I had always dreamed of visiting, tropical Cuba! Much is said about this country that has been ‘frozen in time’, and also where salsa and daiquiris were born. Here are 10 things I recommend doing in Havana, Cuba and a few helpful tips when traveling to the country so that you make the most out of your trip!
1. Go cruising in a classic car down the Malecon. Take a ride down the infamous Malecon and watch the waves crash against the seawall. Most of the Taxi drivers there have classic cars and you can find many of them lined up in Parque Central. Find a colourful convertible that took guests to the Chanel resort presentation last year, they are proud to have the logo on their window!
(Photos from my taxi drive, the Malecon coast and cars in Parque Central)
2. Visit a Museum. I had a chance to visit a few, my favorite was the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes – Arte Cubano, which is spread over two campuses, the Bellas Artes is arguably the finest art gallery in the Caribbean, and displays purely Cuban contemporary art.
3. Eat dinner at La Guarida. Cuba’s most charming and famous restaurant and the set of the Academy Award-nominated film Strawberries and Chocolate. Go during sunset and enjoy the spectacular views of the city.
(Photos from La Guarida Restaurant)
4. Smoke a Cigar – It’s something that has to be done! Although don’t smoke or inhale, you should ‘puff’ on a cigar. The reason is because Cuban Tobacco is very strong and can cause you to have a headache if inhaled. Also don’t buy Cigars from street vendors, most are known to be counterfeit or fake.
(Photo of Cuban street woman smoking a cigar)
5. Drink a Mojito – And make sure they contain the authentic Havana Club Rum for a true experience. Top places to enjoy a Mojito include the Hotel Nacional de Cuba – where the likes of Churchill, Al Capone, Sinatra, Ava Gardner and Nat King Cole supped the good stuff with a beautiful view of the harbour, the sea wall and the city. 304 O’Reilly, and La Fontana are other great places to enjoy a Mojito or two.
(Photo of Hotel Nacional de Cuba)
6. Go to a show. A latin burlesque kind of show full of song, salsa and colour. The Parisian, Tropicana or Buena Vista are the most famous. As time was limited, we went to Tropicana, it was lovely and something you have to see when in Havana, another tip, don’t be shy and ask to switch seats if you don’t like where they put you!
8. Have a beach day. If you are in Havana, you have to go to the beach for at least 1 day. There are not too many beaches in the town, most are a bit further away, but I was able to find one that was about 25 minutes from Havana called Cayo Santa Maria. Taxis go there for around 8 Cuc or less. You can also catch a bus there from Parque Central for 5 Cuc. It’s a beautiful beach with restaurants, so you can really enjoy yourself.
(Photo of Cayo Santa Maria)
9. Walk around Havana Vieja. Havana Vieja translates to “old Havana”, even though it’s one of the most newly renovated areas. It’s what I would call the “touristy area” because it has a lot of new hotels, restaurants, landmarks, etc. You can see the famous capitol building, that looks almost identical to the U.S. capitol, walk around the cobblestone streets, and check out one of the many restaurants or little souvenir shops that are on every block.
(Photos of Havana Vieja)
Shop my look, the Tala Dress
10. Explore the rest of the country. Cuba is more than La Habana and there are plenty of stunning places to visit such as Vinales, Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Buenavista, Varadero and Santiago de Cuba which I’ve heard are all beautiful. I ended up taking a bus tour to Vinales for 67 CUC which I highly recommend. They took us to a rum factory, cigar farm and a boat ride through a cave. Although it’s a very touristy thing to do, I think it’s worth going if it’s your first time visiting. You can set up bus tours at any hotel in the Parque Central, or you can take a Taxi.
(Photos of my visit to the Rum factory, boat ride through the cave, and Vinales view point)
Some helpful tips before you go:
- Manage your expectations. I had heard a lot about Cuba, but being there and experiencing it is a different story. However, there are several commodities modern-life has that look like they should be there but their existence is a mere illusion!
