Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cuba Day 13: El Leon de Oro

The bakery, the “Golden Lion” bakery. Aurelio y Roberto. Aurelio saw me taking photos outside and asked if we’d like to take a look inside. I did, so I beckoned the young fella who was off climbing a pole, and we followed Aurelio in.
He brought us out the back, to where the ovens are, and introduced us to the other lads, busy kneading dough on a counter. Then to the cold room, which spewed a cloud of mist when he opened the door. Young fella went in, huge smile, amazed. Poked at the dough till I told him not to touch it.
Aurelio showed him everything, the mixers, the ovens, the trays. He pulled trays out of the ovens, put others in. Gave us hot bread to taste. Roberto showed the young lad how to knead the dough, another showed him how to roll it. The rolled dough was to make crackers.
Aurelio said they were only allowed make three types of bread. Bakery is run by the government. He’s been working there since 1994. Eighteen hour shifts. One day on, the next day off. He said I look like the singer from Abba, dunno which one he meant...
Bakery opens at 7am, closes at 6am. Has been running since 1936. Owner used to live in apartment upstairs. The only one in the street at the time. I think. It doesn’t make sense, could be translation issue. Unless he means it was the only bakery on the street at the time. Yes, that makes more sense…
The whole thing was amazing. I told Aurelio I loved Cuba, especially for the people, so warm and inviting. “You don’t feel like a tourist but a guest,” I told him. He said they like to make friends. Well, we were all amigos by the end. Handshakes and high-fives all round when leaving.
Bought a bag of bread out the front. Aurelio didn’t ask for any money but I gave him 3 cucs. He was grateful. The bread went mostly to kids – one on the street we met who kept looking at us and the rest to kids playing football, the next story

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Cuba Day 13: Último día en La Habana

Plaza Vieja a maelstrom of tourists, locals, musicians playing salsa and dogs sleeping under tables or humping, apparently turned on by the music and oblivious to bemused spectators. Young fella thought it was hilarious, whipped out his camera. I had to drag him away.

The bakery. Aurelio y Roberto. (I took too many photos here – it was a highlight in a trip of lights all at the same height – so I’m taking out this snippet and I’ll post separately with the pictures.) The bread went mostly to kids – one on the street who kept looking at us and the rest to kids playing football, the next story below...

Guys playing fútbol at Area Deportiva El Cristo. EVERY time we stopped to look at football or baseball the young fella has been asked if he wanted to play too. Amazing, wouldn’t happen anywhere else. Was high-fiving the other kids by the end. They’d asked his name straight away.

Mojitos at the same bar where we watched Atleti on the first day. Wrote couple postcards, he watched Barça. Waiter mad friendly, again just like we’d known each other all our lives. Maybe we have.

Back to the same Asturian place for dinner. Uneventful. Then when waiting for the bill, the original waiter came out, recognized me, big hello and smile, hand out for a handshake, and on his way. Was same when met a woman who was on the same bus from Playa Larga to Varadero earlier – just another chance meeting – she greeted us like long lost friends. Cubans are just friends you haven’t met yet.

3 mojitos, or was it 4?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Cuba Day 12: Playa / Fortaleza / Malecón

Back to the beach. Pristine. Backed by palm trees, golden sand, crystal clear water just kissing the shore. Heavenly.
Two Cubans said it was gonna rain tomorrow so we did well to make another beach stop today.

Me: “We’re gonna have to come back.”
Him: “Definitely.”
“When d’ya wanna come back?”
“Next winter maybe.” *Keeps digging and humming*

At Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña waiting for the military ceremony over Havana Bay. Standing beside a group of Americans, just realized their ruler/chief representative on this planet is Trump. Fuck. Visited the Museo de Comandancia del Che. I’m sure he’d say fuck too.

We’ve seen Venus overhead every night. She’s been overlooking our time in Cuba. Venus in Fidel’s furs.

Bus driver from the fort was a comedian. Complimented me on my Spanish, muy bien, más o menos. Told him it was más menos que más. He was cracking jokes all the way back to Habana. Had a voice like honey, could have listened forever. And he was so friendly. It seemed he was genuinely sorry to see us leave the bus, called me his friend, told us to be careful. Total gentleman.

Malecón again for dinner. A late one. Cuban place. We both agree the birds in the cages should be free, like us.

Malecón jammed with people. Saturday night. Couples smooching, friends chatting, guitarists serenading, families strolling. All the action’s at Malecón! But it’s horrible with six lanes of traffic beside it. Still, a brilliant snapshot of la vida Habanero.

3 mojitos, 1 piña colada.