Participants Tell Us Why They Love Our Programs

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Thank you and your staff, once again for accommodating the Williams College Alumni group. Your generosity and flexibility saved the trip....our group had a life altering experience in Cuba. Havana is an intoxicating city and the people we met were always warm and hospitable....

Paula Tabor
Alumni Affairs
Williams College

"Hi John,

Sorry you were not able to be in Chicago the weekend of March 5th - we had a great time at dinner with about 16 of the people that went on the trip. (all the interesting and fun people, of course!)

Speaking of Cuba - what a fabulous trip - I still think about it often and love looking at my photos - I find it hard to even describe it to friends other than to say is was truly amazing.....and we owe it all to you. Your knowledge and preparation before the trip was great and that made such a difference in our experience. I can't imagine trying to go there on my own.


Rosie Gillotti
Nashville, Tenessee
March 16, 2004

Just a thanks for a wonderful trip and a wish for a peaceful new year. Hope to see you in Tahoe.
Rick and Nancy Holliday"

Nancy Holliday
Orinda, California
December 22, 2003

"I am still getting feedback about what a great trip it was. Thanks so much John for everything!"

Lynn Osmond, CEO and President
Chicago Architecture Foundation
January 30, 2003

"Cuba trip was fantastic. I loved Cuba. Thank you for sharing such a memorable experience with me! I will never forget this wonderful trip and have had this opportunity to see such a beautiful place that not only takes you back through history, but to see how it still exists today. You are an excellent speaker, leader, guide and knew so much about the history pertaining to Cuba. I was impressed above all means! I would like to go back again - only, of course, if you are the guide!!"

Krista Salerno
Insurance Underwriter
Clarksville, Indiana
March 5, 2003


"Thanks again for the incredible experience."

John Davis
Los Angeles, CA 90027


Poem Number 1
Ode to Dr.. Gilderbloom

We're all bonded now, thanks to John, our man
Who at first endeavored to lead this upstart clan
Back then he took out his whip said I'm in charge of this trip
Be on time or you're left on your can........
And we've come together as one friendly, savvy team.
Thanks, John, for your fascination with a Cuba dream.
It's because of your we've realized our dreams.

Taisie Berkeley
Baltimore, Maryland
January 2, 2003

Poem Number 2
Ode to John Gilderbloom

A group seeking access to Cuba
Thought culture be better than salsa
Cubanow promised art
So we decided to part
To Havana and not to Aruba

Gilderbloom as tall as an oak
To each one of us he spoke
If you'll just be on time
I'll make this trip sublime
But you've got to laugh at each joke

The agreement seemed pretty easy
But John's jokes were amazingly cheesy....

So we all love Cuba today
The tour ends but some of us stay
We've made many a friend
It seems like a trend
So thanks John for a wonderful day

Joe Lovett
T.V. producer
New York, New York
January 2, 2002

"No one can possibly understand Cuba without going there. Our person-to-person experiences in Havana were so great! Extraordinary trip."

Jean and John Harman


"I loved the trip and all we saw and the great group of people. I remain bouyed by the whole experience, even as I reenter teaching tomorrow morning (turned out we had a snow day Monday!)"
Best, Taisie

Taisie Berkeley
Taisie Berkeley Photography
2 Old Gate Court
North Bethesda, MD 20852
January 8, 2003

"It was, as with the past two, a great trip."

Best, Don

January 7, 2003
Don Phares
Professor of Economics & Public Policy
University of Missouri--St. Louis
Department of Economics 408 SSB
St. Louis, MO 63121

"I thought you were easy going, light spirited and grasp every possible moment to enjoy the whole venture. We had fun watching you dancing with the exotic Cuban dancer. That was cool!! We were like where's John...dancing with the pretty girls, of course!"

January 4,2003
Wendy Weng
New York University
New York City

"We had a fantastic trip -- Thanks in no small part to all your good prep work and coordination. We all appreciate it a lot!

Warm regards --"

Neal Peirce--syndicated columnist Washington Post Writers Group

"I just wanted you to know what a wonderful trip I had to Cuba.. . .
The charter flight went very well.
The other participants on the tour were very interesting and entertaining; it was great to get to know them. We visited a lot of terrific places, and learned a lot; and John, of course, kept us in stitches the whole time.
I truly appreciate your excellent efforts in getting the trip organized."

Adrienne Nassau--formerly of the World Bank

"Want to take the trip of your life?
Want to see a country and city rich with cultural and historical significance?
No, you are not going to Paris or London. All of these can be found in Cuba and its major city Havana.
I just returned from my second trip. The first covered six cities in Cuba from Havana east to Santiago de Cuba.

The most recent was all in Havana.

All of what is listed above holds true.

I thought that my first trip was a trip of a lifetime but this second outdid the first. Cuba and Havana are magical
places not to be missed if you have a chance.

For both trips I used Cubanow and can not recommend it too highly.
Logistically, everything is well organized and comprehensive but you do not have the 'well its Tuesday it must be
Belgium' syndrome.

Take a plunge go to one of the world's truly magical places before WalMart takes over."

Don Phares
Economics Professor
University of Missouri

St. Louis, MO
December 2001

"We had an incredible time!"

David Elpern
Williamstown, MA
January 2002

"I enjoyed getting to know you on this fabulous trip. You did great things to make the week a roaring success for the group. We learned a ton and had fun doing it. Can't ask for more.

All the best.


David Garrison
Vice President
National Academy of Public Administration
Washington, D.C.
December 2001

"Hi John:
I hope you made it back ok. I really had a good time and I hope to do a presentation or two with the slides I took. I would definitely love to come on the trip next year and will brush up on my history so I can help out with the talks."

"Thanks for your help with the trip. It was a great time and everyone had fun. I really am glad John is running these kind of trips because I think everyone gets something out of it - even the Cubans. I hope to come again
next year"

Robert Glennie
Architect, Arquitectonica
Los Angeles, CA
January 2002

"I would like to thank you for having the opportunity to travel to such a wondrous country.
I am still having Cuba-withdrawal symptoms. Also, I immensely enjoyed the trip and would return in a heartbeat."

Georgett V. Higgs
Doctoral Research Assistant
Louisville, KY
January 2002

"The trip exceeded my expectations and then some. I go back with fundamentally new views on this island's problems and needs."

"John -- you have been our great leader! Your enthusiasm for your work and your love of Cuba are infectious."

