YASMIN TELLS

Travel & Design Blog - BY YASMIN METZ-JOHNSON

Sunday, 9 December 2018

A day in Viñales, Cuba


I recently went on a group trip with family and friends to Cuba! This was my first time visiting both Cuba and the Caribbean. Although I travelled with a large group only a few of us made it to the town of Viñales! We visited Viñales with a local tour company that pick up tourists from multiple hotels from the Central Parc area of Havana. Despite the fact I did not stay at a hotel, these tour services are still of access to non-guests. As I strolled around in the central part of Havana, I enquired the various options of tours and excursions at a hotel and booked the trip there and then for the following day. Located on the West coast of Cuba, Viñales is known for its agriculture, caves, tobacco plantations and scenic settings. It’s a beautiful contrast and much needed escape from the city life of Havana. The journey took two and a half hours, with Thomas the tour guide feeding the passengers with plenty of information about Viñales in three or four different languages, it was quite impressive to say the least. En route we passed the landscapes of the Viñales Valley in the ‘Sierra Los de Organos’ region, which is a fertile crop area of mountains and land protected under the UNESCO World Heritage Site since the year of 1999.  

The day consisted of visiting a family owned tobacco plantation, lunch at the mural De La Pre Historia and a visit to Cave Palmarito all for the price of 67 CUC which I thought was pretty good including transport.


Tobacco Plantation:

The first stop was the Tobacco Plantation of a family. The first thing that caught my eye other than mountainous landscape was the exterior of the tobacco workshop, the workers making the most of the tobacco leaves with the used and dried leaves displayed as finishes to the structure just in case you forgot where you were. Inside the shack we met Benito, who owns the plantation with his family, he speaks very little English yet explains in Spanish and demonstrates the process of tobacco farming and cigar making with Thomas translating by his side. Local agriculture is a prominent part of Cuban identity and the plantation I visited showcased that. Tobacco is the third largest hard currency for Cuba, with 85% of tobacco grown in Cuba produced by the National Association of Small Farmers members. We were then lead to another part of the compound where Benito lives. Greeted with ready handmade Cigars, liquor and coffee beans to buy. However this is optional of course.

Mural De La Prehistoria

As part of our package, lunch was prepared for us at the Mural De La Prehistoria. It’s more like an artist has been commissioned to illustrate pre historic moments on to the Viñales Valley. It is quite a touristy spot, however I was not complaining, as the temperature was right and the cocktails were 10 out of 10. As for the food we were served, Rice and beans with pork and vegetables but Cuban food will have to be discussed in another blog post entirely.

Cueva del Palmarito
The last stop of the day was to Cave Palmarito. We explored the cave by dodging the long sculpted stone that dangled in between the passenger walkway and leaks before entering a boat to see the area of the cave that is between 2 and 6m deep. It was humid and claustrophobic if you ask me, however if you are into caves/geography I’m sure it will be of interest. They also have a lot of artwork by Cuban artists on display for sale at this attraction.

Tip: Most plantations in this area are family owned therefore I would advise going with a group/service that are in correspondence with the owners of land. Rather than trying to get access alone.

Things to do in Viñales/ other places I would like to visit if I had more time:
·      Visit Sugar Plantation
·      Cycle Tour
·      Horse Ride tour  
·      Zip Wire
·      Hiking

Places to stay:

Air Bnb is booming out there and is usually arranged either prior or at arrival. Casa prices start from a minimum of 25 CUC per night. Hotels, Bed and Breakfast

Overall I enjoyed the outing and the opportunity to explore a new town outside of the capital. Perhaps I would have chosen a more interactive tobacco plantation visit where it is optional to role or participate in the process somehow. That being said Viñales does not produce cigars, the area is known for the farming element of the Tobacco process. The Pinar del Rio region is worth exploring.







All images are By Yasmin Metz-Johnson


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Tuesday, 4 December 2018

WHAT NOT TO MISS THIS DECEMBER 2018


To think we are already in the last month of the year! 2018 has flown right on by! As I captioned one of my Instagram posts, lets make this a December to remember! Here are a few events not to miss this December.

