Well now, that was interesting! - We'll Follow the Sun - CycleBlaze

January 28, 2019 to January 29, 2019

Well now, that was interesting!

We both slept like logs and woke in the morning to a cool morning with the wind continuing to blow lightly outside.  As we had nothing to eat in our apartment, and the power was still off, we got ourselves dressed and were getting ready to head out to find somewhere with power when Rolando our host called.  He wanted to know if there was any problem with the water from the storm last night.  I assured him that all was well other than the lack of power which he had no control over.  Satisfied, he rang off and we went out into the cool morning.  Just up the Paseo de Marti was a nice hotel with an outdoor café with some protection.  People were drinking coffee and eating so we knew we could get food here and found a table where we watched the traffic (both people and cars) go by as we enjoyed our coffee, fruit and bread.  Hopefully sometime today we can find these items so we can have breakfast in our own place.  It would also be nice if the weather warmed up a bit so we could enjoy the nice balcony outside our bedroom!

Breakfast done we went for a little wander down towards the old part of town (the tourist zone).  We were on the lookout for a couple of things.  I wanted to find a place to get my hair trimmed since I haven’t had it trimmed in a while.  We also needed to find a bank machine to get more cash and then finally get some wifi cards so we could check on the world.  First up was the bank machine and we struck out repeatedly at several locations before it occurred to us that maybe the storm last night knocked out the bank machines all over town.  This was confirmed by a bank employee.  He told us we could use our bank card in the bank to get cash but needed our passports (which of course, I was not carrying).  Bummer!  As cash was running a bit low, we went back to our room and picked up the passports, grabbing the big camera while we were there to take pictures of the lovely day.

A good use of old canons!
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Rather than going directly to the bank, we walked down the Paseo to the malecon and wow!  It was an amazing sight!  Waves were crashing so hard into the breakwater that the waves were shooting up 20 to 30 feet in the air!  It was crazy!!!!  We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the sights and taking pictures and video – something you sure don’t see every day, even here!

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Risking a drenching to get the perfect pic!
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Once we were finished getting pictures and being sprayed by the ocean mist we headed back to the bank.  It was a little unnerving as we hadn’t attempted this before and didn’t know what to expect, particularly as CIBC had shut Jim’s card down.  I didn’t know if they would confiscate my card or what, but we went in and the guard at the front table took our number.  As we sat waiting, we could see that people were called to different tellers for different actions and that there seemed to be one just for foreign transactions, which made us more confident.  When it was our turn we went up but Jim was quickly sent back to his seat – only one person allowed at the counter!  I told the teller how much I wanted to withdraw and told him the bank had been problematic.  He checked my passport and gave it a try and what do you know, it worked!!!   Well hurray for that!  There is a charge for withdrawing from the bank and I’m not sure if it is more or less than the bank machine (I’m guessing more), but as we’ve had such trouble using the bank machine with our debit cards, we were more than happy to pay.  

Money in hand we decided to stop at a little café for lunch.  As we ordered our food, we noticed that they had two televisions and both were turned to the noon news.  Hmmmm… it seems that there was a tornado last night somewhere!  Well, we had that big wind storm but thank goodness no tornado!  Then we noticed that leaders from other countries were sending their best wishes for Cuba to recover from the tornado – what????  Oh my gosh!  We wondered if it had hit maybe up in Pinar del Rio as the scenes they were showing looked like a bigger city.  Then we saw a guy from the disaster centre in Havana talking and it finally dawned on us that the tornado had hit right here in Havana!!!!  Oh my goodness!  First that shooting in Mexico and now this!!!!  Our kids are never going to let us leave town again!!!!  We finished eating and went down the street to the hotel to buy wifi cards and spent some time posting on social media that were are fine and hadn’t even known what was happening until well after it was over.  What a crazy thing!  I have worried several times as our daughter Annie has posted about tornado warnings where they live in Texas, but I’ve never been in the middle of something like this.  It’s amazing when you think about it and we count ourselves as so fortunate because we were safe and sound and we feel for those families not so very far from us who’ve been affected by this act of nature.

