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Chuck Allen’s Cuban Adventure: Day 2

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havana

Sunday morning meant breakfast at the Hotel restaurant. It was the typical Cuban breakfast buffet of fresh fruits, yogurt, eggs, milk, bread, cheese, fruit drinks and coffee plus a lot of other stuff I wasn’t too sure about so I just decided to concentrate on fresh pineapple, bananas and bottled water.

Peter, our Finnish guide who has lived in Cuba for over 20 years and plays a mean trumpet, gave a brief discussion on the ‘Rumba’ and other popular dances in Cuba. We then took cabs to Hamelin Alley to see the Rumba performed by Cuban musicians and dancers.

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Our group was immediately welcomed and chairs were provided for all of us to sit up close and take a lot of pictures. There was also some participation by our dancers with the Cubans performers. This is a Cuban institution that occurs every week at the same location where CD’S are sold by the performers and the audience especially our group was expected to buy several copies. I have to admit after 2 hours in 95 degree heat, I took a little siesta as the musicians played on. From music in the alley, we walked to another restaurant and a terrific daily special of half a chicken, rice and vegetables all for only 5 CUC’S. What a deal. Then it was off by taxis to the Hotel National or as Cuban’s say; the Godfather tour.

The Hotel National was the hangout of the mob in pre-revolutionary days in Cuba. Now, probably the grandest hotel in Cuba, overlooking the Cuban Harbor, the hotel is the primary destination of foreigners who want the view but a location so far out of the way that it makes it difficult to maneuver the city without taxis. I chose to walk the 3 miles of the walkway or “Malecon” around the harbor through the streets of Havana past the Revolutionary museum and back to the Florida Hotel.

Instead of having dinner at the El Hanoi, our guide Peter opted for a restaurant on Obispo Street a few blocks from the hotel that was featuring a terrific dinner special plus a band he knew from previous jams in Havana. He was right. The food was terrific. The band and dancers amazing and with members of our entourage playing and dancing we took over the place. From there we were led to another club where the band performed outdoors in front of the restaurant and again the musicians in our group jammed with the Cuban musicians. That club led to another, then another and it wasn’t till early in the AM that most of us got back to the hotel for a little R & R. But then, there was always tomorrow to look forward to.

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