While Cuba Remains Off-Limits to Americans, Havana and the Island's Beaches Draw Tourists from the Rest of the World
From the Print Edition:
Linda Evangelista, Autumn 95
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Farther out in Miramar, also in a restored turn-of-the-century mansion, is La Cecilia, a good surf-and-turf restaurant where you can dine outside on a large, covered patio. The specialty is grilled lobster. The list of French, Spanish, Italian and Chilean wines is ample and reasonably priced. Master roller Rodolfo Bermudez, who has been plying his craft for over 50 years, is on hand nightly, rolling cigars (he specializes in the highly rated Montecristo #2). For the late-night crowd, there is lively salsa music and dancing under the stars.
Finally, at the western end of the Malecón just before the tunnel leading to Miramar, there is the 1830 restaurant, located in an elegant setting in what was the huge waterfront mansion of a former Batista government official. Though known for its high-quality international dishes, the real treat here is the wine list, which under the careful attention of table captain Angel Rodriguez and sommelier Jorge Sanchez has become one of the best on the island. They offer selections from France, Spain, Portugal, Chile and California. Both men are also keenly interested in cigars, which is reflected in the restaurant's well-stocked humidor. The enclosed dining patio has great views of the bay, as does the outdoor bar. There is good salsa in the evenings, with dancing into the early hours.
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If Havana swelters under the hot Caribbean sun by day, by night it sizzles. When darkness falls, the pace quickens, bars and nightclubs fill and the pulsating criollo spirit takes charge. Good music, great dancing and hot shows can be had at most hotels and in many private clubs. Among the best are the Cohiba's disco/cabaret, Aché, the Nacional's Parisien, the Habana Libre's Caribe and Turquino cabarets, the Salon Rojo at Hotel Capri, the poolside show at the Copacabana and the Club Nacional in Old Havana, a favorite of locals.
But no entertainment in Havana (probably nothing south of Las Vegas) can compare in terms of quality and explosive energy to the twice-nightly extravaganzas at the Tropicana Nightclub, Cuba's best-known and most spectacular cabaret. Opened in 1939 and in continuous operation ever since, the club is located outdoors in a lush, garden setting. There is a dazzling light show, state-of-the-art sound equipment, world-class singing and dancing and over 100 of the island's most beautiful women, wearing little but the extravagant headdresses for which the Tropicana is famous. Tickets run from $35 to $65, depending on proximity to the stage. They can be purchased at any hotel tourist desk or before each performance at the door (there is usually a crowd, so book early for good seats). Simple, inexpensive meals are available before the 9:30 performance, and drinks are reasonably priced. This is a great show.
For late-night dancing, there may be more discotheques per capita in Havana than any other capital city in the Western Hemisphere, if not worldwide. The action starts about midnight and rolls on until dawn. You can dance to great Cuban, Latin and international sounds at the Cohiba's Aché, the Copacabana's Ipanema and the Riviera's El Elegante discos, to name but a few.
For more serious entertainment, Havana has several theaters offering good to very good dance and music performances. The most important is the baroque Gran Teatro de la Habana, home to the well-known Alicia Alonso Ballet Nacional de Cuba and the national opera company. You can also see good Spanish dance and listen to jazz there. Performances run Thursday through Sunday nights most weeks throughout the year.
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