• Marabana in front of capital building in havana

    Interview with Ironman Champ - and Classic Journeys guest - Kathleen McCartney

    For those of us of a certain age, we remember ABC Wide World of Sports as a mainstay of Saturday afternoons. One must-see episode every year was the Ironman from Kona, Hawaii. Perhaps you, like my brother and I, would sit on your sofa (ours was in northern New Jersey), and for an hour or two forget about the snow or rain outside while you watched world-class athletes testing their limits under the heat and sun of the Big Island. <br><br>The most iconic of these races was the 1982 Ironman World Championship in which Kathleen McCartney won a gut-wrenching, dramatic and historic finish over second place finisher Julie Moss. It epitomized “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”, inspired millions and brought Ironman to the attention of the world. ABC’s legendary sportscaster Jim McKay called the 1982 Ironman finish, “the most inspiring sports moment he had ever witnessed”. <br><br>Ironman World Champion and 10-time Ironman finisher, Kathleen has been featured on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, NBC Sports, The Johnny Carson Show, ABC Superstars, and ABC’s 25th Anniversary Greatest Moments of Wide World of Sports. She has also been featured in National publications including Outside, Runner’s World, Triathlete and Lava Magazine. <br><br>Even closer to our heart, Kathleen is a <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/" target="_blank">Classic Journeys</a> guest, who recently joined our Long Weekend in Havana trip that we scheduled in partnership with Road Runner Sports to overlap with the Havana Marathon. Kathleen and other Classic Journeys guests had the opportunity to join the 10k, half or full marathon in addition to connecting with the island’s irresistible people, music, food and art. As it turns out, it was a long weekend that none of them will ever forget. Here, Kathleen shares some of her memories from the trip.<br><br><b>CJ: What made you want to travel to Cuba?<br><br>Kathleen:</b> Travel to <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank">Cuba</a> has been off limits for most of my life. As an avid and curious traveler, I wondered if I would ever have the chance to see Cuba with my own eyes in my lifetime! Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to experience the Long Weekend in Havana and Marabana Havana Marathon with Classic Journeys and Roadrunner Sports. I was thrilled to combine my love of travel and adventure with my passion for running- my idea of an ultimate and epic trip!<b> </b><br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank"><img alt="Guest laughing in front of classic car" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001Y3sM&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM50000000oW3g" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><b>CJ: What did you love most about traveling with Classic Journeys? <br><br>Kathleen:</b> Because Classic Journeys takes care of all of the meticulous planning and details of the trip, all that I had to do to prepare for this trip was pack my bag! From the moment I arrived in Havana, I was excited to hit the ground running and each day&#39;s activities exceeded my expectations. I loved the fact that we had an incredible tour guide who wove a rich history lesson throughout our journey to help us fully appreciate what we were seeing and doing. Whether it was a cultural excursion, strolling the historic streets, dining at a paladar, or a tour of the cigar factory, every aspect of the trip felt like the ultimate Cuban experience.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank"><img alt="Kathleen in revolution square havana" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001Y3sM&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM50000000oVbI" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><b>CJ: What surprised you about Cuba? <br><br>Kathleen: </b>My first sight from my hotel room at the Melia Cohiba was astonishing! Looking out my window to the east, the rolling landscape was a blanket of vibrant, colorful buildings as far as the eye could see. I was equally amazed by the feeling that I had stepped back in time and I could experience Havana just as it was decades ago. When we stepped out of the hotel for our first night on the town, a line of 1950&#39;s classic convertibles was waiting for us (one of every color)! We cruised along the scenic Malecon on our way to Old Havana for a memorable dinner followed by a daiquiri at Hemingway&#39;s favorite bar, El Floridita.<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank"><img alt="classic cars along malecon in Havana, Cuba" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001Y3sM&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM50000000oVbN" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><b>CJ: What was your favorite part of the trip?<br><br>Kathleen: </b>When I travel I like to feel that I&#39;m experiencing the people and their rich traditions and culture in the most authentic way possible. Classic Journeys provided us with a unique opportunity to spend time with locals to listen, learn, share and engage. We visited La Muraleando where we spent time with local artists. We had salsa dancing lessons one afternoon partnered with amazing (and patient) dancers.  Experiencing Havana from an insider&#39;s perspective gave me a feeling of deeper appreciation, understanding and a connection to the all the people we met. After all, the feelings are what stays with us long after the trip is over!<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank"><img alt="salsa dancing in Havana, Cuba" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001Y3sM&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM50000000oVbS" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><b>CJ: What was it like running a race in Cuba? <br><br>Kathleen:</b> It was quite an adventure to participate in a running race in a foreign country. Everything was unfamiliar (in a good way) and as a result, the race was a sense of discovery with every step and every mile. Race morning greeted us with warmth, a beautiful sunrise and magnificent photo opportunities. Most of the runners in our group ran the half marathon and we assembled together at the start line ready for adventure! We were in a great mix of thousands of locals and runners from all over the world. I can&#39;t imagine a better way to see and explore a city than to run 13.1 miles through it; running along the Malecon, past iconic landmarks and beautiful views to the sights and sounds of the people of Havana waking up to a new day. I treasured every minute, and I earned a most memorable race journey!<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank"><img alt="Kathleen with RRS flag after marathon in Havana, Cuba" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001Y3sM&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM50000000oVbX" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><b>CJ: What is one thing you would tell anyone who is thinking about traveling to Cuba? <br><br>Kathleen:</b> Traveling with Classic Journeys was my first group tour experience, and I loved it! Our amazing group of people (now friends!) from all over the U.S. definitely enhanced my overall travel experience in Cuba. I wouldn&#39;t even consider traveling to Cuba without Classic Journeys. The unique cultural experiences and impeccable itinerary and service that Classic Journeys provides is the essence of your trip. Be prepared to be delighted!<br><br><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank"><img alt="group after race in Havana, Cuba" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001Y3sM&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM50000000oVbc" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img></a><br><br><b>CJ: What’s next on your travel bucket list? <br><br>Kathleen: </b>In no particular order - <br><br>Marvel at the northern lights in Iceland or Norway<br><br>An African safari<br><br>Birthday celebration in 2019 with my loved ones <br><br>More travel in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/europe/" target="_blank">Europe</a><br><br>Anywhere in the World with <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com" target="_blank">Classic Journeys</a>!

