my favourite things: HAVANA

cuba by ricardo l tamayo Hop in a ragtop, turn up the music and party like its 1959. Havana is the place to be. Classic candy-coloured cars still ply the streets but the awful restaurants and dodgy hotels of old are rapidly being replaced. The city’s slow decay since the Cuban Revolution is finally changing. Buildings are being renovated, chefs are creating and salsa plays all night.

the roof deck at the saratogaStay: The Saratoga

the saratoga lobbyThe coolest place to listen to jazz back in the day, Havana’s first upscale boutique hotel was completely redone in 2005 by the Mexican design team Arquitectura de Interiores.  The Saratoga hasn’t quite perfected luxury; the rooms are expensive for what you get. However the bathrooms are huge with endless hot water, the beds comfortable and the Wi-Fi free. Any faults are forgiven when sipping a Mojito while your feet cool in the pool at the fabulous roof top bar.

http://www.hotel-saratoga.com

the tiny kitchen that produces big foodEat: Ivan chefs Justo

eclectic decor at ivan chefs justoTurn left into that very dark alley….hmmm? But yes! Up a narrow staircase at #9 is where Chef Ivan and Chef Justo work their magic. Wonderful Cuban dished pour from their miniscule kitchen in to crowded funky dining rooms. Kevin Bacon and Paris Hilton have been spotted indulging. They, like everyone else, came for the food that changes daily depending on what is freshest in the markets.

+53-78639697

el paseo del pradoStroll: Paseo del Prado

a guardian lionSkate boarders, lovers, kids on bikes, artists, hustlers and tourists all make their way to the Prado.  Since 1772, this is the place to promenade. Once upon a time famed mobsters Al Capone and Mayer Lansky raised the eyebrows of the very rich haute monde who also lived on this street. If only the rundown palazzos could talk! Now, they beg for restoration. When feet grow tired from walking and fingers stiff from snapping photos it’s time to rub the guardian lions for luck, grab a sugar dusted fried pastry and hang on a marble bench to watch the world go by.