My Springtime European Cigar Tour

11 Apr

nfc capNothing like blue skies and warm temperatures to travel around Europe and enjoy the best the old Continent has to offer.

Early April, during Easter, I decided to travel up to eastern Germany and visit some family residing near Dresden.

Nothing better to do on a quiet Easter Saturday than visit Leipzig which has undergone a terrific change since my last visits there shortly after re-unification and, while there, drop by the LCDH Leipzig run by Martin Schenke.

He received me on a quiet morning and we had a few hours to talk and smoke a good cigar joined by an interesting local cop who told us of a mystery case involving a backpack and a laptop ( if I remember correctly ) while we smoked good cigars, myself the Bolivar ER Greece-Cyprus, a very tasty stick.

A very spacious Casa with several walk-ins and a large lounge complete with a well-stocked bar that I could not try as it was too early and I had to drive.

Martin was kind enough to show me around, not just the beautiful Casa but also to take me for a little walk past the central market, the down-town area with the Nikolai church and several places that I still remembered from my earlier visits.

I promised to return in the summer with more time to enjoy the city and the service provided by the Casa.

On the way out of the city I noticed a rare bird – an Ilyushin 18 aircraft converted into a museum piece and painted in the logo that was used for a few years in the 50’s by the East German airline before they had to change its name to Interflug as they had usurped the name and logo of the original Lufthansa.

Back to the village for some rest and the pharmacy cigar night and then it was time to pack up again and hit the road.

My first stop was Lommel in northern Belgium where Frank has his office, a town quite familiar to me by now from previous visits.

So, after unpacking we met at the delightful Tuincafe as usual to enjoy a koffie-rom and a small cigar.

Lots to talk about with Frank, all the stories and pictures from my last Cuba trip, preparing a big trip we are taking together to the Far East very soon, handing over the personalized Tapa for his Ramon Allones Perfectos humidor I had made in Havana, the bottles of the yummy Talisker Dark Storm Malt I procured for him and many more things.

Then it was time for a classy vintage smoke, the 1960’s Partagas made for Fribourg & Treyer, once again, after smoking it in my village a superb cigar and happy to share it with the Partagas lover that is Frank.

I had half the day to myself as Frank had to take care of house and family stuff so I walked around town in the sunny afternoon hours to enjoy a Partagas Ser. D Nr 6 to a few Cristal beers in a pub next to the church and listen to the beautiful churchbells ring in the evening.

Back to Tuincafe for yummy spare ribs, a few Cristal and wash it all down with a few Smeets oude Jenever glasses to a Siglo III.

Next morning we met quite early back at Tuincafe for coffee and morning cigars – plural, as I had already smoked a Siglo II before Frank arrived and offered me a delicious MC Petit Edmundo.

The town was waking up and people would walk to the baker, buy bread, have a coffee and a smoke and get ready for the day.

Our day consisted of a pleasant 2 hr drive from Lommel to the heart of Amsterdam. Sunny day, modern motorways, industrial landscape, thick but fluid traffic and an easier than predicted arrival in central Amsterdam.

Beautiful city, the tulips in full bloom, people enjoying the sun, the city and the cultural offerings.

If there’s one thing I miss about being retired it’s not flying around and spending a day or two in such great European cities like I did back then on the B-737 across the continent.

We parked right underneath the Van Gogh/Stedelijk museum, very convenient as it was a few metres away from our goal, the Amsterdam LCDH run by Didi and located in the Conservatorium.

It was a very warm welcome that we received from Didi, battling a cold but hanging on tough.

Before coffee was on the table we were joined by our good friend Michel, who learning that we were in his city wanted to join the fun.

Before settling down for conversations Didi showed us the new location of his Casa in the same building that will be larger, multi-floored and will have a dedicated smoking lounge..

And then the serious fun began, me and Michel smoking a vintage HdM Churchill from Michel and Frank having a vintage ’84 Cohiba Lancero in cello from MRN that I presented to him, Michel and Didi.

Didi arranged for very tasty Cranberry Gin Tonics and we discuss many topics ranging from humidor rip off artists in Havana to moral & economic dilemmas of the Cuban society and a joint trip we all plan to Cuba next year.

By early afternoon it was time to leave the cosy Casa lounge as we were expected in Antwerp, another 2 hr drive for Frank and me.

After dozing off for a quick power nap in the car, we arrived in Antwerp a city I had last visited more than 40 years ago when, as a 17 year old I visited a Flemish girl friend who happened to live there.

The city has changed tremendously, especially arriving from the north through the industrial and dock areas that ring the port.

But as I later saw, the traditional heart of the city is still alive and, while the docklands have been modernized, gentrified and transformed it gave me a lot of pleasure to find my bearings again after all these decades.

We parked by the Schelde riverfront and funnily enough next to a giant vessel called … Borussia Dortmund ! True to its name it was all painted yellow and black.

Very happy to meet Reza in his Casa del Habano Antwerp along with Aimee and Mohammed whom I knew from Havana. Ina also joined us, providing a pretty face for this all-male group.

While we were impressed by Reza’s Casa and the selection of rare cigars as well as the smoking lounge upstairs, we were definitely stunned and left breathless after Reza took us across the street to his private, members only cigar lounge, bar, restaurant, billiard salon and meeting chambers.

What a jewel of a Gentleman’s club it is, words fail me and I had left the camera at the Casa.
Imagine an old, built-in vault/safe that has been converted into a walk-in humidor for rare cigars, or many other perfect modern and old details that adorn this giant first floor flat in the historic Hansa building.

We were a bit hungry by then and Reza reserved a table at I Migliori, a fine Italian restaurant in the docklands – we walked there guided by Aimee taking in the special atmosphere blending of the old and the new.

That is where, looking at a ship model and lost in my thoughts and memories, I realized I had come a long way from that 17 year old boy yearning to travel the world and breathing in the port’s atmosphere back then to the 62 year old today who has seen most of the world and has had a full and happy life. It gave me not only a bittersweet sense of identity, mortality and having a well worn past but also a great happiness of being back with good friends in a city that gives me great memories.

Dinner was perfect, the table an international mix of nationalities bound together by the passion for cigars and made unforgettable by Reza’s fun, energy and hospitality. Aimee enjoyed one of the last C.E.Beck 50’s vintage cigars that I keep.

Calls were made to Havana and France and laughter reverberated both in Havana, Alsace and Antwerp.

Only cigars can make this great experience possible.

Dank(e) U wel – Thank you all !


PS : Some of the pictures in Amsterdam courtesy of Michel and Didi.

PPS : If you wonder about the red cigar box that keeps on appearing – I was on a secret mission for the Austin, Texas chapter of The Secret Knights of La Habana and my friend Rico Suave …

3 Responses to “My Springtime European Cigar Tour”

  1. Keith 12/04/2015 at 01:03 #

    WELL DONE!!!!! LOL. Quite the read, and great pictures too. Thanks for sharing, Uncle.

  2. Gino 12/04/2015 at 14:31 #

    Antwerp is also been for me a surprise, but tio you look like a real businessman with that tie and not an …. enjoying his pension around the world.

    Italy is still waiting you.

    • Nino Munoz 12/04/2015 at 14:54 #


      that is the beauty of being retired – I wear a tie when I want to, not when I have to … 🙂

      Amsterdam and Antwerp were beautiful cities, I will be back for more !

      Italy I have to see.

      Ciao sobrino / Nino