Once we had reassured our world that we were safe, we set out to finish our wandering.  We eventually came upon a salon that is closed on Mondays but should be open tomorrow, so we will go back and maybe I’ll finally get that trim.  We also needed to pick up some things for breakfast tomorrow but as of yet have not figured out where one buys bread here in the city.  We may end up eating some strange breakfast tomorrow, but that’s ok.  

On our way back, we stopped in at the Floridita, the bar made famous by Hemingway. It was packed with tourists all enjoying their very very overpriced drinks ($6 for a daiquiri) which we, of course, had to do as well.  Sometimes you just have to do the super touristy thing because, well, I don’t know.  Because you might feel bad you didn’t?  Well, we had our little drink, took our pictures with Hemingway (who I am quite certain must be turning over and over in his grave) and left.

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I'm pretty sure he would not approve!
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Coming back to our apartment we relaxed for a while before heading out for dinner.  Not sure what’s on the menu for tonight but it will certainly be a little simpler than last night.  It’s just not quite the same without our buddies Laura and Jim, that’s for sure!  Oh well. Tomorrow will be more sightseeing and some planning for the next few days.  We are watching the weather to help us decide on how far to go in the next few weeks, and you can be sure we will certainly be careful about upcoming storms, so don’t worry!!!

One last thing before signing off for this day.  Although our jaunts around town should have been quick, we have been slowed by a little problem that I had not foreseen.  It seems that Jim has an obsession with the many old cars in town.  It’s not really the cars, its actually their hood ornaments.  He has never been much of a car person and so its kind of a surprise that we have had to stop A LOT to take pictures of the many many many hood ornaments around this town filled with old cars.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to get him away when it comes time.  We may be stuck here until he’s documented them all!!!

A very small sampling of the many many pics!
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Back from dinner and one more thing to add about today.  It was a little chilly out and we didn’t feel like wandering far, so when we came to the restaurant attached to the Floridita, called La Piña de Plato, we checked the menu and decided to give it a try.  This will go down as most possibly the absolute worst restaurant experience of this whole trip, and that’s saying something.  It is a small restaurant and very dated, as is their menu.  We ordered (mine included a bowl of ice cream – yum!) and waited for our food to arrive.  I noticed that a table near us received a basket of bread and then a table that had been seated after us also received bread.  I thought to myself, hey!  We can take that bread back with us for breakfast.  However, no bread arrived at our table and when we asked they told us “sorry! We just ran out!”.  This did not go over well with me, but dinner arrived and I thought oh well, I might as well enjoy my food.  The meat was ok for us both, the rice barely ok.  The cabbage salad had no dressing and the “vegetables” that were on the menu as going along with the meal?  Dried plantains!!!!  Oh my gosh!!!  Seriously, it was just bad.  We ate our food as as we did, I noticed the woman at the aforementioned table-that-had-been-seated-after-us received her bowl of ice cream, so after my plate was collected, I waited for mine.  And waited.  And waited.  Finally, Jim got up and asked about it.  The waiter said, “Oh, no ice cream, its flan”.  What????  Where did they get the ice cream for the lady????  By this time we were done with this place.  We asked for the bill – the drinks were again very very overpriced, and paid with the absolute minimum tip.  Normally I don’t take bad restaurants out on the wait staff as they don’t have much to do with management decisions, and often are overworked.  But this time? Nope, it was just bad all the way through.  This is the kind of place that gives Cuba a bad name when it comes to food and I am highly offended by their even being open when there are so many other good options out there.  I will ask Laura’s friend, Marvelis for some good restaurant suggestions so that if you come to Havana (and you should!) you can avoid at all cost, La Piña de Plato!!!!

Do NOT eat here!
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Jan 29

We woke to blue blue skies and very little wind, which meant we were back to normal here in Havana – hurray!  We had our healthyish breakfast of peanut butter on crackers, bananas and pineapple, complete with our own instant coffee served in tiny tiny cups – perfect!  It might not be fancy, but it worked for us!  Breakfast done, we headed out to Calle Obispo where I had spotted a salon the other day.  They were open at 10:00 and when we arrived there was one person getting her hair done.  The receptionist spoke no English, but we managed to mime getting a haircut and how much it would cost – a whole $8.00!  Well, sign me up!  There was a wait, so Jim set off on his own to find a park with wifi while I waited for my turn.  We planned to meet up in the café across the street from the salon when I was done.  This was our first time splitting up in a foreign city, so it was just a little nerve wracking, but as Jim was only going up and down one street, we figured we would be ok.  

