Cuban Diary: A Few of Hemingway’s Bars

While we were in Cuba, we visited three bars because of their famous connection with Ernest Hemingway. On our second day in Havana, as we were standing at the corner of Calle Obispo and Mercaderes, beside the Hotel Ambos Mundos (where Hemingway lived from 1932 to 1939), the guide told us about a bar around the corner that was (supposedly) frequented by Hemingway.

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La Bodeguita del Medio

La Bodeguita del Medio is extremely popular with tourists, who fill the street to look inside and to buy mojitos.

One wall of La Bodeguita del Medio is covered with photographs of Hemingway.

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Wall of La Bodeguita del Medio with photographs of Ernest Hemingway

Sloppy Joe’s, on the corner of Calle Animas and Zulueta in Old Havana, has been a landmark of Havana since Prohibition in the US.

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Sloppy Joe’s

Sloppy Joe’s was extremely popular with American celebrities (e.g., John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, and Clark Gable) and their fans, who accounted for 90% of its business, until the 1959 Cuban Revolution. Nationalization, lack of business, and a fire closed Sloppy Joe’s in 1965 for 48 years.

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Exterior of Sloppy Joe’s

Restoration of the bar in the same building was begun by the Cuban government in 2007, and the bar reopened on Friday, April 12, 2013.

The original bar can be seen in the 1959 movie Our Man in Havana, starring Alec Guiness.

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60 foot bar in Sloppy Joe’s

Many of the same foods and drinks that were offered before are on the current menu. (Fun fact: The sloppy joe sandwich was supposedly inspired by this bar.) However, the menu items are too expensive for most Cuban citizens.

The third Hemingway bar that we visited is El Floridita on the corner of Calle Obispo and Monserrate (across from the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana).

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Exterior of El Floridita

There are many memorabilia of Hemingway here, including framed photographs on the walls, a bust, and a life-sized bronze statue sitting on a bar stool at the end of the bar, with a book and glasses resting on the bar in front of it. The spot next to the statue is popular with tourists, for posing with the famous author.

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Statue of Ernest Hemingway

There is a small enclosed area for a five-piece band playing (and singing) Cuban music.

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Band at El Floridita

The specialty at El Floridita is the daiquiri.

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Special daiquiri at El Floridita

Supposedly, Hemingway and his wife continued to drive to El Floridita for drinks even after their move to Finca Vigia outside Havana.

Stay tuned for more of our Cuban diary. Remaining posts will highlight vintage cars, public art, night photos, and general impressions. If you want to catch up on previous posts, read:

Eight Days in Cuba: an Introduction

Cuban Diary Day 1: Arriving in Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 2: Squares of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 2: Views of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 3: Cigars, Salad and Salsa

Cuban Diary Day 3: Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia

Cuban Diary Day 4: Religion, Restoration, and Revolution

Cuban Diary Day 5: Society, Art, and a Micro-brewery

Cuban Diary Day 6: Las Terrazas Eco-community

Cuban Diary Day 7: Music and Revolution

Cuban Diary Day 8: Leaving Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 7: Music and Revolution

Friday, 13 May 2016

This morning Caridad woke up at 6 am, a repeat of all the other mornings, except that there was no water pooled on the bathroom floor: the repair was good! There is a slight smell of cigarette smoke again.

Today is Friday the 13th. We can wish that they do not celebrate this day in Cuba.

Down at breakfast, we chose eggs (boiled for Caridad, sunny-side up for Lazaro), toast (with  runny jelly), pastry that was almost soft, dates, juice, and two cups of coffee. The liquid is important.

We stopped at a gift shop in the lobby to buy two postcards, but between the cash reserves of the two gift shops, she could not make change for a 5 CUC note. The cards cost 1.40 CUC. It is hard for a tourist to come up with 1.40 CUC, since the smallest money they like to give us is a 3 CUC note, and usually it is a 5, 10, or 20 CUC note. We told her we would stop by later. She was disappointed, more for herself than for us, we think.

Back at the room, we turned on the TV to watch CNN for a few minutes. The top story was that Russia denied illegal doping at the last Olympics. This CNN seems to be only a subset of what we see, with no real news stories, only feature stories, e.g., lung disease in South Africa.

We waited for the bus on the hotel veranda, and when our guide appeared, got on the bus to wait in the AC.  Another of our group is sick this morning and will miss the day’s activities.

