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Take this tour if you: are interested in Cuban heritage/ culture or want to experience a night out in Miami’s “Little Havana.”

Note: children are not allowed on this tour.

Note: you will be dancing, drinking and staying out late!

This tour is fun for: couples.

What to bring: a camera and money (if you want to buy cigars); dress nicely and try not to bring much (valuables can be left on the bus; do not bring items such as cell phones/ purses into the nightclub).

Dragonfly Expeditions is currently offering an evening tour called “Habana Nights.” Below is the post I wrote for DE’s blog entitled “Thoughts on Developing a Tour: Habana Nights.” This post outlines the tour and the reasons why it was created. I would highly recommend this tour, but be aware that it lasts for several hours.

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Come with us as we journey back in time to a night in 1950s Havana, Cuba …

Dragonfly Expeditions strives to provide tours that give guests a sense of place. “Habana Nights” – taking place in and around Miami’s “Little Havana” – not only gives guests a sense of place, but also a sense of time. That time just so happens to be in the past. “Habana Nights” is a journey through time to 1950s Havana, Cuba.

Although the island of present-day Cuba continues to struggle beneath the heavy weight of political oppression, there was a time not so long ago when the area was a veritable paradise. These days were the 1950s; days when Americans would travel to Cuba for a romp through an island playground.  And nowhere was the spirit and lifestyle of 1950s Cuba better represented than in its capital and largest city: Havana. The purpose of this unique evening tour is to allow guests to take a step backwards through time into 1950s Havana and immerse them in the exotic sights, smells, and sounds of that time – all in all providing the experience of a typical night out for Cubans and Afro-Cubans in 1950s Havana.

Our evening starts out with a visit to the famous Cuban shrine “La Ermita” in Coconut Grove. Perhaps guests would like to join those kneeling in the church to confess a few sins before their night of partying!  The circular shrine represents more than just religion to its members – it represents their homeland and their devotion to the Virgin Mary. The beautiful sanctuary features a statuette of the Virgin Mary, whom the congregation refers to as “Our Lady of Charity;” it was smuggled here from Cuba in a suitcase in 1961. Non-Cubans often forget that many Cubans share an African descent. This shrine, which is home to a religious population that practices a unique combination of traditional Afro-Cuban religion and Catholicism referred to as syncretism, brings the aforementioned African heritage to the fore.

An elegant and peaceful seawall can be found directly behind the building.  This wall is a replica of a popular seawall in Cuba. The waves that lap against the Floridian seawall also touch the coast of Cuba; therefore, it has become an area of reflection and reminiscence for those Cubans who are here in Florida. It is a place for them to spend time with their families or gaze out at the sea remembering and missing those family members who did not make the journey across the sea to America. The 228 miles that separate Havana from Miami represent an entire ocean to the Cubans who have immigrated to Miami.

The energy level rises dramatically with the next stop: Casa Panza. Here, guests learn the dance central to Cuban culture: salsa. Guests are treated to a salsa class by professional dance instructors. The basics of salsa are surprisingly easy and the location is festive and welcoming. After about an hour of moving to the rhythms of up-beat salsa music and enjoying the enthusiasm of the dance instructors, we head to dinner at Casa Juancho. Just as Americans don’t eat American food when they are out for a nice evening, 1950s Cubans did not eat traditional Cuban food when out for a night of partying. Instead, they dressed in their nicest finery and dined in Spanish restaurants. Casa Juancho is a great example of a traditional Spanish restaurant and offers excellent cuisine and a unique atmosphere. The restaurant makes guests feel as if they have walked deep into a wine cellar. Wooden walls surround the tables and the ceilings are low. I would recommend the authentic and delicious sangría that, by the end of the visit, tends to flow as freely as the water in the beautiful fountain that marks the entrance to the building. Later in the evening, a small Spanish band roams from table to table, playing traditional music from places like Puerto Rico and Cuba. They will even play the occasional German or Jewish tune. Warning: the restaurant will become very festive!

After the revelry at Casa Juancho, the group travels to the Cuban Tobacco Trading Cigar Company. Located right on Calle Ocho, there could not be a better location in Miami for an authentic Cuban cigar company. It is common knowledge among both laymen and cigar-favoring gentlemen that nobody knows the secrets of growing and rolling tobacco better than the Cubans. This quaint shop is owned by a family who brought their knowledge of tobacco from Cuba to Miami and has been rolling cigars for five generations. Surrounded by the heavy scent of freshly rolled tobacco, you will be treated to a brief presentation by a member of the Bello Family about the history of the company, the family’s traditions, and the particulars of growing tobacco/rolling cigars. This shop offers the rare opportunity to legally purchase authentic Cuban cigars.

The final stop of the evening is a Cuban nightclub called “La Bodeguita del Medio.” This nightclub was built as a throwback to the original club bearing the same name that still exists in Havana today.  That original nightclub boasts the invention of the Mojito. Guests will be treated to an open bar, live Cuban music, and ample opportunity to practice their new salsa moves! Some guests might just choose to stay at this lively venue all night long!

Instead of waiting around for someone to invent a time machine, let Dragonfly Expeditions take you on an incredible journey of cultural exploration and enjoyment as we journey back in time to exotic and sexy 1950s Havana, Cuba.

I took this tour on: June 2nd, 2012.

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