph taken in 1909, the year it was built.  (Photo Credit: Point Cabrillo Lightkeepers Association)

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Above and Below:  Views of the rotating, automatic light installed in 1973.

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Above:  A view of the jagged coastline surrounding the Point Cabrillo Light House.  Below:  A view of the approach to the Light House, as the fog and mist clears.

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To learn more about the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse, visit the Point Cabillo Lightkeepers Association website by clicking here.

 To go to previous entries in the “Where are the Feet?” category, click here.

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Photos taken: 7/25/09

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In Mendocino

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Peggy and Lucy decided it was time for a weekend getaway– and what’s a better place for a getaway than Northern California’s beautiful Mendocino coast?  So, it’s off to Mendocino and a stroll along the sandy beach about 1/2 mile from the mouth of Big River.

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Above: Peggy and Lucy take in the sights on the beach near Big River.  Below:  Lucy dashes off to explore the coastline.

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Above: Peggy (left) and Lucy are busy exploring among the fallen tress on the beach at Mendocino.  Below:  Lucy pauses to admire the view of the coastline, next to a rock pile left by a previous visitor.

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Above:  Lucy races across the beach at Mendocino.  Below:  Peggy is keeping a watchful eye on the activities along the beach at Mendocino.

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Above:  After romping around the beach at Mendocino, Peggy (left) and Lucy are ready for their mid-morning nap.  Below:  The quiet beach was located about 1/2 mile from the mouth of Big River, just off Highway 1, in Mendocino.

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To plan your next visit to Mendocino, CA or to learn more about Mendocino County, go to the Mendocino County Official Travel Website by clicking here.

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Adios, Cancun

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Before saying adios and farewell to Cancun, Mexico (as well as “thanks” for a wonderful stay), it’s time for the feet to relax at the Hyatt Regency Cancun and to admire the spectacular view of Punta Cancun and the famous “Cancun Strip” from the 12th floor guest room.

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To read what other guests are saying about the Hyatt Regency Cancun, visit TripAdvisor.com to review guest reviews by clicking here.

Photos taken: 7/21/09

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Where is that Drink?

Where is that drink?

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This lovely glass of very tasty Sangria was served (from a large, well pitcher, which it out of view) at La Habichuela, one of Cancun’s largest, most popular and more upscale restaurants serving traditional Mayan fare.  Opened in 1977 on the site of the owner’s home, La Habichuela is conveniently located in Central Cancun, and features a large air-conditioned dining room and bar, a sculpture garden with fountains, and a spacious patio with outdoor seating that is beautifully shaded by large trees. 

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Above:  La Habichuela has been serving customers in the same locationsince 1977 and is still owned and operated by the same family.  Below:  A view of the lovely main indoor dining room.

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Above:  Lunch included a delicious fish dish, rice and steamed vegetables– and lots of sangria, of course.  Below:  A view of one of the several nicely-shaded, “grotto-like” patio dining areas at La Habichuela.

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To read more about La Habichuela, go to their official website by clicking here.

 To go to previous posts in the “Where is That Drink” series, click here.

Photos taken: 7/20/09

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Where is that Drink?

Where is that drink?

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This beautiful and incredibly refreshing (in 95 degree heat and humidity) Sangria was served at one of the tables near the Poolside Bar at the ultra-luxurious and very modern Mandarin Oriental Hotel Riviera Maya, located on 36-acres of breathtaking beachfront property fronting the Caribbean, near Playa del Carmen, Mexico.  Opened in 2008, the hotel contains 128 rooms and suites, spread across a sprawling property that features lagoons, a fresh water spring, a 25,000 square foot spa, five dining venues, a business center, and three guest swimming pools.  To access the guest rooms and other facilities across the property, hotel staff shuttle guests in small electric vehicles (a much-appreciated service in Mexico’s blazing sun and heat).

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Above and Below: A view of the oceanfront deck housing the hotel’s main swimming pool and poolside Bar. 

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Above:  A view of the jacuzzi tub and small infinity wading pool adjacent to the very contemporary lounging cabanas.  Below:  A view of guest rooms contained in individual structures perched above one of several lagoons.  The rooms on the second level have their own private roof-top deck.

