Idania del Rió and Leire Fernández run one of the trendiest boutiques in Havana, called Clandestina. Launched shortly after the Cuban government opened up the economy to a variety of private enterprises, Fernández who hails from Spain and del Rió who is a Cubana, partnered up their creative design talents and opened a tiny shop in Old Havana that features their own silk screen t-Shirts, snapback hats, posters, key chains and an ever-changing inventory of neat stuff, most of which is designed within their upstairs graphic art studio and then printed in their screen printing atelier at the back of the store.
Their business has become so successful they are often the subject of any article or TV news feature on Havana’s “new economy” and are usually on the short list of things to do in Havana for any visiting dignitary or pop star (U.S. President, Barack Obama, famously secured a couple of T-shirts for his daughters there while famous shoe designer Christian Louboutin is rumoured to have left the store in a huff when the ladies would not sell them one of their prototype pillow cases that he admired.) In addition, they are the “go to” couple for people trying to get a line on “what is happening” in the city such as where to eat, dance, drink, see art, listen to music and generally have the best time possible while in Havana.
Idania and Leire’s guidance was so valued that visiting conventions started asking them to compile for their conventioneers a “to do” list of Havana hot spots while friends and friends of friends would endlessly hound them for their tip sheets. Eventually, they decided to come up with The Clandestina Guide to Havana to simplify their own lives and point everyone in the right direction.
The Clandestina Guide is a fold-out map of Havana stretching from Old Havana to Vedado with “99+ 3 places” of interest (a play on their boutique’s slogan that they are 99.3 per cent Cuban). The guide features the three major neighbourhoods of Havana (Old Havana, Centro Havana and Vedado) and then breaks down their favourite things to do in each of the following categories : Food& Drinks; Arts and Culture; Shopping; and Night Life. Unheard of gems are featured in each category and district. Believe me, this is the only Havana guide that you really need to map out what is hot and relevant near your casa particular or hotel!
Printed on recycled paper the map is designed to be marked up and stuffed in your pocket, purse or packsack. Havana is a city where the Internet connectivity is spotty and mobile data access is beyond expensive, so going “old school” with a printed map is the most reliable way to find your way around its maze of streets. The ladies at Clandestina are open to your hearing of your own map additions and suggestions for future revisions and printings. (Share them via email at info@ClandestinaCuba.com or drop into their boutique.)
Oh. Did I mention it is generally available at a price less than a mojito?
You can pick up The Clandestina Guide to Havana at the Clandestina’s main boutique located in Old Havana or at their satellite boutique located at the Fábrica de Arte Cubano (FAC) But if your airline, cruise ship, hotel, casa particulaire or Airbnb is smart, they will have this readily available as a freebie to ensure your visit to Havana can be all that it should be! An absolute blast!
403 Villegas (between Teniente Rey and Muralla), Old Havana
Clandestina at Fábrica de Arte Cubano (FAC)(26th Street and 11th Street), Vedado.
A.J. Twist is a Montreal-based travel writer and photographer who is working diligently on completing “ A.J. Twist’s Cool Pulse of Havana” which is sure to be a best seller and a fabulous TV series!
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