After our crazy morning attempting to get back to Havana, we settle into our new accommodations and head back out in search of dinner.
From our previous explorations, Havana Vieja seems to have the most restaurants, so this is the direction we go. On the way, we pass another of Ernest Hemmingway’s former haunts – the Floridita, a fish restaurant and cocktail bar. They are still popular for their daiquiris, though I didn’t try one so can’t confirm.
The blue dome in the photo below is a phone booth. I’m not sure why, but I find them so funny looking, like a giant hat.
We settle on an inconspicuous little restaurant only apparent by the man sitting in front with a menu – . And guess what. The food is delicious! It’s the only truly good food we eat on the entire trip. We even come back the following night for seconds. When you find a good meal in Cuba, you take advantage!
The restaurant is on the second floor with a balcony overlooking Calle Obispo, one of the main pedestrian streets in Havana Vieja.
After dinner we wander the streets of Havana Vieja discussing what to do for New Year’s Eve. There are several clubs we could go to, but I’m sure all of them will be packed. I’m trying not to be too curmudgeonly, but late nights and large crowds are so not my thing. But still, it’s New Year’s Eve!
As we’re walking, we pass a bar and I see an American football game on the TV. It’s my University of Washington Huskies in the National Championship semi-finals! I hardly dared hope there would be a place to watch the game in Havana, but it turns out I’m not the only American here wanting to watch. I bribe Maggie with all the mojito’s she can drink to let me go inside and watch the remainder of the game. Sadly, we lose, but it’s Alabama. I honestly didn’t expect any different.
Once the game is over, we decide on Plaza Vieja to ring in the New Year. There are crowds spilling out of houses, restaurants and bars down every street.
We buy a couple beers and sit on the steps to people watch for the evening.
In typical Cuban fashion, people are dancing, new friends are being made and the atmosphere is very festive.
As the clock counts down, people gather and celebrate the arrival of 2017. There are no fireworks, but there is an interesting Cuban custom of throwing water on your front door to wash away the old year and bring good luck in the new.
This quickly turns into a game of soak the tourist. As we walk back to our casa, we duck and dodge people throwing buckets of water off their balconies above the streets, keeping close to the walls. A confrontation breaks out after a French guy in front of me gets hit. He’s understandably very unhappy about his free shower.
Fortunately we escape unscathed, though it’s touch and go. The dark, wet streets are eerily beautiful.
The following morning, after a nice long sleep in, we head out to Playa del Este to spend the day at the beach. Technically this isn’t legal for American tourists, but it’s New Year’s day! Nothing is open anyway! And how can you come all the way to Cuba and not see the white sand and turquoise water?
Originally we had planned to take the hop on, hop off bus, but when we tried to board, they told us they don’t go to Playa del Este. This must be new since the route on their site looks like they do. Or maybe they are sick of beach goers taking up room on their site seeing buses? Fortunately, there are other buses, but a girl approaches us saying she needs two more people in her taxi to fill it up so they can go to the beach, 5CUC per person. We readily agree and hop in.
Of course, everyone else in the country has the same idea. For 80km of beach, this place is packed! We’re able to get a couple lounge chairs under an umbrella for a few dollars, but only just. Later, when we order food, it never shows up. Finally we make the decision to head back to the city in search of dinner, but can’t even find the guy to pay for the water we did get. We search for 15 minutes before finally giving up. Our German friends we met in Vinales said they had the place practically to themselves when they were here, so if you want to see the beaches in Cuba, make sure to visit on a non-holiday weekday.
Even on the beach, musicians play live music! For tips, of course. I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve seen a double bass (yep, I’m a band geek) on the beach.
After the non-stop action of the last several days, it’s nice to have no agenda. Someday I’d love to come back to Cuba to spends more time relaxing on the beach and especially SCUBA diving. But I’m glad to have gotten a taste of it today. Tomorrow we’re back on the road, this time southeast to Trinidad.