Monday, 26 August 2013

Havana (Part 2), Cuba

After waking with the roosters of Vinales we successfully dodged breakfast (due to the early departure) and hoped on our last Viazul bus ride to Havana for a few more days of hanging out before heading onto Mexico to celebrate Joss' 30th. We arrived at Eddies, and stayed in the 3rd different room. We had now sampled them all and the best was saved for last; we had our own little terrace getaway. After a return visit to Waoo Snack Bar for lunch we walked first to an exciting sounding live music street/area for a bit of Cuban Afro music. We however found it to be a bit of a tourist trap. As soon as we got there we were pounced on by quite a few locals talking to us in English but ultimately wanting us to give them money or buy them a drunk. We sought refuge in a bar right beside the hectic area and got chatting with a married couple Julio (who lived in Barcelona) and Diego (who lived in Mexico city). Gay travellers are very open in Cuba it seems! Although the music and atmosphere wasn't what we were after it was nice to meet some more interesting traveler sorts. Afterwards we headed to the Jazz Cafe in search of music and atmosphere more to our tempo. We thought that surely on a Sunday they would have a bit of music going on during the early afternoon but we were wrong, the live act started at 11pm (it was 5:30)! Concerned we didn't have the pesos on us to survive that long (or the stamina) we headed back to our Casa for a quick break, shower and headed back ready for action. After numerous mojitos and pina coladas a jazz pianist Roberta Fonseca and his 5 piece group played an hour set (for a 'jazz cafe' they are pretty limited with the amount of live jazz they play 1 hr per day). Although short it was pretty spectacular, and would have been better off not for the idiot tourists who chatted the whole way through. At 1 point the band was giving some death stares, luckily they weren't Aussie (just quietly one group was German, the other we think Spanish)

Roberta Fonseca and his band... and yes that is a ukulele

Our last day in Cuba we decided to try check out the Havana Belle's Artes in central Havana only to find it was closed on Mondays... Cuba. Instead we had a wander around some of the restored areas around Havana which are simple stunning but somehow lack the feel of the rest of Havana. Perhaps because they are so touristy... another thing we noticed, well we saw before but have become more frustrated with. A of people who approach us in the street and start talking to us. The ones offering cabs and restaurants are OK because if you say no to them they accept it. The ones who become annoying come up and want to talk in English and even after you say no, they continue, often interrupting our conversation. We generally assume want something in return (based on our personal experience it has been true) with makes them eloquent beggars. It has made us think back to the guy we meet earlier on Havana and how nice he was, but 2 weeks later we would have found him a nuisance and we cannot help but think we perpetuated this behaviour. Overall it is negative as ultimately tourists feel hassled and will then start to not want to visit. It isn't unique to Havana, but it is certainly the worst here - how we would do things differently now. Anyway after wandering around and having a few drinks we went for dinner at yet another of the article suggestions: Chef Ivan Gustow. Apart from the closed venues it hasn't led us astray, and again we weren't disappointed. Joss fed on what can only be described as a family of lobster, after which she said something she never thought she would 'I have had enjoy lobster please take it away'! Paul feasted on a tasty Lamb shank which came from an obviously very young lamb for which he felt extremely guilty. Although the meal was good it wasn't as good as the other nice restaurants we have been to. The dishes didn't quite come together as well (considering the price we paid). After dinner it was back to the Casa for a bit of a wind down with rum and cigars... the only way to finish off the Cuba leg of our trip.

Havana streets/alleys

Plaza Vieja one of the squares that has had the most renovations

Enjoying a beer overlooking the river

UPDATE: after a night of dual evacuations for Paul, we have downgraded the restaurant from 'recommended' to 'with caution'. Cuba has been great and very interesting, and the next post will list some of the good and bad parts of our Cuba journey.

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