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  • Trinidad Countryside, Cuba

    Kismet in Cuba

    <h3><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba-cienfuegos-trinidad-havana/" target="_blank">SCOUTING A NEW TRIP TO CIENFUEGOS, TRINIDAD AND HAVANA,</a> <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba-cienfuegos-trinidad-havana/" target="_blank">FATE WAS ON OUR SIDE.</a></h3> <p>Some days, everything just goes right—even when you don’t have any right to think that it will. That Tuesday in <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba-cienfuegos-trinidad-havana/" target="_blank">Cuba</a> certainly didn’t get off to a great start. The official agency steered our five-person scouting party to the all-inclusive Soviet-era mega-hotel with the mondo-buffet on the not-so-perfect north shore. We wanted the Caribbean coast. “Can’t be done.” We wanted boutique hotels in Cienfuegos. “They are all full forever.” We wanted to go where the motorcoaching hordes don’t. “But the industrial-size travel companies know what is best! Just look how many people they bring! They all are so happy!”</p> <p>So our intrepid little band did <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba-cienfuegos-trinidad-havana/" target="_blank">what you never used to be able to do in Cuba</a>: we ditched the pre-planned plan. And we headed south to make our own luck. Our local guide Manuel suggested we drop in on his friends Tony and Mailin at their <i>finca</i> in the Escambray Mountains because, as all good travelers know, when all else fails have lunch. No warning? No problem. Out comes Mailin with platters of olives and sausages and fresh bread. Somehow a bottle of red wine opened itself. Tony, it turns out, is a natural travel therapist.<br><br><img alt="Lunch in Cuba" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7l9&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qoT" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>We bemoaned the crowds in some places. “No tourists come here,” he said. “Bring your friends to our home.” Are there any paths we could walk to get there? “No,” he said, grabbing his machete. “But I can make one.” And he took us to a vantage point overlooking the river that cuts through his property, where he used his machete to trace a trail-to-be that will start at the waterfalls, pass the neighbors’ coffee plantations, and wend back to this very table for lunch. Did I tell you how much we love Tony, Mailin and Fendi, their onesie-wearing chihuahua?</p> <p>But still there were no hotel rooms in Cienfuegos. Tony again: “Did I mention my friend who is in charge of all hotels in this part of Cuba?” Fast forward to our impassioned pitch to officialdom over breakfast the next day, and suffice it to say that <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba-cienfuegos-trinidad-havana/" target="_blank">Classic Journeys has priority access to the best boutique hotels in town. </a>Our luck lingered in Trinidad. A beautiful colonial town, it is. Pastel buildings, golden sunlight, cobbled streets. We happened on to a run of steps (like the Spanish Steps in Rome) just as the musicians started to play. None of us had to say “what if.” We knew it was a Classic Journeys moment that we could and would come back to again and again.<br><br><img alt="Cuban hotel" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7l9&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qoY" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p>At the Bay of Pigs, most people do the museum and move on. Hungry (are you sensing a theme?), we drove an extra 20 minutes to Playa Perdiz—which, as it turns out, has a pristine coral reef perfect for snorkeling. Add one splashy activity to the itinerary, please.</p> <p>Even in Havana, which we have visited too many times to count, we made a fantastic new discovery on this scouting trip. You know about the cult of classic cars in Cuba, I’m sure. In search of a tail-finned ride one day on short notice, a friend directed us to the Nostalgic Cars workshop. It’s an only-in-Havana collective of car fanatics, kind of a clubhouse/garage. Long story short, they’ve invited us back with our guests to talk cars and then hop in for a top-down cruise to Revolution Square and other sites in the city.<br><br><img alt="Car workshop" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7l9&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002qod" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba-cienfuegos-trinidad-havana/" target="_blank">I’m super-excited about our new trip to Cienfuegos, Trinidad and Havana. </a>We took some chances, made some connections that we already treasure, and created one of the most unique Cuban itineraries anywhere. If you come with us, I promise that you’ll experience Cuba the way we did…and nobody else does.</p>

