The Perfect Day: Tour operator Boris Masip dishes up a unique 24 hours in Havana

Boris Masip is president of My Amigo in Cuba, a tour company that brings visitors and locals together for authentic experiences in the “real” Cuba. “I’m a global nomad,” Masip says. “After living or working in more than 20 countries, I can attest that wherever you go, local residents have more in common with you than you think, even if you live worlds apart.” Masip shares how to spend the perfect day in Havana.

Breakfast alfresco
“After a restful night at Villa Vera, a modern and stylish villa in Vedado, I head to the rooftop for an al fresco breakfast around 7 a.m. I’m convinced their Cuban version of a continental breakfast tastes better because of the fantastic views of the surrounding buildings and rooftops. This rooftop is not a restaurant — it can only be accessed by guests staying at this upmarket bed and breakfast. I don’t have to wait long to enjoy an espresso cortado, scrambled eggs with peppers on delicious bread and fresh fruits.”   

Tennis time
“Cuban food is relatively carb-rich, so instead of counting calories, I always try to exercise in the morning.  My options are yoga, boxing or tennis and I often opt for the latter. The courts at the Memories Miramar are in excellent shape and have nice facilities to take a shower before continuing my day.”

Cuban art safari 
“There is an amazing safari that starts at the Servando Gallery. I can’t help but be impressed by their holdings of emerging Cuban art. The recurring themes of love, longing for faraway friends and family, and hope for the future are very global and yet very local in the approach. I’m particularly attracted to the work of the new guard of Cuban artists; names like Osvaldo Gonzalez, Orestes Hernandez, Angel Ricardo Rios, Luis Enrique López-Chávez and the art duo Jorge & Larry. If you want to learn about where a culture is, look at the art it is producing.”

Lunch at Michelle Obama’s pick
“If you ask anyone who visited Cuba before 2012 or those who ate at all-inclusive resorts, their culinary reviews were not likely great. A lot has changed. El Atelier is part of a crop of Havana restaurants with chefs delivering exciting menus, and it has beautiful surroundings. Housed in an old Havana mansion, it is where Michelle Obama has lunch in Havana. I love their seafood cocktails and falafels and the menu — handwritten, no less — is constantly changing. The experience of dining on the terrace with antique china and silverware in a hub of contemporary art is a heady mix of nostalgia and avant-garde.”

‘Sunset over the bay with the panoramic view of the Havana skyline is spectacular’

Go dancing
“Go to a dance studio to practice your salsa steps in anticipation of the evening — it is so much fun. I’m probably the only Cuban in the world that can benefit from taking a salsa dancing class. Check out Casa del Son or Escuela de Baile Cubano. If you’re running late, take bicitaxis — the Cuban equivalent of the rickshaws outside the theatres on Broadway in New York, but much cheaper.”

Cuban sunset
“Jump into a car, preferably a convertible, and slowly cruise the Malecón to take in the eclectic architecture, then head across the bay to El Morro Castle to watch the sunset over in the horizon. El Morro is the most iconic of the three fortifications that historically protected the city from piracy. Its turbulent past has been wiped out and re-imagined with nearby restaurants and vendors. The sunset over the bay with the panoramic view of the Havana skyline is spectacular.”

Delicious dinner
“I recommend a 9 p.m. reservation at El Cocinero, a former cooking-oil factory repurposed as a chic restaurant complex and events venue. It caters to a heady mix of young and beautiful locals, expats, diplomats, and even tourists lucky enough to score a reservation. El Cocinero is a hot ticket — super trendy, modern minimalist decor — the food is terrific, and it does not disappoint.  Order drinks at the bar if there is a wait for your table. The tropical tuna tartar and grilled snapper with a fruit salsa are delicious.”

Put on your dancing shoes (again!)
“There is great debate over whether to go strictly dancing or see dancing and a show. If you opt for the latter, head to Le Parisien — a cabaret at the famous Hotel Nacional. Their Vegas-style showgirls remind me of Barry Manilow’s Copacabana. For the record, although today we call it Vegas-style, this type of cabaret show was inspired by Havana shows like the one we are experiencing, not the other way around. After the show wraps up, you’ll have the chance to practice your salsa moves — shake it, do the turns, step in unison — it is so much fun.”

Buenas noches
“Take advantage of an intangible charm of Havana, how incredibly safe it is and explore the blocks around the cabaret. The streets are quiet, the breeze from the sea embraces you. Viva Cuba!” 

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