Robaina's plantation

Wednesday 17 August 2011

El Cobre (El Sanctuario de Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre)

           The church "El Sanctuario de Nuestra Senora de la Caridad del Cobre", also known as El Cobre, is located in the foothills of the Sierra Maestra Mountains in the town of El Cobre. El Cobre was founded in 1550. The Spanish mined for copper in the nearby hills until 1630. The existing Basilica was built on Maboa hill in 1927. It's the most important shrine for Cubans & the most famous church in the country.

            Within the church, on the high altar, stands the statue of the Virgin of Charity, La Virgen de la Caridad. The Virgin of Charity moved to different shrines from the time of her discovery in 1608 until 1630. That's when she took the place of St.James above the high altar. The Virgin has been helping people of all religions for centuries & has been credited with many miracles. She is the protectress of Cuba. In 1916, the pope made a visit & declared her the Patron Saint of Cuba. The new Basilica was built to house her. In 1998, Pope John Paul II crowned her durning his visit.
            Located about 30km from Santiago de Cuba. You could take a taxi from there for about 30cuc round trip. That's what I did and would do it again. It's the fastest way to get there. You could also take a bus which leaves from the main station 4 times daily and it would be perfectly safe to do. The church is open 8am-6pm daily & costs nothing to enter. Ohh and don't worry, there's all kinds of vendors trying to sell you all kinds of souvenirs. Lots of them. Look for the little bags of copper pieces. You give all of them away except one that you keep for good luck. Signing off.

Friday 12 August 2011

Partagas (the store)

               The first time I went to Havana for a full day, on my own, I made it a point to visit the Partagas factory store. There was a certain allure, an attraction I couldn't explain. I saw pictures of it on many of the travel sites showing pictures of Old Havana. Located behind the Capitolio building, it's a perfect starting point for a tour of Old Havana.
               From the first visit, I was made to feel at home. It wasn't until several visits later when I met Abel that I became one of the family. Abel is the store manager & has been for many years. A great host who always remembers your name & greets you with a hug & smile. That's quite an amazing feat considering the extended family consists of several hundred people from all over the world who may visit only once or twice a year in some cases.
                Partagas throws an event called "Encuentro Amigos de Partagas" every november & april. At that time, hundreds of aficionados, men & women, from around the world, show up to partake in the best Partagas & Havana have to offer. If you are a cigar smoker, then this is the maximum of enjoyment. Four days of events & activities revolving around smoking Cuban cigars. Heaven.
                The rest of the staff at Partagas work as a team to provide the best service but with a family-like feel to it. Rey, who greets you at the door with a bear hug. La China, the wonderful lady who rolls some of the best cigars in the city & who I call a friend. Jose & Kiki always ready to recommend the perfect box of cigars for you. Let's not forget Odalys who makes the best espresso in the country behind the Partagas bar. All these people I consider friends & make my visit to Partagas feel like a visit to a friends house.
                 For me, Partagas is the best place to buy cigars. You may not always find what you're looking for & there are better stocked stores but at any given time the selection of cigars at Partagas is quite good. If you know Abel & give enough notice he can probably get you anything you want. Otherwise there's always something for everyones tastes. What makes Partagas the best for me is that it's the most personal. The location is perfect, in the middle of my favorite part of the city. It's become a meeting place for us smokers who come to Havana every year. The VIP lounge in the back of the store is perfect for relaxing with a cigar, espresso and rum. Someone always shows up.
                 If you ever make it to Havana & are going to do one factory tour, go to Partagas. They do tours daily & in several languages. Pop into the store & tell them Matteo from Canada says hello. I'm sure you'll get a smile. Enjoy the pics

Monday 8 August 2011

Angel Ramirez (artist)

                  Last year I discovered that Cuba had artists creating works that were beyond the usual stuff you see in the markets. On that occasion I went on a discovery trip. One of the artists I found was Angel Ramirez. His studio along with the studios of other artists is located above the restaurant "La Mina". That would be on one of the corners of "Plaza de Armas" in old Havana. The studio is open to the public and if you wish to you can legally buy the works of art show there. Angel seems to be a very nice man, modest, a little shy. I've posted a few of his works but he had a lot of stuff and some of it you have to be there to actually get the full effect. Enjoy.

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Behike 54 (review)

                The big moment, the night I'd been looking forward to for a while. The night I crack open the box of Behike 54s. It was a perfect occasion. I had a friend from Cuba in town on business so we had him over for steak dinner with red wine and a sampling of Rums for the after dinner cigars. I had my first Behike this past june in Havana. It was one of the 56s that were handed out durning the february 2011 Habanos Festival. I was curious to taste the difference. The 54 was exquisite. A full bodied, complex smoke, very easy to smoke, a little firm but burned pretty evenly most of the way. Smoked it down to the last inch. Reminded me a little of the Cohiba Sublime from a few years ago. So the question is, is it worth the $100cnd price tag. Personally, I wouldn't pay $100 for this cigar but will definitely buy more boxes at Cuba prices ($30-35cnd) the next trip to Havana.
If you have a chance and it doesn't bust your bank, I would try one.