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#BTReads: ‘Cuban Flavor’

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello
September 29, 2021
An overhead view of a plate of the Cuban dish Ropa Vieja
Sergii Koval/Dreamstime
We have an insatiable appetite for Cuba’s unique cuisine.

One of the most effective ways to evoke a travel memory or sense of place is to learn to cook some of the dishes that are popular in a favorite destination. And although this is true of regions all over the U.S. and, indeed, the world, bringing home a taste of Cuba may be the most evocative of all.

TASTES OF CUBA

“Cuban Flavor: Exploring the Island's Unique Places, People, and Cuisine,” by award-winning food, lifestyle, and travel photographer Liza Gershman, makes a beautiful case for Cuba’s enduring appeal. Gershman’s photography and snappy, clear writing deliver not only the classic tastes of Cuba, such as Ropa Vieja and Arroz con Leche, but also the visual juxtapositions that characterize the island’s architecture, fashion, nightlife, and natural beauty. She immerses us in every sensory experience Cuba offers visitors.

USER-FRIENDLY RECIPES

Of course, the recipes ultimately dominate, and they will keep home cooks happy and busy, with simple ingredients and super-clear steps. After devouring the history, culture, music, and stunning visual impact of the island in Gershman’s scrapbook-style pages, I settled into tackling Roast Pork with Mango Glaze. It’s cooking in my kitchen as I write this, and the aroma, like “Cuban Flavor,” is intoxicating.

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Inspiration

These Tourism Slogans Are Meant to Entice You...

Tourism is a competitive business. Every destination—cities, states, national parks, hotels, historical landmarks, etc.—is vying for your attention, time, and money. All of which, of course, is in limited supply. But neither the time nor the money comes into play if the place doesn’t have your attention. And that’s where savvy marketing comes in. Nearly every country on this vast planet has a slogan to make you perk up and take notice and inspire you to come visit. And let’s just say some slogans have a good chance of grabbing your attention by the collar while others might float past you unnoticed with bland reminders of their beauty or friendly residents or geographic locale (Portugal, for instance, beckons with the claim “Europe’s West Coast” and Nigeria announces “Good people. Great nation.”). And others might just make you giggle or, in some cases, furry your brow in bewilderment. You're invited FamilyBreakFinder, a British company that offers tips for family vacations, created an epic map of tourism slogans around the world and it is, without a doubt, captivating. Tourism marketers have a tough job, to be sure: to capture a nation’s spirit in a few bite-size words. Some don’t tout any bells or whistles. They give us just the facts—well, just a fact—and they give it to us quick. There’s “Magical Kenya” and “Epic Estonia.” Germany is “Simply inspiring” while the Netherlands is “The original cool,” Uzbekistan is “Naturally irresistible!” and Denmark is “Happiest place on Earth!”  Some nations express a bit more authority, presenting their catchphrase as a demand or instruction. Romania tells the world “Explore the Carpathian Garden” and Poland orders you to “Move your imagination” and if the Caucasus region is calling you, “Visit Armenia. It is beautiful.” For a bit of positive reinforcement, “Travel in Slovakia. Good idea!” Albania’s slogan has us a bit befuddled, though. They say “Go your own way!” Is it just us, or does that sound like they’re turning you away. Looking at the map as a whole, it seems there are a few countries that need to have a powwow and come to some agreements. Mozambique beckons with “Come to where it all started” while Egypt and Ethiopia declare “Where it all begins” and “Land of origins,” respectively. We’re not sure if this is a case for anthropologists and archaeologists or philosophers. Comedy and tragedy The tourism bureaus with what we imagine to be the toughest jobs work in any country where residents are trying to flee or have fled. In Africa, Rwanda avoids debate or unease with “Remarkable Rwanda.” West of the Himalayas we’re reminded “It’s beautiful. It’s Pakistan” while in the Middle East, if you’re thinking of visiting Petra or the Dead Sea or the Desert Castles, Jordan tourism wants to assure you “Yes, it’s Jordan.” On a serious note, though, with the unspeakable and devastating destruction of late Syria’s “Always beautiful” slogan may, sadly, need some retooling.   A little comic jab or pun is a dependable way to stick in people’s minds. Morocco, for instance, broadcasts “Much Mor.” And then there’s one of our personal favorites: “Djibouti: Djibeauty.” Another tactic for being memorable? Make an effort to make no sense. El Salvador does a pretty good job with this one, declaring itself “The 45 minute country.”

