Checkers and Dominoes
Not much happens on a Sunday in Habana. Most museums are closed by 2, if open at all. We wanted to do Casa de Africa – which isn’t even open on a Monday – and some Salsa. We did neither.
Around the Plaza de Armas area there is a daily book stall selling all sorts of books in Spanish. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I bought a little present for Sparky while I was there; the book is over a hundred years old and I bartered the guy down to $10 from $12. I could have, and arguably should have got him down to $8 – just to make him think twice about capitalism – but what’s an extra $2 to a fat cat, like me?
Right next to the Plaza de Armas, is Ernest Hemmingway’s favourite Hotel Ambos Mundos. Everyone in Cuba knows Ernest Hemmingway and he is a very popular figure here. The tourist industry in Habana is absolutely obsessed with him
- You can pay some more CUCs to see the room he stayed in at Hotel Ambos Mundos. But we didn’t fancy that in case someone
was in there and it sounded really boring.
- You can go on a tour of his house (Hemmingway Museum) in Cojiamar where he entertained naked actresses such as Ava Gardner. The house and all of his possessions have been left as they were, but you’re not allowed in because you’ll steal something and we decided Cojimar is a bit too far away to justify that one
- You can have a dacquiri, his favourite drink, at his favourite bar, El Floridita. At CUC$6 each, we didn’t fancy that either
- You can even go and visit Gregorio Fuentes – the fisherman of Santiago in Hemmingway’s novel, Old Man. However, I’ve never actually read it so didn’t see the point in that either.
To conclude, I didn’t really see the point in going to his house which I can’t go in, seeing his hotel room which has changed since, drinking daiquiris I can’t afford, or in seeing a man I can’t talk to even if he is still alive. I wanted to pick up one of his novels over there, but they’re all in Spanish, so I couldn’t do that either.
One of the only museums open today was the Museo de Farmacia. We only went in because it was free and because Ian wanted to go back to Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, where he’s a pharmacist, and justify to his boss why he took three weeks off work, having only been there a month. The place itself used to be the second biggest pharmacy in the world pre-revolution. They’d spent a lot of money restoring the impressive rich-wood interior. There were some funny remedies, posters and equipment from the early days but it was all in Spanish so, after we gave a ‘voluntary’ donation, we left.
With a feeling that the day was slipping away from us, we rescued it early that evening by going to see El Conspirador at Cine Payret. Directed by Robert Redford, starring James McAvoy and owned by the American Film Company we were a little surprised to see a Hollywood film being shown in Cuban cinema. If the Embargo wasn’t reason enough to refuse to show American films, there’s also the fact that Latin America, and Cuba itself produces some brilliant films – Fresa y Chocolate (1993) being Cuba’s most
by The American Company
famous. One week later, when I witnessed a whole Cuban family sat around a TV encapsulated by The Lizzy Maquire Movie, I was even more surprised. Anyway, we were pretty sure El Conspirador would be in English with Spanish subtitles. We’ve been ‘pretty sure’ before, but even if it was dubbed in Spanish the tickets only cost CUC$2 each (CUP$2 for nationals). Throw in an ice cream for CUC$1 and you’ve got yourself a very Cuban Sunday evening – unfortunately, cinema and ice cream two of the few affordable past times still available to the everyday Cuban.
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