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Above:  A view of the beautiful beach fronting the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Maya Riviera.  Below:  The striking open-air pavilion, set in the middle of a reflecting pond, serves as the reception and lobby area for the hotel.

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To read more about the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Maya Riviera or to book your stay, visit their official website by clicking here.

To go to previous posts in the “Where is That Drink” series, click here.

Photos taken: 7/20/09

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Farewell, Havana

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As my Adventure in Cuba comes to a close, it’s time to say farewell to Havana… at least for now.  It’s been a great first visit, filled with new experiences and some brief glimpses into a city and culture which most Americans have not seen.  And what’s a better way to say “adios” than with a nice, cold Dos Equis beer, served aboard Mexicana Flight 326 from Havana International Airport to Cancun, Mexico.

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Photos taken: 7/19/09

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In Cojimar

The Adventure in Cuba continues with a brief trip by rented taxi to Cojimar, a small fishing village located about 15 miles east of Havana, Cuba.

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Above:  This weathered and crumbling sign marks the entrance to the fishing village of Cojimar, located about 30 minutes by car from Havana.  Below:  A view of the outdoor sign of La Terraza Bar and Restaurant, situated along the harbor in Cojimar.

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Above and Below:  Views of La Terraza, one of Hemngway’s favorite places in Cojimar and now part of “The Hemingway Trail” for visitors.

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Above:  A view of the handsome interior of the dining room at La Terraza, with walls lined with photographs of its most famous patron, Ernest Hemingway.  Below:  The corner table, with a fine view of the Cojimar Harbor, was the author’s favorite spot, according to the restaurant manager, who kindly allowed us to visit the restaurant before opening hours.

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Above and Below:  Two views of the fishing pier in the harbor at Cojimar, which can be viewed from the dining room at La Terraza Restaurant and Bar.

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Above and Below:  Two views of the Ernest Hemingway Memorial, located along the waterfront walkway in Cojimar. According to local lore and some published reports, Cojimar served as Hemingway’s inspiration for the town that provides the backdrop in “The Old Man and the Sea,” which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in 1954.

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Where is that Drink?

Where is that drink?

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This tasty, nicely-prepared Mojito was served in a tall glass in the Lobby Bar at the Hotel Ambos Mundo, located at the corner of Obispo and Mercaderes Streets, in the Old Town section of Havana, Cuba.  Built in 1920, the hotel gained fame as the occasional home of Ernest Hemingway, who frequently stayed at the hotel during the 1930’s.  Room 511, reportedly his favorite room in the hotel, has been converted to a museum and is open to the public for an admission fee of about $2.00.

The hotel, which recently underwent a complete renovation, includes 52 guest rooms and suites, and a rooftop restaurant and bar that offers impressive views of Central Havana.  The spacious open-air lobby features contemporary furnishings and is filled with photographs and memorabilia about Hemingway.  Because its one of the significant sights along the “Hemingway Trail” in Havana, the two bars at Hotel Ambos Mundo are typically filled with tourists who eager to view Room 511 and to learn more about Hemingway’s days at the hotel, where he reportedly wrote portions of “For Whom the Bells Toll.”

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Above:  The entrance to Hotel Ambos Mundo which has been modernized as part of a recent major renovation.  Below:  A view of the Lobby Bar which specializes in Mojitos.

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Above:  A partial view of the Lobby of Hotel Ambos Mundo, showing some of the many photographs of Ernest Hemingway which are on display throughout the hotel.  Below:  A view of the brightly and distinctively painted facade of the hotel.

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Above and Below:  Hotel Ambos Mundo proudly displays signage on the exterior of the building (above) and memorabilia (below) of its most famous guest.

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Above and Below:  Views of the large rooftop bar at Hotel Ambos Mundo, with both covered and open seating.

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Above:  A view of Central Havana taken from the rooftop bar at Hotel Ambos Mundo.

To learn more about Hotel Ambos Mundo or to make room reservations, visit their official website by clicking here.