"a life changing experience!"

Dave Garrison
National Academy of Public Administration
Washington, D.C.

December 2001

"Just a note of thanks for your work in putting together our recent trip to Havana. Everything went smoothly and we had a wonderful time. The Citistates folks were a great group, and your boss always went the extra mile to make our trip memorable!"

John & Beverly Miles
Columbia, MO
December 2001

"Just a note to let you know how much Mark and I enjoyed our Cuba Citistates trip, and how much we appreciate all the work you did to make it possible.

"Cuba is enigmatic, fascinating, friendly, sensual and seductive. I know we only scratched the surface in understanding the place. We look forward to returning in a few years. We would, of course, consider another CubaNow sponsored trip, so keep us in mind if something neat comes up."

Carol Steinbach
Washington, D.C.
December 2001

"Just a quick note to say thanks for all that you did to make the Cuba trip run smoothly. It was great to be able to send off quick emails and get quick and cogent answers. I left for Cuba with out any qualms. The trip itself was exceptional, from having Gregorrio Fuentes (Hemingway's model for Old Man and the Sea) to the briefing at the U.S. Interests Section. Hotel Nacional was superb. The fact that the Havana International Film Festival was going on at the same time really made it fun."

John Parr
Denver, CO
December 2001

"I like your style! You made this fun and helped us get a very balanced view of Cuba. Thank you."

Kim Walesh
Collaborative Economics,
Mountain View, CA
December 2001

"Fun, educational, and interesting -- a terrific trip!"

Adrienne Nassau
Washington, D.C.
December 2001

"Great trip! Fulfilled all our hopes!"

Neal & Barbara Peirce
Citistates Group,
Washington, D.C.
December 2001

"Keep up the superb job!!"

Joyce Henderson
Washington, D.C.
December 2001

"The least bureaucratic way for a U.S. passport holder to travel to Cuba (and perhaps the most educational option) is to hop on board a trip sponsored by... [, Center for Cuban Studies or Cross-Cultural Solutions]... well known licensed organisations or ask them to custom-design one for you."

Time Out Guide: Havana and the Best of Cuba, 2001, published by Penguin Books, London, England

"There are many ways to travel, but one of the best is to take a trip with the UCSB Alumni Association Gaucho Getaways travel program -- organized by Overall, I had a wonderful, enlightening adventure, and I appreciate the Gauacho Getaways program very much."

C. Seybert Kinsell M.D.
Santa Barbara, California
August 1, 2001

Thank you again for the superior tour you gave.....Architects would love your tour and your tour format...I collected 24.5 hours of continuing education credit...You have an amazing ability to put up with us...I do
want to take the same tour again soon.


Richard Stone, AIA
Falls Village Connecticut
August 2001

"The [] trip to Cuba brought together a great group of people, under excellent leadership, with itinerary, activities and events that were informative and memorable."

Richard Fitchen
Stanford University

Stanford, CA

"[] provided an all-inclusive well-priced tour with a full itinerary and excellent leadership."

June York Behrens
Book Author
Santa Barbara, CA

I want to thank you for organizing and hosting our tour of Cuba. I think you did a marvelous job and deserve great praise. I thought of all the things that could have gone wrong, but did not. ( If they were hidden and resolved, I don't want to know.) I am really appreciative of your efforts... I would be willing to work with you to...recruit fellow travellers for a future trip. Thanks again for the fine job you did. It was a pleasure travelling with you and the group.

Dennis Stewart
San Francisco, California
June 6, 2001

I can tell you that to the very last traveler we had a ball! The entire trip went very smoothly with absolutely no complications at all. We were very fortunate in that the tour guide from Cubana Tours was the best I have ever experienced. Her name is Cari Gonzales and she put her entire heart and soul into making our trip memorable. She was enthusiastic about Cuba and the Cuban people while, at the same time, she was honest about some of the problems that the Cuban people face. She spent in excess of 12 hours each day with our group and showed us a terrific time....We received a great deal of publicity about our trip in and around the Champaign-Urbana area. A number of our students and I will be talking to various Rotary and Kiwanis clubs in the community in the near future. We have been on a radio call-in show and have done a number of features on local television and in the newspaper. The question I keep hearing over and over is, "When will you do the trip again?" Everyone felt as though they were very prepared for Havana. Our hotel was pretty much as you described. The total void of U.S. influence was very obvious from the time we got off the airplane. The only exception to your information was that we all felt as though the food was better than we anticipated it to be. We ate most of our meals in the paladares which we thoroughly enjoyed. The Cuban people were particularly nice to us and seemed to enjoy talking to travelers from the United States. The trip to the elementary school was definitely the highlight of our week. Those students really won our hearts over. Our next trip will have to involve more visits to more schools. Again, thank you for all the help you provided in putting together a truly fantastic experience. I am very serious about doing this again and would like to call on you for your assistance. Please stay in touch.

Donald L. Hansen, Principal
Champaign Central High School
610 W. University Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
Phone: (217) 351-3914
Fax: (217) 351-3919
May 12, 2001

Dear John and Kimberly,
I am hard at work writing up all the notes I made and you'll be the first to get copies. But before that I want to tell you that for me, it was an extraordinary experience. Of course, going back after so many
years was for me both moving and exciting. But even without that extra dimension, I'm sure that everyone thought it was a great tour. For one thing, It was delightful to live in first class hotels, which the Melias certainly are. For another, our guide, Fernando, was a gold mine of information -- and so reliable, so trustworthy. And most important, Havana is a fascinating city. I think that most everyone on the tour would willingly do it again, next year if possible. Besides my personal reasons for wanting to go back, there were many many things I would have liked to have seen but didn't have time for. Thanks to you both for all you did to make it so wonderful.

