Program 358: Cuba by Motorcycle; Celtic Middle Earth; Irish Craic

Release Date: 03-15-2014

On Air Description

On this week's Travel with Rick Steves, we'll hear how Americans can now legally visit Cuba, from a Cuba travel expert who leads motorcycle tours across the island.

Author Graham Robb tells us about the accomplishments of the ancient Celts, and the sophisticated celestial-based geometry they used to organize their world.

And a pair of Irishmen share a beer and a little banter with Rick for Saint Patrick's Day.

Get a fresh look at Cuba and Ireland, on the next Travel with Rick Steves.


  • Christopher P Baker, tour guide to Cuba and author of the Moon Cuba handbook
  • Graham Robb, author of "The Discovery of Middle Earth" (Norton)
  • Stephen McPhilemy, tour guide based in Derry, No. Ireland 
  • Liam O'Riordan, singer based in Blarney, County Cork, Ireland

Related Links


  • Caller is an engineer, planning a trip to Scotland.  "What sites that exhibit the scientific and engineering capabilities of the Celts should I put on my must see list? Is it possible to visit these sites if I don’t have a car?"  (Steve in Albany, Oregon)
  • "I have heard that the Irish Celts adopted Christianity so enthusiastically because there were so many correlations between pre-Christian Celtic and early Christian religious beliefs."    (Jake in Bend, Oregon)

Incidental Music

  • Ruben Gonzalez, "Fabiando," The Stars of the Buena Vista (collection) / Tumi Cuban
  • Eliades Ochoa, "El Carretero," Buena Vista Social Club / Nonesuch-World Circuit records
  • Los Zafiros, "Rumba Como Quiera," Cuba Classics 2:  Dancing with the Enemy (collection) / Luaka Bop-Warner Bros.
  • P-18, “Somos el futuro,” Urban Cuban / Higher Octave World - Virgin
  • * Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban, "Mambo Sinuendo," Mambo Sinuendo / Nonesuch
  • The Chieftans, with the Belfast Harp Orchestra, "Carolan's Concerto," The Wide World Over:  A 40 Year Celebration / RCA Victor
  • The Chieftans, "Ireland Moving," Film Cuts / RCA Victor
  • David Arkenstone, "No Rain, No Rainbows," Echoes of Light and Shadow / Domo Records
  • Capercaillie, “Kepplehall-25 KTS,” Beautiful Wasteland / Ryko - Survival Records  
  • Enya, “Boadicea,” Paint the Sky with Stars / Reprise
  • * Jordi Savall, Andrew Lawrence-King, "The Musical Priest," The Celtic Viol / Alia Vox
  • Seamus Ennis, "Piper of the Embers," Forty Years of Irish Piping / Green Linnet
  • Dervish, “Trip to Sligo,” At The End of the Day / Dervish
  • Moving Hearts, "The Storm in the Teashirt," Storm / Tara Records (Ireland)
  • Ted Furey, "The Garden Where the Praties Grow," The 2nd Irish Folk Festival (various) / Kingston Records
  • Paddy Reilly, "The Crack Was Ninety In the Isle of Man," The Very Best of Paddy Reilly / Digitalpressure - Dolphin
  • Enya, "Bard Dance," The Celts / Reprise
  • The Celtic Ensemble, "Yup'ik Waltz," Sean Ar:  Ancient Land / (self-released)

Dated References

  • In the billboard and at 12:12 in the segment A interview, Chris Baker states that the average Cuban "loves Americans."
  • In the open to segment A, Chris says he got a license "last year" to take authorized tours of Americans to Cuba via Miami, and mentions taking his first group in January 2013.  Chris adds that a "People-to-People" license is issued by the Treasury Department under a program that has been reinvigorated by the Obama administration, to allow U.S. citizens to participate in sanctioned American "cultural exchange" tour groups to Cuba. 
  • At 9:57, Chris notes that all of the Harley motorcycles in Cuba are pre-revolutionary vintage, and adds that only about 250 of them still run on the island.
  • In his guest reset at 13:16, Rick notes that Chris Baker received the 2008 Lowell Thomas Award for "travel journalist of the year," and is now working on the documentary "Cuba Soul," as well as leading tours in Cuba.
  • At 16:22 Chris describes how once a month a representative of retired Cuban workers enters the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay to receive pension checks for locals who had worked there.
  • Rick says at 20:25 that "The Discovery of Middle Earth" is Graham Robb's "latest book."  
  • In the segment C interview, Stephen, Liam and Rick note that the "troubles" in Northern Ireland are pretty much over.

Haiku Awards

Pgm 358 Ireland Haiku  (first aired on program 238, March 2011)    


The last sight of land

I stand where my kin left home

Seals dance in the surf

  — Malinda Smyth, Lakewood, Ohio



cold winds stop us in our tracks

the Cliffs of Moher


blowing and cutting

QC smashing the rejects

Waterford Crystal

   — Carol Snow, Del Mar, California  


Celtic flourishes

Decorate the Book of Kells

Borrowed pagan art

  — Kathy Schaffer, Bellevue, Washington  

Program Extras

Pgm 358 extra - Graham Robb, author of "The Discovery of Middle Earth," talks about seeking out the remains of old Celtic towns, which often are atop hills and offer excellent views. He also explains how the ancient Celts would have viewed Stonehenge with the same wonder we do today, and touches on the importance of their celestially-based system for organizing the world. (runs 2:53)