Join automotive & motorcycle correspondent Charles Fleming & acclaimed travel writer, moto-journalist & Cuba expert Christopher P. Baker on an exciting 6-day Los Angeles Times Expedition for classic car & motorcycle enthusiasts
In Cuba, cars are not just a means of transportation; they are an obsession, a point of pride and a history lesson in U.S.-Cuban relations. The classic Fords and Chevrolets from the 1950s — repaired countless times over many decades and still on the road — are a perpetual reminder of the U.S. embargo that has lasted almost 60 years. Meticulously maintained and restored, these classic cars are the epitome of the Cuban spirit, resourcefulness and the ability to turn utility into art. Meet with mechanical “artists” to discuss and observe the restoration process and experience these automotive masterpieces.
CHRISTOPHER P. BAKER
It’s true to say… no-one knows Cuba as well as Christopher, the Lowell Thomas Award 2008 ‘Travel Journalist of the Year’ and the author of eight travel guidebooks about Cuba, including Cuba Classics: A Celebration of Vintage American Automobiles and his award-winning travelogue Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro’s Cuba. National Geographic acclaimed him “one of the world’s leading authorities on Cuba travel and culture.” In January 2013, Christopher led the first licensed U.S. motorcycle group tour of Cuba end-to-end since the 1959 Revolution. He has since led numerous motorcycle tours in Cuba, as well as almost one hundred tours to Cuba, including–with Charles Fleming–the Los Angeles Times Expeditions first “Cuban Chrome” tour in 2019. He has written about Cuba for scores of publications, from National Geographic Traveler to Playboy, and is partnered with actor David Soul in restorating Ernest Hemingway’s 1955 Chrysler New Yorker in Cuba. Christopher will share with you his unique and profound knowledge of Cuba and its world of pre-revolutionary automóviles and motos, providing unparalleled context for your travel experience.
Charles Fleming writes about automobiles and motorcycles for the Los Angeles Times. An avid adventure motorcyclist, he has a passion for all things relating to autos and motos and has written extensively about motorcycle touring around the world. Charles has also reported since 1987 as staff writer, editor and columnist for Newsweek, Variety, LA Weekly and The Los Angeles Herald Examiner, and as a freelancer for Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, Playboy, Time, The New York Times, New York Magazine, and McCalls, among others. His many best-selling novels include After Havana, a delicious crime novel about the sour twilight of the Batista empire in pre-revolutionary Cuba. In November 2019, Charles and Christopher co-led the first Los Angeles Times Expedition trip ‘Cuban Chrome’ for automotive and motorcycle enthusiasts.
ITINERARY (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)
DAY 1 ¡Bienvenidos a Havana!
Depart Miami on a group flight, and arrive in Cuba in the late morning. We’ll head straight to lunch, then visit Museo Ernest Hemingway, in the author’s former home at Finca Vigía. During a guided tour, make a private visit to see Hemingway’s 1955 Chrysler, which is undergoing a restoration after being missing for 20 years! (Chris is directly involved in the restoration project and can arrange a private visit to the car in its secret location.) In late afternoon, check in to your hotel on the famed Malecón for a reception followed by a welcome dinner in one of Havana’s best paladares (privately owned restaurants). (B, L, D)
DAY 2 Harley Heaven
This morning, take a walking tour of Old Havana. Enjoy a special visit to the Museo del Automóvil to meet with the director, Eduardo Mesejo Maestre, to learn about the restoration of the oldest car in Cuba, a 1905 Cadillac. Tour a private car-painting workshop and speak with the owners. After lunch, visit with members of the Harley-Davidson Club at the home of Cuban music producer and harlista Lyng Chang to marvel at a collection of restored Harley-Davidsons and other pre-revolutionary motorcycles. We’ll dine together at another of Havana’s premier private restaurants. (B, L, D)
DAY 3 Mechanical Wizardry
This morning will focus on another hallmark of Cuban culture — cigars. Visit a tobacco factory to speak with and observe rollers and other workers to witness how Cuba’s signature export are hand-made. Then visit the workshop of Chris’ close friend Luis Enrique González to learn about the mechanical wizardry required to keep pre-revolution cars and motorcycles running without state of-the-art tools or genuine spare parts. Luis will display his homemade lathe and welding equipment in addition to his personal collection of pre-revolutionary motorcycles and 1947 Buick. This afternoon visit the Havana Neon Lights project by world-renowned artist Kadir López-Nieva, who is slowly but surely bringing the defunct neon signage of pre-revolutionary Havana back to life. We’ll also visit Taxicuba, a state-entity that licenses private classic cars for rent. Here we’ll get to see some of the old cars and learn about the relationship between the state and private taxi entrepreneurs. After dinner at your leisure, you may choose to attend a show at the famous Tropicana nightclub.* (B, L)
DAY 4 Private initiative
This morning, visit the NostalgiCar Workshop to continue your discussion of car restoration and upkeep. Owner Julio Álvarez’ business restoring old Chevrolets for chauffered rental to tourists has been such a success he was even invited to the White House to meet President Obama. Besides demonstrating how entrepreneurship can thrive in contemporary Cuba, Julio is a born raconteur. A highlight visit! After lunch we may visit the Estadio Lationamericano, Cuba’s top baseball stadium, for a stadium tour and discussion of the importance of baseball to the island nation (in 2019 we arrived with the bases loaded to witness Havana’s Industriales go down to Santiago de Cuba 10-0). Then meet with members of the Club Amigos de Fangio, an informal group, who will show us some of their restored cars and motorcycles (some of which appeared in the TV reality show “Cuban Chrome”). We’ll dine in Habana Vieja, then enjoy a night of traditional musical entertainment at Cafe Taberna Benny Moré. (B, L, D)
DAY 5 Motorcycle Restoration
This morning we join the A Lo Cubano club, which meets at the Tropicana cabaret nightclub (with luck we may even be given a private tour). Expect as many as 200 classic cars and motorcycles to show, depending on the weather. This afternoon we’ll tour the highlights of modern Havana, including Plaza de la Revolución and Hotel Nacional, then head to Almacén San José–Havana’s premier arts and crafts market. This evening, our farewell dinner will be in one of Havana’s top paladares. (B, L, D)
DAY 6 Departure
After breakfast, travel as a group to José Martí International
Airport for a group flight to Miami and individual flights
March 21-26, 2021
November 27-December 2, 2021