Try and get hoteliers to coincide for a long weekend together ? Nigh impossible ! Anyway Sabine and the ladies pulled it off on this occasion as we visited Havana and more importantly for me my Mentor and Friend Xavier Destribats who welcomed us at the Grand Manzana otherwise known as Kempinski Gran Manzana – a gem of a hotel located in the heart of Havana!

In our entourage Benny Tere & Alexis Michaud – Benny was GM at the Camino Real Acapulco in the late 90s and now runs the Vidanta Hotel group. Sergio & Katy Olivera A friend off all , honorary hotelier in fact honorary everything ! Alex and Patti De Brouer GM Hyatt Ziva Cancún and Jaime & Patti Jaramillo GM Nizuc , Cancún ! A fun crowd !! I was the only visiting Cuba for the 1st time – we were in good hands thanks to XDs team at the Kenpinski . There was no time for trial and error so having 3 great restaurant tips was crucial in making this long weekend a memorable one!

We arrived late Thursday with Sergio & Cathy – enough time for a welcome champers and to appreciate the spectacular location of the Kempinski from the rooftop 6th floor pool. We had a wonderful suite – the high ceiling , powerful colors , great bath &!bed experience makes for a very comfortable stay – we saw all room types and this is across the board – a great hotel. An even better GM!

I was open mouthed as I took my first steps into the heart of Havana – such were the contrasts of what was so long ago, what it all could have been , and will it ever return to that moment of amazing beauty. My mind wandered as I saw visions of the Belle Époque as we strolled along in the heat of a hot autumn day. The museum of Bellas Artes collection of Cuban art helped you understand this culture so rich yet so poor. A city to walk and enjoy the facades and cobblestone walkways – very photogenic city idea – Paseo Del Prado , El Malecón, Vieja Havana and more

We began our Cocktail journey circa midday in search of the perfect Mojito !! Along with Benny it proved to be a long day of Mojitos & Daiquiris ! We lunched at Al Carbón – their pork dish was by the end of the weekend the plate of the trip. Don’t expect a gourmet heaven in Havana – the 3 restos we dined at al Carbon , La Guarida , El del Frente – are the best in the class on the gourmet front . All very unique in their decor and setting , friendly service and some good dishes. Wine lists are short and Exy.

A spin around Havana in a 50s convertible is a must , taking in the view from the Fort , the art markets, San Francisco Church and surroundings all make a great day of sightseeing and capturing the spirit of Havana

It was great to catch up with old friends – discover a historic city – see XD and continue our journey in a day in the life of a hotelier