With best wishes,
Ann Somerhausen
New York City
March 2001

John--Visiting Cuba with you has been the most educationally intensive period of my recent life. After about four days into the trip, I felt as if I had been away for several weeks. Each day efficiently and comfortably exposed me to the inefficient and uncomfortable Cuba I came to experience. Your advise to approach Cuba in a Zen way was right on. I'm struck by how much education has occurred, both in me, in Patricia and around us. Your program is intensely successful and deserves to succeed. You're a successful guy. Thanks for the experience!.

your friend,

David Giuliani
Engineer, Inventor, Poet and Musican
Mercer Island, Washington
March 2, 2001

Dear John,-Cuba, because of you, was absolutely fascinating---wonderful, interesting, educational and the whole group couldn't have been happier---you hired a wonderful staff and everything worked--we left the country with not so much as one bag missing--many, many thanks. I cannot thank you enough for this wonderful opportunity to open my eyes and learn so much. The people dynamics were the very best--if you were asking an interesting group for dinner you couldn't have made a better match--thank you for your careful planning. John Gilderbloom was just what everyone needed---not pushy, just the right amount of humor and very knowledgable. We had a touch of everything in the right degree---the tour guides were dear, sweet but intelligent and helpful and we all learned. The group from age 43 to 90 was very compatible and John was able to intellilectually stimulate everyone. Mary Jane was a perfect touch to the trip--it was an education in a country that could have been fearful, thanks to the wonderful staff you picked--it all worked! thank you.

Joyce Jerge
University of California Alumni
Santa Barbara, California
March 2001

Dear John,

Cuba is truly a beautiful island! Thank you for an unforgettable primary encounter with my country of heritage on the Six Cities Tour. As a Cuban American, born in the U.S., I have always struggled with my identity and thought Cuba would forever be untouchable. The tour has allowed me to educate myself about Cuba and see the positive sides of Cuba, rather than hearing the usual negative sides from family and literature. There's always two sides to a coin. I can finally speak of Cuba from experience. Now, that I have traveled to the unknown, I urge everyone to see and visit Cuba immediately before it's changed by the effects of tourism. The tour has had a profound and empowering effect on me. I feel an extreme need to help the people and help stop the further destruction of buildings and structures that identify and preserve the Cuban heritage and its rich cultural history. The beauty and spirit of the people still resonate amongst the crumbling architecture and poor living conditions. They touch you in such a special way, before you have a chance to feel any pity or sorrow for them. They are people of perseverance and are truly proud, but in the same respect very warm, gracious and humbling. Thank you John, for the beginning of a new love affair with my Cuba, and the romance of its people , music and architecture in its purest form! I do believe that once and for all, the U.S. should start thinking about changing policies with Cuba, and that lifting the embargo would not be an
admission to defeat, but an act of peace and honor.


Ana Sanchez
Restoration Student
New Jersey
January 27, 2001

For me and everyone else I talked to the trip to Cuba was wonderful--itinerary, speakers, tour leaders, architectural and planning visits. It is clear from these kinds of programs why Dr. Gilderbloom remains one of the most popular professors not only among minorities but with the majority population as well. His two teaching awards are well deserved. I give the program an A + and I plan to inform his boss what a great job he did.....All in all, I believe Dr. Gilderbloom provided us with a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Michael Brazley, AIA
Louisville, Kentucky
January 25, 2001

As a director of travel and study programs since 1979 I have had the opportunity to visit many continents and numerous people and cultures. The experience that I had in Cuba on both the Six Cities and Four Cities tours
went well beyond my expectations. Yes, there were times when contingencies evolved into grand adventures as one would find on all good trips abroad. The people of Cuba are without question one of the most hospitable I have ever encountered, that coupled with the grand old architecture and the never ending musical rhythms makes this trip quite the talk!

Jon Daniel Davey
Associate Professor Architecture and Interior Design
Program Director of Interior Design
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, Illinois
January 29, 2001

Dear John,

The trip was excellent, including the bus lectures by various members of the group. Learned a lot. I have been digesting the experience and telling people about it and your organization. Excellent trip and well worth the expense (which was very reasonable).

John Munzel, Lawyer and Botticelli Promoter
Long Island, New York
January 2001
PS -- Botticelli is the name of the game, not Monticello. Enjoy.

Six Historic Cities in Cuba is an excellent introduction to both the architecture and the cultural history of Cuba. In addition, as a record of economic development, the tour provides an excellent picture of both the initial benefits of the Castro revolution to the average citizen and the longer-term consequences of the communist economic system, which has stifled innovation and economic progress. The United States should be developing both economic and cultural relations with Cuba now, in anticipation of developments which will inevitably come soon.

Robert H. Wilbur, Ph.D.
Washington, D.C.
January 2001

Dear John:
The scope of the "Six Cities" trip acts as an invitational to return to sample more of these six cities and the rest of the country! The folks we traveled with were knowledgeable about a variety of things and interested in the new things they saw; just sharing with our traveling companions was a unique part of the adventure. The pride of the Cuban people mandates that you be respectful of their homeland and its citizens.

Sue Flores, Asst. General Manager, Community Development Department,
City of Los Angeles.
Los Angeles, California--near Disneyland
December 2000

The January 2000 Leadership trip was considered the "trip of a lifetime" by members of the group. We travel with a licensed agency,, at an incredibly afforable rate. Come meet the Cuban people and decide for yourself. Experience the passionate music and art of four historic cities. Check out the itinerary

Angela Woodward, President
Kentucky Leadership
November 2000

I have had the luxury of being on guided tours in several countries. However, they pale in comparison to Professor Gilderbloom's Cuba trip. As a lawyer, planner, and environmentalist, this trip hits all bases! It is academically superb, provides unfettered interaction with the Cuban people, and allows one to focus on their particular interests. Presently, mine are in establishing low impact eco-tourism as an alternative to development in pristine natural areas. This trip allowed me to conduct some of the primary research needed to further focus my thesis on this and related subjects-while contemporaneously learning Cuban history and culture first hand. I cannot conceive of a better trip, and will return soon-but only through Please feel free to contact me for any further information.

Mark Monaco
(Six Historic Cuban Cities)
The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Institute for Environmental Studies and Department of Urban and Regional Planning Madison, Wisconsin
(608) 286-6868
October 2000

Dear Kimberly and John:
Great trip! : Gary and I had a positively terrific time on the 4 city Cuba trip--weather, sites, shopping, the whole package. Thank you!

Sara Amy Leach
Washington D.C.
September 2000

I have some people at my architectural firm in Chicago very interested in going to Cuba and you are my first (and only) recommendation. I know of the quality of the program and gave them your website ( so they can browse your program on the internet. They were very impressed by the slide show; they said is was awesome.

