On the morning of day 8, we took a guided walk through the Colon Cemetery. We got to see the graves of some famous and important people, and we saw some Santería rituals. At one grave, people come to pray, some daily, leave an offering, and the back away from the gravesite, not turning their back on the dead.
Then we had a quick stop for pictures at the Plaza de la Revolución. There were some really cool cars parked nearby.
Then we visited the Callejon de Hamel, an alley that has become an art installation, created by Salvador Gonzalez. We learned a lot about Afro-Cuban religions, and toured Gonzalez’s residence.
Next we went to Almacenes de San José, a market where we did some shopping. I’m not usually a big shopper on vacation, but this was not your typical Chinese-made tchotkes emporium. It was mostly art and handicrafts, but with some junk mixed in. Our guide led us to a stand where they sell handmade humidors. These were super high quality cedar humidors with hydrometers and pinned joints, perfect alignment and fit. I bought myself one, and we got one for my uncle. I also bought a painting for my parents, and one for my office. I really wish we’d had more time here, as the value of these items was incredible, and the quality was outstanding. Notice in the second picture below, there was a red bull high dive competition going on nearby.
While we shopped and negotiated fair prices, I enjoyed an H Upmann Mag 50. It was a great cigar, but as for the particulars, I couldn’t really say. Having such a great cigar, in such a cool place was an overwhelming experience. I was also on a high after getting such a great humidor at such a reasonable price. Its something I’ll cherish forever. After shopping, we ate at Sloppy Joe’s. Earlier in the week when I was talking to my Canadian friends at LCDH, they recommended Sloppy Joe’s. Then they proceeded to describe what a sloppy joe actuallly is. When I told them that I had them as part of my school lunch program growing up, they made some cute quip about thats whats wrong with America. I diplomatically held my tongue.
After lunch, I asked for directions to the Bacardi building, and we walked over. Afterwards, we had some time to wander around Havana on our own. It was nice to get a little lost and take our time for once.
The Conde Villanueva is a hotel with a LCDH that was featured in the Cuban documentary by James Suckling that I watched before the trip. I got a few sticks there. We mostly just strolled around and took in the city. After a quick break at the hotel, we went back out for the night. We knew that something special was planned since it was our last full day in Cuba.
The yank tank ride from our hotel to the hotel Nacional was one of the best parts of the trip. I took a lot of video, and while posing for multiple pictures, ended up drinking a lot more of that Havana Club (the bottle was from the Tropicana show) than I sat out to consume. Our car had a keypad that played different notes on the horn. What an experience. After the ride, we got a tour of the historic Hotel Nacional.
The hotel was beautiful. One of the most interesting part of the tour was the response to a question about why we didn’t stay at the Hotel Nacional. Our guide told us that the Hotel Nacional has issues with power outtages, hot water, and the rooms are very small. Its very telling about our current culture that rooms used to be small, and public spaces grand, but now its the opposite. People are more private, and less social. While thats pretty much true of me, its sad, and I hope to change that about myself after thinking on it. Its also one of the cool parts about the A&K trip. Generally, one travels with family, and doesn’t meet many others. With A&K, you meet a lot of different people, but they’re all well traveled and interesting. You end up spending a lot of time with your fellow travelers. I really like that about our trip. Its something I usually don’t get to experience when I travel. After the tour, we were treated to a private concert.
The appetizers, mojitos, cigar, and music was incredible. I’m generally not a superlative person, but on this trip you really just couldn’t imagine how the next musicians could be better, but they were. My dad got up and danced with the performer who was visibly impressed by his dancing. I have a lot of video from this part of the trip I hope to put up soon. After a great time at the Hotel Nacional, we went to our farewell dinner.
We had another amazing dinner. After dinner, they brought out a box of cigars that looked to be someone’s personal collection. There was a huge variety. I went with a limited edition Punch. After dinner we went back to La Zorra Y el Cuervo, since we did not want the evening, or the trip to end. After we enjoyed both drinks included in our two drink minimum and I had smoked my cigar, we found a cab. After a quick negotiation, and about 10 minutes of mechanical tinkering, we were on the road headed back to the hotel.
Behike, Cuba Libre, Jazz. What a combo. There was a really good trumpeter at the club that night (which is why we didn’t check out the other popular jazz club). We were exhausted, but I’m so glad we went out. If you could only have one experience in Cuba to get the gist of what Cuba is all about, this would be it. An amazing cigar, a good rum drink, and some of the best musicians in the world jamming out. Another giant of a day, and one I’ll never forget. We headed home late, and I wondered how I’d ever have an experience like this again, and how I was going to drink all the rum and smoke all the cigars I still had with just a morning in Cuba left.This entry was posted in Brown Sauce, Cigars, Food, History, Jazz, Music, Style, Travel by rsiv with no comments yet