Monday, April 24, 2017

A Trip to San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba - Day IV

And now for something completely different . . .

CUBAN FACT OF THE DAY: The average Cuban makes about $40 CUCs a month. That is about $40 USD.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017:

Today we planned to split our forces based completely along sexual lines.

This La Casa Azul passageway
to the kitchen is a bit narrow

 Street Marker

I like the way that Cubans state their addresses.

Por ejemplo, La Casa Azul is located at 17 entre M y N, 56 altos, el Vedado, La Habana.

This would translate as 56 17th Street, upper floor, between M Street and N Street.

If you are in a car though, it is hard to read these low markers on the sidewalk at each corner, especially at night.

Breakfast at
Café Galeria Mamainé

We had a great time at dinner here last night, so we opted to return again this morning.

The breakfast menu
had lots of choices and
low prices

We were seated in the only air conditioned room in the Café, unfortunately the service was slow even by Cuban standards.

So, we entertained ourselves

First by reading this award winning cartoon series that was hanging on the wall with its story line and drawings both coming from one of the owners of the Café.

Then we played charades.

As I said, the service was slow.

Every good Cuban breakfast
comes with a hot dog, the new
breakfast meat

The experience here confirmed that we would no longer dare to eat breakfast anywhere but at La Casa Azul the rest of the week.

Our cook at La Casa Azul, Chela, is just flat out AWESOME! We vowed to never disrespect her again by eating breakfast out.

Sophie's Dad, Mark, nearly vomits
when some one calls it soda

To him, it MUST be called pop or soda pop, never just soda

When I saw the sign above Sophie's head, I just had to have a photo.

 Another vintage car

 Unrationed fruits and
vegetables again

As I mentioned at the start of the post, we were splitting up for the day.

We walked the four ladies to the nearby Hotel Nacional de Cuba for a pool day.

My goodness, these cars are

 Just a classic hotel

 The pool area was lovely

A pool day cost $22 CUCs per person.

This fee broke down as follows: $5 CUCs for the pool usage, $2 CUCs to rent a towel and $15 towards food and/or drinks from the pool bar.

GREAT DEAL if you ask me.

The Hotel Nacional de Cuba
has excellent bars

As for Mark and I, we were off to the small town of San Antonio de los Baños founded in 1775 and located about 18 miles southwest of Havana. 

Our cab driver
Anna Isabel

She knew, in theory, where we were headed but admitted not having been there in years. Signage for a small town like this, population 46,000, was poor at best and GPS has still not been invented in Cuba.

It must be said that finding a driver willing to takes us there and back was not easy as they view a 36 mile round trip journey the way we would think of going round trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

And one point about half way to San Antonio de los Baños, we stopped to ask a pedestrian if we were going the right way.

He told us to continue up the roadway and then ask another person. We did this about four times and got there eventually.

 We were in the middle of some
serious Cuban farm country

The towns along the way used
these horse drawn carriages
as public busses

We finally got to our destination in a timely fashion.

The reason for this odd excursion was that my Great Uncle Dr. José Ruiz de Villa and his family lived there back in the day.

I had great fun in the 1950s playing on the plaza in front of their home with my cousin Amadita and just wanted to see their home again.

It was a nostalgia thing obviously.

Now, could we find the right plaza? 

 José Martí was on the
first plaza we encountered

We arranged for Anna Isabel to pick us up in about an hour and started our quest.

That's not it

 Right location on this plaza,
but it didn't feel quite right


There was another plaza
in the distance

Maybe that was the right one.

Two things for sure, A. San Antonio de los Baños has a lot of cool signs and B. we were the only two tourists inside the city limits today.

I was a bit hungry

Little market for the locals

 Not sure what this place was

This plaza was bigger
than the first one

 Camilo Cienfuegos


This is the place that I remembered!

We knocked on the door and asked the young man of about 30 years of age inside if Dr. Ruiz de Villa used to live there. He said that he thought so and that his Dad would know for sure but he was not at home at the time.

It was the right place, I was sure of it.

Mission accomplished, we continued to roam the city in search of a school in order to donate more materials.


Cool Architecture

The Old Fox

Castro and Martí

Selling Liberated Products?

 Only Changó and Jobu know
what they sell here

 Nice corner building

The school we were in need of finding was just around the corner.

Cristina happily accepted
our gifts for the kids

 She really liked all of
the pencils we donated

Again, normally the school can give each student only one pencil per month.

Nice construction techniques

Mark enjoyed a 65 centavos
lunch at this fine dining spot

The ride back to the Hotel Nacional was much easier as the way back to La Habana was clearly marked.

Back at the Hotel Nacional
de Cuba's pool

Our foursome was still there and they still had enough money left on their collective $60 CUCs bar tab to buy a round of drinks and something for us to eat.

 Cuban sandwiches . . .

Wedding pictures at the Hotel

And yet another cool car

Three of our princesses
on La Casa Azul balcony

For dinner, we ate next door at
El Rinconcito

Great food, low prices and a fun loving staff to be sure.

