November 22,2007 Part II
I cant believe Iâ€™m finally in Cuba! After all these years of just dreaming my dream has come true. What first struck me as I drove from the Airport to My Guest House was all the People on bikes here, they werenâ€™t as many cars as one might think around this area and another thing was all the political propaganda everywhere. If I didnâ€™t know better I would think that it was election time soon. Everywhere you would see slogans like â€śPatria o Muerteâ€ť (Translate to Our nation or death)As I passed through this crumbling area People would look into the car to see who was in it. It kind of made me feel weird and guilty in a way while these people were sweating on their bikes probably traveling miles under the hot sun, I was strolling by in a Air Conditioned Yellow Taxi.
The Driver played loud salsa music and didnâ€™t say much through out the whole ride. After about 25 minutes we got to my Guesthouse In el Vedado on the 23rd street & G avenue. Alexander my Swiss friend was already waiting for me outside. He informed that that the room we had reserved weeks before had been given to another traveler who had arrived earlier(Which is quite common with Guest Houses in Cuba, The early bird with Money in had gets the bed)but that the House owner had called her neighbor who was offering a whole apartment on the same street for 45 Cuban pesos a night. It turned out to be a much better deal. I was impressed with this Large antique Apartment, probably built in the 1940s with high ceilings a Balcony in the living room with views of the busy neighborhood.
The furniture was basic but very clean and functional. The Living room consisted of a Sofa,Cofee Table chair and a TV. The House owner gave us the key and offered to cook breakfast everyday for 3 pesos each. I couldnâ€™t wait to go outside and walk around the neighborhood. So I changed into more summer and off I went with Alexander. The Vedado Neighborhood is full of people Cubans and foreigners of all ages going about their business, Before the revolution this was known as a upper class neighborhood and only the elite lived here. This Neighborhood still seems to be better off than other areas, but now any Cuban could just live there no matter what he did for a living. The University of Havana is quite near our house and we walked in it today.
The campus was very beautiful full of statues and magnificent buildings built more than a hundred years ago. The students seemed so friendly they would all smile or wave as we passed by. Since Iâ€™m of darker complexion it has been very easy for me to blend in with other Cubans. Pretty much the only time they could tell I was a foreigner when I talked. Alexander in the other hand with his pale as snow complextion,Blond hair and blue eyes would get constant stares and questions as to where he was from. After we went to eat at a Paladar (A private restaurant in a Cuban home usually serving Home cooked food)recommended by the Lonely planet guide, after walking like 25 minutes to get to it to our surprise it had been closed over a year ago, but the Nice owner quickly guided us to another Paladar serving Cuban food.
This something great about Cubans, they always seem to willing to help out and when they cant offer a service you need they send you off to someone who can. In other countries that I have visited this havenâ€™t been the case. The new Paladar was just a few minutes away, when we got there it was empty. The Owner a Lady In her 60s was the Hotess,Waitress, & chef all in one. It was a small yet cozy atmosphere. She played some typical Cuban music and off she went to the Kitchen. We waited like 20 minutes for our drinks and then another 40 minutes for the actual food. It was all worth it though. We got served some very delicious and filling fried fish in some sort of tomato sauce with friend Plantains, Plus some white rice & side salad. We were quite pleased with the meal and even more pleased with the price of 12 pesos for everything.
After our meal we decided to go for a walk on the beautiful seaside wall called â€śEl Maleconâ€ťit went on for miles from Old Havana to the Miramar Neighborhood. I just loved it there. We sat there and watched Cubans pass by. Young & Old, Couples making out, Children playing games, Old ladies selling peanuts, Singers offering their singing services. I was especially struck by the Beautiful Cuban men. They were for the most part simply dressed but always seemed to offer a beautiful smile. I was getting anxious to meet Gay Cubans and discover the Gay side of Cuba. After a Quick shower and Change of Clothes Alex and I went to the Yara Cinema right across the street of the Habana Libre Hotel and the Famous Ice-cream shop were part of the most famous Cuban Movie Strawberry & Chocolate was filmed according to some reports I had read on the Internet it was here a lot of Gays would Hang out at night and then go off to Private Gay Parties since Cuba didnâ€™t have any official Gay Clubs.
It was 9pm and we are standing there. It was infact true a lot of Hot guys would just stand there, but no one really talked to me as I just seemed liked another Guy in the crowd. It was quite funny several times I was approached by Tourist who thought I was Cuban. Alex was talked to but most of those guys seemed liked they were more interested in his wallet than him. So my first attempt to meeting other Gays in Cuba failed, but tomorrow is Friday so perhaps I will have better luck. The evening wasnâ€™t ruined though as we went to the Hotel Nacional and had some amazing mojitos for 2 pesos each.They would of easily been the best Mojitos I have ever had.The View from the Hotel Yard was amazing too. Overlooking The Havana bay. Some musicians played some Cuban Son. The atmosphere was just perfect and a Great way to end my first day in Havana.Til tomorrow J