Habana Cuba: A tarnished pearl for the America's. The long, lost capital city of a the rogue socialist state. One that dared give the US the finger and survived, despite a very severe and troubling 50 year old plus US economic embargo.
Flashback to now; It's a lifetime or two later. I'm with Janet. We've been together 16 years or so! With us are our good friends May, Wendy and El Gordo. So, it's off to Havana we go, early morning on a bright sunny February 2017 day:
First stop –"Revolution Square"! Our Chevy pulls up curbside along a bevy of brightly colourful, faithfully maintained 1950’s American cars. Buicks, Chevys, Fords, Pontiacs, Studebakers, the list goes on and on. Most predate the 1959 "Triumph of the Revolution" and the attendant 1961 embargo, when the mafio’s and other assorted Amerikan bad boys were sent packing.
Crossing under the harbour causeway to Morro Castle, we lunch at a nearby small, very rustic, Cuban communista themed "particular" bar and grill, not far from Che's old home digs. Portraits of Fidel and Raul smile down on us. A rooster struts about. We feast on fired chicken, plantain, salad and drinks in a courtyard under the sprawling palm trees. The house band entertains us with a bevy of sweet, very melodic and "authentico" trovas and sons. It's much, much more food than we can eat. Perfectly prepared. The cost, with a big tip, is about $15 CUCs each!
Unfortunately, the famous, downtown Partaga's cigar factory, behind the old US styled Capitol building, is now closed. But it's not all bad news -the whole neighbourhood is finally being renovated and restored. Much of old Habana is a designated world heritage site!
Unfortunately, I 've had to quit smoking tobacco for health reasons, but my buddy is still a hard core Cuban cigar aficionado. At the downstairs store he loads up on boxes of top brand name Cuban cigars, well below the cost one would pay back home in Canada -puro/ pure perfection with a bonafide government stamp!
"Oh Boy! Cigar Factories! A Communist Bar!"
Janet and I nip up to the rooftop patio for a moment alone. Enjoy an excellent free view of the city centre. We admire the looming, Gothic style Bacardi building, and the US style Capitol State dome. It's a mad mix, or a back splash if you will, of Spanish, French American and Russian architecture. The lingering legacy of so many would be conquerors, now long since come and gone, as Habana hopefully welcomes the dawn of a new century promised by Obama and Raul last spring.
El Papa y I talk writing [or something like that ...]
Afterwards, Jose drops us off at Papa Ernest Hemingway's "Floridita" bar, a few blocks away from the Plaza Hotel. We nudge our way in through the jam packed crowd. $15 CUCs buys us a couple of drinks, expensive by Cuban standards. Our perch at the bar is but an island in the stream of endless daiquiri's and tourista bravado, the permanent Floridita happy hour still going full tilt, considerably much more so than I've ever experienced before!
A Camilo Cienfuegos Revolutionary Bank Note Signed By Bank President Che Gueverra!