Winter WonderLand| Hyde Park, London| 23rd November – 6th January

Image by www.libertyhygiene.com

If you are based in the UK, I am sure you would have heard of Winter Wonderland. The event has grown year after year as Winter Wonderland take over Hyde Park with fair go rides, live shows, food vendors and mulled wine. It’s a great group trip or date destination during this festive time of year.

Frankfurt Christmas Market | Victoria Square Birmingham, UK | 15th November – 23rd December

There are many Christmas markets to choose from around this time of year, but the reason this one stood out to me was the idea of another culture’s market in a foreign country. Experience Germany at our doorstep – that’s if you are based in Bimingham.

Brazilian Cinema | Rich Mix London | 8th-11th December

This film festival in London will showcase the work of some of Brazil’s female film directors. The 4-day festival will take a look at the common thread through all eight of the movies at Rich Mix London Cinema. Check out the website for more information here.

Ice Skating |Somerset House, London | 14th November – 13th January



Christmas has most definitely arrived when the ice skating ring comes out to play at the Somerset House courtyard.  This is another great destination in December with Somerset house also transforming their West Wing into Fortnum Christmas Arcade. The venue also offers Skate Lates with a DJ playing all of your favourite Christmas tunes.

Ma Dengn Beach Festival | Freetown, Sierra Leone | 15th-16th December




In Freetown, Sierra Leone there will be a celebration of African culture through music, food, fashion, literature and craft at the Ma Dengn Festival. The day event will consist of live acts, musicians and multiple food vendors. One not to miss if you are in Sierra Leone during this Christmas!

Afrochella | El-Wak Sports Stadium Accra, Ghana | 29th December

Image by www.evensi.com
In Accra there will be an edition of Afrochella. This is a music and culture festival that happens at the end of the year. I was fortunate to attend the event myself last year and I had a great time. The event at El-Wak Sport Stadium has fashion vendors, food, drink and plenty of good vibes!




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Thursday, 4 October 2018

WHAT NOT TO MISS THIS OCTOBER 2018


Here are my top picks of events not to miss this October! Apologies in advance to the international readers, this months picks are all based in the UK. There are so many great activities on mostly likely due to the fact it is the UK’s Black History Month. Enjoy the post!

1. 1-54 African Art Fair | London | 4th- 7th October 2018


The 1-54 African Art Fair is back for its sixth Edition. The fair collaborates with 43 galleries from countries across Africa, Europe, the Middle East and North America. London is one of their three pop-up venues. This year includes the work from Kyle Meyer, Omar Ba and many more.

2. Sounds of the Tribes Vol. 2 – Finding Fela by Tribe Diaspore | London | 14th October


Tribe Diaspore brings to you Finding Fela! Hosting a tribute charity event for the world-renowned Nigerian musician and activist, Fela Kuti (pioneer of the Afrobeat genre). All profits from the event will go to The Peckham Theatre Charity, the venue of the event. Be sure not to miss this night of feel good vibes with music, film, food and more.

3. London Literature Festival| London | 18th – 28th October 2018

The Southbank Centre brings together today’s leading writers for the twelfth edition of The London Literation Festival. Showing a journey across centuries and borders to celebrate the power of literature to reflect on the world in which we live. The ten-day event will include a series of talks workshops, and live readings, some from the authors themselves. For more information, check out the Southbank centre website for calendar dates.

4. Black Girl Book Club | London | 20th, 22nd,27th October


The Black Girl Book Club is back with a number of events for you this month! From a Black girl’s magic brunch and their ‘A seat at the Table’ series with authors and influencers such as Malorie Blackman and Munroe Bergdorf. Find out more here!



The Sierra Leonean Art and Culture festival return for another year to showcase the work and talent of Sierra Leoneans home and away. This is a day event filled with exhibitions, performances, raffles and more! The Krio Kanteen will serve food and the all proceeds from the raffle will go to Project Pikin. Get your tickets!

6. Black British Travel MeetUp | London | 25th October 2018


I recently went on my first weekender trip abroad with The Black British Travel Group, however more about that in the near future. This month the platform will host once again another meetup. It’s a great space to meet other Black British Travelers. Expect games, food anf good vibes only! Find out more here.

7. Little Baobab Pop Up | London | 26th October 2018



I went to my first Little Baobab in the summer with a few friends that I made during my time in Senegal. It was not quite the same as we had the rain, but other than that it was a wonderful evening with musical band Kasai Masaai. The pop up event aims to bring Senegalese cuisine and culture to London. The night includes live music and cocktails with a twist! This is a very popular event so make sure you get your ticket before the event is sold out!

