Cuba's cars and crumbling may still be stuck in the 1950s, but its hotels, at least, are finally moving into the 21st century. Leading the way is Havana's Hotel Saratoga, which epitomized the city's high life until it fell victim to neglect and disrepair. Now the hotel has been restored to its former glory, offering guests all the five-star facilities that have eluded the city for so long.
Located on a corner of the old town that overlooks the Capitolio a gleaming replica of Washington's dome the Saratoga boasts a rich and colorful heritage. In the 1930s, writers, artists and socialites gathered under its colonnade to enjoy acts like the Anacaona all-girl orchestra, a band of sisters who played salsa-style son music decades before the world heard of the Buena Vista Social Club. But not long after Fidel Castro's revolution, the hotel had deteriorated into a seedy boarding house.
Now Castro seems more at ease with tourists. A government-backed international consortium rebuilt the Saratoga in 2005, maintaining its original neoclassical facade for a result that's more colonialist than communist. Floor-to-ceiling French windows with mahogany shutters frame wrought-iron balconies, and inside there's Internet access in each room, wi-fi in communal areas and top-end gym equipment.
Nothing says you're in Cuba more than a cigar and a mojito. Savor both in the Saratoga's airy, palm-filled atrium cooled by antique ceiling fans, or indulge in the inventive tapas menu at the Anacaona Restaurant, which spices up Cuba's typically bland cuisine by adding European flair. The hotel's rooftop pool overlooks the Partagas cigar factory, the opera house and, around the corner, Floridita, one of Ernest Hemingway's favorite bars and home of the Daiquiri cocktail. A modern hotel with a hint of nostalgia? Could be the start of another revolution. www.hotel-saratoga.com
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