We had the good fortune of connecting with Jean Fuller Gest and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jean, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?

I began my career in the tourism industry by managing and owning a group of restaurants in the Northeast geared towards tourists on the Connecticut coast. Years ago I was invited to Havana Cuba with a food delegation of chef and restauranteurs and jumped at the chance to go. I was truly inspired by the resourcefulness and creaitivity of Cuban artists and entreprenuers and the seed was planted to start a travel company to introduce Americans to this fascinating country.

What should our readers know about your business?
Cuba Up Close Cultural Tours provides immersive up close and personal experiences for our clients. We coordinate meet and greets with artists, musicians, farmers and doctors as well as professors in a country that is not easy to navigate for the individual traveler. Cuba can be complicated and requiers a bit of paperwork from the participant but worth the trip with a well organized tour company such as Cuba Up Close. We take care of all the details so you can travel with peace of mind and comfort. It took a few years for the company to navigate the obstacles of doing business in Cuba, but we have ironed out all our gliches and provide fun and once in a lifetime trips to an island previously off limits to Americans. Just 90 miles from our shore and in a time warp of sorts with classic American cars from the 1950’s, music in the streets and art wherever you go. Not to mention the famous cigars! It has proved to be an unforgettable island adventure for many.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live for most of the year on the Southcoast of Massachusetts near Cape Cod. I would definitley bring them to Turk’s Seafood in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts for sushi or a lobster roll. You just can’t beat it. We would also go down to the beach and look out to see a large sloop called The Tabor Boy , owned by Tabor Academy here in town. At night we would hit the aqrt and music scene in New Bedford, Massachusetts and grab a glass of wine at Cork Bar.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I wish to make a grand shout out to my staff in Havana. They are Doctors, Professors, Farmers and Entrepreneurs who continue to inspire me with their daily resolve and perseverence. They are educated, kind people who seem to accomplish so much with so very little. They continue to share their stories with us and I am amazed at the life they bhave created. Their joy in their vibrant culture resonates back to all the American visitors who have participated in our cultural tours.

Website: www.cubaupclose.com

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