Jorge Ramos, Professor of Architecture (1997-2000)
School of Architecture and Engineering (CUJAE)
University of Havana
Havana, Cuba
September 2000

Well Cuba with a tall handsome tour leader (John Gilderbloom) was indeed an adventure. It was one of the first times in my traveling life that I actually did a bus tour. And I was expecting the worst. However, to my delight, it turned out to be an adventure. Our fellow travelers were nice, once we got to know them, a stranger is only a stranger once . Cuba is a true delight, a little world filled with the most delightful people that I've ever met. The black beans, rice, and pork got a little tiresome after a while. But if you can find the ice cream palours, you've never had a such a delicious treat. But by far the best were the children ho seem to have a built in gene, for being able to wiggle perfectly to the Cuban music. That surrounds you no matter where you are.

Gloria L Walton, Community Leader
Santa Barbara, California
August 2, 2000

I was a participant in John Gilderbloom's late June 2000 trip to Havana, and could not have been more pleased with the experience, which was outstanding. I would go again in a minute!! (And -- I plan to go again as soon as I can.) The agenda featured an extraordinary blend of historical, social and cultural, and land use/preservation research opportunities, conveyed both officially by Cuban and US governmental officials, as well as by the considerable amount of "person on the street" contacts that the schedule allowed. We truly got a rich and in-depth feel for a variety aspects of Cuban culture and society, through a series of discussions and on-foot tours of the city, which often featured impromptu meetings with average Cuban citizens in their homes and on the job. I've participated in other international exchanges and tours that focused on site reuse and economic development, and know that there is a real skill involved in organizing and carrying out the agenda when the organizer must balance host and visitor needs and interests -- and when the agenda is really at the mercy of the foreign government. John showed a remarkable capacity for achieving this balance and delivering a top-notch program which met the objectives of the participants -- in the face of almost daily intervention from our Cuban hosts. In fact, the Cuba program is without question the best exchange I have ever participated in -- very interesting, extremely valuable from a professional perspective, and fun! I would highly recommend it to others.


Charlie Bartsch, Director of Sustainable Development Financing Studies
NE-MW Institute Washington D.C. (202) 544-5200
July 19, 2000

Hi John! It's been two weeks now since our return from the Havana trip and I just wanted to tell you that Gary and I had a fabulous time!! This was truly a life enriching experience for us and we absolutely loved Havana-the music, food, the Cuban people, the mojitos, the architecture, the other tour members, and of course, being able to travel and become reacquainted with you. I still consider it a very lucky evening that we connected at the Cubanisimo concert and found out about this trip! You made the trip so much fun, so easy, and so educational-it was definitely the way to go for a first (but not the last) trip to Cuba. It has whetted our appetite for another trip with you (the ONLY way to go)! Your hard work in organizing and leading us was very much appreciated. Kudos to you and Kimberly for organizing a very moving and memorable time-we look forward to the next trip when we hope to bring along Kate, perhaps as a graduation treat!

Kathy Black-Dennis, Director of Program Services
Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice
July 18, 2000

I want to commend Marazul Tours, Inc. and for organizing a well planned tour of Cuba, one that affords the novice traveler a comprehensive overview of the country, difficult or impossible to see, traveling alone. The guides were well formed, and spoke excellent English. The food was good and plentiful, and the accommodations were better than I expected. The tour was an excellent value; we received more than our money's worth, and I would not hesitate to recommend this tour to other travelers who are contemplating going to Cuba.


Shirley G. Kennedy, Professor
Black S
University of California, Santa Barbara
July 19, 2000

I want to thank you again for what has turned out to be the best trip of my life. Wear my Elian tee shirt that I got at the march the day we left; always get a lot comment.

Dick Rawdon, Lawyer
Lexington, Kentucky
June 21, 2000

The Cuban tour I took in April could really be called Inside Cuba. John, with help from our Cuban guides, provided us a look into the problems besetting Cuba as well as allowing us close contact with the wonderful people who inhabit that beautiful island. We hand-delivered medicines to a hospital where we were given detailed information about medical practice in Cuba including the problems brought on by the U.S. blockade. We had dinner twice in private homes with delightful hosts and a peek into the sometimes crowded but always immaculate living spaces. In one case it included a frank discussion of the difficulties of Cuban life. At the heavily guarded U.S. Interests Section we were given a private briefing, where we had hoped to be the first to hear of Elian's fate. (We did see the major demonstration site being erected right in front of the U.S. building as well as the lines of people waiting for visas.) Siul, our local guide, had a great sense of humor, unflagging good cheer, and answered our endless questions about the complexities of Cuban life with directness and candor. All agreed it was an unforgettable trip. And I accomplished a major goal, getting there before the first McDonald's.

Carol Barkin, Architect
Los Angeles
June 19, 2000

Eduardo and I would like to thank you all for allowing us to experience cuba all the way ; afterall this was not an easy trip and today we only remember the great architecture in its various styles,these beautiful garden restaurants where the food was exquisite, the great music in Trinidad and Santiago, the kindness of the cuban people, etc.. We hope the Cuban people will get the basic and most necessary help very soon : food and medicine.Unfortunately one group like us cannot do the job.... nevertheless we hope we contributed to help just a bit...Hasta la vista everybody...

Angela Gonzales, Real estate/housing leader
Miami, Florida
June 16, 2000

Please know that, as I mentioned at the farewell dinner, the study tour met my professional and personal expectations. I appreciate all of tour efforts for this accomplishment, especially the off-the-beaten-track aspects.

Gordon DiRenzo, Professor
University of Delaware
June 14, 2000

Dear John,

I am glad you got home OK and hope that all has gone well since I last saw you. Anyway, despite a few other rough spots along the way (and they were not of your doing), it was a good trip. And there is no question that you added to it. And I am glad for the stops at the art school and church. I do thank you for all that you did to help a good trip be better. You added a lot. Your program was worthwhile and I would not hesitate recommending it to anyone. Have many more good trips.


John Aurand, Pastor
June 13, 2000

Dear John,
The trip to cuba was very exciting and our thanks to you for helping to make it so. It is certainly easier to put the recent events into proper prospective after having been there. I am going to send you two packages. the first is a stack of medical journals for the maternity hospital. as I accumulate more I will send them periodically. the second is a pkg of 200 pregnancy tests for Dr Marin. Hope this finds you well. Peggy sends her regards. Best Wishes,

Bob Sloves, M.D.
Los Angeles
June 13, 2000

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to explore Cuba. As an architecture student, the experience has shaped my visionary perspective. There are multiple insights that nay be gained when witnessing such dilapidated, grandiose architecture meshed with the poor living conditions of the Cuban people. I chose a positive impression influenced by the lively, passionate people of the country. To look at such wonderful ruins and invision what they could be or once were instead of what they are not is important in my field of pursuit.

