Posts Tagged ‘Cuban food’

First Book Ordered

July 26, 2019

And summer is done.

Well.

Not quite.

I still have a few weeks before school starts, but I am already doing just a little reading for this upcoming semester.

I said I wouldn’t touch school books until after my trip to Cuba.

I got back Tuesday night at 7a.m.

My god.

My bed was so nice to get into.

I love to travel, I really do, but there is nothing quite like your own bed.

Especially after sleeping 8 nights on a really hard mattress.  I have to admit I was a little let down when I saw my room, but after doing a walking tour of old Havana with a local architect, I got over that shit.

My casa, in comparison to much around me, was really quite nice.

It is one thing to know about the Cuban embargo.

It is another thing entirely to experience it.

The country is poor.

I mean.

Really poor.

And dirty, the streets are disastrous, the cars are all old and there is no smog control, so much exhaust.

So much.

And not actually that many cars, lots of classics, yes, which was fun, I won’t lie, and super cool to see, but there were lots of horses and carts too.

Horses and carts people.

Traveling from Havana to Vinales one day for a trip to visit a tobacco and coffee farm, I counted more horses and carts than actual cars on the freeway.

ON THE FREAKING HIGHWAY.

More horses then cars.

I am not kidding.

These were some of the cars I got to see and go for rides in.  I actually went for more rides in classic cars than regular cars, I didn’t actually take photos of them all.

Sometimes I don’t want to act like a tourist.

Even though I am totally a tourist, I just couldn’t really bring myself to pose on the cars, it didn’t feel like me.

I did, however, quite enjoy cruising around in them, especially when they had A/C.

It was fucking hot.

It was humid.

So humid.

My hair did some batshit crazy things.

And I was constantly sweating.

Er.

Glowing.

I was glowing.

A lot.

 

As you can see, I was “glowing” quite a bit.

I also learned to wear my hair up real fast.

Real fast.

And I was hella grateful that I had brought a travel umbrella.

I actually didn’t use it that much for rain.

There were some showers and one big storm, with hail!

But mostly, I used the umbrella for sun shade.

I was reminded a lot of Burning Man in that regard.  I usually  bring a parasol for the hot days out on playa.

In fact.

Havana reminded me a lot of Burning Man and in some ways having had the experience of going to the event was actually very handy.

I had to bring everything that I wanted or needed.

There were no stores to buy sunblock or extra toothpaste.

I had to use my water filter bottle or buy bottled water, there is no drinking water from the faucets.

Everyone buys bottled water.

Everyone.

It was really dirty, Old Havana is all cobblestone and dirt roads.

I mean.

500 year old cobblestones ain’t clean.

Plus add dogs, cats, and chickens to the mix, garbage, and potholes everywhere.

I’m super glad my friend who had been before cautioned me to wear really sturdy shoes and to bring anything that I might want because I was not going to be able to purchase it there.

I cannot tell you what it was like to see people queuing up for chicken, or to buy one bread roll.

The black market is a real thing there and I found out that I had participated without even knowing it by eating beef one night.

All beef is allocated to the government, restaurants are allowed to have it.

I had it and that means that it was bought on the black market.

Most of the time though I did stick with Cuban classics and I was quite happy with that.

My casa had breakfast every morning, fruit–usually a slice  of watermelon, some papaya, 1/2 a banana and slices of mango with coffee followed by one egg and one slice of avocado.

No bread for me, which my host couldn’t quite understand, but I’m sure she was happy to have the extra roll I sent back each morning.

I dined in a lot of private restaurants, basically in people’s homes.

And I found a couple of cafes that became my haunts, Cafe Bohemia and Papa Ernesto.

Aside, Che Guevero’s given name is Ernesto.

 

This is Cafe Bohemia.

I was so happy to have Pellegrino and mango blended with ice, which they called frappes.  I had a lot of mango.

A lot.

My poop turned orange.

I know.

But it did!

I have never had orange poo before.

Anyway.

The cafe was a life saver as too was Mas Habana.

A restaurant I never would have stumbled upon on my own as it was down a super dirty street with a lot of construction on it.

But I had made a reservation to do a tour of the houses in Old Havana and my host wanted to meet there.

It was a fucking oasis.

An air conditioned oasis.

I went back every day from that point on, either for lunch or for dinner.

On my last day I went there for both lunch and dinner.

I was the queen of beverages at every meal.

San Pellegrino.

Mango frappe.

Cafe con leche.

I had the same amazing appetizer each time, sometimes it was just my meal since I filled up on all the bevvies, tostones rellenos–stuffed fried plantains.

OOOOOH.

So damn good.

Mashed plantains made into patty’s, fried, and then topped with smashed avocado and a shrimp.

I was in heaven.

 

Mas Habana was my little haven.

And on my last night, I splurged and had lobster.

Also black market.

But, fuck it, it was my last night and I knew it was going to be good.

It was in fact, amazing, bathed in a beautiful garlic broth and shelled for me.

All I had to do was scoop it up in a spoon and sigh with delight.

