When we finally got through Cuban immigration (apparently EVERYONE from the African continent has Ebola, according to all the non African countries we have visited in the last year) , we immediately set about organising a taxi to our casa (which we had not yet booked…). A couple of friendly Kiwis (also known as New Zealanders) overheard us and asked to split the cab.
We ended up staying at the same casa and making friends with the rest of the residents there – more Kiwis and a French/Moroccan couple. The second night in Havana we all went out to dinner together. Our casa hosts booked us a table at San Cristobal Paladar. A paladar “is a term used in Cuba to refer to privately owned restaurants, mostly family-run. About 2 years ago the state started allowing privately run businesses and these paladars are a great, more authentic, alternative to the rather touristy (and expensive) state run restaurants.
This paladar is on the higher end of the local scale (they only accept CUC for example, the tourist only currency) and when we arrived we were ushered into our own cosy private dining room.
The owner/chef prepared delicious food (again, no photos because it was so good and we were too busy licking our plates clean) and the service was truly fantastic. After dinner the men were served cigars (which obviously annoyed the women at the table)and we all got shots of locally made rum (the men’s shots were larger than the women’s… coincidence?) – all on the house.
The building used to be a private residence and now the ground floor houses the restaurant, All the walls in the high ceilinged rooms are covered in vintage photos, paintings and prints from Cuba’s heyday, when it was still the “Jewel of the Caribbean”. In between all the artwork is an extensive collection of vintage clocks, from across the globe, which we found out later is the biggest private collection in the world.
Rufus and I are not known for our heavy drinking, partying and late nights – 9pm is’nt called “cruiser’s midnight” for nothing. This evening however we were the last guests to leave, walking home at about 2am. The best part for me was, and this is how you know you are in good company, conversation was so good and so natural that we hardly realised how fast the time passed, none of us were tired and no one had more than 2 drinks the whole evening!
Good food, good people, good memories.