Day 1: Listen to the Streets

There’s something mystical, even spiritual, about Havana. I landed yesterday in the great city from Cancún, Mexico, and I immediately felt like I had arrived in a very special place. You have all heard Havana called a cigar mecca, which it is, but it’s much more than that. It’s a place that oozes its opulent history. You breathe the air and it fills your heart and mind with a rich, almost decadent culture. The warm people, soulful music, hearty food, flavorful cigars, and strong rum electrify your senses. Every nook and cranny of the city’s crumbling façade seens to want to tell you a story.

I drove around the street from Old Havana with a couple of friends before arriving to my accommodation and I couldn’t get over how amazing the city is. I have been coming to Havana for 17 years now, and each visit is a new experience, a new adventure. It’s like reading a book and not knowing what each page will bring to you.

I was smoking a Partagas Serie D No. 4, the ubiquitous robusto, in the car, and it tasted spicy and rich, like a thick flavorful Cuban coffee. It was like meeting an old friend, who walks into a room to great you with a big smile and an open heart. You pick up the conversation where you left off and feel like you haven’t even been apart. I know that smoke well and it’s one satisfying cigar. It might be my go-to smoke on a daily basis. It never lets you down.

The Partagas robusto is now the most popular cigar in many of the key markets in Europe, particularly France. It’s hard to believe that the world has changed that much. It used to be the Montecristo petite corona, No. 4. People obviously want a quick smoke but they want more flavor as well. Nothing better than walking down the streets of Paris or sitting outside in a café terrace and smoking a lovely robusto.

I imagine I will be smoking a number of robustos this week in Havana. I have a few meetings with people from Habanos S.A., the global marketing and distribution company. They are very busy making the final arrangements on this year’s cigar festival, which starts on February 25. So I don’t expect much information. I will most likely get more from other sources. But it takes time.

Stay tuned. I am hitting the streets right now to discover what they have to tell me….
Steve Cohen Oakville, Ontario February 4, 2008 3:35pm ET
Hey James if you see Nino say hi for me. You two live charmed lives. Let us know about all the new releases, and I look forward to your reports from the festival. And Nino's reports as well, as he has amazing photos with lots of cigar close ups.
Edward Kobesky February 4, 2008 3:47pm ET
It looks like you were in an E-Class Mercedes-Benz -- but obviously not a cab? Whose car is that? Can't help but wonder how that car got into THAT city!

Great little video, hope you get to shoot more...
Paul Scott Carson, California USA February 4, 2008 4:26pm ET
I've been there once, in 1997, and it was a great experience. Your blog and video brought back some happy memories. Can't wait until the next entry. BTW, were you still allowed to smoke and buy cigars on the flight to Cuba? I purchased my first authentic Cuban cigar- a box of 5 Cohiba Lanceros- on the flight from Nassau to Cuba. It was duty-free and the price was $12.50, 80% less than the $62.50 they charged in Cuba.
dean freeman February 4, 2008 11:42pm ET
JamesMy buddies are I arrive in Cuba on the 25th. Any "must sees"Dean
Hi James,Green with envy. Why don't you arrange a tour for some cigar smokers who would love to join you on a trip to Cuba,Enjoy,RegardsPhil
James Suckling February 8, 2008 4:43pm ET
Dean: Check out the travel section on Cuba on the web site. It's still super current and on the money...

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