Full Friday, afternoon

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


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Flag of Cuba  ,
Friday, February 23, 2007

It's a sign of how much better head space I'm in today that I propose lunch at the Hotel Sevilla (something like our fourth time eating here). They have a great Afro-Cuban combo playing in the courtyard and if the food isn't spectacular, it's more edible and dependable than any other state-run restaurant we`ve found. From the Sevilla we trickle south, past the art deco magnificence of the Bacardi building, through the dilapidated, begging-for-a-facelift  Manzana de Gomez shopping arcade, to Parque Central, where we dodge a local hustler (he's seen us enough times to call out familiarly) and make tracks to the Gran Teatro de la Habana.

In a city of landmarks, the grand theatre of Havana stands out, though it's better to gawk at its exterior statues and baroque detailing from across the street. Up close, the glimpses of the interior almost entice us to take a tour, but Rosemary and I discover a concert for Ibrahim Ferrer is happening Monday night and shell out for tickets. What better way to experience the 2000-seat theatre? The cashier just shrugs at my question, El es muerto, no? (Isn't he dead?)

My plan to leave my family to tour the Capitolio while I do some journal uploading is thwarted by the fact the cybercafe inside the building is closed. I hang out at the art gallery while they take in all the marble and ornateness (see my entry "Havana Time" for more photos and info). I make an aborted attempt to check out the Santeria drumming demonstration at the Yoruba cultural centre, before we all jump into an old convertible and roll back to the Nacional in style for drinks and recuperating time before dinner.

Tonight, we cab to one of the many fine private restaurants that lure people into the further districts of Miramar and Playa. Cuba's paladares, as these restaurants are called, were illegal until the 1990s. As a result, they're often strategically invisible from the street. Paladar Calle 10 actually boasts a small sign outside the building, otherwise we'd think we're trespassing around the side of a large mansion, past barking dogs to a dark gate. But the gloom opens to a beautiful lamp-filled garden oasis, with an open kitchen and the most delectable smells wafting into the night.

Despite the restrictions placed by the government on ingredients and seating (both largely ignored), paladares offer the most consistently good food for tourists. We dine extravagantly on stuffed seafood and lamb skewers. The only problem is our late start. The food hasn't even arrived by the time Lucy crashes on a couple of chairs, and Jonathan won't settle. My food gets cold as I wander off into the dark to try to lull him with my patented "jiggle sway" technique.

My yearning for the night of Havana gets rekindled on an emergency trip for water at 9:30 p.m. Vedado is just starting to wake up. I know we can't go out, but we have a balcony in the main part of the apartment and I want us to just go and watch the world beyond. Julie doesn't want to leave the sleeping kids alone, so we lie in the dark of our room, speaking quietly of the trip, the return to Canada. Already we're moving away from this odd land. The last Friday in Cuba, like the first, is spent in a bedroom, listening to the tantalizing, elusive music and sounds of the city. A metaphor for something, if I set my mind to it.
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