Another morning spent wandering. This is the third time that I have been out roaming Old Havana in search of the Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym. I love boxing, and this is the oldest gym in Havana dedicated to the sport. Prior to leaving Los Angeles I had promised my own boxing coach a t-shirt from the gym in Havana. I hope once he sees these pictures he will understand why he did not receive a shirt. Unfortunately there were no boxers or coaches there the morning that I visited or I may have asked to come in and train the next day. Only a woman on a stool who asked for 2 cucs to take photos of the gym.
I came back to the hotel after a quick breakfast and taking pictures to find Cat ready to head out to the beach. About 30 minutes outside of Old Havana is the Playas del Este. At the far end of the beach is a small town called Guanabo. After having the hotel staff arrange a cab, and agreeing on the 20 cuc each way fare, we jumped in and headed to the beach. On the way we discussed a time for the taxi to return us to the hotel. When we arrived at the beach we were told to meet our driver at the same location at the arranged pickup time. We handed him an extra 5 cucs for the ride there, and we promised him the same tip on the way back. We were more than happy to tip the people in the city that were helpful and honest. Tipping is definitely recommended, and it is a big part of the income for many of the Cuban locals.
When we got out to the sand, we found this beautiful turquoise Caribbean water and a nearly empty stretch of beach. There were people walking their dogs, or playing in the sand with their babies, but they were very spread out. We could have put towels down and been alone for the day if we wanted. Instead, we continued walking until we found some beach chairs and a little more action.
You can see how empty the beach is. Apparently May is the busy time here, so if you’re looking for seclusion we can almost guarantee the end of March will provide just that.
We paid 6 cucs for 2 beach chairs and an umbrella. We paid another 3 cucs for 2 beers delivered to us in our beach chairs.
This was literally the view from our chairs. It looks like a Corona commercial!
As we started to leave the beach, we saw this guy carrying fish. I had eaten breakfast, but I knew we were going to have to get Cat some lunch. When we saw these fish I immediately knew what she would want.
So we found this restaurant across the street.
And they brought this out for lunch. The fish, a side of moro, and 2 drinks cost right around 18 cucs. I think we gave them a 20 cuc bill and headed back to find our taxi; who was waiting for us 10 minutes early and happily drove us back to our hotel. We gave him 30 cucs for the ride back because it was such a relief to have a driver waiting that we knew wasn’t going to try and scam us.
This picture is here just to give me a chance to talk about the museums. Everything in Havana is a museum. There is a museum for a single date, there are museums for guns, and cartoons, and local art, and foreign art, and decorative art, and…. You get the idea. If the city deems something a museum then UNESCO will give money for the renovation of the building. So here is the museum of medicine. It is literally just this one room with those bottles on the wall. But apparently in Havana, this is the museum of medicine.
Above every museum are apartments. This is why there are so many museums. This allows the city to build a “museum” of something, get some financing from UNESCO, and renovate the entire building giving people a more modern place to live. It’s a pretty good racket they’ve got going on in Cuba.
More caipirinhas. I tried to make sure that we didn’t go more than about 2 hours without a cocktail somewhere. This was a bar right next to the Floridita on the corner of a fairly busy street. There was a live band, and we were seated by the window; a prime location for people watching.
Tonight we planned dinner at another paladar in the Vedado, so we asked the hotel to call us a taxi. To our pleasure and surprise, up pulls Ernesto! Our taxi driver from the beach earlier. He drove us up the Malecon, which provided a great view of the sunset.
Dinner at Los Amigos. We found this restaurant watching the Anthony Bourdain, No Reservations, episode all about Cuba. We did not have reservations, but we were immediately seated and our orders taken.
Chicharrónes for Cat’s appetizer. They came out still crackling and popping from the fryer.
This is literally the best chicken I have ever eaten. It was juicy and full of flavor. It was incredible. And of course every plate came with the requisite yucca potatoes, a small salad, and moro rice.
I ordered the ropa vieja because I have yet to be disappointed by this dish yet. Los Amigos was no exception. My food was also delicious.
When we left the restaurant we went out to the Malecon for a walk. We didn’t have a taxi arranged, so we figured we would walk until we didn’t want to walk any more and find a ride back. As we were walking we saw a cocotaxi passing, so I flagged him down and we agreed on a price. This was another instance of an honest driver, so he was rewarded with a tip on top of the 5 cuc ride. He was also nice enough to let us take a photo. The cocos are very fun to ride in. It’s like being in the side car of a fast scooter.
And what better way to end a great day in Cuba than to stop back by The Tavern for a drink and to check in on our favorite band? I tried to get a decent photo this night, but the guys are too lively. All of the bands in Havana salsa while they play. Everyone is moving. These guys even have choreographed moves!
I think we’re getting the hang of things now. It’s too bad we only have 1 more day in Havana, but the trip has been relaxing, even though frustrating at times, and we have definitely encountered more good than bad. Stiff drinks, good cigars, and a beautiful city. What more can you ask for…