8.Black Girl Fest | London | 27th October 2018

Black Girl Fest is back for it’s second year running. As the title proclaims exactly what the festival is. It’s a day festival celebrating Black British women from the past and present with arts, workshops, panels & entertainment for all ages. Not to be miss, although heard from the grapevine it is already sold out. But now, as least you know for next year.

9. BFI London Film Festival | London | 10th - 21st October

Screening more than 300 films the annual festival in cooperation with the British Film Institute, will feature films and documentaries from independent filmmakers and writers. Check out BFi SouthBank for more information and why not make a date out of it and see a limited edition film.





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Thursday, 13 September 2018

WHAT NOT TO MISS THIS SEPTEMBER 2018



Can you believe we are well into the last quarter of the year!? As we reach the end of the first week of September. Here are some of my top picks of what not to miss this month. Enjoy! 

AFROPUNK LONDON| 3 – 8 SEPT

This year Afropunk London are taking over Brixton with Talk Series, Battles of the bands and more during this first week of September. Afro punk is an arts and music festival that celebrates and unifies a number of cultures from the African diaspora through multiple mediums. The festival originally started in Brooklyn, New York. The closing events  will take place this weekend at Electric Brixton and The 02 Brixton Academy with the likes of British music legends DJ Spoony and Jazzy B at Electric Brixton this Friday and Saturday. Be sure not to miss it!
Image by Mambu Bayoh

LONDON DESIGN FESTIVAL| 15 – 23 SEPT
Showcasing the city’s creativity, the two-week festival is back with many shows under its umbrella to choose from. With Design Fair, districts, installations and the London Design Biennale, Londoners are spoilt for choice of potential social gatherings spaces throughout the month.

At the Camille Walala installation at LDF 2017


 #SALONETWITTER: CHANGING NARRATIVES ‘MEET & GREET’ | 21STSEPT
In my native country Sierra Leone, a collective of inspiring creators have come together to create #SaloneTwitter. On a quest to change the narrative the platform aims to promote, support and patronise products and services from the country by Salone citizens both home and abroad. #SaloneTwitter is working to be a network and directory for both Sierra Leonean Twiter users and Twitter users based in Sierra Leone.  On Friday 21st#SaloneTwitter are hosting their first ‘Meet and Greet’ event at O’Casey’s where there will be panel discussions, vendors and more. If you’re interested fill this application to attend the event. 


OKTOBERFEST| 21stSeptember to 14thOctober 
All this time I assumed that this event would start in October, apparently not! The official dates of the beer fest in Germany are from the 21stSeptember to 14thOctober. Oktoberfest is one of the world’s largest Volkerfest celebrating Bavarianculture since 1810. Find out more about the annual festival here.




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Tuesday, 7 August 2018

WHAT NOT TO MISS THIS AUGUST 2018


Where is 2018 going? How is it August already? I’m not sure but here are a few events not to miss this month!



Chale Wote Festival is an street art and culture festival showcasing the work of African creatives and artists such as Stacey Ravvero and photographer Ofoe Amegavie. This year is the 8thedition of the event brought to you by Accra (dot) Alt Radio. 

Image by accradotaltradio.com


How official this day is, I do not know, but I feel as if the older I’ve become the more ‘world appreciation days' I hear of. Jollof Rice is a staple dish promindatly founded in West Africa. At Pop Brixton the public will have the opportunity to judge for themselves, what country/company makes the best version of the same dish? Find out more here.

Image by JollofRiceDay.com



Shades of Beauty Live is a new Beauty and self appreciation event created for black women emphasizing there is no one way to be a black woman. Founded by sisters Grace and Christina Adesina who are committed to challenging beauty standards with a line up of panels, beauty products, live music and good vibes not to be missed! Get your tickets here. #MyShadeMatters



Notting Hill Carnival: 26-27th August 2018| London,UK

The Carnival happens every year in London, celebrating Caribbean culture in the UK since 1966. Enjoy one of Europe’s biggest street carnivals with a variety of sound systems, floats and street food in Notting Hill.

© mubus/Shutterstock




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