Casey Weeks, Junior
School of Architecture
Sourthern Illinois University
June 10, 2000

John- I want you to know that I had a great time on our Cuba trip and I thought you did a really good job.... I'm ready to go again!

Roger Pierce, Graduate Student
Latin American Studies
Texas Christian University
June 8, 2000

As a participant in NDCs Six City Tour in December and January 1999-2000, as well as the Havana Seminar in March 2000, I gained two fascinating experiences that broadened my knowledge of the world around me. The best description of Cuba is that it is a country where one can "travel back in time," and experience all the things that made Cuba such a special place. Some of my most cherished memories include seeing Spanish Baroque architecture abutting Art Nouveau and Moderne style buildings, the grand mansions of former Plantation owners surviving in derelict condition, the charming colonial cobblestone streets of Trinidad that have withstood the test of time, the stylish American cars of the 1940s to 1950s, and even the Socialist propaganda billboards along the roadside. Cuba was a magical place for me part Caribbean, part European - that I'll never regret visiting twice within three months, and hope to return to again very soon. My best regards to John Gilderbloom and Kimberly Stevenson from NDC, as well as the many Cuban citizens for all of their hard work in making it possible for American^s to experience this wondrous country.

Jill Cremer
The Trump Organization,
New York City
April 2000

Again, Mitzi and I want to thank you and tell you just how much you added to the enjoyment of the journey. I hope you will get out to LA sometime and let us be your hosts.

Mitzi and Gene Costin
Los Angeles
April 2

When Juan Miguel Gonzales was asked why he didn't want to defect to the U.S., his reply was, Cuba me gusta. This is exactly the reason why I want to return to Cuba, because the country me gusta. In other words, a thousand thanks for inviting me to participate on the tour. I had a great time; and even though I have a general aversion to organized tours, it was definitely a worthwhile experience. You did a great job; and I enjoyed being with you again after all these years, as well as having fun with Tom, Joanne, Miriam, Janellis, Victor (great discussions with him, too), etc.

Greg Davis,
Professor College of San Mateo
April 12, 2000

I want to thank you, John and Kim, for making it possible for me to go backto Cuba. It was the trip of my life. I was born in Cuba 61 years ago and lived there during my early childhood. Those early childhood impressions have shaped my life, making me bilingual and bi-cultural too: always of two cultures. Cuba has for a long time been out of reach for me--for so long that I had given up the idea of ever seeing it again. This trip helped close the gap and ended the emptiness I'd felt for the last 40 years, the time I've been away. For all this time I've been telling my husband and children about places I remembered, like where I was born (the Hospital Calixto Garcia); the old mansion where I lived in Calle O'Reilly; where I learned to ride a bike (around el Parque Central); where I went to school, near the Hotel Inglaterra, in el centro dependiente; how I'd love to take the little boat over to Regla from the Malecon side and take a bus to the beach from the docks; the train inside the railroad station, which seemed so ominous and big at the time; where I'd sit in the Paseo del Prado with my grandmother and she'd tell me stories; how my grandparents would take me for walks along the Malecon at night, where we'd buy an orange and sit along the wall and catch the breezes. I was able to retrace the way my grandmother would walk back from the Plaza Central with our groceries every morning at dawn. All the sights and sounds and aromas have been lost to me for 40 years. This trip gave them back to me. It was a part of me that my husband never knew, but after this trip, he does know. It has made us closer than ever before. This trip has filled the gap, the longing and the emptiness I've felt for so many years. I was able to point to the places of my childhood, walk where I'd been before, with my husband at my side. The beauty and charm of Habana is no longer lost to me. Thank you both for the opportunity to regain my lost childhood and to get back my heritage, my roots. John, next thing is to take my children. I saw two cousins who had been lost to me for most of my life. I was able to meet other cousins who were born during my absence. I have regained my family. I received kindness and support from all the participants of our group. It was a great way to see Habana.

Maria Longton Adjunct Instructor of Spanish, Ret.
University of Toledo Toledo, Ohio
February 11, 2000

I just returned from Havana a couple of weeks ago as one of the participants in John Gilderbloom's Cuba research/study tour and would highly, highly recommend it. The trip was truly an eye-opener and one that has made a lasting impression upon me, not just from an urban redevelopment/sustainable architecture perspective, but in many other aspects as well. Our group of about 20 was there during the Elian Gonzalez rally in Havana and it brought the disconcerting issue of U.S./Cuban relations "home" for all of us. The nonprofit that John consults with (Neighborhood Development Corporation) is sponsoring several additional trips this spring and for anyone who has contemplated seeing Cuba before the U.S. embargo is lifted (i.e., before it is inundated with tourists and commercialization) this is definitely the time to go.

Mary Beth Powell Associate Director
Center for Urban and Regional Studies
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
February 9, 2000

I was on the Six Historic Cuban Cities Tour in 1999. It was a highlight of the decade for me. Spectacular. Truly educational on several levels. I met wonderful people on the tour, and in Cuba. U.S. Citizens have a great deal to learn about this fascinating island nation, and many misconceptions to dispel. Take this trip. It will change your viewpoint on Cuba, if not your outlook on life! My complements to Dr. Gilderbloom, his super-assistant Kimberly, and our Cuban guides. I'd be happy to respond to anyone considering the trip, if you'd like more impressions from a past participant.

Glenn Birket
Birket Engineering
Orlando, Florida
January 20, 2000.

Good morning John. What an experiance. I am using the term AWESOME as the adverb-of-choice. Thanks to trip.Reiterate the $100 rule for cigars under license. I was into heated discussion with customs re: cigars. I actually DID pay only $100 for three boxes of cigars (one Cohiba).. She sent me on my way without further comment.
Thanks again John and Kim. Looking forward to the reunion. SALVEMOS A ELIAN !!!!

Tim Harth,
Housing Developer
Cincinatti, Ohio
January 19, 2000

Robb and I continue to talk to everyone we know about our experiences in Cuba. I will meet with the director of the Honors program to explore possible student interest in travel to Cuba. Will keep you posted. It was an informative, exciting experience, I am certainly glad I went. Though I would want to change a few things, I think you have done a very good job of putting the itinerary together.