Inspiration

Budget Caribbean Rentals With a View

As winter wears on, our thoughts turn to the white sand, blue seas, and temperate climes of the Caribbean. An island vacation may sound like a splurge, but you don't have to be loaded to make it happen. Although rates do shift based on season and availability, we've found 10 places that'll allow you to stretch your travel budget without sacrifice—all with amazing scenery and amenities, for less than $200 a night. 1. Dominican Republic: Las Terrenas (Courtesy Airbnb)On a hilltop overlooking the resort town of Las Terrenas, on the Samaná Peninsula in the Dominican Republic, this two-bedroom apartment offers mountain views from its private terrace, and that’s just for starters. Located in Monte Placido, a gated community with six other properties, its shared amenities include an infinity pool overlooking the countryside and the ocean, with a lounge area and a gas grill, plus a sprawling yoga studio that’s half wooden deck and half cave. It sleeps up to six adults and two kids, and the expat couple that runs the place can help arrange tours, meals, and even spa services. airbnb.com 2. Curaçao: Willemstad (Courtesy Airbnb) In a resort on Curaçao’s southwest coast, a 20-minute drive from the capital of WIllemstad, this stand-alone alone villa boasts modern interiors and creature comforts, just steps away from the beach. Take a dip in the private pool, rinse off in the outdoor shower, and sip a cocktail while you gaze at the sea from the comfort of your terrace, or venture over to the property’s infinity pool for a picture-perfect swim. Christoffelpark, the island’s largest national park, isn’t far by car, and the owners are happy to offer tips and suggestions. The house accommodates four people, and comes equipped with Apple TV, just in case you need a break from all of that natural beauty. airbnb.com 3. Martinique: Le Diamant (Courtesy HomeAway) With private access to a small strip of unsullied beach and unobstructed waterfront views for taking in both sunrises and sunsets, this two-bedroom villa offers tranquility and scenery at a modest price. Located on the outskirts of Le Diamant, a small town on Martinique’s south coast, it’s a destination best suited for those in search of peace and quiet—you won’t find much nightlife here, just a few hotels and restaurants spread out over the 1.25-mile public beach. Embrace the solitude and channel your inner homebody: Hit up the nearby local fishermen for their catch of the day, fire up the grill, and enjoy a dinner al fresco as you watch the sun slip into the bay. homeaway.com 4. Dominican Republic: Cabarete (Courtesy VRBO) A Spanish Colonial-style home that sleeps up to seven, this Cabarete abode has a private pool right off the sand, a manicured garden, an enclosed, ground-floor patio, and an open-air shower—the perfect amenities for a week or two of outdoor living. The upstairs master bedroom has ocean views, and there’s a caretaker on the property—and two dogs!—who will make you feel right at home. Plus, your airport transfers are covered, so you won’t have to worry about a thing upon landing. Walk into town to partake in the vibrant nightlife and waterfront dining scene, or stick with sun and fun: Cabarete is known for its water sports, and you’ll have easy access to the best kitesurfing, windsurfing, and just plain surfing spots from your beachside perch. vrbo.com 5. Jamaica: Montego Bay (Courtesy Airbnb) A 20-minute walk from Montego Bay’s Hip Strip and the white sand and clear waters of premiere swimming spots like Doctors Cave, this two-bedroom apartment is close to restaurants, bars, and beach alike. Located in a residential building with a communal rooftop pool offering stellar ocean views, it sleeps up to seven and provides a unique peek at life in a real island community. A driver from the Jamaica Tourist Board is on call to show you around—arrange for the $30 airport-pickup option, and he’ll take you to the grocery store to stock up on provisions, with a stop for jerk chicken along the way—and the owner can help arrange excursions around the island—think day trips to Negril, rafting on the Martha Brae river, and the refreshing rock pools and waterfalls of Westmoreland’s Mayfield Falls. airbnb.com 6. Saint Lucia: Marigot Bay (Courtesy HomeAway) A two-bedroom apartment in a hilltop villa a short drive from Castries, the island’s capital, this private flat offers the best of both worlds: There’s a secluded cove for snorkeling and swimming, just a few minutes away via a nature path, and Marigot Bay’s action-packed water-sports scene is nearby too. Take advantage of the kayaking, paddleboarding, and sailing opportunities on the bay, then retreat from the hustle and bustle to your private verandah, where you can listen to the birds singing as you look out over the gardens and pool. A serene escape with easy access to both mountains and sea (there’s a hiking trail not far away), it has a 20-foot-high tree deck that’s perfect for catching the sunset, fitness equipment, and more. Plus, when you check in, you’ll be greeted by a friendly face bearing an icy-cold pitcher of rum punch—a warm welcome indeed. homeaway.com 7. Dominican Republic: Las Terrenas (Courtesy Airbnb) Also located in Las Terrenas, this villa was designed by an Italian architect to make the most of its location, with stunning views of the Atlantic from every room, not to mention soaring ceilings, contemporary furnishings, and a gorgeous, private salt-water infinity pool overlooking the ocean. There’s a patio with cushy couches, so you can recline and take in the sunset in comfort, as well as a fully equipped kitchen; fend for yourself, or ask the management to arrange your meals and experience some great Dominican cooking firsthand. Located mere yards from Playa Coson, it’s not far from other regional beaches either, like Playa Rincón and Cayo Levantado, and it makes a good base of operations for exploring the area—Los Haitises National Park and El Limón waterfall are both nearby. Pro tip: Plan your trip for February through April, when the humpback whales come out to play in Samaná Bay. airbnb.com 8. Curaçao: Sint Michiel (Courtesy HomeAway) In the heart of a Curaçao fishing village off the well-trodden tourist trail, this two-bedroom villa faces the ocean and boasts direct beach access, a private dock, an outdoor shower, and a lush tropical garden. Sit on the brick-lined patio and watch the dolphins passing by, or jump in and join them if you’ve got the nerve; you'll also have a great vantage point here for spectacular sunsets. Sint Michiel is known for its scuba diving, and some of the best schools on the island are within walking distance. Newbies can take a guided tour or sign up for a night dive with a nearby pro, but you can also bring your own equipment and descend to the depths from your own front porch. homeaway.com 9. Bonaire: Kralendijk (Courtesy VRBO) East of Curaçao, you’ll find the Dutch island of Bonaire, a tiny, easy-going place with a laidback way of life—and a lack of traffic lights. You’ll have to get creative to get here, as plane tickets can be pricey and routes difficult to navigate, but if you play your cards right and time your airfare-shopping properly, you’ll be rewarded with a dreamy vacation destination that puts sustainable travel front and center, from coral-reef preservation to carbon-offsetting initiatives. This three-bedroom villa sits on a secluded hill outside of town, 10 minutes from the shops and restaurants of Kralendijk (the capital city and main port) and a quick drive to the dive sites on the northern side of the island. On the property, you'll find brightly colored tropical birds singing in the trees, plus a private pool with a deck and a shady cabana, all with views to the ocean. vrbo.com 10. Cayman Islands: Cayman Brac (Courtesy VRBO) Grand Cayman may get the lion’s share of the love, but northeast of the popular cruise-ship port is Cayman Brac, a haven for divers, snorkelers, and hikers too. This beautiful beachfront house sleeps six, and it’s steps from the sand, with a private jetty, a Caribbean-facing verandah, and hammocks, chaise lounges, and Adirondack chairs throughout for ultimate outdoor relaxation. On the bluff behind the house, there’s a parrot reserve where you’ll spot native Brac parrots and vitelline warblers, and on the southeastern cliffs, you can watch the brown booby birds building their nests. Go for a trek on the bluff, launch your kayak from the jetty, go shore diving, or simply settle in for some star-gazing. vrbo.com