To go to previous posts in the “Where is That Drink” series, click here.

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Where are the Feet?

Where are the feet?

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The feet are pausing while strolling through Central Havana to admire the amazing assortment of buildings– some grand, and some not– in various stages of preservation or decay.

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To go to previous entries in the “Where are the Feet?” category, click here.

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Hemingway Museum

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Finca Vigia, located about 11 miles from Central Havana, is the home where Ernest Hemingway lived for over 20 years, from 1939 to 1960.  Following his death in 1961, the house and its contents were left to the Cuban government, which included Hemingway’s collection of books, photographs and letters, and drafts of his novels.  The house is now called the Hemingway Museum and is operated by the Cuban government.  It is treated as a shrine by Cubans and is part of the famous “Hemingway Trail” for fans of the acclaimed author who visit Havana.

The house contains a collection of over 8,000 books, a large number of stuffed and mounted wild animals he shot and collected during his travels, as well as the clothing and personal effects he maintained at the time.  Elsewhere on the grounds of the museum are the graves of four of his dogs, among the many dogs and cats he owned while living at Finca Vigia, and his 38-foot fishing boat, Pilar.  The large outdoor swimming pool now sits empty.

Visitors to the museum are permitted to explore the grounds; however, they are not able to enter the interior spaces of the home, which have been carefully maintained with Hemingway’s possessions, displayed in the manner in which he may have left them in 1960 when he departed Cuba, a year before his death by suicide.

While living at Finca Vigia, Hemingway wrote A Moveable Feast, Islands in the Stream, and The Old Man and the Sea, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.

In an article published by the  Times Online in June 2008, it was reported that a Cuban secret policeman offered a writer visiting the Heminway Museum any book in the Museum’s library for $200.  During our visit, I did not receive such a tantalizing offer; however, a docent at the museum offered to use my camera to take photographs throughout the interior of the house for a “tip.”  (I gave her the equivalent of $5. She seemed quite experienced at taking shots with interesting angles. Some of those photos appear in this post.)

Above:  The small plaque that marks the entrance to the driveway to Finca Vigia, now the Hemingway Museum.  Below: The front entrance to the main residence.

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Above and Below:  Views of the interior of the Living Room of Hemingway’s home at Finca Vigia, taken the by one of the Museum’s docents.

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Above:  A view of Hemingway’s bar, with the (reportedly) original items he left in the home in 1960.  Below: A view of the Dining Room, with some of the many stuffed animals that are on display throughout the home.

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Above:  A view of Hemingway’s bedroom, with a few of the approximately 8,000 books contained in the home.  Below:  A view of one of several writing desks in the house, where he wrote several works, including The Old Man and the Sea.

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Above:  A view of the Library and another of the author’s desks.  Below:  The grave markers of four of Hemingway’s pet dogs who lived with him at Finca Vigia.

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Above and Below:  Two views of Pilar, Hemingway’s fishing boat, which is now displayed in a covered shelter where visitors are able to walk around the boat.

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Above:  The feet are pausing at the large swimming pool on the grounds of Finca Vigia.

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Dinner at Vistamar

Among the many wonderful and memorable experiences I had while dining in Havana was a delightful dinner at Vistamar, a seafood specialty restaurant located in a quiet residential neighborhood in the Miramar district, directly along the waterfront.  The restaurant calls itself a “Paladar,” which is defined as a private, family-run restaurant operated within their home, that typically serves simply-prepared dishes using local ingredients.

The restaurant is situated on the second floor of a two-story building, in what otherwise would have been the Living Room and Dining Room of the residence, with small tables that accommodate a total of about 20 people.  Additional tables are available on the covered patio on the lower floor, adjacent to the swimming pool, for about 12 people.

The food at Vistamar was fresh, nicely prepared and well-seasoned, and handsomely plated, as well.

Paladar Vistamar is located at Calle 22HavanaCuba.

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Above:  The outdoor sign of Paladar Vistamar, located in a quiet residential area of the Miramar District in Havana.  Below:  A view of the entrance to the home-based restaurant, showing the breezeway that extends to the swimming pool and ocean beyond.