Professor Afesa Adams,
Department of Psychology,
University of Northern Florida
January 18, 2000


Many thanks for taking us on such a great trip. I thoroughly enjoyed everything. It whetted my appetite for more, such as taking the week in Havana with you (but not in the hot summer), possibly with one of my daughters.

Best wishes.

Jean Muller
University of California, Santa Barbara
January 17, 2000

Why do so many of us feel the same? It's you and the infectious nature of the people we meet in Cuba...Thank you very fine professor that you are and all around neat guy in general! Since so many of us feel like this you must be doing something right...Thanks so much for including me in your January 7 to 14 group. Unforgetable experience and I hope you make it to the reunion whenever we have it.


Eileen Gaseon
January 16, 2000

My recent trip to Cuba has changed me forever....There was inexplicable joy in delivering 22 pounds of medicine to the children's hospital...I was also impressed by the quality of meetings we had with government officials, the variety of events and the superb reading list (see Website under books). Even though you were busy during the trip, I always knew, "if push came to shove..." you would know how to handle it. Thanks for a great opportunity. Keep up the good work.


Virginia Barry Kleinrock
Kelinrock Group, President
December 16, 1999

Hi John:
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the Cuba trip!  It opened my eyes to so many things.  I really did not know what to expect before going, and I returned home much more knowledgeable, and, with mixed emotions. Yanelise
was super!  It was wonderful meeting most of the members of our group. For the most part, I believe we were quite compatible.  Sam and I definintely want to make a repeat visit.   The tour itself was very well organized, and  it gave me a deeper understanding of how blessed we are.  I don't think I've ever met a warmer, more hospitable people as the Cubans.  And, while I'm sure racism exists there, I didn't find it to be as overt as it is here in the U.S.

Thanks for inviting us to be a part of this fascinating tour.

Kindest personal regards,
Judy Watkins

November 23, 1999

This is a trip of a lifetime! Even when that small hurricane hit Cuba and we lost electrical power in the Hotel, you never lost your cool and the group was cohesive. If I was ever stuck in a foxhole and 30 guys were coming at me, I would want John Gilderbloom to be my partner because he is so cool and optimistic under pressure. I also appreciated the visit to the children's hospital and our group humanitarian gesture of donating medical supplies   Thank you! John

Dr. Antonio LaSorte
Binghamton, New York
November 19, 1999

I recently travelled to Cuba with John Gilderbloom's group. We toured Havana thoroughly. I can honestly say that the tour included virtually all of the most important attractions and sites of historcal importance.  We had excellent tour guides to explain it all to us.  The accomodations provided with the package were adequate for our needs. The transportation bus was always on time and the tour stayed onschedule.  I would recommend this tour to anyone who is interested in Cuba today.  And I would recommend that interested persons should visit
Cuba as soon as possible.

Robert McConnell, Ph.D.
Documentary Video Producer

October  20, 1999

The Havana Seminar that I attended in May 1999, led by Dr. John Gilderbloom, has been an amazing educational and life experience. John's ability to organize the most impressive list of speakers, as well as expert guides, served to make my trip as much informative as it was exciting. Meeting with academics, professionals, and government officials afforded me the opportunity to see the many complex facets of a historically complex island. I want to thank John, Kimberly and everyone involved, both in the United States and Cuba, for organizing such an exceptional program. In fact, I enjoyed the experience so much that I have decided to attend the next seminar that John is leading in October, so I'll see you soon.

Heidi Hendershott
Instructor and Ph.D. Candidate
College of Communication
Penn State University
October 1, 1999

This was a trip of a lifetime; a glimpse into a place probably due for big changes in the near future. In so many ways it allowed me to feel, see and hear a world that is seemingly so far away yet in reality is only 90 miles from our country. The Cuban guides and experts were of the highest caliber. Everyone we met was very friendly and warm to us; as excited to meet us as we were to meet them and see their country, hidden from us for so long. The architecture, though dilapidated, was astounding, rich and varied. I loved not only the educational aspect of learning about Cuban architecture, historic preservation, planning and sustainable development but delighted to see the emphasis on the humanitarian mission of providing free medical supplies to those in need. These supplies not only went a children's hospital in Habana but we were able to help open up a new outlet that concerns itself with providing assistance to those with AIDS, drug and alcohol problems. This aspect of the tour deeply touched me. I also brought home many artworks by Cuban artists that I met in person while on the trip. Thanks for the wonderful trip. I have given presentations on my first trip for several organizations since I returned. I will be back soon with more friends and colleagues.

Richard Rowe,
Planner and Architect
Palms Springs,
September 4, 1999

For those whose penchant is travel that lands in the category of, to quote Pico Iyer's title of recent essays, "Falling off the map" Cuba is a must visit destination. So near yet so far for North Americans and so daunting a challenge in many ways, we are fortunate that John Gilderbloom's NDC travel programs have made it affordable and accessible with an intensive program of visits and lectures that should appeal to a range of professional interests.

Stephen Harby,
Former Board Member, Society Architectural Historians
September 2, 1999

Hi, Just got back from Havana. Recommend the trip highly. Would like to return there someday.

Martin Shore
Historic Preservationist, United States Treasury
August 2, 1999

"I thought that the trip was a fantastic experience, and many thanks are in order for you and Kimberly. Keep up the good work and keep in touch. As Midwest Director of the Institute of International Education, I have helped manage many international training and educational exchange programs including the U.S. Fullbright Program. I have also organized many seminars in the United States and participated in seminars for U.S. faculty in Berlin and Budapest. Based on this experience I can say that the preparation which we participants received for the Havana Seminar was detailed and excellent....Our perhaps deliberately mediocre accommodations ensured that we were not isolated in a "yankee ghetto" and the energy and flexibility of our leader and his associates enabled us to experience a board range of Cuban culture and activities. There was a particular ability and willingness to meet and accommodate the individual interests of each participant which resulted in a very individualized experience and the opportunity to compare notes as we came together. The post trip experience has been to intensify my interest in all thing Cuban to speak and write extensively about my experience, and to wish to make further visits whenever possible.

Robert S. Houston
Midwest Director Institute
of International Education
May 15, 1999

Havana is truly spectacular, though the work that needs to be done there is overwhelming.  I'm so glad to have had the chance to see the place, and I hope to return someday.  Many thanks for all your work in organizing the seminar. One of the great strengths of your program was the stellar group of Cuban architects eservationists, and planners you put us in touch with.

