Vedado

Trip Start Jan 16, 2007
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34
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Trip End Mar 01, 2007


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Flag of Cuba  ,
Tuesday, February 20, 2007

We walk into the neighbourhood of Vedado Tuesday morning, stopping for some orange-pineapple ice cream at Coppelia's. Julie does a fine job of diverting a guard intent on steering us into the tourist area. Not bad for someone who had no Spanish a month ago.

Just a few blocks east is the University of Habana, a beautiful verdant campus of Corinthian columns and banyans trees. There are several good museums here, but we elect to visit the Napoleonic museum just off campus. My parents experience the confusion of Cuban direction-giving first hand, as a guard at the university begins pointing us in the totally wrong direction before a passing old woman mutters something under her breath (did she call him an old goat!?) and directs us with great accuracy.

Housed in a resplendent Italianate mansion, the collection of vases, paintings, ceramics, furniture and monographs is comprehensively puzzling. My Spanish isn't good enough to comprehend how Napoleon's death mask ended up in Cuba, but we take in all four floors of the collection. What would it be like to see your face gazing back at you from small bronzes on your dresser? On the enamel of your teapot? Everything from the floor-to-ceiling stained glass doors to the winged chairs in Napoleon's office begs to be photographed, but the museum has the typically extortionate tariff on photography. Sometimes it's best to enjoy the imperfect mirror of memory anyway.

We flag a cab down and head south east, past the Necropolis -- it's too hot already for a trip through this huge cemetery -- to Parque Almendes for lunch. The El Lugar restaurant boasts a great riverside setting, an excellent trio and seemingly fine food. But they try to blatantly overcharge us and have another hidden surprise. Two hours later as Lucy greets her Grandma Rosemary, freshly arrived from Canada, she annouces "I feel barfy," and vomits. I also don't feel well, and I shared some of my prawns with Lucy. Is it psychosomatic? This is Julie and Rosemary's take, but no, my nausea increases and as Lucy upchucks her stomach, I swap off with her in the bathroom for squats on the toilet.

Even after Lucy is vomiting only bile, she can't stop. We try giving her a mouthful of water. Nothing stays down. This continues for hours. Poor Rosemary spends her first day in Cuba a hostage in her own hotel room. In the end, the hotel doctor gives Lucy an injection of some Gravol-like substance and we stagger out of the hotel and across the street to our own room.
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