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Above:  The well-prepared and nicely-presented lobster main course.  Delicious!  Below:  A view of the upstairs seating and the additional poolside tables for cocktails or dining.

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Above:  A view of the infinity edge of the swimming pool at Paladar Vistamar and the ocean beyond.  Below:  The second-level dining area, which maintains it low-key residential feel.

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Along the Malecon

The Malecon, a five-mile roadway, promenade and seawall that stretches along the Havana waterfront, from the mouth of Havana Harbor in Old Havana to Vedado, is one of the most recognized images and landmarks in Cuba.  In addition to serving as a major, six-lane roadway for the city, the Malecon (also known as Avenue Antonio Maceo)  is a geographic point of reference within Central Havana and an important gathering place for residents of Havana.  The promenade offers sweeping views of the Straits of Florida and the coastal development in Central Havana.

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Above: A view of a portion of the long stretch of the Malecon, which includes a promenade and sea wall to help protect Central Havana from the waters of the Straits of Florida.  Below:  The Malecon provides sweeping views of the the Havana Harbor and the waters of the Straits of Florida.

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Above:  A view from the Malecon of the Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro (also called Morro Castle), a fortress built in 1589 on a promontory at the mouth of Havana Harbor, which served to protect the city from intruders from the sea.    Below:  A group of local residents gather along the Malecon, one of Havana’s primary places for socializing.

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Where are the Feet?

Where are the feet?

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The feet have arrived at Restaurante Bar Floridita, in Havana, Cuba.  Floridita is a Havana landmark and is best known for their daquiris and as one of Ernest Hemingway’s favorite hangouts in Havana.  The darkly-lit, plush and upscale establishment includes a large bar with small tables and a spacious, separate dining room.  The bar is a frequent stop for tourists, particularly those who are following the “Hemingway trail” across Havana in search of trivia, memorabilia and tributes to the famous writer.

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Above:  The entrance to Restaurante Bar Floridita and its distinctively and brightly-painted exterior.  Above:  The neon sign of Floridita, which highlights their famous daquiris.

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Above:  A view of the handsome and busy bar, where hundreds of daquiris are poured each day.  Below:  Visitors often pose in front of this life-size statue of Ernest Hemingway, which is positioned at the end of the long bar at Restaurante Bar Floridita.

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To learn more about Restaurante Bar Floridita, go to their official website (available in Spanish only) by clicking here.

To go to previous entries in the “Where are the Feet?” category, click here.

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Where is that Drink?

Where is that drink? (Okay, it’s really a serving of ice cream, but it’s equally intoxicating.)

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This wonderfully creamy mocha ice cream was served at the open-air ice creamery called Soderia Coppelia, Havana’s most popular spot for ice cream.

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Above and Below: Soderia Coppelia provides a pleasant, casual setting to enjoy their wide selection of delicious ice cream. Given the heat and humidity in Havana, it’s easy to understand the reason Soderia Coppelia is so popular with residents and visitors alike.

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To go to previous posts in the “Where is That Drink” series, click here.

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Where is that Drink?

Where is that drink?

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This incredibly refreshing Mojito was served at the Rooftop Bar at the Parque Central Hotel in Havana, Cuba.  The open-air bar is located on the Rooftop level of the hotel and features comfortable shaded and open seating, with spectacular views of the city, extending from Parque Central to The Malecon.  The bar also serves light fare throughout the day.

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Above and Below: Views of the comfortable seating– for eating or lounging– at the Rooftop Bar at the Parque Central Hotel.

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Above:  A view across the central portion of Havana, as seen from the Rooftop Bar at the Parque Central Hotel, which is owned and operated by NH Hotels.  Below:  A view of the rooftop swimming pool– one of Havana’s best– at the Parque Central Hotel.

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To go to a previous post with more information on the Parque Central Hotel in Havana, click here.

To go to previous posts in the “Where is That Drink” series, click here.

