Architectural Digest Visits Cuba with Arrangements Abroad!

Architectural Digest cover This February, Arrangements Abroad organized one in a series of stellar trips to Cuba with a focus on art & architecture for the Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation. Among the travelers was journalist Mitchell Owens, whose article A Design Lover’s Guide to Cuba for the May 2015 Architectural Digest just hit the stands. His short video on Havana, with spectacular images, may be seen here. The accompanying slide show is also terrific!

Tour Director Kate Klorer reflects on the trip:

“The Soane programs draw many architects and interior designers, so we put together an itinerary focusing on historic houses and some of the best 20th-century architecture in Cuba.

The incredible thing about Havana is that the city itself is like a museum, with examples of nearly every architectural style of the last centuries—from dramatic Baroque buildings of Habana Vieja to the Neoclassical villas of Vedado and elegant Art Deco and Art Nouveau structures throughout the city. Even with so many buildings in heartbreaking condition, Havana is one of the most astonishingly beautiful cities—by far the most captivating place that I have ever visited in all my travels across the globe for its architectural heritage.

Cuban architecture

Image of the Lopez Serrano building by Chas A. Miller, III

It was a lot of fun to be in Cuba with Mr. Owens and lecturer Hermes Mallea (author of Great Houses of Havana) as they pointed out unique architectural details that are distinctively Cuban— like the intricate ironwork that allows breeze to flow through windows on hot Havana days and colorful stained glass that brightens door frames and louvered shutters.”

Mr. Owen’s Architectural Digest video gives a superb glimpse of our week exploring Havana’s great buildings. You can also read the article about his journey here.

Come join us on the next trip! Mr. Mallea is leading a just added Art & Architectural of Cuba program that features the XVII Havana Biennial June 6-11, 2015!


Meet Tour Director Kate Klorer

Kate Klorer with tour busKate Klorer started working for Academic Arrangements Abroad as a Tour Coordinator in December 2005. Soon afterwards, she became one of the firm’s Tour Directors. When Kate is home in New York between trips, she also works as a guide at The Frick Collection.

She will be leading more trips in 2014, so look for her on several programs to Europe, Cuba, and the Middle East.

What is your hometown? Redlands, California. It is especially beautiful in March and April, when the orange groves bloom and the scent of orange blossoms fills the air.

Kate in SienaCity you most recommend to friends? Most of my recommendations have to do with places I’ve had memorable experiences with art or food! I recently visited Siena, Italy, for the first time, mainly to see in person the great altarpiece by Duccio, and I was completely enchanted by this medieval town. Rome and Florence are absolute must-sees, but Siena offers a different, quieter experience… perfect for wandering with gelato on a sunny afternoon, admiring the beautiful Tuscan hills!

There are so many other great cities. Stockholm, Vilnius, Vienna, Havana, and of course the three I have called home: New York, London, and Los Angeles.

Sight you would drop everything to see I would love to see the Northern Lights at some point in my life!

Last tour you were on for Arrangements Abroad “The Performing & Visual Arts of Cuba: An Insider’s View”

Kate in UAESpecial skills  Not quite a special skill, but when I’m in a new place, I enjoy stepping into the local grocery store or farmer’s market. It is one of the best ways to get a feel for local life.  I also really enjoy meeting people from different backgrounds and life experiences. And I know a lot about art history, particularly 14th– to 19th-century European painting.

Your most visited websites  Google , Facebook, The New York Times, Kayak and

photo-4Something about you that surprises people  As a graduate student in London, I worked at the Travel Bookshop in Notting Hill on weekends!  (Yes, the bookshop from the Hugh Grant movie…)

Three things you can’t travel without  A light suitcase, a pashmina to keep warm on the plane, and a camera.

Number of trips traveled on  I have visited 48 countries.  Some of my best travel experiences have been on Arrangements Abroad programs. Inquisitive and enthusiastic groups, opportunities to learn from experts, getting to know our local guides in different countries…all make for such enriching experiences when learning about a new place!

Fusterlandia: A Ceramic Wonderland on the Outskirts of Havana

Jose FusterCuban artist José Fuster has been described as the “Picasso of the Caribbean.” The painter and sculptor is the brains behind Fusterlandia, a neighborhood in the village of Jaimanitas that the artist has been transforming with his ceramic creations for years.

To date, the artist has decorated more than 80 houses with ornate murals and domes to suit the personality of his neighbors.  Among the creations are a chess park with giant boards and tables, and an Artists’ Wall composed of a quilt of dozens of tiles signed and donated by other Cuban artists.

Born in 1946 on Cuba’s north coast in the town of Caibarién, Fuster has been a professional artist since the 1960s. In addition to turning Jaimanitas into a unique work of public art, he has also participated in group shows in Europe, North America and South America. Fuster’s work can be found in collections at the Center for Cuban Studies in New York, the Museo de la Cerámica, Castillo de la Real Fuerza, in Havana; and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana.

We think that images speak louder than words. Below are some photos of Fusterlandia that were taken during recent journeys to Cuba.

To find out more about Academic Arrangements Abroad, one of the pioneers in offering legal travel to Cuba, visit our website.