- Take cash (not $ though!). Loads. Even to pay your hotel bill as many hotels simply won’t accept credit cards. Don’t bother taking dollars as you will be taxed 13% on the exchange, they gladly take euros. To avoid the tax, I exchanged my US dollars to Canadian currency and exchanged to CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) when I entered the country. You can exchange to CUC at any hotel but keep in mind they charge a commission, so to get a better rate try to find a Cuban bank in your area.
- Cuba is overall very safe. What many people do is “friend you” and try to either sell you something or take you somewhere where they can receive a commission for your purchase. Cubans are wonderful, honest people. However, those who approach you out-of-the-blue are looking to hustle you! Don’t be afraid to say no to them.
- What to wear. Fashion is very casual, wear things that are comfortable and not too revealing. People are catholic and although you can walk about wearing shorts and a tank, make sure they’re not ‘too much’. Depending on when you go, think about the tropical weather, pack lightweight loose clothing, comfortable shoes and don’t forget your umbrella!
- Negotiate before hand. Overall, Cuba can be quite cheap, but tourism being the primary source of wealth for many makes you the target for over zealous street vendors. However, be kind, understand this is how they make their living and in a way you’re almost doing some charity by helping them out. They are in a difficult situation and just trying to make the best of it in difficult times.
- Wifi/Internet. WiFi hotspots can be found in every town at the squares/parks. In addition there are also WiFi hotspots in the bigger hotels. You can easily see if a square/park has WiFi or not – everywhere people will be starring into their phones. These networks are provided by the government communication provider ETECSA. A internet prepaid card for 2 CUC will give you 1 hour internet access. Don’t forget to logout once you you’re done using it, or your credit runs out. Don’t expect the internet to be stable, really fast or the login to work smoothly. Its Cuba!
Shop a few of my other favorite looks for Cuba on velvetheart.com
With all the trends that reigned during the Spring/Summer 2017 fashion weeks all over the world, we could now get a clearer view of what our wardrobe should have this year. We rounded up some of our favorite spring/summer trends to inspire you guys to shake things up a little!
1.Patchwork Denim: I love that you can pair this jean jacket with a solid-colored shirt or stripes and the jacket makes the outfit.
2. Off-The-Shoulder: The simplest and effortless way to show off your collarbone is to wear an off shoulder top or dress. Get those shoulders out and a ready this season.
3. Pink : The colour pink is a hue full of passion, fun, and excitement. The fashion industry has certainly caught on it certainly is a hue to look forward to wearing.
4. Embroidery: Embroidered details on dresses, tops and even denim are taking the center stage, adding a folky and feminine touch to any look.
5. Fray/Release Hem: It’s all about the no-hem-hemline, think cut-off, let-down, frayed and raw.
Now, are you ready to rock Spring/Summer 2017 with your wardrobe essentials? Don’t fret because you still have time to go shopping or you can even just click here and shop! All these fashion trends for 2017 are totally wearable and admirable.
Trends come and go, but the versatility of the classic white button-down is perpetual. It has the benefits of a blank slate and can be dressed down or dressed up. It can be knotted or tucked into our favorite pair of jeans, styled with a pair of relaxed sneakers, paired with a voluminous skirt, the list goes on… need we say more?
From the office to date night, and everything in between, consider this your field guide to getting the most out of one of the most underestimated pieces from some of our favorite bloggers.
Knot so basic
Leave a couple of buttons undone at the bottom and then tie it up. Note: super cute in summer.
image via The Glamourai
Cute n’ collared
Do your buttons all the way up
image via Kelly Augustine
Do a messy tuck or go all in.
Roll up those sleeves. Nuff Said.