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Marti Monument

Among Havana’s most striking sights is the Jose Marti Monument, a memorial to Cuba’s national hero, which is situated on the northern side of the famous Plaza de la Revolucion in the Vedado area of Havana.  The monument consists of a 358-foot tower, designed by Architect Enrique Luis Varela, shaped in the form of a five-pointed star and encased in grey marble.  The tower, which was completed in 1958, features an enclosed observation deck on the top floor, which is accessible by elevator, providing a commanding view over the city.  On the ground floor, the memorial also includes two rooms of displays featuring writings and items from the life of Jose Marti (1853-1895), the poet, professor and political theorist who became a symbol for Cuba’s bid for independence against Spain the the 19th century and is one of the country’s most beloved historical figures.

Across Plaza de la Revolucion, which is one of the world’s largest public squares, is the Ministry of the Interior Building which features a large image of Cuban hero Che Guevara.

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Above and Below:  Two views of the Jose Marti Monument in Havana, as seen from the Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana’s central and symbolic public square.

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Below:  A view of the Ministry of the Interior Building, with a large image of national hero Che Guevara, as seen from the Plaza de la Revolucion.

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What Things Cost

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As part of my Havana adventure, I learned that there are two currencies in Cuba–  the official national currency, the Cuban Peso (CUP), and the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), both of which are issued in notes 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 denominations.  The CUP is valid for exchange only within Cuba and is used primarily by Cuban citizens to purchase daily consumer goods.  The CUP is intended for use by tourists and was introduced by the Cuban government in 1994 and pegged at par against the USA dollar, which then was also recognized for use in Cuba.  In 2004, in retaliation against the sanctions imposed by the USA, Cuba withdrew the USA dollar from circulation, leaving the CUC as the principal currency for non-Cubans.  The approximate exchange rate between the CUP and CUC is 24:1, where one CUC peso is equivalent to about 24 CUP pesos.

For visitors from the USA, there are some key considerations when exchanging currency or making purchases in Cuba:

1.  Credit cards (e.g. Visa and MasterCard) issued by USA financial institutions, including American Express, are not accepted in Cuba, as part of the embargo.  This means that purchases need to be made in cash, via CUCs;
2.  A 10% tax is imposed when converting USA dollars to Cuban CUCs.  This tax was introduced by Cuba in 2004 as punitive action against the USA in response to the embargo.  As a result, converting USA dollars to Cuban CUCs is an expensive proposition.

Many visitors from the USA bring Canadian dollars or Euros with them to Cuba, instead of USA dollars, in order to avoid the 10% tax levied against the USA dollar.

Here are examples of the cost of typical items in Havana during my visit (in US$ equivalent):

*  Taxi ride from Havana International Airport to Central Havana (about 30 minutes): $25.00
*  Vodka Martini  at Lobby Bar at Parque Central Hotel: $9.00
*  Grilled Cheese Sandwich at local Cafe: $4.00
*  Half-Day City Bus Tour with English-speaking Guide: $29.00
*  Dinner for two at popular local restaurant, with drinks: $65.00

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Havana Dachshunds

While in Havana, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of dachshunds I saw throughout the city.  Of the many dogs spotted in Havana , a significant majority (perhaps three-fourths) were dachshunds.  Does this mean that the mighty dachshund is the unofficial “Dog of Havana?”  All of the dachshunds seemed well-fed and healthy.

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Above:  A miniature dachshund who served as the official “mascot” of an art gallery located along the Malecon in Havana, Cuba.  Below:  Another miniature dachshund who was greeting visitors along the oceanfront walkway in the coastal fishing town of Cojimar, on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba.

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Above:  A street entertainer in Havana, Cuba, shown with his colorfully-costumed miniature dachshunds perched atop a bicycle, offered photo-taking opportunities for visitors for a small donation.  Below:  A group of young children were thoroughly entertained by the two costumed dachshunds.

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Cars of Havana

One of the most charming and fascinating sights in Havana is the remarkably large, roaming assortment of vintage American automobiles, which are seen in every imaginable state of repair and restoration.  Some of the more meticulously-maintained vehicles are being operated as taxis, much to the delight of tourists who are able to extend their Havana “flashback” experience by touring the city in a vintage 1950’s automobile.

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