Jacob Albert,
Society of Architectural Historians
Boston, Massachusetts

April 15,1999


The Cuba Program lead by Dr. John Gilderbloom was an enjoyable and multifaceted experience/adventure which many of us will remember for a lifetime.  In addition to sessions with educators, diplomats, and professionals and tours of important and otherwise inaccessible sites, the Cuba seminar created a rich environment of sharing and learning among its participants.  The most memorable times may have been those off the beaten track:  delivering medicines and clothing to a hospital and aids clinic; attending a baseball game and ballet performance; and participating in the Cuban culture as seen from the perspective of Dr. Gilderbloom."

Allen Swerdlow
Professor of Architecture
Pratt Institute
April 10, 1999

Dear John :

I got back last night (from Nassau). Thank you very  much, again, for organizing this wonderful trip. It was a pleasure to be part of it. I'm sure I'll be back again...This was a very well organized educational trip to Havana. Lectures by eminent Cuban architects were very informative and greatly contributed to a thorough understanding of urban development under very limited resources.  The organization of this Seminar was superb,due to the efforts of  Dr.John Gilderbloom,the tour leader. He was always present and by his very thoughtful insights he greatly contributed to this memorable journey into the culture of Cuba.
Professor Dan Ralescu,
Department of Mathematical Sciences
University of Cincinnati
April 7, 1999

I cannot tell you the impact that Cuba has had on me.  I can only thank you again.  Here is a journal entry on my Cuba trip: "Today there was time to talk with John Gilderbloom, an interesting and passionate guy.  He is "the man" as he is fond of saying and in this place and time he is, which is fortunate for those on this trip.  While things are in constant flux, as seems to be the nature of travel in Cuba, John, despite his easy manner and boisterous demeanor keeps things going.  Clearly at this time in Cuba's history adversity is the norm.  A lesser individual could easily let things unravel. If I ever considered a new career as a group leader of professionals in Cuba, I would be out of my mind. Everyone has comments on John and how they would run this tour. A tough job in a tough place.  He has come through and delivered." Thanks for a wonderful trip. It was experience of a lifetime. Thanks to you and Kimberly for all the hard work.

Ken Lee AIA
Visiting Professor of Architecture
University of Southern California
March 26, 1999

I have to say that you run a wonderfully organized program. I do a lot of travel/study programs for my college and have directed 3 overseas Institutes to Mexico and Guatemala for NEH, and so I know from experience what a high standard you're setting with all your carefully prepared pre-trip info.

George Scheper, Ph.D. and Professor of Humanities
Coordinator of Interdisciplinary Studies
Community College of Baltimore in Essex
Faculty Associate for Continuing Education
John Hopkins University
February 28, 1999


"What a fantastic and eye-opening trip we had with John Gilderbloom to Cuba. Reading tour books didn't prepare us for the beauty of the island, the charm and friendliness of the Cuban people, or the poignancy of their failed political system. In spite of their obvious shortages, the Cubans are wonderful and proud hosts. When, not if (underlined), you visit Cuba, be sure to see not only fascinating and bustling Havana, but also the countryside and simpler way of life most Cubans enjoy...By the way, the Council on Foreign Relation's Cuba Task Force report is in the process of being printed.You can read it on our web-site ( but it will be printed in proper form just after March 1st. I will send it to you and others who expressed an interest...Let us know what you're up to. We have a dozen friends who want to go to Cuba and we'll steer them your way.
Love and kisses -
--Elva Murphy
Assistant to the President, Leslie H. Gelb Council on Foreign Relations Executive Assistant to former Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance New York, New York
Februrary 15, 1999 

John: Just a quick message to let you know that the New York contingent made it home intact and on schedule Friday night. A little brutal coming back to snow and freezing wind; makes one appreciate Cuba all the more. As far as I'm concerned I still consider the trip to have been incredibly inexpensive. I know people in New York who paid twice as much for Cuba tours, and saw only a small fraction of what we saw. Thank you, again, for putting together such a memorable tour for us. We will keep in touch.

--Belmont Freeman, AIA Belmont Freeman and Architects and Author
New York, New York 
January 25, 1999

I really, really enjoyed this trip. It was one of the best visits I have had to Cuba. Our group really clicked and provided me with much pleasure and many laughs. The sights were incredible and I feel it was an excellent introduction to parts of the country I did not know. Meeting the Cubans on the trip and within the architectural community was also invaluable as I know that I will see them again and hopefully be able to work with them in the future. It was also a great pleasure to meet and work with you, John. I think your additions to the trip were invaluable and your easygoing personality set a tone for the group that helped us survive the frustration and compromises that are inevitable in group travel....Overall I thought the program was very, very good. Its strength was in the history of Cuba as seen through its various building styles. We saw a lot in a short period of time. For that type of introductory trip, it was a good one....Stay in touch, and once again, it was great to travel with you and see Cuba as we did.

-- Rick Gerharter, Professional Photographer photographer for Cuba: A Survival Guide San Francisco, California 
January 19, 1999


Havana was absolutely fascinating! We found the intense cultural experience rewarding. Dr. Gilderbloom was most helpful in guiding us through the bureaucratic maze of obtaining licensee from Treasury. His experience was useful in getting through Immigration, securing our hotel accommodations, getting oriented to the city, and finding a few great places to eat.

--Don and Jeneane Blom. Preservation Community Leaders Chicago, Illinois
  December 18, 1998


The conference brought together a great range of participants -- that was very helpful in gaining varied perspectives on the prospects for Havana. I felt the tour by the woman architect from the city was especially outstanding and covered many aspects of planning and architectural preservation in depth. Just getting to visit the city and see the situation there was extraordinary. Meeting the Cuban people and hearing their stories gave better insights than would many news reports. I hope these rather obvious but true reactions are helpful to your report. I met scholars from New Zealand, Germany, Russia, and elsewhere and gained a great deal of perspective on the issues related to Cuba through the trip.

--Ralph Muldrow, Professor Co-director, Program in Historic Preservation and Community Planning, College of Charleston Charleston, South Carolina 
November 18, 1998

"A once in a lifetime opportunity to experience a vibrant 19th century city with mid-twentieth century classic automobiles at the dawn of the 21st century.Aside from the cliche's of describing traveling to a developing country, Cuba offers a unique glimpse of centralized planning based on self survival and minimal contact with the developed world. The people, commerce, and larger society offer the greatest example of self determination and collective survival to be experience, albiet quietly coerced."

