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What can happen in a park in Havana

We awoke early and set off for all the Havana things we missed the other day. But first, we stopped for a quick breakfast at a patisserie by Hotel Inglaterra. It was much cheaper than at the casa, and it didn't leave us stuffed. We strolled up the Prado, noticing the lack of artists. A few says ago, the area was full of them, but now there wasn't a single one in sight. We passed LaFloridita- one of the Hemingway bars. Unless you're a huge Hemingway fan, it's probably not going to excite you. We briefly checked out the church by the museum, and then entered the Museum of the Revolution. They don't allow backpacks or even normal sized purses. The bag check tells you not to leave valuables there (obviously). But my pants don't have pockets. So I ended up walking around the museum with a huge pile of loose stuff (passport, wallet, phone, camera, kindle). It was rather annoying. The museum displays consist of posters (mostly English and Spanish, but some just Spanish) with occasionally an accompanying article of clothing or tool used by the revolutionaries. What I learned from this "book on the wall:" <ul><li>Cuba has had one long revolution that started against the imperialist Spanish and culminated with Castro's part. Everything in between that seemed like a stable government was clearly not. It was just another stage in the revolution. Anything since is not part of the revolution.</li><li>Batista was a tyrant. Any soldier in his army was a "soldier of tyranny."</li><li>The rebels were brave freedom fighters. Any time they were killed during battle, they were "murdered."</li><li>After they finished the revolution, the rebels brought justice to the soldiers of tyranny. Some people didn't appreciate that, and they became counterrevolutionaries or mercenaries funded by the USA.</li><li>At this point, the horrible USA tried to become imperialist and take down the revolutionaries, going so far as to destroy a shipment of toys for the Cuban tots.</li><li>But don't worry, socialism is great and the Cuban people are stronger for having battled against the big bad USA. </li></ul> We exited the main museum building and crossed to the outside area containing the tanks, planes, and boats. On the way, we saw a ceremony. Cubans stood in neat lines while various people spoke. Apparently, some of them were receiving medals for their service. The vehicles area of the museum was interesting. The descriptions had the same slant as the inside. But they had the whole boat that Castro led an invasion from, Granma, on display. We headed back to the same area of town that we had been in before because we missed a few spots. First, we got to see Coche Mambi. This is the presidential railcar. It's free to get in, but a guide will take you through the car and explain what's what. She let us sit on what she called "Castro's bed" and see behind the roped off areas, so we tipped her. I really enjoyed seeing that piece of history. We also popped into a bunch of random art museums. The many free exhibits gave us a taste of Cuban art besides the standard tourist souvenir offerings. Apparently, singing contests haven't escaped the Cubans. We passed a church holding auditions for what seemed to be some sort of kid talent competition. Throngs of Cuban kids and their parents gathered outside, but not as many as you'd expect in the states. We passed a very busy park on our way to the Rum museum. Kids ate pizza, played, and relaxed. In one corner, a group of barber school students were giving free haircuts to kids who approached them. (Foreboding music goes here.) We visited the rum museum. The tour explained a bit of the history of rum and the rum making process. It wasn't the best distillery tour, and they allowed way too many people on the tour for anybody to ask questions. The sample at the end of the tour was bad. I know Cuba is famous for its rum, but this stuff burned and didn't taste quite nice. I much prefer rum from elsewhere in the Caribbean. I was due for a haircut. At home, I tell the stylist that I'm trying to grow out my hair, but I need the back cleaned up so it's not itching my neck. I ask them to not cut the sides so much. They always cut the sides, leave the back too long, and then when I try to grow it out, I end up with a mullet. I decided to see what the guys in the park could do. I explained that I'm trying to grow it out, but the back is too long. Can he please cut a line from the front to the back so that it's even, and not this odd shape they keep giving me at home? No problem! He's the teacher and he'll do it for whatever price I feel it's worth. I sat in the chair. He covered me with the apron, and snip snip. Along the way, he explained to the students what he was doing. The wind kept blowing my hair about, but he managed ok. What he managed to do was give me something only slightly different