Monday, April 24, 2017
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Great food, low prices and a fun loving staff to be sure.
We would return later in the week for more dining high jinx.
Good example of Cuban
As the saying goes, "Como inventan los Cubans!"
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
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
Fruits and Vegetables are
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
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
Women hard at work
The Johnson's have their
own Drug Store?
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
This crumbling building was
once one of Havana's finest
Today, not so much . . .
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
Fishermen by the Malecón
as we walked
More vintage autos
Love this paint job!
Love this car!
We opted to drive home
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
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 . . .