Our first stop was at the Museum of the Revolution. Each school child in Havana (perhaps in Cuba) is brought to visit this museum twice during their school years:  once before high school and once during high school. Here there are three floors devoted to telling the story of the revolution in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The beautiful interior of the rotunda is shown at left, above. On the right is a photograph of an enigmatic artwork on the first floor: a machete fed through a typewriter.

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Los Cretinos (The Cretins), Museum of the Revolution

Around the corner from the typewriter/machete is a large famous mural, featuring Fulgencio Batista, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. (We saw a parody of this mural in the artist’s workshop yesterday, except that the featured characters were Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush, and a prostitute with AIDS on a horse.)

On the second floor is an impressive statue of Che Guevara, Fidel Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos riding a wave (photograph above left). On the right is a famous poster of Fidel Castro.

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Map explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis

The coverage of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs was limited to one showcase about 6 feet wide by 7 feet tall.  Above is a map from the display.

The boat Gramma, on which Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and about 80 revolutionaries sailed from Mexico to Cuba in November, 1956, was not visible in its glass building behind the museum. Perhaps it was there, but the windows were all obscured.

Our next stop was at the Colibri recording company and Abdala Recording Studios, where recording, mixing, and mastering services are offered. Abdala is run by the Cuban Ministry of Culture.  Here there are 2 recording studies and associated rooms for creating CDs, DVD, and TV programs. We got to watch a group working on creating a recording from several tracks (base, metal, winds, and voice). The first track recorded is the base track, which is the bass, percussion, and piano. The other tracks are recorded to synchronize with the base track. Then we were shown the rooms and booths where the artists perform. Finally, we got to talk with the man who does the final editing on a recording, making the master copy. The guide there gave us a CD of Cuban music to keep.

Our next stop was lunch at the El Aljibe restaurant. We were served a salad of shredded cabbage and slivers of tomato and cucumber, sweet potato chips, rice, black beans, chicken, rolls, orange-flavored ice cream, and espresso. It was good. Two performers played and sang for us; we bought a CD from them, called Havanason.

After this, the bus returned to the hotel, where all but five got off. The rest of us were driven to Old Havana. The two of us finally found Sloppy Joe’s, another Ernest Hemingway hangout, nice but very different from Las Floriditas. It was very near where we were looking last night, but the fellow from last night’s restaurant had marked the wrong location on our map (one street away). After this, we walked back to La Floriditas, where another band was playing. This band was all male except for one woman who sang and collected tips; their music was nice, but not as good as the women last night. A few more pictures, and we walked back to the squares we had visited before, taking some good street pictures.

Along the way, we came upon a concert in the Plaza des Armas, which occurs only once a month.

Then we walked back to the taxi area and hired a fellow with a yellow 1955 Buick Roadmaster convertible to take us back to the hotel to blog and freshen up before dinner tonight.

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U.S. Embassy

On the way to the hotel, we passed the US Embassy, as we have almost daily since arriving in Havana.  Missing from this photograph is the forest of approximately 150 flagpoles erected by the Cuban government to block, with their black flags,  a billboard on the top floors of the embassy that broadcast messages in 5-foot tall letters.  An example of the messages displayed is Abraham Lincoln’s words: “No man is good enough to govern another man without his consent.”  The flags and the billboard are not there now; the billboard was operational from Martin Luther King Day (January 16) of 2006 to June 2009. The flagpoles still stand.

We calculated how much money we will need to cover expenses before we leave Cuba tomorrow, and Lazaro exchanged enough US dollars to cover that. We don’t expect to eat tomorrow until we get to Tampa. We will leave the hotel at 6:15 am tomorrow, before the restaurant opens at 7. According to our guide, food choices at the airport include four options: ham and cheese sandwiches, ham sandwiches, cheese sandwiches, and cheese and ham sandwiches.  While our tour covers breakfast at the hotel, we do not expect to be sorry to miss it tomorrow.

