Sunday, January 8, 2017

Last Days in Havana

Havana
Jan 2-4 2017

To see photos of our last days in Havana, slick the following link
Last Days in Havana

Getting there is not always Half the Fun, especially if the shared taxi driver is unfamiliar with the streets of Trinidad.

We were picked up at our Casa in Trinidad shortly after 8 AM, anticipating another 10 minutes in town picking up two more passengers. That was optimistic.  After getting detailed directions to the next pickup location from Belkys, our Casa host, the driver went one half-block before asking a local for the same directions. The new directions were not satisfactory either. We spent the next half hour in the car stopping every block and circling streets before finally finding the house where the driver was supposed to pick up two passengers, only to see the prospective passengers get into another taxi and drive away. Either the dispatcher had double booked a taxi or the customers had called another taxi after the original one missed the expected arrival time. My vote is for the second reason.

The driver phoned his dispatcher and after 10 minutes, was given another address. Guess what? The driver continued getting lost getting to the new address where a young Swiss girl became the third passenger. We were not finished yet. A fourth passenger was needed to fill the car and of course the driver didn’t know where that house was either. We eventually found the address and picked up a waiting Japanese woman. After circling another blocks, we finally headed out of town, more than an hour later than we expected.

The highway to Havana is never crowded and we made good time, before stopping at a farm house next to the road to buy gasoline for the car. The farmer told the driver he had no gas to sell that day. I had visions of running out of fuel somewhere on the highway, but shortly, we turned off to visit another farmer who directed us to his neighbour next door who did have gas to sell. The driver extracted a large funnel from the truck and the farmer emptied the contents of a 10 litre plastic container into the gas tank, all the way smoking a cigarette. No strict safety measures here. The driver also filled his own spare plastic container with even more fuel and stored that in the trunk of the car.

We carried on to Havana. As we approached the city it became obvious the driver had never been there before. Luckily we had a map of town and after one inquiry from a local man, we were able to direct the driver to Hostal Peregrino. The Swiss girl, who had planned to go directly to the airport where her Swiss Air flight home was scheduled for 8 PM that night, had received a text message while driving to Havana, announcing the flight was delayed a full day, reason unknown. She got out of the taxi at the same time we did, intending to meet a friend who was in the city. That left the Japanese woman to get to her reservation in Vedado district, a few km from the center of town. We never found out how long it took the taxi driver to find his way there. We were just glad to finally get to our Hostal.  

We were warmly welcomed back to Hostal Peregrino by the staff, who showed us to the same room we had left almost two weeks before. After a warm shower and a rest, we spent the evening walking in Habana Vieja and enjoying a good, but overpriced dinner of lobster in a tasty tomato sauce and a bottle of good Italian wine.

Castillo de San Salvador de la Punta, along the sea wall

The next day was much more enjoyable. We had a long walk along the sea wall bordering Habana Vieja and had lunch in Casa del Queso La Marriage, the find of our visit in Havana. Cuban cheeses are generally bland, but new cheese varieties are being developed and have found a sales venue in this new restaurant. We shared a good salad and a cheese board of three different cheeses, plus a glass of white wine each, all for a bargain price. If you happen to be in Havana, look for the restaurant at the corner of Amagura and San Ignacio in Habana Vieja. You will not be disappointed.

That evening we returned to 5 esquinas, our favourite Italian restaurant for seafood dinners and a shared Caprese salad, all very good. Our last walk in the area brought us back to Meson de la Flota, in time to enjoy another flamenco performance, the perfect way to spend the last evening in Havana.

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