Paladares

Another program implemented during the ‘Special Period” was Paladares. The Cuban government allowed residents to open restaurants out of their homes in the vein as casa particulars.

In some paladares there is little doubt you are eating in what was once someone’s living room. We try to match up genealogy from the family pictures and heirlooms surrounding the room. While other paladares though, are slick restaurants and are paladares in name only. The common thread, great food, well prepared fresh seafood, suckling pig, and traditional cuisine. Finding a paladare is easy, at times we may have missed the signage, but we certainly did not miss the hawkers out on the street and they certainly did not miss us, with menu at hand and their best sales pitch they offer “the best paladar in town”.

 


The food scene in Havana is alive and well.


 

Casa Particulars, redux.

“There is a system in the casas. Once in, you will be given directions, by your host, to your next. It doesn’t matter if you are staying in the same city or going on to another town, they will do their best to hook you up”- Fellow traveller.

“Don’t worry, there are lots of casas. Just look for the casa sign on the door, knock, and check it out. If you like, stay, if not, go to the next. Don’t worry, you will find the casa meant for you.” – Fellow traveller.

Our stay with Anna comes to a premature end, she has received a late confirmation and our room is spoken for. Anna supplies us with a list of casas she recommends and a warning, “not all casas are good, check first.” With a few hours to spare, we leave armed with Anna’s list in search of another casa.

Hours pass and Anna’s list proved fruitless. We have checked-out what seems like an endless amount of casas, walked up, what feels like a small mountain’s worth of stairways. We decide that a hotel may be our last resort. Enroute to the hotel we pass by a small plaza where kids are playing soccer and in the street, in the shadow of a three story Colonial, others are playing stick ball and on the door of the Colonial a sign, Casa D’ Oficios. The casas hosts, Carlos and his wife Maya, indeed have a room available. The details are worked out over Cuban coffee and Mojitos, thirty five dollars per night, private bath, and five dollars per person for breakfast. The second floor casa is modest in décor. The prize though is the view out over the small plaza. On the balcony we have coffee, while watching the world series of street stick ball, or the worldcup of plaza soccer. The plaza’s shade trees are large enough to stretch over the street to our balcony where we can pluck leaves off their branches.

 

The remainder of our stay is with Carlos and May, exploring Havana by day, drinking Mojitos on the balcony by night.

Sometimes it’s what you didn’t see. I’m not really going to look for lost luggage.

DSC_0028 - CopyThe warmth of the Cuban people is past superlatives. The spirit of Old Havana/Vieja Habana is nothing short of infectious for those who are brave enough to be infected. The old cars are there but, so are the new. Safety is never a question. Even though I am long past the days of self-medication, I failed to see any drug culture, or any of the fun social parasites that accompanies such illegal activity. Gangs, mafia, drive-by shootings, realities that afflict most Latin American countries all seem to be absent from the Cuban landscape.

The black and white Cuba of my youth has long since been dismissed to the dustbin of history. Cigars are there, so are fruity drinks, the music……. For every Cuba latin song played in the bar, there are at least ten cars playing Cuban hip-hop on top of the line sound systems.

One week is not enough. Not enough.

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