We left on the bus at 7 pm for our farewell dinner at the Conde del Castillo Restaurant inside the 5 star (government-owned) Hotel Palacio del Marqués de San Felipe y Santiago de Bejucal. The restaurant is beautifully laid out in a private room that seats around 20 people at two large and one small table. We 15 (tour group members plus our tour guide and driver) were the only patrons. The meal consisted of a small salad, fish, vegetables, and rice, with ice cream and espresso for dessert. The fish was overcooked to the point that only the inner parts were edible and had little taste. The servers were pleasant, but service was very slow. There were several toasts to our guide and driver, who took excellent care of us during our stay.

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Church and Monastery of St. Francis, Plaza de San Francisco

We left the restaurant after 9 pm, walked through the  Plaza de San Francisco to reach the bus, and were back at the hotel by 9:30, where we bought a 500mL bottle of water to tide us over until tomorrow. After packing and showers, we were in bed by 11 pm.

 Stay tuned for more of our Cuban diary. If you want to catch up on the first days, read:

Eight Days in Cuba: an Introduction

Cuban Diary Day 1: Arriving in Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 2: Squares of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 2: Views of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 3: Cigars, Salad and Salsa

Cuban Diary Day 3: Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia

Cuban Diary Day 4: Religion, Restoration, and Revolution

Cuban Diary Day 5: Society, Art, and a Micro-brewery

Cuban Diary Day 6: Las Terrazas Eco-community

Cuban Diary Day 6: Las Terrazas Eco-community

 Thursday, 12 May 2016

This morning Caridad got up at 5:30, since we have an 8:30 start. The towel she put under the bathroom sink to catch the plumbing drips was soaked and water was pooled in front of it, just where someone stands to use the sink. The plumbing leak has been getting progressively worse each day. There is a floor drain under the sink, but the water does not go anywhere near it. Caridad mopped up the water with the towel and wrung it out in the tub (three times). The maid had left a towel animal for us yesterday, and it was a shame to sacrifice it to mop up water. When Caridad got out of the shower, the dripping of the sink was audible as the water drops hit the towel on the floor. While the leaking of the sink has gotten much worse, the toilet has been working better for the past two days.

Lazaro feels much better this morning, stomach-wise, and the wound on his head appears to be healing.

As Caridad sits typing this, the cigarette smell is getting worse.

The drinking water situation for us is getting serious, since we have been unable to get out to buy large bottles of water. We each get 500 mL per day on the bus, and the same size bottle costs 2 CUC in the hotel. The hotel doesn’t sell larger bottles.

A few words about our tour group members: of the 13, 2 are from California, 4 from Virginia, 2 from Washington, DC, 1 from Pennsylvania, 3 from New York, and 1 from Maine. We are West Coast and East Coast, and we are as varied in opinions as would be expected, a microcosm of the US. We have (at least) one Trump supporter; while some others express strong opinions that suggest political leanings, they have not openly declared for a candidate.

Since we are going out in the country today, we are using sunscreen and an insect repellent with picaridin to discourage mosquitoes from biting us. We haven’t seen any mosquitoes yet, but the Zika virus is here in Cuba (with cases in Havana, even) and we don’t want to risk taking it back to the US.

Downstairs at breakfast, we had the tried and true: hard-boiled egg, toast (without the runny “jam”), dates, and coffee, as well as some pineapple that was fresh. Our new theory is that fresh food appears on Wednesdays and stays there (for at least a week) until it is eaten. Our first breakfast here was Sunday, the 5th day of the cycle. Today Caridad tried a half-slice of French toast, with some kind of syrup, as a test. She could not cut a bite off with a knife, which left only a faint depression after a few long seconds of sawing. Lazaro said that he has seen people put the tough bread through the toaster, but, of course, we don’t know if it worked for them.

We were back downstairs early for the scheduled 8:30 bus departure (that happened at 8:45). After about an hour on the bus, we arrived at Las Terrazas eco-community and picked up a guide for Las Terrazas. Here we were given a welcome drink and musical performance.

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Papermaking in the studio of Ariel Gato Miranda

Since the briefing room there was being renovated, the guide briefed us on the bus ride to the first stop, a local artist, Ariel Gato Miranda. This man makes paper from recycled office paper and silkscreens his designs on this paper to make smaller prints and notepaper. He also makes wooden hummingbirds from bits of leftover wood. These hummingbirds come apart for easy transportation. Our souvenirs were a hummingbird and an art print.

