One of the most iconic and expected experiences of a trip to Cuba is the chance to ride in a brightly painted, impeccably cared for classic 1950s convertible. What you might not expect is the pure rush of excitement you feel sliding into the back seat. It was one of my favorite memories of our Backroads trip to Cuba.
We'd biked with the Cuban National Cycling Team through the city of Havana in a rainstorm, ending up in the famous Revolution Square. The bus that was scheduled to pick us up and take us to the old part of the city for a walking tour got a flat tire. So at the spur of the moment, we slid into the back seat of a pink 1957 Chevrolet and hit the road.
By this time, a few days into the trip, we were already good friends with the other families on this Family Trip for Older Teens and 20-Somethings. Our caravan of ten classic cars took off through the square, heading to our next stop with honks, waves and cheers. Part of the fun of that moment was watching the smiles on the faces of all the adult kids on the trip with us.
I'll back up a moment. We booked our trip to Cuba with Backroads because we have enjoyed several successful trips in the past with the company, both as a family and as a couple. This was our first Backroads Trip for Families with Older Teens and 20s with our four now-adult kids and it couldn't have been more perfect. We knew the trip would be tailored for active grown kids as well as us adults who are still trying to keep up. And we knew, because it was Backroads, it would be well thought out and all the details would be taken care of so we could enjoy our time together. What we didn't know is how perfect the Family "20-Somethings" configuration would be. In fact, we didn't really know what to expect from our trip to Cuba at all. Well, it exceeded every expectation.
We're so lucky. Our family loves to travel together, especially now that all four kids are either in college or out in the working world. It's a great time to reconnect. I didn't really give much thought to how much the presence of other kids and their parents, who were almost exactly the same ages as us, would add to the overall trip. It was a surprise bonus in an otherwise magical week. Meals would become a mixture of just our family at a table for lunch, for example, to a "girls only" table for my daughter and the rest of the young women on the trip that evening. Just thinking about it now makes me smile. The easy flow of friendship was one of the gifts of our Cuban experience, providing a chance to debrief each day and compare notes on the amazing experiences and the warmth of the Cuban people.
And that takes me back to the unexpected delight of this Backroads Multi-Adventure Cuba trip. They have put together a thoughtful, eventful, physically challenging, personally meaningful experience that I couldn't recommend more. We have other friends who have traveled to Cuba without Backroads and experienced many disappointments on their journeys. Because of that, I suppose, I was a bit anxious about the food, the hotels, the trip. But from the first stop for lunch in an amazing paladar in Matanzas, to taking a turn at bat with the baseball team in the oldest ballpark in the world, to biking through remote Cuban villages, to learning to roll a cigar, to spending the night in the jungle at an eco-lodge, to exploring the Catalina cave system, we experienced one enchanting moment after another in Cuba. One of the most unforgettable experiences for my family was when we went grocery shopping, first at a store filled with imports, then to a local market where ration cards were accepted. Attempting to shop on a Cuban government salary was poignant.
Our Trip Leaders, Jeff and Hugo, were the perfect combination of trip leaders, experts and fun. They both loved Cuba and the Cuban people we interacted with - and they both were completely comfortable with both the young adults and the more seasoned folks on the trip.
Back to the last bike ride of the trip. We set out on our bicycles from our hotel in Havana, but were soon caught in a torrential downpour. The Cuban cyclist leading our group suddenly hopped onto the sidewalk and we all followed him onto the porch of a Cuban family's home to seek shelter from the drenching rain. He knocked, the door opened and I wondered what would happen. I don't speak Spanish, but it quickly became clear that the family was happy to let us--perfect strangers--take shelter in their yard.
That sums up Cuba, its people and our Backroads trip. Unexpected moments. Beautiful colors. Adventure. And the chance to experience it all with a great group of like-minded people who love to travel with their adult kids.