By 2pm on only our second day in Cuba we had found my mom’s childhood home and made new friends. What I thought was going to take us a few days at the very least was scratched off our list of things to accomplish. So now what to do with the rest of our day? First thing we decided on was finding all of some lunch, we had become very hungry. Our driver and his family knew of a place that had chicken dishes for cheap, sounded perfect right about then.
We found our way to the small restaurant that was seemingly built out of the side of someone’s home. Conversation ensued amongst allof us and this is the point where I feel a little out of place. My spanish is not that strong, especially to hold extended back and forth. I’m able to pay attention and follow along, but not participate. I take these moments to myself to observe my surroundings. It was at this luncheon that I first noticed the lack of paper supplies in Cuba.
Items like napkins, bounty, and toilet paper are scarce. They are a kind of luxury here. Everything is so expensive for Cuba to import, so items like paper goods aren’t as abundant as they are here in the states. I don’t think this is a bad thing considering how much waste we have here in this country. I’m as guilty of waste as anyone else, maybe even more so. There’s no throw away towels used to clean tables when a rag can be used, washed, and reused. This is really the right way to do things. As for toilet paper… well, you have to ask for a few tissues as need be. This is common for a few bars and restaurants we went to. Many of the more upscale places have paper at your disposal. But if you do get to visit Cuba, please remember that it’s especially difficult for them to get these items. It’s not uncommon for american families to send care packages with these kinds of goods in them.
Our driver, the patriarch of the family, sent his daughter to fetch a hand towel from the parked car. It was not unlike the kind used at cafes or hanging from the stove handle in my house. We ate our delicious grilled chicken lunch platter and passed around the hand rag to clean up. This chicken locale is one frequented by the local people, not so much the tourists. As such it was a very cheap meal. I think it came out to be just a couple of dollars each. Prices for food in Cuba can vary pretty widely, but coming from NYC sticker shock is rarely ever happens for me. I believe the most expensive meal I had was at a an amazing restaurant called Paladar El Idilio. They were located only a few blocks from the home we were staying at. I had dinner there practically every night we stayed in Vedado. On average I spent $12-$15 a meal there. But the food was exquisite.
After lunch we were off to explore Havanna for the first time. Our first stop on the way to Havanna was the Plaza de la Revolucion. This is where the iconic picture of a building with Che’s face can be found. The plaza has a large parking lot located centrally between the buildings and the Jose Marti monument. I spent about a half hour here setting up my tripod and taking some panoramas. I watched as a couple buses stopped and the tourists within disembarked. The guide corralled them and would explain the significance of the buildings in front of them. I packed up my gear and we were off to Havana.
It was early still, maybe four or five PM. We drove around Havana for a little bit, but this kind of sightseeing is a blur for me. Everntually we left the city area to pass under a tunnel to an island across. Here we stopped at a vista point that lover looks Havana’s skyline. Here to my back was the impressively tall Christo de la Havana. This is by far the largest sculpture of Jesus that I had seen in person.
What is more impressive to me though was the incredible view that lay in front of me. I must’ve spent forty-five minutes to an hour here taking multiple panoramas, and enjoying the moments between the shutter clicks.
The sun was beginning to set and we had one more place to visit before days end. A quick car trip, just minutes away, was El Morro. El morro is a defensive structure built of stone to defend Havana, cannons and all. At the top is a light house that still functions. The sky has turned a deep orange as if it were a smoldering fire. Without the sun the temperature had dropped drastically. I had lost so much light that I was doing super long exposure photos. I think the longest photo I took was a little over ten minutes. It came out fine, but wasn’t the best of my set. I’m freezing now and I’ve lost all light. Cuba is wonderfully alive, lit up by the incandescent lights. We call it an extremely successful day and head home. This would be a fairly common day for us. Up and out early and back home by early evening, dinner and asleep by nine or ten pm. I don’t think I kept that kind of schedule since I was in the eighth grade.
I had seen Cuba from afar. The next day I would aim to see it up close.