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Hulling coffee beans at Las Terrazas

After this, we drove to the site of an ancient coffee plantation that had been owned by the Spanish and worked by their slaves. The guide explained how coffee beans were picked, dried, and hulled by the slaves. She showed us where the slaves were locked in at night, with a dozen slaves in each stone room than was about 8 feet on each side. There were 10 such rooms.

At each place, the guide pointed out trees, plants, and birds. The Cuban trogon, pictured on the left above, is the national bird of Cuba. It is known in Cuba as the tocororo, or tocoloro, for its call.  This trogon is sitting on the branch of a tree with the nickname “English Tree,” so-named for its red bark that looks like sunburned and peeling skin. The lichen (pictured on the right above) that grows on some trees as splotches or stripes, depending on the type of tree, indicates that the health of the air is good in this area.

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The original Maria of Café de María.

We made a stop at the village shops that service the community. Here we were able to sample local Cuban coffee in the Café de María.

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Chickens at Casa del Campesino

We went from here to Casa del Campesino, where we had lunch. We had a salad (cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber), bread, sweet potato crisps, rice, black beans, chicken, shredded pork, and chocolate ice cream and coffee (espresso) for dessert. While we ate, a peacock and a mother hen with chicks searched the ground just in front of the restaurant for crumbs. One brave chick ventured inside to search between feet under the tables .

While the itinerary listed free time to swim at Rio San Juan, the Las Terrazas guide told us that was not possible because there had not been enough rain for the past three months. When some group members asked whether we could see it anyway, she declined, saying the place “would be embarrassing.”

We headed back to Havana on the bus. The local guide accompanied us for a few miles before getting off near her home.

On the bus, the tour members questioned our guide about various topics. Our guide, in discussing higher education in Cuba, described someone she knows who has a college degree in computer science, but at his job was asked to use MS-2. After a few seconds, someone said “DOS,” but the moment passed. The guide did not realize that MS-DOS means “Microsoft Disk Operating System”; she just translated the Spanish word “dos” into the English “two.”  (MS-DOS was principally used from the 1980s to the mid-1990s, after which it was gradually superceded by Microsoft Windows, although it was the underlying basic operating system through Windows 98 SE. Microsoft support for Windows 98 SE ended on July 11, 2006.  The guide’s acquaintance was being asked to work with a system that hasn’t been supported for 10 years.)

We arranged with our guide for a reservation for dinner at a restaurant in Old Havana. We will go and return by taxi on our own.

We were all returned to our hotel to freshen up before dinner. Five of the group are going in a convertible old car to the Tropicana for a show tonight. They will be out very late.

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Towel swan

When we got to our room, we found that the plumbing for the sink had been repaired while we were out. There are new supply lines and shutoffs. This should be the end of the leaking. This probably means that our toilet was also actually repaired several days ago. As an added bonus, our maid left us a towel swan, which we can now keep intact.

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Menu at Restaurant Moneda Cubana

Dinner is at Restaurant Moneda Cubana on the corner of Mercaderes and Empedrado Streets, near the Cathedral Square at 7 pm. We took a taxi from the hotel and were at the restaurant 15 minutes early, but they seated us anyway. We had a table for two on the rooftop, at the edge with a beautiful view of the fort across the Bay of Havana and of the surrounding buildings and the small park below where boys were playing. The dinner was bread (rolls, large crackers, and bread sticks) with a dipping sauce, squash soup, two large lobster tails each, rice, and some cooked green pepper and cucumber slices. It was delicious.

As we were finishing, we saw that four members of our tour group were seated at the other end of the roof from us. Our guide had independently recommended the restaurant to all of us, but we didn’t know we would all end up there. We were finished before they were served.

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Ernest Hemingway in La Floriditas

After this, we walked to El Floridita, which is a bar that Ernest Hemingway made famous. There is a life-sized statue of him posed at the end of the bar, and many tourists have their picture taken with “him.” After taking pictures, we sat and listened to a small band play Cuban music. There were four women (singer, drums, guitar, and flute) and one man (bass) in the band and they were quite good.

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Statue of José Martí, in Central Park, Havana

After this, we walked around taking pictures after dark of streets, statues, buildings, and parts of buildings (e.g., towers). We walked back to the same area near our restaurant and declined offers of taxis until a young man with a green 1952 Pontiac approached us. His car has a Toyota engine and a Citron steering wheel. He drove us back to the hotel for a good price.