The staff was great and my last night discounted my bill, “for being such a nice customer.”

I am a good tipper.

Once a waitress.

Always a waitress.

I had many more adventures, but I’ve got to get up early tomorrow.

So more pictures to come.

And more tales to tell.

I have a few more days before I need to knuckle back down for school, I promise I’ll show and tell a bit more before I get buried in the reading.

Promise.

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Havana, Cuba, Baby

April 9, 2019

That’s right.

I am going to CUBA!

I just booked my ticket for July.

Yeah.

I know, Cuba in July is going to be hot, but fuck I don’t care, I like it hot, steamy, warm, bring it on.

You know where it isn’t hot in July?

San Francisco.

It’s fucking freezing.

It’s foggy, grey, dreary, damp, and hella cold.

Especially where I live, right out by the ocean.

It is not pretty.

The nice summer, the Indian summer glory that I hope no one ever really discovers except the locals is mid to late September and early October.

Then its glorious.

But July?

Forget it.

Crap weather.

I was going to go to Hawaii.

That had been the plan.

But.

I kept getting disgruntled when I looked.

So expensive.

The flights have been steadily going up and what had once seemed reasonable and doable began to look much less so, especially when the cost of the tickets easily eclipsed what I had paid for my round trip ticket to Paris in December.

Granted, Paris in December is during the off-season.

But one would think that Hawaii isn’t all that packed in July.

The tickets though and the cost of accommodations was depressing.

Do I want to spend that kind of money to lie around on a beach?

Will I get bored.

I suspected I would.

Would I get resentful and annoyed at the expense?

I think I would have.

Really I was mostly worried about getting bored.

I mean.

Sure, a nice lay around on a beach is all good, but I couldn’t actually imagine doing it for an extended period of time.

One friend said five days was his max and then he was done.

Another friend said a week was way too long and that it felt like paradise with strip malls.

I spent a lot of time on Air BnB trying to find accommodations I liked that weren’t too expensive or didn’t look like my grandmother’s kitchen.

Nothing against my grandmother, I love her, but do I want to spend a lot of money to stay in a place that looks like her kitchen?

No.

I did find one place and it was a bit more than I wanted but I compromised and figured better to stay somewhere that would make me happy.

And the site went down.

And there was a glitch in the dates.

And sorry, we don’t know what’s wrong.

But basically for two days straight I couldn’t book it.

I took that as a sign.

I felt bad for not wanting to go to Hawaii.

Shouldn’t I want to go?

I am sure it’s lovely.

But what do I like to do on vacation?

I like to walk around and see things, I like architecture, I like museums, I like, really like people watching.

I felt flummoxed and a bit baffled at myself, did I or did I not want to go to Hawaii?

When it came right down to it I realized I did not.

And that’s ok!

It’s ok to change my mind and its ok to know that I am a savvy traveler and I would really rather go somewhere more exotic and have an adventure in an urban environment.

I like cities.

I am a city kind of gal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being out in nature, but when I think about traveling I want to go to a city.

I have always found the idea of Cuba and specifically Havana, very appealing.

All the Art Deco, the Prado Theater, the Habana Vieja (Old Havana), the churches and all the vintage cars, the colonial architecture, Cuban coffee, veranda life, sitting on a balcony or in a square having fruit and coffee, walking around and really seeing something different.

Also, there are plenty of beaches in Cuba.

As soon as my friend said, “strip mall” I knew I wasn’t going to Hawaii.

I wanted something more.

So, yeah, I bought a ticket.

There’s some hoops to go through, you can’t really travel to Cuba on a tourist Visa, you must have a reason to go.

I did a lot of research and the category that best fit me was that I was going to support “the Cuban People” which means that I won’t be staying anywhere or buying anything that has any ties to the military or government.

Fine with me.

I’ll support the local artists and musicians.

I will stay, fingers crossed at Hotel Chez Nous.

You have to love that it’s a “French” named casa.

It’s considered a “Casa Particular” which means a local family that runs a “hotel” or sort of “boarding house”.

The rooms are in two different homes in Old Havana, one that is old school Colonial and the other is Art Deco.

You can’t reserve online, you have to make a request, so I sent off my request and hopefully I’ll be staying there.

The room I want is 45 Cuc, Cuban convertible peso (which is pretty much one Cuc to one dollar) a night!

I request the Art Deco single with a balcony.

That’s my style, sitting on a balcony in Old Havana, overlooking a square smack in the middle of Old Havana.

Yes please.

Bring on the sundresses, sandals, iced cuban coffees con leche, walks along the old port, visits to churches and museums, and yes, some spicy Cuban food.

God damn I am excited

I did not feel excited by Hawaii.

I feel ecstatic about Havana.

Nervous too, I don’t speak Spanish and there are some hoops to jump through to get the Visa but, overall I’m fucking thrilled.

But hell yeah, Havana, baby.

It’s going to be one hot, sexy summer.

Well, at least nine days of it will.

Heh.

 


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