Inspiration

Taco Bell Is Opening Its Own Hotel and Holy Crap How Soon Can We Check In?

Tacos for breakfast, tacos for lunch, tacos for dinner, and especially tacos for late-night snacks. There’s no bad time to eat tacos and no bad place either. A versatile crowd-pleaser, it can be celebrated anywhere – even at its own hotel. Yes, you can soon live out your delicious little fast food fantasies 24/7 when The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort launches in Palm Springs, CA, on August 9. What to Expect From The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort “Get ready for ‘Bell’ hops and Baja Blasts, fire sauce and sauce packet floaties, because the Taco Bell Hotel is coming and will give fans an unexpected and unforgettable trip of a lifetime,” a Taco Bell spokesperson said. “From check-in to check-out, The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort reimagines what a hotel stay can be, unveiling a destination inspired by tacos and fueled by fans.” Taco-Themed Rooms and Menu Surprises The Bell will open for a limited time of three nights and is an adults-only resort with a minimum age limit of 18. It will feature taco-themed rooms, a poolside cocktail bar and an on-site salon for Taco Bell-inspired nail art and unisex beauty treatments. Naturally, it will feature a Taco Bell restaurant but with some new menu surprises that the restaurant promises you won’t find anywhere else. “It will be fun, colourful, flavorful and filled with more than what our fans might expect,” said Taco Bell’s chief global brand officer Marisa Thalberg. “Also, just like some of our most sought-after food innovation, this hotel brings something entirely new for lucky fans to experience and enjoy.” The exact location is still under wraps but reservations will open in June and you can stay up-to-date with announcements here. Get inspired to travel everyday by signing up to Lonely Planet’s daily newsletter.