We bought a 500 mL bottle of water before going back to our room. Then blogging and bed. Tomorrow the bus leaves at 9 am.

Stay tuned for more of our Cuban diary. If you want to catch up on the first days, read:

Eight Days in Cuba: an Introduction

Cuban Diary Day 1: Arriving in Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 2: Squares of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 2: Views of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 3: Cigars, Salad and Salsa

Cuban Diary Day 3: Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia

Cuban Diary Day 4: Religion, Restoration, and Revolution

Cuban Diary Day 5: Society, Art, and a Micro-brewery

Cuban Diary Day 3: Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia

Monday, 9 May 2016

On the third day of our Cuba tour,  we visited Finca La Vigía, which was Ernest Hemingway’s residence in San Francisco de Paula from 1939 until his death in 1961.  Two well-known novels were finished here (For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea), as well as the autobiographical A Movable Feast.  (After renting for about a year, he bought the property in 1940 with some of the royalties from For Whom the Bell Tolls.)  Finca La Vigía is in a secluded location about 10 miles east of Havana. Cubans are very proud of Hemingway.

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Map of the Finca Vigía museum

The Cuban government took possession of the property after Hemingway’s death, and it was opened to the public in 2007 as the Finca Vigia museum after two years of restoration. The map of the property, pictured above, was created quickly for the visit of US First Lady Michelle Obama in March, 2016. (The property is small and the map really isn’t necessary.)

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Hemingway’s guest house, viewed from the main house

The guest house is located beside the road on the way to the main house. It now houses offices and meeting rooms.

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Front entrance, Hemingway Main House

To the left of the front entrance to the main house, at the top of the steps, is a bell that was rung to announce guests. If the guest was particularly important, then the small cannon inside the front door were also used to announce the visitor.

While the main house and tower are not open for entry by the public, it is possible to view the rooms through large open windows.

Hemingway’s typewriter is still in the house. (He wrote standing up, in his underwear, at the bookcase pictured on the left.) His fourth wife, Mary, had the tower room constructed as a light and airy space for writing, but he preferred to write in his bedroom.

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View of Havana and the sea from Finca Vigía

The name “Finca Vigía” means “lookout house” or “lookout farm” in Spanish, because the view from the tower includes Havana with the Gulf of Mexico to the north. Also visible in the picture is smoke rising from the Ñico Lopez oil refinery in Havana harbor, currently operating at 40% capacity.  (This refinery was formerly Esso and Shell oil refineries until nationalized by Cuba in June, 1960.)

Adjacent to Hemingway’s bedroom is his closet with his war correspondent’s jacket and many pairs of boots.

Next to the closet is the bathroom, with his weight chart written by hand on the wall. The left-most entry is 192 pounds on July 20; the heaviest entry is 240 pounds on March 3. The year associated with many of the dates is unclear, although some are specified (e.g., 214 pounds on April 15, 1956). His 1944 passport listed his height as 6 feet and his weight as 220 pounds.

The dining room and living room on the main floor remain as they were when Hemingway lived there.

Items in the rooms that are stereotypical Hemingway are the many hunting trophies mounted on the walls and the bottles of alcoholic beverages (some empty, some not) sitting on table tops.

Hemingway’s swimming pool, the first in Cuba, is dry now. The bath house contains a small gallery of photographs of Hemingway and others.

Hemingway’s fishing boat, Pilar, is viewed from an elevated walkway. Pilar is both the nickname of his second wife Pauline and the name of a character in his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls. His novels The Old Man and the Sea and Islands in the Stream were influenced by his time in the Pilar. During World War II, he used Pilar to search for German submarines and reported their locations to the US Navy.

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Hemingway’s Pet Cemetery

The pet cemetery contains four of Hemingway’s dogs; two of these dogs died in the care of his staff after his own death in 1961. The young woman in the photograph above is actually taking a “selfie” of herself with Hemingway’s boat Pilar, seemingly unaware that she is posing in a cemetery.

Many visitors arrive in 1950s era cars, providing photo opportunities for those who remember those cars fondly.

Stay tuned for more of our Cuban diary. If you want to catch up on the first days, read:

Eight Days in Cuba: an Introduction

Cuban Diary Day 1: Arriving in Cuba

Cuban Diary Day 2: Squares of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 2: Views of Old Havana

Cuban Diary Day 3: Cigars, Salad and Salsa

 

Cuban Diary Day 2: Squares of Old Havana

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Today is our second day in Havana, Cuba.

