Thanks to President Obama, who modified the  restrictive Cuba travel policy earlier this year. The change is designed to encourage more contact between Americans and citizens of the Communist-ruled island, the Treasury Department is once again granting so-called “people-to-people” licenses, which greatly expand travel opportunities for Cuba-bound visitors.
Cuba is realistically set in a time warp – the cars are decades old; 1950’s big Buick’s, Oldsmobile’s and Chevy’s- replacement parts, of course are not available, but the drivers amazingly seem to have kept them running. Evident in a door handle workings: almost hidden,  a bent nail and some wire; many of the cars are lacking the interior panels- safety is not relevant- style, reflecting a vintage culture is of importance, amazingly the streets are clogged with traffic of another era.
Crumbling buildings, once elegant and refined European dwellings look like they are on their last legs; gorgeous marble staircases lead to apartments and restaurants- mixed housing development is clearly acceptable. Walking up the three flights of a graceful wide marble stairway to a hip restaurant, one can easily peer into the bedrooms of the apartment dwellers. A scene out of the Honeymooners television hit.
The waterfront is beautiful and if commerce is allowed to return, it should be a stunning location for rebuilding these fallen treasures. Old Havana is filled with lovely churches, central parks and leafy tree lined squares, cafes brimming with lively musicians and European tourists.  Architecture evoked by Southern Spain, despite the crumbling, one can imagine another time, a time of an elegance and hope. 
A trip to the Hemingway Museum is definitely best taken in a vintage convertible, the bumpy ride produces a big smile. Finca Vigia, which means lookout farm, was the name of Hemingway’s residence when he lived there. The Hemingway Museum provides a glimpse of the daily life of  Ernest and his wife; the pleasant surroundings and original furnishings make this a must see for anyone interested in the life and works of Ernest Hemingway. 
National Museum of Fine Arts Havana – Museo Nacional De Bellas Artes. The Museum of Fine Arts in two impressive buildings, one dedicated to Cuban Arts and Universal Arts. Beautifully organized, view the work of master Cuban painters – including, Adigio. His work can also be seen in his small studio, paintings stacked three deep in his apartment. Despite the language barrier, he enthusiastically shares his latest work. 
Havana is a very fascinating place to visit, and I recommend it for a fun, safe, and utterly unique travel experience in the Caribbean, especially if you’re interested in history, architecture, the contradictory effects of socialism, lively music, great dining.
Imagine no cell phones ringing on the street, no one walking down the avenues, head down tapping on a keyboard, no billboards or advertising- quite pure in an odd sense. Political signs elevating Fidel Castro and other national heroes.  A brief visit, not necessarily a place to spend a lifetime.

Autumn here – Summer where?

A few raindrops and I am already pining for a warm escape – Vitamin D therapy and Sunshine Deficiency Disease! Despite the calendar date, clients packed rain gear for the French coast, happily, they are reporting record high temperatures in San Sebastian. The immediate dreariness leads me to investigate warmer climates…Argentina is especially inviting.

COLOME – Getting here can be a challenge, as Colome Estancia and Bodega is perched at 7500 feet in the Andes. A five hour car journey on a mostly one lane winding dirt road is spectacular and rewarding, cresting at 12,000 feet, the vistas are unlike no other. There are two routes from Salta, each about the same drive time, although the scenery could not be more different. Soaring peaks, wide valleys, or enormous windswept volcanic rocks, which make the Grand Canyon, seem ordinary! If you have the time and enjoy driving, I would recommend renting a 4-wheel drive or have one of my drivers deliver you and enjoy the spectacular scenery. Helicopter & small plane into the valley is also easily organized.The native population who were excellent stewards of the land farmed Colome for thousand of years. The original Indio language in the Calchaqui Valley was “Kakan”; but at the end of the 15th century the Incas entered the valley. In the late 1500’s the Spanish conquistadors gifted the Incas with vines, the old Colome winery was founded in 1831, most likely by the Spanish governor of Salta. Three vineyards dating from this time still produce grapes, Colome is considered the oldest existing winery in Argentina, and some areas of the vineyards are the highest in the world.

Situated within the majestic backdrop of the valley and foothills of the Saltena Andes, Colome Estancia is an oasis of luxurious green, fields of lavender, native cactus, vineyards and forest. The setting could not be more impressive, the nine beautiful appointed rooms are accessed from a central courtyard and each room has an outward facing balcony overlooking stunning vistas. The organic food is served in the peaceful dining room dotted with marvelous art; sommelier Pedro Aquino is eager to share his knowledge of wine. Colome Malbec has become one of my favorite wines. There are numerous opportunities for hiking or exploring the mountains and valleys around with regular guided tours and a well signposted set of routes for those wanting to go on their own. Other facilities include a tennis court, putting green and bocce court. Mountain bikes, horses and shuttle transfer to local sites are always available and the scenic pool affords uninterrupted views of both valley and mountains.

Bodega Colome has it’s own horse whisperer, Ernesto Gonzalez. I rode with my Gaucho, Ruben Belazquez, an afternoon ride and an early sunrise trek up and down very steep foothills, through the pampas, traversing streams and up a huge boulder on Peruvian Paso ponies- Ruben who doesn’t speak much English, watched carefully to ascertain my proficiency on these gentle horses- and pronounced me to be: es muy bueno! after I confidently made it up and down a few challenging cliffs- then I galloped past him upstream, magnificent morning! Even if you have never ridden a horse, this naturally gaited breed inspires confidence and makes riding marvelous fun!

The first museum entirely dedicated to James Turrell resides at Bodega Colome- a sunrise or sunset visit is an absolute essential experience. Lying on the floor for 45 minutes viewing the sunset in this extraordinary museum is worth the drive on the winding long road leading to paradise! Turrell manipulates light in many of his installations, challenging the viewer’s perception through light and space, creating illusions of shapes and objects. His Skyspace piece, Unseen Blue, an enclosed room with an aperture in the roof through which one can observe the sky above is thought provoking and if one is of a certain generation, produces memories of 60’s light shows, which were of course not created by a sunset- an amazing experience.

Colome Estancia is paradise- recharge, exercise, read, ride the ponies, be warm!