Havana, First Impressions
Havana, the old town at least, is the dreamiest blend of design and age, like a shard of glass beaten beautiful by the sea. We see buildings the color of conch shells, a limestone cathedral pocked with age, palm fronds bristling against patinated bell towers, scalloped stained glass windows. Bird cages and their captives hang outside doorways as if to replace doorbells. I imagine renting an apartment here where I could write and drink in the nude while I wait for my underthings to dry on my wrought-iron balcony.
Live music spills into the street from every direction, prodding us to wiggle as we walk. A three-man band lure us onto a patio for a listen and a round of mojitos. Sir and Toots request their favorite – Yolanda – and the band plays a heartrending tribute. The music drowns out the mewing of kittens, orange little bastards that roam around the patio rubbing their scrawny backs against our chair legs.
In the courtyard before us we watch herds of American tourists shuffle from sight to sight, their cameras slapping their bellies with each step.
For dinner we sit at a government-owned canteen and eat some miserable chicken fried in palm oil. We notice all the cutlery is engraved with “Comair,” the former airline. Is this where all the metal airline silverware went after 9/11? To Cuban canteens?
There is no toilet paper anywhere. There are no toilet seats. The plumbing in general is questionable. It’s helpful to have Cuban pesos (as opposed to CUCs) for tipping the bathroom attendants, though what service these women provide I’m not entirely sure.
Up next: Béisbol, a Cuban Pastime.