Havana May 2019 – Less Of The Same

8 Jun

I had promised myself not to fly to Havana in the summer again ( which has not started yet ) and it was as predicted : hot, humid and rainy.

But I was to meet my good buddies Charlie and Jody so it was worth the pain. Pain which was reduced tremendously by flying up front and having great service and some sound sleep both ways on Condor.

The only plan for the 10-day trip was a tour of the Tobacco farms that Charlie had planned and the mandatory haircut by Lachy “El Chino” – this time at his home in Havana’s Chinatown and not at ArteCorte.

I met his parents and had a long and highly interesting conversation with his father, a bright 95 year old about his pre-revolution memories and his love for football.

But due to the scorching heat I spent most days relaxing in the shade at the pretty new Casa I had in Miramar.

Due to the late afternoon and nightly torrential rains I was not able to go to my favourite hang-out place Espacios – which turned out to be a blessing as the few times I went there I noticed a further sliding down of the food & service quality plus a new 4 meter high wall erected due to noise complaints that kills the garden atmosphere.
Problem is : There is no Plan B for Espacios in Havana …. 🙁

I haven’t found a nice, relaxing, open-air place/garden with nice music where to smoke my cigar in a relaxing atmosphere in Havana.

So it was my second “do nothing” trip to Havana. Nothing but smoke good cigars, relax, be with good friends and take it easy. Not bad at all and fine by me.

After reading about the food shortages I had taken some basic food along for the first time in 15 years, olive oil, wild salmon courtesy of David from Vancouver, Iberico ham courtesy of Javier from Spain, honey, marmalade and some other tins and cans, so my “Cuban” breakfast consisted basically of eggs, bread and lots and lots of fresh Mangoes. Happy to be there during the Mango season !

Only places I went for lunch were Amigos del Mar ( where I had my first Trinidad & Tobago beer – no Cristal in most places …. ) and the superb Tocamadera – always a good choice along with Marea for a half day by the beach and the recently opened La Fourchette Paladar, also run by Enrique Suarez of Tocamadera. I will write a separate report on that.
One dinner was at the relaxing ( aka always empty ) Destino Paladar with my friend Jaime and his girl-friend Karla.

Sofia finally got a decent tablet to play with and I took the family out to Tocamadera for lunch. When they started asking for pictures I thought it was about the good food we were having, but far from it. They all wanted a picture with the famous Cuban musician Carlos Varela who was lunching at the table next to us …

Great personality, the kind and friendly Carlos spent time talking to us and having a picture taken with my friends.

Funny thing is that 2 days later having another lunch at Tocamadera I met Raul Paz, another great Cuban musician I had met years ago at a cigar event. Good place for excellent food and music !
Enrique keeps his promise to have Tocamadera a “Regueton-free-area” 🙂

Food at Marea was also excellent, the lobster Tacos, the Thai lobster, the garlic octopus are spectacular. It has become a favourite of mine.

I enjoy open air Cuban places, not the a/c freezers full of tourists, so on a rainy night when my friends called to join them at the Nacional bar, I told them to fuck off. An hour later they were at the recently opened Packard hotel and I joined them there for a cigar despite not being fond of hotels.

I was pleasantly surprised. The open air terrace by the pool offers stunning views over the harbour entrance and the Morro and Cabaña fortresses and was 80% filled with Cubans. Drinks and service were good, nice place to relax on a rainy day.

We passed by Al Carbon for a snack but it was noisy and overcrowded with tourists, so I just took their yummy Cuatro Leches home for dessert.

Cigars were excellent as always, from a 1970’s Choix Supreme sent to me via Charlie from Jose Moreno in California to the new releases and farm rolled cigars we would have on the tour.

The only time I went to a cigar store this trip I came across a scam so incredible I cannot post about it. If we smoke a cigar face to face ask me …. 🙂  While I’ve seen enough scams there to last me a lifetime, the ingenuity of this one still has my head shaking … Que pais !!

The best cigars were the ones I enjoyed sharing with my friends, on the Mango terrace, in my Casa and at the farms. Same routine as always, bring a good bottle of single Malt, grab a chair and enjoy the party – at my Casa it was then a bottle of Bourbon for a change, while I would nurse my Ritual rum….

I’ll be back again in cooler months but the travel outlook for my US friends looks bleak. I left only a day before the last US cruise ship left Havana and the new travel restrictions make it harder for them to visit the island. So close and yet so far for them …

And the economic outlook for Cubans has also turned bleaker. We saw long lines at stores, hundreds waiting in line in the heat for a few pieces of chicken or some cooking oil.

People is what matters most – cigars are just rolled dry leaves after all.











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