Monday morning, at the Miami International Airport. I'm sitting by my gate, staring out the window at a silver, red and blue American Airlines jet getting ready to take on passengers and make the short flight south across the Florida Keys to Havana.
The room is packed, which I'm used to, but the crowd is different this time. Whereas this flight is usually made up of those with family members back in Cuba, I see the faces of eager American tourists, many of them on a large group tour. They are wearing name badges and listening to the advice of their tour leader, preparing to embark on an adventure to a land that I imagine many are visiting for the first time.
Five years ago, taking this flight, it left from a deserted, forlorn gate far away from the amenities of the main terminal, as if those leaving were being punished for where we were flying. Today I'm at Gate D-19, near shops, kiosks and even a Café Versailles restaurant selling bracing cups of rich, sweet café Cubano. My flight is only one of six leaving between now and 2 p.m. to Havana. It feels like a new day.
I'm going back to Cuba for the annual Habanos Festival, where I'll be joining Gordon Mott for a week of fact-finding and research for Cigar Aficionado magazine. Havana is crowded. The hotels are full. And people are eager to go. Cigar Aficionado has been there for more than 22 years now, and we will continue to go and cover the changing face of Havana.
As I get ready to board my plane with all of these eager travelers, I can feel the energy in the air. Follow our blogs this week to stay abreast of what's going on.
See you in Cuba.