Best Regards,
-- Jeff Samudio, AIA American Institute of Architects and Society of Architectural Historians, Professor University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 
October 24, 1998

I thoroughly enjoyed the trip to Cuba. I found it to be a wonderful experience. It offered me the opportunity to feel and view life from a different perspective and to confirm that "richness" in life has many meanings. For me, this trip was an "experience of the heart" in which the striking combination of hardship and the joy of living provided the back stage of our journey.

---Angela Gomez M.A. Department of Child & Family Studies University of South Florida Tampa Bay, Florida September 3, 1998 


I have traveled considerably, but it is difficult to convey how much I now feel attracted to Cuba after my visit to study colonial architecture. The cities, small towns and countryside were fascinating and I learned much about the different architectural styles and the preservation and restoration efforts we had the opportunity to see. However, it was the Cuban people who truly touched my heart. The Cubans are survivors, who, in spite of almost insurmountable economic difficulties and continuing political struggles, emerge with an unparalleled generosity and grace. I must add, too, that as a teacher of Spanish, I had the distinct advantage of being able to communicate readily with people as well as having considerable background and understanding about their culture.

--Carolyn J. Halstead Associate Professor of Spanish Department of Modern Foreign Languages West Virginia State College Campus Box 88 P.O. Box 1000 Institute, WV 25112-1000
September 2, 1998 


A month later and I am still trying to process the Cuba trip, but I do know it was the best/most rewarding travel I have ever done. I am in e-mail contact with Jorge; I really connected with him (sort of like one of my sons) and that continues to be special. Thanks.

--George Marcus, Author and Director of Publications Philadelphia Museum of Art 
August 18, 1998

I found the Cuba program helped inspire and challenge me in my daily work. I would love to go again to a different program if I could afford it, and if I could find the time. I know that many of my colleagues around the country are interested in Cuba if they could could make it work. Incidentally John, I did love the program.

--Wayne Feiden, AICP, Director of Planning and Development Ecologist Northhampton, Mass 
July 12, 1998

The educational and research program was excellent. I was most impressed with the lecturers and the content of the lectures. The participants were most knowledgeable. It was a mutual sharing of expertise. I have received many requests for follow-up information on my presentations. The field trips provided me with the opportunity to meet Cubans and see their country. Was this program worthwhile and would I do it again. Yes.

--Professor Mary J. Matthews, Chair Construction Management and Facilities Management Pratt Institute. New York, New York 
June 14, 1998


I want to thank you for enabling me to go to the conference and to experience Cuba first hand. Your leadership of the group under difficult circumstances considering the state of the infrastructure in Cuba was excellent. Of course, I look forward to a return visit one day and I plan to become increasingly knowledgeable about Cuba. I am sorry that written printouts of the reports given at the conference were not distributed. I am fascinated by the ecomaterials problem and I am already scheduled to give talks on it to my school and to architects. In any case, it was my pleasure to have come to know you and perhaps we will meet again.

-- Marvin Mills, Professor of Architecture University of South Florida Tampa Bay, Florida 
June 6, 1998

Hi John,
I had a great time in Havana and thanks for setting it all up.

--Suzanne N Ise, Master's Student
--Department of Planning University of Massachusetts Amherst, Massachusetts 
May 19, 1998

I would love to join you on another trip to Cuba in the future. That has been one of the greatest highlights of my life. I still enjoy being able to tell people about my experience there and my sincerest desire to return. I was heartsick to realize I couldn't go on the next trip... Please keep me informed of future events.

Desta Cogan, M.S. Family Literacy Coordinator Ohio Valley Educational Coop. 
May 15, 1998

I was fortunate to attend the conference in Cuba in March of 1998. It was fascinating and extremely educational. Whenever I mention the trip people are always extremely curious and want to know all about it. What I saw has really given me a richer perspective on our relations with Cuba, and I've been happy to share this knowledge with others.

--Simon Harvey/ Avi Simon, T.V. actor, writer and political Activist West Hollywood 
May 2, 1998

Hi John,
I have thought of you many times since our trip, again last week as I was in conversation with coworkers and explaining the opportunity we had to get together in Cuba with 8 of our staff from around the world who are the consultants for housing and environment in the areas such as Africa and Asia. It was a great opportunity for them to get together with others from around the world who are involved in similar work. I think that it would be great if you have the opportunity to reduce the cost through other funding sources, as you know I called you several times cornering the price because although we are a large non profit org. we really like to keep as much of our funding going directly into housing so we look to may other organizations to help fund training events office expenses and join in developing other aspect of the communities where we work. Thanks again for this opportunity and the time you took to help our group understand the situation in Cuba better from your experience there.

Wayne Nelson Construction and Environmental Resources Habitat for Humanity International Atlanta, Georgia 
May 1, 1998

The conference "Fifty Years of Havana Architecture" was very informative a nd well worth the time and effort to get to Cuba. We came to Cuba seeking answers to some of the problems we have in West Virginia and realized that the Cuban's and other countries represented had similar problems and were seeking answers also. The conference was conducted in Spanish and a few presentations were given in Italian, but the conference provided us with an interpreter, Victor Mora, who worked for the Ministry of Construction. A major theme and concern of the conference was "what is Cuban architecture and what are the defining characteristics"? There was concern that many of the new hotels were being built in the International Style and had no relationship to Cuba and its local history and environment. The conference included field trips and we were able to visit major restoration projects and some modern buildings. Havana itself was quite surprising in that there were so many buildings in need of restoration and rehabilitation. There were basically recently restored buildings surrounded by slums with collapsing buildings that had several families living in them.

--Dr. Robert F. Maslowski Editor, West Virginia Archeologist Charelston, West Virginia 
April 18, 1998

I attended the International Conference on Shelter and Revitalization of Old and Historic Urban Centres, March and April, 1998, sponsored by Neighborhood Development Corporation. My study trip to Cuba was truly fascinating and worthwhile as it introduced to American scholars and professionals a completely new perspective on the issues of historic preservation, neighborhood revitalization, and sustainable development and presented, in the context of socialism, a means of overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles to successful projects. The experience has strongly impacted my professional work with its invaluable lessons.

--Stephen A. Schneller Housing Development Manager Volunteers of America Louisville, Kentucky
April 2, 1998