The Garden Goes to Cuba

It is with great pleasure that I can say the new Travel Club’s trip to Cuba was a great success! We had 24 participants including Sarah Franks of HRTS Travel who planned the trip, Michael Conners who is St. Croix’s well known author/Cuba expert and myself as plant/garden expert.

I had visited Cuba in 2018 when giving a presentation at a conference but most of our travelers had not been there before. It is a compelling place for most of us since it was largely a forbidden destination for most Americans for so long.

We were introduced to some of the sights of Havana like Revolution Square before even reaching our hotel. Later, there was an evening walk along the famous Malecon. Our Cuban guide likened the water front seawall to a “five mile long couch” that the residents of the city used as an extension of their apartments. Michael ask us what was missing in the view. The answer, boats, illustrated the complex place that is Cuba. People love living their lives looking out to sea but aren’t allowed to own boats just  in case they would like to do more than look. 

Havana was our home base and was endlessly fascinating. Many places; Old Havana, Spanish forts, cathedrals, leafy squares and modern roof top eateries would be at home in Europe. Then again; a street paved in wood, vintage American cars vying for space with horse carts and a faint scent of cigars could only be found in Cuba. Architecture can only be discussed if the word contrast is used. Where else can an Art Deco apartment building, a 1950’s mobster hotel and a Spanish colonial villa coexist?

We ventured out of the city of course. At Ernest Hemingway’s house, Michael gave such detailed descriptions, other visitors tried to tag along with us. At the National Botanical Garden, I found my descriptions having the same effect. The tobacco farm we visited included a great cigar rolling demonstration. Then there was Viñales Valley. We overnighted overlooking this earthly paradise. Each of the otherworldly mountains called “mogotes’ are festooned with plants found nowhere else on Earth.

Thank you to all who made this trip a reality and for supporting the garden. I am looking forward to another botanical garden travel club trip next year!         

Dewey Hollister, Executive Director