Inspiration

Our Favorite Dreamy Overwater Bungalows

Imagine sitting on a deck with your toes dipped in the warm turquoise water while sipping an exotic blended drink and watching the colorful fish swim beneath you. This is the type of scene you can enjoy in an overwater bungalow. Enjoy everything from snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing and jet skiing to land-lubber activities like learning about the culture, flora, fauna and cuisine. Whether you’re looking to renew your wedding vows or just need some time to chill, you won’t be disappointed. Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora Lounge on a private sunny deck or take a dip in the plunge pool overlooking the crystal clear water in Tahiti at the Four Seasons Bora Bora. These thatched huts offer luxury accommodation with high ceilings, a full-size bathroom, teak furnishing and comfortable bedding. The resort also has a soothing over-the-water spa that utilizes Polynesian traditions. Immerse yourself in this tropical paradise by partaking in couple’s snorkeling, dinner for two on a private motu (a small island formed by broken coral and sand), or trying the submarine scooter. For the ultimate splurge, arrive to the resort via the Four Season’s private jet, which offers around-the-world excursions. Image courtesy of Reethi Beach Resort Reethi Beach Resort, Maldives Located on the tiny Fonimagoodhoo Island, the Reethi Beach Resort provides an authentic Maldivian experience. With air-conditioned bungalows, beautiful tropical foliage, smooth and soft sand, and an enticing blue lagoon, you’ll easily slip into a state of Zen. Be sure to take advantage of the on-property PADI 5-star dive center to get an up-close look at the impressive sea life. Afterwards, enjoy a sunset cocktail at the beachfront bar. The resort has four bars and four restaurants that offer a buffet, seated dining, boutique dining, and poolside dining. The Berjaya Langkawai Resort, Malaysia The Berjaya Langkawai Resort, situated on Burau Bay, offers guests the unique opportunity to stay in an overwater bungalow. The accommodations are more like a traditional hotel room with views of the Andaman Sea and includes complimentary hi tea. Have a cocktail in the sunken pool bar, enjoy a luxury yacht experience, go island hopping by jet ski, or end the day with an authentic Thai dinner. Song Saa, Cambodia This private island getaway located on an archipelago will sweep you into serenity with the beauty of the Cambodian coastline. The wooden overwater villas at Song Saa overlook the natural reef teaming with sea life. The pristine water will beckon you to dive in from the deck of your villa. Other activities that the resort offers include Buddhist ceremonies, scuba diving expeditions, a tour of Prek Svay village, or exploring an uninhabited island. Image courtesy of Rosewood MayakobáRosewood Mayakobá, Mexico Enjoy the lush mangroves and the scenic lagoons along the Mexican Riviera Maya at the Rosewood Mayakoba. The modern overwater lagoon suite is the perfect place to take in the serene surroundings. Guests are treated to complimentary mezcal and daily fruit bowl. Take a dip in the heated plunge pool, rinse off. In the rain shower, lounge on the outdoor terrace, or take advantage of the private boat dock to explore the area via on-the-water transportation. Amenities also include on-property golf and tennis, as well as a full-service spa that features hammam (Turkish baths). Likuliku Lagoon Resort, Fiji For laid-back luxury, the adults-only Likuliku Lagoon Resort provides overwater bungalows situated on marine protected sanctuary that reinforces its name, Likuliki means “calm water.” Enjoy a variety of water activities, including a short boat ride to an uninhabited island. The resort supports sustainability and therefore uses natural building materials, which highlights the Fijian culture and landscape. Fill your days with fishing, windsurfing, island hopping, hiking, visiting a local village, get a close up look at the iguanas, or participating in a traditional Kava ceremony. Aitutaki Lagoon Resort and Spa, Cook Islands This private island resort imbibes the tradition and rituals of the Cook Island through its thatched architecture, local seafood dishes, and authentic dance. At the Aitutaki Lagoon Resort, referred to as “Heaven on Earth,” guests can enjoy the ultimate tranquility in the overwater bungalows. The bungalows feature palm-lined walls, tropical decor, and open-air shower. Get to know the Polynesian culture through ‘ura (hula) dancing lessons, ‘ei (lei) making, frond weaving, and pare tying. Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge, Panama Jump off your private overwater cabin’s terrace into the alluring Caribbean Sea at the Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge. Built on stilts and covered with a palm-leaf roof, the nine two-floor suites reflect the traditional building methods of Panama utilizing natural materials such as native woods and plants, clays, leafs, bamboo, and wild cane. Get an aerial view of the island surrounding reefs by taking a plane tour.