Caridad got up at 6:30. We discussed turning on the TV to see what Cuba shows looked like, but decided against it because it was still early. At that moment, a sound like a jackhammer began at the wall with the TV. After checking the TV (not on) and the refrigerator (no sound), we concluded that the sound was airhammering in the waterpipes. As confirmation, the jackhammer stopped in a few minutes and we could hear the sound of the shower of our next-door neighbor. Well, after that, we knew we weren’t waking up our neighbor, so we checked out the TV shows, which weren’t that interesting, so off the set went again.

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Salon Miramar Buffet in Hotel Presidente

We went down to breakfast in the hotel breakfast room, the Salon Miramar Buffet, at about 8. Breakfast was buffet style, and nothing looked appetizing, ranging between the unappealing and the inedible. We each tried eggs, fruit, and other options, and settled on toast as the best choice. This was only possible because Lazaro repaired the toaster, which had serious flaws: the bread went through so fast that it had no time to toast, and because of the speed and the misalignment of the conveyor belts, the toast was propelled off the conveyor belt at the back of the run, requiring the use of tongs (and risking a burn and electrocution) to grab the toast. Lazaro assessed the problem and adjusted the speed and the alignment of the toaster conveyor belt. After this, there was a great demand for the toaster. (We expect that the toaster will be returned to its previous inefficient operation by tomorrow. We shall see.) Caridad’s hard-boiled egg was normal and she was thankful for that. Among the pastries were baguettes, which looked unappetizing and would make a Frenchman cry. On the other hand, after the first cup (which was only creamed water as it came out of the coffee maker), the coffee was delicious. We can’t understand why the food is so bad, since the ingredients are available. They are just badly prepared.

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Taxi

We were in the lobby waiting for the guide well before the 9:30 meeting time.  We met the rest of the group: the other 5 group members arrived yesterday on flights from Miami. The 13th group member should arrive sometime today. While waiting, we learned from other tour members that they had tried to buy internet cards but were told that the internet is not working anywhere in Havana because it is Mother’s Day. (The guide told us later that the internet was overwhelmed by people calling their mothers.)

The weather continues to be fine, mid to high 70s and breezy, with a few beautiful clouds in a light blue sky. Sitting in the outer part of the hotel lobby is very pleasant. With the doors and windows open there, the breeze is quite pleasant. The walls are covered with framed photographs of buildings, which must be Havana; while the pictures are unremarkable, the total effect is pleasing.

The bus took us to Old Havana, where we explored three important squares and surrounding buildings (outsides only): Plaza de San Francisco facing the harbor at the entrance to Old Havana; Plaza de Armas with its statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes del Castillo and second-hand book stalls, and Plaza de la Catedral.

At the Plaza de San Francisco, there were two ladies in costumes with props of flowers, wanting money for picture taking. Since we had no small bills, we declined the opportunity. At this square and the next, there was a sketch artist who would sketch out a picture of a group member and then approach that person to be paid. Usually we were safe from such people (except the “artists”) when in the group, but anyone stepping away from the group to look at something or take a picture seemed to be fair game.

The statue in the Plaza de Armas used to be that of King Fernando VII, but after the revolution, someone cut off the nose of the statue; this statue now stands in the loggia of the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales on the west side of the plaza.

The above pictures were taken in the Plaza de la Catedral.

We also spent a few minutes in Castillo de la Real Fuerza, a fort bordering the Plaza de Armas.

At the corner of Calle Obispo and Mercaderes, the guide pointed out a window of a room rented by the famous writer Ernest Hemingway on the top floor of the Hotel Ambos Mundos.

Around the corner from this hotel is La Bodeguita del Medio, a bar frequented by Hemingway, which served, in his opinion, the best mojito (one created by himself). (An internet search suggests that Hemingway’s involvement with this bar and with mojitos may be a fabrication that began as a joke but became a legend.)

Our group of 12 (at the moment) seems to be widely different in interests and political views. The guide listens politely, but quickly changes the subject back to what we are there to see. The guide has a very good understanding of the history of her country, and she and we understand that she is doing her job.

Stay tuned for more of our Cuban Diary.