Yesterday we put fruit salad on our rice. Today we poured yoghurt into our coffee, thinking it was milk. Needless to say, these home-stay meals take a bit of getting used to. And patience. Either that or last night’s rum addled our brains as well as our dining etiquette. Breakfast consisted of fruit, pastries, yellow bread (cornbread maybe?), omelette, ham, cheese and pancakes. Only 5CUC. We’re gonna weigh a bit more by the end of this trip.
As per Elsa’s recommendation (at Hostal Peregrino), we spent the morning with a private tour-guide. Our Cuban guy, possessing a Chinese heritage, was absolutely awesome. He knew the inside-out of every inch of the city. And he gave us a great insight into the history of the country too.
We spent the majority of the two-hour tour in Havana Vieja. He drove around in his Dad’s hand-me-down American auto… and we felt as cool as cucumbers. ‘Cool’ as in the ‘aren’t we fabulous?’ kinda way, as opposed to the opposite of warm. Cuba’s bloody hot.
Walking around the city, we spotted a lot of the sights that are featured in the guidebook; Cathedral de la Habana, Plaza de Armas, Plaza Vieja, Plaza de San Francisco… lots of plazas. Then we strolled around the neighbouring markets and looked at all the socialist books and antiques. Marx and Che are everywhere!
Calle Obispo and Mercaderes are stunning streets. And what makes them better is that they’re lined with musicians and dancers and colours!
Before we arrived at the centre of Habana Vieja (this isn’t a typo; their bs are our vs), we saw the famous lighthouse that appears in all the postcards – known as Parque Historico-Militar Morro-Cabana. The heart of Havana.
We had lunch at a recommended paladare (a home-run restaurant). Victoria and I had shrimp and lobster kebabs and Vicki had a pineapple fish thing. (Good job I’m not a food critic, eh?). These dishes were washed down with the most mouth-watering piña coladas known to man.
Rum out here is GOOD.
I’m a wee bit smashed as I write these words actually.
A wee walk in the sunshine later, and we were enjoying Cristal beers by the waterside. Old, dodgy men took photos of us so we downed the dregs and hopped into what we called a ‘bubble car’ (they’re actually called Coco taxis) and rum followed the beer at one of the oldest bars in Havana, known for their wicked mojitos: La Bodeguita del Medio.
I read ‘Dirty Havana Trilogy’ before coming away. It paints a perfect picture. The sex, the heat, the dancing, the laughter. My kinda place. Except perhaps for the lack of freedom of speech / information, etc.
It’s absolutely mental that they don’t have the internet here though. I better not say anything else. Big brother is watching.
We also spotted a rations board in one of the local shops. None of the shops here serve very much. They all feature a handful of products. Row after row of the same thing. Bizarre.
All Cubans pay the same amount of tax and this means that all food and medicines are state subsidised. We were told that there are no homeless people. And that nobody goes hungry in this country. That’s what they’re told anyway.
** Saying nothing **
Actually… it doesn’t even matter what I say. The people of Cuba can’t afford the internet; it’s only available at posh hotels and it costs more than a dinner to access it for a few minutes. Not only that; the government controls what can and can’t be accessed on the web. It’s doubtful my blog will make the cut.
We had dinner at the hostel and met a French couple who had been away travelling for TWO YEARS. This time we had beef with our rice and beans.
Even though we were knackered, we set off into the night and had daiquiris at Floridipa, and piña coladas at Paris Cafe. The live music at Floridipa was awesome – and we smoked a cigar.
All in all, a pretty successful first full day.