Met the guys Flight delayed Left early Arrived early Waited on runway at Jose Marti Airport Picked up - choose the yellow car Headed to Hotel Gargoyle Dinner at Donde Lis Nap Night tour with Louise,
Places: Cafe Paris, Bodega Del Medio, Sloppy Joes, El Floridita Did a loop around Old Havana Traveled down O’Reilly street to see Capital Building - walked past Buena Vista Social Club, didn’t have reservations.
Picked up wifi cards from Hotel Florida because Telecommunicatons was sold out. Catedral de San Cristobal Museo Nacional de Bella Artes (Art Museum of Cuban Art)
Paintings: Amelia Paleaza, Umberto Pena Had a beer near the water at a local place, open patio style Walked to Chinatown Had late lunch in Chinatown at Chang’s - ate Chop Suey Surtidar UP asked for soy sauce, the waiter brought out hot sauce. UP asked for chop sticks he got soy sauce and lime. Stopped in Hotel Saratoga to check it out The door man told us we could go to the roof. Beautiful view of the city. Went back down to the lobby and had one of the best Pina Coladas. The restaurant on the way out was beautifully decorated. Our waitress Maybe was great and had a good sense of humor. Wandered back towards “B. Del Medio” to pick up more cigars Headed to Casa De Orapia Hung out at the casa’s bar again smoking cigars, drinking beers and headed to bed early
Went to Hotel Florida to use wifi to call Eri Miss her Guys met up with me Wandered around - dropped into a store selling “Barber” shirts and dresses (Eri might be a size 6) Then we headed to the Museum of the Revolution and learned about Cuba’s History (rise of Castro) After we headed back to the cigar shop near the water and our old hotel. Before buying some cigars we grabbed lunch at Restaurant Cabana (The Australians we talked to the previous morning, we ran into on the street a few times) Post lunch and buying a fresh cigar we wandered the streets to find shop on the corner of Industria (no luck - didn’t have tray but had other little items) Continued to wander further came across a train station Made it back to Hotel to relax, enjoy air conditioning before meeting our new tour guide, Ivan Met Ivan(‘E’van) and Josemani (Ozzie) Ivan gave us an overview of 9 day tour Had dinner at Donde Lis again with Ivan Chatted about Anglo War and Cuba’s relationship with the world Returned home, then had a cigar and beer before bed
At Hotel Florida had trouble connecting to wifi - so returned for breakfast at home- then ran out again to the street near El Floridita before leaving for tour. Finally figured out wifi and was able to call Eri just enough time to say “Hello” and run back for tour. We headed out to Miramar, west to an artist’s house. His name is Jose Fuster. He decorated his house and neighborhood in tiles and shaped concrete. Afterward, we headed back to Havana to see Afro Cuban “Hamal Alley” - to see art there. We said good-bye to Ozzi and Roberto (our driver) until tomorrow. Having lunch at Plaza Vieja then going to Plaza de San Francisco - viewing San Fran de Asis Church and convent, Old immigration/customs building. Then we had a drink at the East End of Obrapia. Soon after checking out the Plaza de Armas. We walked down a few streets discussing architecture, how the inside of houses don’t match the original floor plans - we also saw markets run by government for rationed goods. Ivan left us to go back to our home. We all took a nap or rest before heading out to Hotel Ambos Mundos for a night cap, the Yankee game and the view. Hungry, we left grabbed some street food (chips and fritters) and then a quick meal at El Chachullero (tried the lamb, was the best so far) Then bed.
Woke up early to speak with Eri - only got 20 minutes in then we were off to Vinales. First stop along the way was Las Terrazas - a self sustaining community of about 1,000 people helping to rebuild and preserve the land. Started with collaboration with Cuba government and UNESCO. Ottis was our tour guide we saw preschool and an iced coffee (called Cafe Las Terrazas), learned about the trees, birds, rebuilding land from years of farming, met artist Lester Camp and swam in the river. We finished our drive to Vinales - met our host family Sandra and Eddie. We dropped our bags - freshened up with a walk. Then headed to a local farm that uses a terraced farming system - no pesticides, just using flowers, sweet corn plants to know when insects attacked. The family who owns farm teaches others these methods and helps others in the world. We finished the night with a dinner on the farm - soup of squash/pumpkin, fresh veggies and meat.
