Thursday, March 09, 2017

Day Seven - Cuba

Waves crashing against the sea wall on the Malecon - Havana
Carmen usually alternates between a plain or cheese omelet or fried eggs but this morning she surprised us with hard boiled eggs. This always comes with cut up (cold) vienna sausages and sliced tomatoes. Since her guest Don bought tons of fruit a few days ago, we've had a plate of pineapple and papaya - Yeh! Then there is hamburger type rolls with cheese and ham, sometimes toasted. So, no starvation for sure. Most mornings we've had the company of one or two other couples staying in the front rooms (very noisy as they are on the street). This morning we had an interesting conversation with a French couple (she from France and he from Lebanon) that are working in Dubai. They love it there!
As we've thoroughly explored the old historic part of Havana we decided to head west along the Malecon to Vedado. We started at the Castillo de San Salvador and walked along the ocean for miles. It has been very windy this last week and waves crashed up on the sea wall and sometimes over into the street. Later the sea side of the street was closed to traffic for quite a ways. It's very dramatic and lots of people were out dodging the waves and taking pictures. The buildings along the ocean here are very varied. There are a number of abandonded older homes and apartment buildings interspursed with fancy cafes/restaurants and hotels. As we entered Vedado tall apartment buildings were numerous. Our American Embassy is on the shore and enormous - it was the original embassy before under Battista and is now reopened. We saw a number of other embassys in this area. Single family homes appear for the first time and lots of restaurants and hotels. The Universidad de la Habana and several hospitals crowd together in an elevated position in the center.
We found an excellent small restaurant with a fun band and good food. I had my first Viejas Ropas (it means old clothes but is a delicious stew of shredded beef, tomatoes and olives) - Paradillas 17, on 17th Street. Around the corner was a terrific surprise, Amore, an excellent gelato/bakery place.
We walked around the area enjoying the architecture and people. Unfortunately we could not find the National Association of Small Farmers that Scott wanted to visit. They listed an address on their website but there was no sign of them there, nor was the phone number working.
We finally had to take a bicyle cab back due to exhaution! But after a good rest at Carmen's we were ready to finally walk to the famous La Guarida Restaurant on Concordia (featured in the Cuban film Strawberry and Chocolate). Carmen had managed a reservation there for us on our second night in Havana and unfortunately we were so tired that night (and the reservation was for 9 pm) that we had to cancel. We couldn't get another dinner reservation so just went over to see the place and enjoy their roof top bar and a few tapas. The building looks abandoned when you go up the endless marble stairs before reaching the restaurant. Then two more flights of iron circular staircases bring you up to the roof top bar. It's spectacular! The view is 360 degrees over the city and out to the sea. The sun was just going down. We sat in the corner to watch it and had 2 rounds of their fabulous (my son Sean would drool over their drinks list) cocktails and a plate of various croquettes.
You'd think this would close the night for us. But no, we're starting to be Cuban! We took a cab over to O'Reilly 304, another famous Cuban spot. Again, no reservations but this time we lucked out and after chatting with everyone in line and the door man, the latter wangled us a small table out on the balcony. There, overlooking the street, we had our first green salads in some time, with arugula no less! This was perfectly accompanied by a basket of bread and pate. A perfect ending to a lovely day!
(more photos coming but on Scott's phone and we haven't downloaded them yet).
Waves crashing on the Malecon with the Castillo del Morro
in the background

Another view looking down the coast as the waves recede

I loved this sculpture! Notice the vintage car on the right

 A quote from a poem by Chilean Nobel Laurate Pablo
Neruda graces the sidewalk.

The historic hotel looms above this waterfall ending on the

Sorry this photo didn't come out very well but this is the
very fun band we listened to during lunch,

My Vieux Ropas beautifully presented!

Amore had not only wonderful gelato but beautiful
cakes and fresh breads.

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