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  • Streets of Trinidad, Cuba

    6 Ways to Experience Cuban Culture

    <p>With the normalization of relations between the Unites States and Cuba, <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/blog/travel-to-cuba-now/" target="_blank">now is a great time to plan your Cuba vacation</a>. Here are six things to do for the best sightseeing and cultural experience in Cuba.</p> <h3>1. WATCH STREET PERFORMERS</h3> <p>Dressed in colorful costumes and shaking to the beat of the conga, these performers take over the streets of Old Havana daily. Be sure to catch at least one performance while you’re there. Jump up and join in the fun!<br><br><img alt="Cuban playing drums" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lY&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rY2" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <h3>2. CRUISE THROUGH THE VIÑALES VALLEY COUNTRYSIDE</h3> <p><a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba-travel/" target="_blank">The Viñales Valley offers dramatic views of rocky outcroppings surrounded by lush mountains.</a> You’ll see tobacco fields and witness traditional farming methods in action including oxen pulling rickety carts and hardened farmers cutting leaves by hand.<br><br><img alt="Vinales Valley" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lY&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rYH" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <h3>3. TAKE A RIDE IN A VINTAGE CAR</h3> <p>Take a short two-hour tour in the city or an all-day affair in the Viñales Valley. <a href="https://www.classicjourneys.com/cuba/" target="_blank">Drivers are knowledgeable about Cuban history, customs and culture</a><br><br><img alt="Classic car" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lY&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rZ0" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <h3>4. PEOPLE WATCH AT PLAZA VIEJA</h3> <p>Formerly used primarily for military exercises, this lovely plaza is now home to restaurants, cafes, bars and even a microbrewery. The architecture is eclectic and colorful and the stained-glass windows will certainly catch your attention.<br><br><img alt="Man playing guitar" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lY&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rYW" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <h3>5.SAMPLE STREET FOOD </h3> <p>You’ll find a wide variety of street food in Havana. Don’t miss the traditional <i>bocadito de jamon</i> (cured bacon and ham sandwich), <i>chicharritas de platano</i> (thin slices of fried plantain) and <i>pan con lechon</i> (roast pork sandwiches sprinkled with pork juices). Top off your delicious meal with sweet churros.<br><br><img alt="Cuban street vendor" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lY&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rYb" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <h3>6. TAKE A DIVE</h3> <p>Akin to its culture, Cuba’s coral reefs seem trapped in time. They are unspoiled and healthier than any other reefs in the Caribbean. You can see goliath groupers, whale sharks and hundreds of other fish in this decadent and brightly colored seascape.<br><br><img alt="Snorkeling" src="/servlet/rtaImage?eid=a2Y50000001z7lY&amp;feoid=00N50000008QRzC&amp;refid=0EM500000002rYg" style="height: 355px; width: 500px;"></img><br> </p> <p><b>TRAVEL TIPS FOR THE NEW CUBA</b></p> <ul><li>Be sure your travel purpose falls within one of the 12 approved categories, have a schedule of activities and keep your receipts. The easiest way to ensure you’re in compliance with the most current rules is to use a tour company that makes the arrangements for you.</li><li>You may return to the U.S. with no more than $400 in souvenirs including up to $100 in alcohol and/or tobacco products.</li><li><i>Casas particulares</i>, or bed-and-breakfasts, are great places to stay to be immersed in Cuban culture. There are many options in Havana, Trinidad and Cienfuegos.</li><li>Carry cash. ATMs are scarce and most businesses do not accept credit cards. Check the exchange rate before you go, British pounds and euros often have a better rate than U.S. dollars.</li><li>Check with your cell phone carrier in advance to see what your options are for using your phone. Verizon is currently offering roaming service, and other carriers seem poised to hop on the bandwagon.</li><li>WiFi is spotty at best and often you have to pay for it — and it’s not cheap. You might just plan to unplug and enjoy the trip.</li></ul> <p><a href="https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/cuba_faqs_new.pdf" target="_blank">For more info, check out this document from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.</a></p>

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