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Uncle Markie out and about.

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Mar '17

Trip Report: Cuban Adventure, Part 3

Through the process of writing, editing Rach’s comments, add pictures, I’m still blown away by the experience of our days in Cuba. Reminds to write another thank you note to our host and extended family.

Back to Rache:

After another hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, mango juice, fresh papaya, cheese and ham, our driver Frank was ready for us to begin our day. Gema had arranged for someone to cover her work, so she was able to join us.

Our first stop was the Muséo Hemingway. This was house he lived in. While we couldn’t go in since it has remained how he left it, there were several doors and windows open with easy viewing of the different rooms. That man loved his books and mounted animal heads.

Mark here: And even Poppa’s Pooper…

If you look closely you can even see what appears to be weight measurement on the wall:

Back to Rache:

We were also able to ascend the tower. The first floor was where his sick cats would be treated, the second floor was where he wrote and the third floor was sort of an observation level where Papa could view his beautiful La Habana. This was a lovely mansion that has been preserved in its pre-revolutionary grandeur. 

The grounds also had a cemetery for his dogs – Black, Negrita, Linda, and Neron.  Where the tennis court once stood now stands Hemingway’s fishing boat, the Pilar, which was registered out of Key West. It was named after a secret lover’s nickname. The Pilar is significantly more substantial than that of the Old Man and the Sea.

We traveled through a very seedy area of town (San Miguel, wouldn’t you know) to get to Revolution Square.  The square noted for its giant tower honoring José Marti and of the huge likenesses of Ché and Camilo

Gema, Alain, and I opted to go to the top of the tower while Markie was happy taking photos of classic cars with Frank joining him. The top of the tower gave us perfect views of the entire city and beyond. You know, from a distance, poverty doesn’t seem to exist. Maybe it’s good to get up close and personal once in a while. Regardless, there is definitely beauty amongst the hovels.

Markie here:

By this point in the trip, my right knee was starting to get a little cranky, and the thought of all those steps made me winch. And I am an old car fan (as is our driver Frank). I’ve just put one group picture in as at some point there will be an entire car post:

Back to Rache:

Next we made a brief stop at John Lennon Square. Markie had an opportunity to pose with the Beattle. Unlike when I was last here, there wasn’t a guy there offering to ‘rent’ out glasses to adorn John’s face. There was an official in uniform who provided glasses at no charge. The regime has its advantages. I also noted the restaurant where Frank, Ron, Michael and I had a delightful lunch. 

Our tour of the city progressed to University of Havana where Gema attends. It is so beautiful with classic architecture and cute young students. The place feels like any other university I’ve visited (or attended) and it’s during these visits that I wish I could live my college years again. I love the energy these academic palaces emit. Powerful places, these are. 

We had worked up an appetite so off we were to sample paladar food. Fonda La Paila is about a block from Habana Libre (formerly the Hilton) and about a light year away from the quality of its food and atmosphere. This place just rocks. It’s open air, covered of course, and is a place that begs to be returned to again and again. It’s a place where chickens peck around your feet before the food arrives and where cats beg when lunch is served. OMG!  The food was superb. And of course, in true Cuban fashion, the portions were huge. Along with pork and onions were salad, Moros y Cristianos, and boiled sweet potatoes. Along with a couple Cuba Libre (Rum and Cola). This place rocked. For the five of us, the total was 56 CUC, less than in the touristy valley the day before. This is what Cuba is all about. Oh, and it was where I taught Gema and Alain about the concept of “doggie bags.” The waiter provided two plastic bags for the leftovers.

Our first stop in Old Havana was thwarted by Women’s Day. The Rum Museum was closed for the holiday so we will have to return. It may be a good thing as a cruise ship had arrived and there were swarms of tourists around. 

Mark here:

Rache forgot to mention that while the museum was not open, the bar attached to the museum was open (and we should have stayed for a drink and listened to the music:

Back to Rache:

We were successful afterwards however. We ascended to the Camera Obscura where we were able to see a 360º view of the city complete with a humorous presentation in Spanish and English. I’d recommend this rather obscure site.

By now the time was 4:00 PM and Gema had an event to attend in an hour. We were all dragging a bit so we came home to reboot and relax. 

Once home, Alain, a friend, Markie and I watched the critically acclaimed movie “Viva.” It was filmed in Cuba but it was not shown here. It brought a tear to Markie’s and my eye.

During the time without Gema, there was a bit of confusion. What Markie and I took to mean that dinner would be served after our final visit, it was actually served an hour before the visit. So much for a nap. I must tell you, while the food at restaurants have been excellent, Tekita knocks food out of the park. She is just amazing. And she runs a mean ship as well. When Alain came to the table as Markie and I were finishing our breakfast this morning, she informed Alain that she wouldn’t cook breakfast for him because he was getting too fat. That I could be as fat as Alain. Regardless, he didn’t get breakfast. It was Women’s Day after all. Anyway, if she ends up missing from Cuba when our plane departs, her room is waiting for me back at my casa by the mar. 

Mark here:

I have to add a most amusing picture – it is us giving Alain’s partner Luis’ mother a ride back to her apartment block – on Alain’s lap!

Back to Rache:

Our final adventure of the day came at 8 PM when Frank arrived and drove us to Moro Castle. Prior to the nightly ceremony, we had time to visit the Ché Museum and we actually got to step into his office. Very cool. One interesting note is that museums are rather relaxed in Cuba. For instance, there are some postcards Ché wrote from Africa. And they are just tacked on a board where folks can actually touch them — like I did.

The nightly ceremony began soon, leading to the firing of the canon at 9 PM. This  ritual goes back to early colonial time when the canon signaled that everyone should be within the castle walls so that pirates wouldn’t kill them. The ceremony was very nice. Gema explained what was happening while the colonial soldiers were drumming and marching by prior to the BOOM! The event was well attended — there was a cruise ship in town after all. This was a sweet event and was on my list of things to do. 

After the event, the crowd leisurely dispersed. As we drove home, we passed Ché’s home (it was dark) and passed through the neighborhood of Casablanca. It was a nice area.

Once home, I joined Markie in a nightly cocktail before retiring to my best night’s sleep here yet. I am reminded of the phrase, “This will make you feel better as you’re getting better.” Someone famous said that. 

Mark here:

As you can well guess, I had more than one nightly cocktail.


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