Half ‘n Half
February: the month devoted to matters of the heart: Love and … health. Yes, heart health. We all know that Valentine’s Day falls on February 14th, but did you know that February is also National Heart Health Month, dedicated to both raising awareness of heart disease and raising money for heart health research? Proclamation 3566 was formally dedicated by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
and when you shop VELVET HEART on-line we will donate 10% of all full price orders during the month of February to the “GO RED FOR WOMEN” campaign, and purchases over $150 will receive a FREE “Live Each Day with a Strong Heart” tee!
Learn the FACTS:
Give yourself the perfect Valentine’s Day gift this year. Commit to “Live each day with a strong heart” by taking just a few simple steps:
- Step 1: Learn the truth about heart disease and women. Check out this blog for the Myths & Facts about Heart Disease: https://myheartsisters.org/about-women-and-heart-disease/myths-facts/
- Step 2: Exercise: Click here to get tips for a customized heart healthy exercise plan, including yoga:
- Step 3: Eat Right: Click here for tips from celebrity chefs for heart-healthy cooking.
- Step 4: Laugh each and every day! The expression “laughter is the best medicine” is nothing to laugh about! It’s true! Research shows that there is a decrease in stress hormones, a reduction in artery inflammation and an increase in HDL, or the “good” cholesterol when we laugh. Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, cardiologist and director of women and heart disease at the New York City Lenox Hill Hospital said, “Once you start laughing, it forces you to feel better,” said Dr. Steinbaum, who is also a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement. An added bonus: the positive effects of a good chuckle have been found to last 24 hours. Now that’s the kind of medicine we love!
Okay … we’re two weeks into the New Year ! Are your resolutions still holding? Well, if not, don’t kick yourself. It appears that only 8% of those who make promises to themselves actually keep them! So how do they do it? Why do some succeed while so many of us fail?
Studies show (yes, there are actually studies done on the “keeping of resolutions”) there are four steps to success:
- Keep it Simple
- Make it Tangible
- Make it Obvious
- Keep Believing You Can Do It
KEEP IT SIMPLE: Set small, reasonable goals that can be achieved one step at a time. This time honored “kiss” will remind you:
MAKE IT TANGIBLE: Your goal/s should be based on rational targets. Not “I’ll lose weight,” but rather “I’ll lose 10 pounds.” Not “I’m going to write my book,” but rather break a larger goal into steps: Step 1: “I’m going to prepare the outline for my book” … and when you reach your first goal, set Step 2: “I’m going to write the introduction or chapter one,” etc. According to John Norcross, Professor of Psychotherapy at the University of Scranton, “We say if you can’t measure it, it’s not a very good resolution because vague goals beget vague resolutions.”
MAKE IT OBVIOUS: Post a chart of your progress as a daily reminder. Or, like blogger Julia in the movie, JULIE AND JULIA and the original blog: Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, make your pledge public. Use social media and let friends and family know your goal … they can help you keep on track. We all need support from time-to-time and your BFF may be that perfect someone who can keep you from slipping.
KEEP BELIEVING YOU CAN DO IT: Have faith in yourself! Willpower can carry you through … but here’s something you should know about willpower. Psychological studies show that willpower, a “mind-body reaction to choice,” can get depleted. Fatigue can set it. “A growing body of research shows that resisting repeated temptations takes a mental toll. Some experts liken willpower to a muscle that can get fatigued from overuse.” On the positive side, willpower is a renewable resourse. You can essentially “re-boot” it. Essentially, if you believe you have the strength to reach your goal, you will. I’m reminded of a quote I learned as a child: “If you will it, it is no dream.”
Wishing you all a healthy and happy 2017, and success in keeping your resolutions!
Warm sweaters, cozy fires, steaming hot cocoa … these are just a few of the traditional holiday “favorite things” that most everyone associates with this chilly, but festive, time of the year, and we want to share with you, our readers, some holiday traditions HEARTED by members of our crew here at Velvet Heart!
Hallie/Asst. Marketing – DIY Holiday Wrapping
Lusha/Associate Designer – Christmas Lights
Itzel/Associate Designer Holiday Nail Designs
Kellie/Sr. Merchandiser & Melissa /Asst. Merchandiser – Holiday music
Anthony / Design Intern – Holiday shopping
Stephanie /E-commerce Manager – Presents!!