Such fun!

We would return later in the week for more dining high jinx.

Good example of Cuban
electrical wizardry

As the saying goes, "Como inventan los Cubans!"

Tuesday in La Habana - Day III

The Adventure continues . . .

CUBAN FACT OF THE DAY: Santeria, or saint worship, has been deeply entrenched in Cuban culture for over 300 years. This cult is a fusion of Catholicism with the Lucumi religion of the African Yoruba tribes of modern day countries of Nigeria and Benin.

Jobu, is that you?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017:

Our first stop of the day was just across the street from La Casa Azul for another round of that great Cuban game of queuing, this time at the Banco Metropolitano to exchange some more currency.

 The queue started about an hour
before the Banco opened

When one arrives, the first rule of Cuban queuing etiquette is to say "Ultimo?"

This is a simple request to find out who is currently last in line so that you know who you are now allowed to follow into the Banco. It is quite all right to leave the queue to get a cup of coffee, go to the bathroom or visit a friend so long as you are back before your turn comes up.

Of course, you must pray to the Santeria god Changó that the person in front of you returns in time as well or the whole system collapses into utter chaos.

Speaking of Santeria . . .

A woman in all white suggests, in Cuban culture, a Santera.

Money exchanged, we were off yet again.

The Vedado's Local
Communist Party Headquarters

The Revolución!

 As stated before,
José Martí is HUGE in Cuba

 So are these pants

Colorful streets of Habana Vieja

 Che is as iconic in Cuba
as José Martí

Apparently Tuesday is
Laundry Day too

 All it needs is a little paint

Laurie loving the street rhythms

Even more of Tuesday
Laundry Day

Fruits and Vegetables are
not rationed

Meat, eggs and rice are.

Rum for sale

 Love these streets

You had to be there . . .

Men at Work

Man at Work

Not sure who he is
but I like his fashion sense

 Time for lunch

 The piano music also pulled us
right in to the Hotel Ambos Mundos

This was the hotel that Ernest Hemingway liked to use when visiting La Habana. He wrote The Green Hills of Africa and Death in the Afternoon while living in the Hotel's Room 511.

The Gang waiting for the
Cuban sandwiches to arrive

 Sophie on the sixth floor before
visiting Room 511 that is now . . .

A Hemingway mini-museum

Hemingway's typewriter

It sits on an adjustable desk that could be raised so that he could write while standing.


Room 511 was small but interesting and worth the visit..

Cuban women love their cigars
just like the Cuban men do

 We decided to walk down
Calle Obispo

Women hard at work

 The Johnson's have their
own Drug Store?

Good souvenirs

 Of course it's a liquor store

Cuban Sancho Panza

Outside José Martí Primary School

Where Hemingway liked to go
for his daily ration of  daiquirís

Rumor has it that he had a rather huge ration book.

Capitolio on the left,
Gran Teatro on the right

The Partagás Cigar Factory

We came to take a tour of the factory to see how these staples of the Cuban economy were made.

Unfortunately, since we were here last, the actual production site had been moved about three kilometers farther away. Now the space is used for offices.

At this point, the Johnson's decided to head back via a taxi to the safety of La Casa Azul as torrential rains were threatening the city.

Laurie and I would remain at the Partagás Factory's Cigar Bar to enjoy the aromas.

Lots of choices but we did not
make any purchases

A nice choice of rums too

Our newest best
friends in Havana

Oh the great people you meet at the Partagás Cigar Bar! 

She was still rolling a few
cigars for the customers
in the bar

The threatening clouds had blown through the city, so we went for a walk.

Down the Paseo de Martí,
 aka, El Prado

 Bygone glory along El Prado

A little of everything
good about La Habana

Posing with an El Prado
Guardian Lion

This crumbling building was
once one of Havana's finest
department stores

Today, not so much . . .

Great mustache

The Hotel Lincoln

This was the dive hotel that I
stayed in during my last
trip here about 12 years ago

 Good use of pastels

Cubans LOVE playing dominoes

How old is this public phone?

Still loving the Malecón

 Same sculpture,
different angle

 Fishermen by the Malecón
as we walked

More vintage autos

Love this paint job!

Love this car!

 We opted to drive home
in luxury!

It's a 1952 Chevrolet and was a sweet ride.

For dinner we went to yet another nearby restaurant, the Café Galeria Mamainé.

 Sophia and Mallory ordered
fabulous cheese and
basil sandwiches

Laurie went with a hamburger

Dinner and drinks for six,
only $44.45 CUCs!

My final thought for this post deals with baseball in Cuba.

Twelve years ago we saw kids playing beisball, as they spell it here, in every park, vacant lot and narrow street that we entered. I remember being a bit taken aback by the total absence of soccer activity.

On this trip we only saw two occasions, both in the outskirts of Havana, of any beisball being played whatsoever. In the city itself we didn't even see anyone playing catch.

On the other hand we did see lots of people playing soccer.

This may be part of the reason for the recent lack of success of the Cuban National team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Just saying . . .