than the crap I get at home. The back wasn't short enough. He cut the sides a lot so that it will take even longer for me to grow it out. Although, I think it might grow back more evenly and I wont have to pass through a mullet to get to normal hair again. But at least I paid about a third of what I pay at home for this crap. And, despite the low price I paid, I probably made his day. If his monthly salary is what everybody here says a teacher makes, he's partying tonight. Well, that's about as "people to people" as you can get. I had an adventure. I got a souvenir that will last months, and a story to last a lifetime. We passed Chinatown on the way back to the casa. I expected something more than an arch. But other than the arch, we didn't really notice any difference between that area and any other part of town. After a break, we realized that we ought to go eat dinner, since lunch was just some street snacks (more or less tortilla chips with sugar). We decided to follow the guide book to a Paladar. The closest one to us was La Guardia. We saw the sign, but the building looked like it was under construction and we didn't see the restaurant. A guy on the street helped us to know that it's upstairs. After two flights of stairs, we arrived at a very fancy looking restaurant. They advertise being in the movie Strawberry and Chocolate. Several posters about Cuban cuisine line the hall. The entrance table features a restaurant cookbook. A hostess was working the front desk, and seemed to be taking reservations. It was like a regular nice restaurant anywhere in the world. The menu prices matched. We did not budget for single dishes over $20. We descended and headed towards the next option in the guidebook. On the way, we passed another Paladar, so we popped in to see what they had. Here, the prices were cheaper- only $12 for a single dish, but that's still way more than anybody should pay in Cuba. As we walked on, we reentered Chinatown from the back. From this side, it looked a bit more Chinese. There were at least a few Chinese characters here and there, and plenty of letters in that Chinese-style font. One restaurant looked interesting and had reasonable prices, so we went in. I was amused that a Chinese restaurant called Bavaria, located in Cuba had so many Italian dishes (spaghetti, pizza). I was somewhat tempted to get one for the irony, but instead got traditional Cuban fried cheese balls, but with sweet and sour sauce, and fried rice. The portions are huge- a family could have eaten from one plate. The food was ok. It was a lot lighter on the soy sauce than Chinese restaurants elsewhere, but they put a bottle on the table in case you want more. It was not spicy at all. The veg was what is available in Cuba, and not necessarily traditional Chinese. (I've never had stir fried cucumbers before.) It was worth what we paid. On the way back to the Casa, we passed some guys sitting outside and playing Dominoes. They were supporting the playing surface with their legs, and so every time one shifted, the board moved a bit. We asked if we could watch. After one game, they invited us to play. My friend won the first, until they explained that we were supposed to play in pairs. Then I realized the I too, won the first. They challenged us to a rematch to regain their honor. We lost the second round. We thanked our new friends, excited to have learned the Cuban national pastime from Cubans and to have had a chance to play. We went to the casa to get ourselves a bit organized. Tomorrow, we leave and we want everything to be in order. Both the classic car driver and another source recommended this Fabrica place for dancing, but they were a bit far. We walked to 23rd st in Vedado instead. The line at Zorro y Cuervo was long, and they didn't even open for 20 more minutes. Some guy on the street recommended a place a block up, but their signage indicated that they had wheels and it wasn't clear what exactly they were. We hopped a classic cab to La Fabrica in a last-ditch effort to go out. La Fabrica is far away from everything else and is on the far part of town in a residential neighborhood. The dancing part was closed, but people were going in, so we tried. To get a table without a reservation would have been impossible. A seat at the bar was at least a 20 minute wait. With that abandoned, we got an 80s car cab back to the casa. It was unfortunate that we didn't negotiate the price more, but we were in the middle of nowhere without many options. In a place where you can't just check the internet to see when something is open, I don't recommend going to La Fabrica.

Floridita

Floridita


Ceremony at Museum

Ceremony at Museum


Mural

Mural


Kitchen in Coche Mambi

Kitchen in Coche Mambi


Street barbers

Street barbers


Fruit vendor

Fruit vendor


Chinatown

Chinatown

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Cuba

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