Fusterlandia by Sara Kosyk

Fusterlandia by Sara Kosyk

Horse in Fusterlandia by Ellen Renstrom

Horse in Fusterlandia by Ellen Renstrom

Pool in Fusterlandia by Ellen Renstrom

Pool in Fusterlandia by Ellen Renstrom

Fusterlandia by Danielle Dybiec

Fusterlandia by Danielle Dybiec

What’s On Havana!

We were excited to be mentioned in the July 2013 issue of What’s On Havana! This independent platform, produced by, aims to “explore Cuba through the eyes of the best writers, photographers and filmmakers, both Cuban and international, who live work, travel and play in Cuba.”

July 2013 cover What's On Havana!One of our favorite sections of the July issue of the publication is about photography. It includes striking images by Canadian photographers Colin Franks and Pete Jones. Franks’ photographs include everything from close-ups shots of colorful vintage automobiles to black-and-white portraits. Jones, who purchased his first camera in 2007, shoots lovely landscapes and images of Cuba’s people.

Arrangements Abroad in What's On Havana!The newsletter also has a story on the Carnival de Santiago de Cuba, a listing of the best places to eat in Havana, and an article on Cuba’s clothes lines. Click here for a PDF of the publication.

Don’t Forget to Enter the Focus on Travel Photo Contest

Havana doorwayWe’ve already received a number of submissions for our Focus on Travel photo contest.  Images entered so far range from Borobudur at sunrise to Stockholm at dusk. There are also stunning shots of London, Havana, Egypt, Bolivia and other destinations near and far.

If you have a great travel photograph, there’s still time to enter it in the contest. The winner will receive a new iPad mini. Prizes for the runners-up include a NiteCore Tiny Monster flashlight, a micro luggage scale and more.

You can also vote on the submitted images, which are featured in a gallery that can be accessed through the photo contest tab.  The most popular image will receive a People’s Choice Award and a special prize.

To enter or vote, please go to our Facebook page and click on the Focus On Travel Photo Contest icon below our name.  It will take you to a new page where you can enter the contest or vote on selected entries (or both!).

Punta ArenasBe sure to submit your entry before May 1, 2013.

Cuba: A Firsthand Account

George Metes and Jean Sanborn report on their favorite experiences during their recent trip to Cuba.

On arriving in Havana we were introduced to “habaneros” at the Sunday Callejon de Hamel Santoria celebration, which was the perfect way to introduce us, people-to-people, to the creativity and energy of the Cubans. On the planned itinerary we visited several artists’ studios, the Ceramics Museum and the large Fine Arts Museum, dancers, singers, and lively kids performing, thus seeing a range of art and learning how the Cuban artists interact with the larger art world.

Informal opportunities to interact with Cubans were plentiful. We had enough free time in Havana to get out and meet people and explore areas off the main tourist track.  We already knew the generally cheerful energy of the Cuban people; we discovered how safe and clean Havana is despite the crumbling infrastructure.

The opportunities to eat on our own led us not only to a paladar for a moonlit meal in a beautiful home full of art but also to Los Nardos, the hugely popular national restaurant down the street from the hotel where we got to chat with Cubans also waiting for a table.  As in the paladares, we enjoyed wonderful music in the national restaurant.  (Contrary to what we had been led to believe, Cuban food is not all rice and beans).

We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the organizers and leaders of this trip; everyone gave their time, their creativity, their energy, their patience, their wide-ranging knowledge of Cuba, and their good humor to make this such a special week.

Old Friends: Jim’s Return to Cuba

It has been almost 10 years since we ran the last of approximately 100 programs to Cuba…..and now I am back in Havana.  While the purpose of my trip has been an exhausting set of meetings with our ground operator in Cuba, I have also had the pleasure of breakfast and dinner with a series of artists, museum directors, heads of foundations, and other friends from years past who have met with our groups and arranged the local insight and behind-the-scenes access that helps makes Cuba so special.

So what’s new after 10 years?  There are nice new hotels and even some of the older ones have been renovated.  Though none are up to top international standards, the new Hotel Saratoga is regarded locally as the best hotel in Havana.  There are new restaurants and plenty of paladars (private restaurants usually in people’s homes).  There are exciting young artists producing interesting work and even a new night club being built as a private investment–something unthinkable 10 years ago.  The PC way to express this change is that “market tools are being used to enhance the socialist model”…the expectation and fear of change permeates many conversations.

So what has not changed? Well, Cuba still boasts all of the natural beauty it always has….beauty perhaps ever more precious in this changing world. The best colonial architecture in the western hemisphere continues to crumble slowly in much of the city, though the historic old town is looking fresher than I remember. The visual and performing arts, which infuse so much life into this country, remain vibrant and accessible.  But mostly what has not changed are the people.  Old friends that were knowledgeable, insightful, involved, and remain the same wonderful people that I remember.  Though there have been changes, returning to Cuba is always special when you can reunite with old friends.

As a licensed travel service provider, we are operating more than 25 trips this year for non-profit institutions that hold people-to-people licenses for travel to Cuba (the next is scheduled for October and nearly every week thereafter). Many of our senior staff have spent a lot of time in Cuba and we are all excited to be returning to the Havana we all know, as well as new destinations in the country…easy to get to, relatively inexpensive, and at a turning point in its  history….this is a great time to go.


Jim Friedlander