After a very full day in Havana, we decided to take it a bit easier on April 2nd and meet up with Carlos and Judy in downtown Varadero. Our resort is located on the other side of the Veradero area, so transportation was in order to travel the 15 km or so into town. Our ride into town was an astonishingly boring hop on/hop off double decker bus. It was cheap, only $5 convertible Pesos for the whole day and as slow as hell. What would have been a 10 minute tax ride, turned out to be a patience taxing hour long meander in an out of every resort to pick up and drop off tourists.
Naturally, we arrived later than expected, however, this was no big deal because this was a day of leisure. My only goal was to get a haircut, something I would have done at the resort except the hair salon was never open. I figured this would be easy enough task to accomplish and a bargain as well. Carlos and I went to a few barber shops in town and each one of them was full! No point in waiting and hour and wasting leisure time whilst leaving Elaine and Judy alone. It was time for fun, food and drinks.
Downtown Varadero caters to tourists, it still has vestiges of everyday Cuban life, but it’s clear that Canadian tourist dollars keeps this town alive. Everywhere you go, there is a vendor offering any number of souvenirs, t-shirts, assorted apparel, knickknacks, etc. One is more likely to see Canadians walking the streets than Cubans. On the plus side, there are some really good places to eat and order fine wines. We walked a few blocks over to “The Baracuda”, a favourite haunt of Carlos and Judy. I’m glad we did, it was the best lunch we had in Cuba and the only time I could get a real steak, something thicker than a piece of cardboard and not overcooked. I ordered a bottle of Santo Carolina, a decent Chilean Cab-Sauvignon. The red wine served at our resort was basically floor cleaner with some red dye in it, so I was elated to finally get a good wine to wash down a meal.
We took another walk through town and watched Cubans and tourists alike go about their business. As always, the constant flow of classic cars was amazing eye candy. We made another stop at a high end Italian restaurant for dessert and drinks. I decided to treat all of us to a good wine, in this case it was a bottle of Chianti Classico at $65. This wine is very expensive by Cuban standards, but it was actually one of the cheapest bottles on the rack at this restaurant. The average price hovered around $150, many were over $200, a bit too rich for my wallet.
After getting a nice glow from the beers and wine, Carlos offered me the chance to try out his very compact 120 cc MZ motorcycle. Hitherto, the smallest bike I have ridden was an 800 cc Suzuki Marauder, which I consider quite small compared to my 1680 cc Harley Davidson 2008 Road Glide. Getting on this MZ was different than anything I’ve ridden before, I mean it’s really small. The starter is an old school kick starter, something I’ve never used before. My inexperience coupled with wearing loose clogs, meant I looked like an idiot trying to start it. Carlos intervened to help me get it going and I took it for short putt around the block. Shifting gears was quite idiosyncratic and the front brake was really soft. Then again, this bike is probably 30 years old and parts are not plentiful, so the rider would have to become well acquainted with the bike’s pitfalls and behaviors to be safe on the road.
However, it was fun to ride it and considering I would fail every DUI, it was best kept short and sweet.
Judy thought she was scheduled to return to Canada during the evening, so we said our goodbyes to her and Carlos. Elaine and I walked around town for another hour or so and took the bus back to the resort. Upon returning to the resort, there was a message on the phone from Judy. She goofed about her return date! Turns out that she was scheduled to fly back on April 4th. Yeah! This meant another day with them and another visit to Cardenas, which will be the subject of my next post.