Note: Cuban flower - smells like jasmine, Cuba’s tree - royal palm
Woke up early to chat with Eri - then met with everyone to exchange money No ordered queue at the bank, everyone sat politely and asked who was next, everyone knew who would be next and there was no arguing Then we met with our tour guide, Alexis. He guided us through the farms of Vinales - coffee, tobacco (Raoul, his family owned the farm - cigars), and then grabbed a drink just as the rain came down. We watched hens fight over territory until the rain stopped We continued on - heading down and out of the farms We went back to our rooms to relax before dinner We headed to a restaurant overlooking the Karster Limestone We had a cooking lesson by Alianca, a chef at the restaurant “Balcony of the Valley” Balcony del Valle STUFFED! We headed back to our room in the car - the lights on the street started to turn on and off flickering - blackout. Get back to sleep with no lights which eventually came back on so we could sleep with air conditioning
Woke up early and headed towards Cienfuegos Had lunch at Cafeteria Parakeet along the road Stopped at an art school called Korimakao - where they allow young people to apply to study art. These young people might come from backgrounds of poverty, social and family issues. They can stay however long they need. We saw demos in music, dance and an art exhibition. Korimakao - rough meaning, close to the name of hermit crab in Spanish - “carry your home with you always” We stopped to swim in the Bay of Pigs and then headed to the Museum of Giron to learn about the struggle at the Bay with mercenaries hired by the US Then we finally arrived in Cienfuegos - a town near a beautiful bay. Stayed with Lillie and Fel. Had a nice dinner at MamaParis - on the way back I tried calling Eri but the wifi didn’t work. I walked past the casa and had a taxi guy and his horse follow me until I told him “I’m good.”
Left for Trinidad. Ivan nows lives here - but his hometown, born/raised in Santa Clara We settled into our new place with Junior and Glisel Then headed out for a culture tour of Trinidad We walked to the old city core which is now protected by UNESCO. The streets are cobble stones and no cars are allowed.
Visited: “The Steps” Conspiradores, Cathedral, Plaza Mayor, Architecture Museum, Afro Cuban Temple (Santeria Temple) Lunch at La Parranda Tried our first drink of the “Canchanchara” (rum, honey, lime juice) Then Visited: Plaza del Jigue (Founding spot of Trinidad), History Museum (climbed to the roof for a view of the city) After our tour of the museums we went for a Salsa Lesson. Our instructors were Alexi and Yuri Then headed back to the room to rest and shower before dinner with Ozzie. We head to restaurant for tapas - talk with Ozzie about movies and TV and how he gets them through a “package” he pay for (It was an extremely hot day, no clouds. No mercy. Just direct sun.) Dropped by a music spot - watched a band of percussion, keyboard and violin Then headed home to sleep
Second day in Trinidad Called Eri Then headed out of the city for a short hike to a waterfall and swimming hole in the national park Then returned for a light lunch at San Jose restaurant Afterwards, we shopped, UP picked up pottery and I bought crochet table cloth and place mats from an elder woman that Ivan recommended (Her husband’s name Gomez, but don’t remember her’s, she reminded me of Grandma) Then we went home, changed and headed to the beach for a drink and swim at Ancon beach. Had dinner at home, prepared by Junior and Glisel. Then drinks and smoked a cigar before bed.
Left Trinidad Stopping on our way to Santa Clara at Manaca Iznaga to learn about the sugar plantations We climbed the tower that over looks the area - it was used to watch slaves work the fields for miles Continuing on we stopped at a government cafeteria for lunch Finally in Santa Clara we meet Ivan’s mom! And have a look at Che Guevara’s monument and learn about his important in Santa Clara leading the guerilla’s to victory in the area. He was captured on Oct 8 in Bolivia and executed on Oct 10. Both are important dates and holidays for Cubans. Finally, landing in Havana - we say goodbye to Ray (Ranaldo) our driver and settle back into our old digs at Johan’s casa. Freshen up and have a few drinks before having dinner with Ivan and Ozzie for the last time. We ate a delicious meal at Dona Eutimia and had another drink nearby. We returned home, gave Ivan and Ozzie bags of goods and tips. Hope to see them again soon.
Slept in a little today Decided on a game plan for the day
Price out cigars and make an appointment for the “marriage” which is smoking a cigar with coffee and rum Then found a bank to exchange money - met a nice guy Carlos working at the bank - UP said he learned English from TV We then returned to the cigar shop to pick up a cigar for tonight’s show Afterwards we walked the Malecon towards San Francisco de Asia. Grabbed lunch Then a beer outside - an open porch-like area - I believe government owned too Then we headed back home for a nap and to freshen up for the night We then grabbed dinner again at El Chachullero. Excellent, simple food. The taxi picked us up early for tonight. We headed to the Nationale Hotel to see the show Cabaret Parisien Had a drink and cigar before the show - Mark helped some ladies from New York smoke It was a great show - similar to Tropicana Grabbed a taxi home and passed out
Late start today Headed out around 11am Shopped along Obisipo I was hunting for a t-shirt for Eri - something I have seen locals wear - it is a full front printed t-shirt with a female celebrity in a design - usually silkscreened or dye-sublimated, it also has a lace back We got word that I might be able to find it in Chinatown so we wandered there. No luck. We headed back towards the Malecon to do the “marriage” of cigars, rum, sugar cane and coffee. Had lunch at Rest. Cabana then joined a group of tourists for the marriage hosted by Jose Valdes Marquel at Complejo Palacio Artesania I also found all of Eri’s items at this one shopping center where the cigar shop was located. Headed back to the room to relax. Then had a late dinner at our favorite place “El C” tried the fish - awesome. Headed home - to chat over cigars and beers then sleep Taxi picking us up tomorrow at 10am Can’t wait to get home to Eri.