Alright everyone, it’s time for real talk. The holiday season’s coming up, which means we’re all getting ready to get our splurges on (#sorrynotsorry). I personally love indulging in all things savory…and sweet (aka all delish food), ha! What can I say? I love my noms. Now, this all leads me beautifully to a very important topic: how to feel comfortable while looking cute. I’ll be sharing three effortlessly fashionable outfits with you guys today. You’ll be able to eat as much as you want without feeling constricted, and you’ll ooze serious steeze (style + ease) while you’re at it. So, without further ado, let’s get to it.
My first look epitomizes fall-friendly style. I centered my outfit around Velvet Heart’s Olsen shirt dress, and it’s literally the softest thing I own. If you’re a fan of plaid, this is a serious must-have. I styled the piece with a drape vest and threw on suede boots to up my texture game. To finish things off, I accessorized with a silver statement necklace.
Outfit no. 2’s vibe is casual and minimalist. I’m a fan of all things lace-up, so naturally, I fell in love with Velvet Heart’s Bridgette top. If you’re looking for a timeless basic that screams quality, pick this shirt up stat. To mask potential muffin top, I went with a pair of high waisted jeans, and threw on a long duster on top to show off my layering game. Now, since my ensemble’s fairly simple, I elevated my look with a pop of animal print! It’s amazing how much of a difference a splash of print makes.
I centered my third and final look around a fabulous printed long Cannes tunic from Velvet Heart. FYI: This tank has high side slits – just wanted to give you guys a heads up. Personally, I didn’t want to show too much skin so I wore mid-rise gray skinnies + a chunky knit on top. Also, I went easy on the accessory front because I wanted my top & faux-fur collar to take centerstage.
How do you guys stay fashionable during the holidays? Is comfort important to you? Let me know by leaving a comment below! To see more outfit posts + lifestyle blasts, check out my blog, Sensible Stylista.
Shop More From velvetheart.com
OUR DREAM TEAM
Photographer: Michael Falco
Make Up: Angela Peralta
Hair: Bailey Bute
Model: Tori Atkins
Model: Maddy Hayes
Stylists: Stephanie Kor & Kellie Kefalas
Assistant: Melissa Balam & Tony Castillo
Video Editing: Hallie Tsabag
Coordinator: Gabrielle Tsabag
A good pair of jeans is a staple in every woman’s closet. And while finding your perfect pair can be a long process, when you do, you’ll want the jeans to last for as long as possible.
There is actually a right way to clean your jeans if you’d like to maintain their color and quality. Here are 7 tips to help you preserve and care for your cherished pairs:
1. Washing them too often will make the color fade faster
When it comes to a good pair of jeans, you can wear one for 5 to 10 times before having to wash them. If you can’t see the dirt, they’re probably not really dirty
2. Spot clean
Use a laundry stain remover, leave it on for a few minutes, then use a damp cloth to wet the area and scrub the stain
3. Try the steam clean approach
Hang them in the bathroom while you’re taking a shower so the steam and scents from your soap permeate your jeans, making them smell nice and fresh.
4. When it comes time to wash them, it’s best to do so in cold water
Turn the jeans inside out and make sure to either hang them outside to dry if it’s a nice day (keeping them out of the sun), or put them on a drying rack. When washing for the first time, toss in two spoonfuls of salt to help set the dye.
5. For darker washes – add distilled vinegar
While doing laundry, add half a cup so the darker hued denim will retain its color after washing.
6. Washing by hand is always better than machine-wash
Start by filling the sink with cold water, add half a teaspoon of detergent. Turn your jeans inside out, plop them in the water and walk away. Come back in an hour and rise with cold water.
7. Hold off on bleach
Not only will it mess with the color, but it could also deteriorate the yarns in the denim fabric.