A Week In Havana – Cigars, Rum And The Pope

27 Sep

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Next time I hear the pope is visiting Havana I will cancel my trip there.

Too many places were closed due to his visit, like my favourite night-spot Espacios and many others, and we are talking closed for a week, not just for the 2 days the pope spent in Havana.

Even the fishermen could not go out fishing for a week due to the visit – so a planned octopus dinner was cancelled as no fish was to be found for private purchases.

Besides the closing of many places, traffic around Miramar was a nightmare as many streets were closed off as well.

But, it was nice to see the enthusiasm of the Cuban people about the visit.

All Cubans – even the hardcore party members and atheists – agreed that this pope has been very good for Cuba and more so now that he was continuing the trip from Cuba to the US.

My trip to Havana was a spontaneous decision. Reza asked me to check the airfare and it being so low for a business class ticket I decided to hop along.

The fun started in Frankfurt where we met for a few cigars before boarding. Never one on the quiet side R. would make me laugh with his multilingual cursing and swearing – although during most of the flight he was thankfully asleep.

The long flight was made an extra 30 minutes longer by the runway lights in Havana going out 3 minutes before our touch-down … I couldn’t believe it – the pope was arriving a few days later and they had black-outs at the airport ? During the holding pattern over Havana I could see how dark the city was.

But the new Casa particular I’ve rented for this and the forthcoming visits was shining beautifully and after a week there I can attest to it being the best Casa so far in all these years.
Great people, great service, decent water pressure in the showers, a/c and a large living room and terraces to share time, fun and cigars with my Cuban friends.

The next day started early and was a perfect sample of the days to come – a leisurely 2 hr breakfast with the freshest and tastiest Mango, Papaya, Pineapple or Guayaba juices and fruits, a nice cigar or two and out by 10 to tour the LCDH and the rollers, pick up orders and get the news.

We visited Partagas every day for the best cafecito in town and a cigar and chat with Grecia and La China – who dismissed any retirement rumours with : Hay China ‘pa rato ! There will be La China for a long while.

Sadly she was out of wrapper material, as were other rollers. I hope the situation will improve by November.

Reynaldo was looking dapper and sporting a nice beard. His cigars are always superb and I enjoyed the house cigar I smoked with him while passing some orders and picking up cigars.

A great new roller – and being so young he has a bright future ahead – is Alex at the Comodoro. Easy and relaxed personality, warm hearted, friendly, it was a pleasure sharing time with him. And his cigars are stellar. No wonder retired master roller Crisantos recommended and actively assisted him getting the sought after job of Casa roller.

I would meet Crisantos by chance at El Aljibe where he joined us for a drink – he was on his way to pick up the air tickets to travel to China via Canada. What a legendary roller and gentleman he is !

It was at a nearby smoking lounge that I stumbled upon Cesar Lopez, the famed Irakere and Habana Ensemble saxophonist who played with Chucho Valdes for an afternoon of fun, jokes and cigars …

Very happy to see Juanita again, both at lunch in Rejoneo and at her roller table in the Melia Cohiba where I also met Victoria Duske again, back in Havana to finish her cigar Diplomado course.

Sadly she could not join us for the fantastic jazz concert at the Casa there – what fabulous musicians and lady singer ! Such a beautiful performance.

Club Habana was on the list, of course, always a place to relax and cool down while chatting with Leo and Jorgito.
Especially being on the way to the best seafood joint, Santy in Jaimanitas.

With R. flying back on the Friday I was left alone to relax and that I did by visiting Humidores Habana, driving out to Hector Luis’ farm in the Vuelta Abajo on Saturday and by joining friends for some dancing at El Sauce with Frank Delgado as a DJ on Sunday.

While the pope flew on to Santiago de Cuba and the US, I smoked two Coronas in the VIP lounge ( remember to take matches as they will take away your lighters ! ) and had a few Bucaneros before boarding a highly punctual and comfortable Condor flight home.

A week might not seem much – but in Havana it sure seems like a lot … and the fun was too good to be true … it continues 🙂


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