My turn came and I was able to show the fellow (who looked like he knew his way around scissors) a pic of what my hair looked like way back when I had it cut (thanks, Jacquie, for thinking of this!).  The last time was before we left Nanaimo in November, so you might say my hair was slightly overdue for a trim!  Thankfully, he knew what to do and set about washing, cutting and then drying my hair and before I knew it, my hair looked normal again – hurray!!!  The total ended up being a little more because of the shampoo – a whopping $10.00! I thanked him profusely for the great cut, added a good tip and headed across the street where Jim was waiting for me.  Easy peasy! 

Ah! That's more like it!
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 We had coffees before heading further into the old part of town to do a bit more exploring.  We were looking for the fellow with the guitar from the first time we were here as we wanted to give him a Canada sticker, but no luck.  Oh well.  We enjoyed the wandering and looking at the buildings in amazement and considered what would have happened if the tornado had hit just a bit further north – scary!  Many of these buildings are under heavy renovation and propped up by scaffolding that would never have withstood a tornado.  As sad as it was, it could have been so much worse and we consider ourselves very fortunate indeed.

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Bread!!!
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This is a mail slot!
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Ron GrumbyMary Poppins in Cuba, perhaps?
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1 month ago
Sue PriceTo Ron GrumbyLooks like it, doesn't it?
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1 month ago
This statue is a tribute to homeless people. You grab his beard, put your foot on top of his, look up at the statue of Jupiter across the way and make a wish - what a lot of work!
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Later in the day we found a park with wifi so I could put up another day’s post.  It takes about an hour to post them as I have to load the pictures and sometimes it shuts down right in the middle – very frustrating!  Most of the time I remember to save after I post each pic, but today it caught me and I lost everything halfway through – argh!!!!  

Everything finished, we headed back to our room for an afternoon snooze before heading back out for dinner.  We wanted to try a restaurant recommended by our Casa owners called Los Nardos and boy, what a difference from last night!  This place is pretty old school but done very well.  The waiters were extremely attentive and pleasant, making good suggestions for food choices that we appreciated and checking to see that we had everything we needed.  We had a great time and even though it is a little pricier than many other places ($36.00 for our dinners complete with wine) it was such a better experience and so much cheaper than the same dinner back home would have been!  We will for sure be back here!

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We needed to walk off our dinner so headed back to Old Havana to find some music.  It was a little early for this, I guess, but finally we came to a place where a girl group was playing and singing.  We sat and ordered drinks, enjoying their music for a bit until they took a break – darn!  We enjoyed our drinks and waited to see if they would return and sure enough, after about 15 minutes out they came and we thought we might get to have a second drink while listening to some excellent music.  However, a couple of bars into the first song their lead singer put down her sticks and went inside.  The others in the group tried to finish the song, but its kind of hard when you are the backup singers and your main vocal isn’t there.  We felt bad, thinking she was sick or something was wrong.  It tugged at all my mommy heartstrings and boy did I want to go up and give them all a hug and tell them it would be ok!  After a bit she came back out, but it was clear something was not right and after a couple of songs they packed it in.  We felt bad but really there was nothing we could do so we paid our bill and left, wandering back up towards our part of town.  It was a lovely evening and perfect for walking the streets in Old Havana.

Back in our room we have repacked everything and are ready to give the keys back in the morning to our hosts before heading out to explore the north coast over to Veradero.  The weather for the next week looks great and we are thinking we will take our time to explore the beaches on the way out and back, coming back to Havana a few days before we had planned so we can continue to explore this fascinating city.  We had thought about heading down to Trinidad and Cienfuegos, but it would be a real push and we don’t want to shortchange our time there.  Those places and others will just have to wait until our next trip to this beautiful island.

I'll close with a few more pics from Havana

The Capitol dome under renovation
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Jim saw these two guys wearing hats from rival teams of The Blue Jays (his team). Turns out they are from Netherlands!
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