Robaina's plantation

Wednesday 28 September 2011

The best pizza in Cuba is in Guanabo.

           Hello again. This post will be about what I consiuder to be the best pizza in Cuba and actually it's better than some of the restaurants I've been to here in my hometown of Toronto, Canada. The place is called 'Piccolo' in Guanabo, about 20 minutes outside of Havana at the far end of the Playa del Este, the Eastern Beaches.
           Pizza is sold just about everywhere in Cuba and most of it is pretty bad by our standards. If you're looking to fill your belly or you don't know any better, you're okay. I think that all the all-inclusive hotels offer pizza as a food availabe 24 hours. Nowhere in all my travels in Cuba have I found a pizza that's as good as this. Not only is it good, it's been consistantly good through the years & has become a place to go to when my travels take me to Havana. No trip to the beaches excludes a trip to 'Piccolo'.
           Friends of mine discovered it several years ago on an all-inclusive trip to the Eastern Beaches. Not long after that I was spending 3 days at a house on the beach in Guanabo & decided to look for this restaurant. As luck had it, Piccolo was 200 meters away from the place I was renting. We were there every day. The pizzas are great and people tell me the pastas are good too. I will not eat pasta anywhere except when I cook it so this not a reflection of the restaurant. I trust the people who told me the pasta was good. Every trip I take to Havana that's more than a few days, I plan a visit to the beaches and take a meal at Piccolo and I recommend you do the same.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

La Plaza de La Catedral (Habana Vieja) Havana

                The "Plaza de La Catedral" is one of the most beautiful squares that I've had the pleasure of visiting in Cuba and always make a point of visiting it at least once every trip. The "Catedral de San Cristobal" is the highlight and namesake of the square. It's original name is "La Catedral de La Virgen Maria de La Concepcion Inmaculada de La Habana"(that's a mouthful). Since being dedicated to San Cristobal it's name changed to what it's known as today, "Catedral de San Cristobal" (and thank you for that). It was built by jesuits on the site of another church in 1748-77. From this side of the square you're only about 100 meters from thye Malecon. You can see it from the front of the church.
                 On the opposite side of the church is the building that has housed the "Museo de Arte Colonial" since 1963. The house was built in 1720 & was once the residence of Don Luis Chacon, the military governor of Cuba. The furniture housed within is a wonderful & extensive collection dating from the 18th-19th centuries, gathered from the great colonial mansions of Havana. It also includes some beautiful ceramics. Check it out even if it's only for the view you'll get from the upper level. It will make a great picture of the Catedral.
                  Jutting out from the side of the museum is a little dead end street called "Callejon del Chorro". Right at the very end of the street is the "Taller Experimental de Grafica". Created in 1962, it attracts many young artists & has become a meeting place for people in the arts. It's a workshop dedicating itself to the art of printmaking. Limited numbers of each print are made and some of the pieces are quite racy taking jabs at the current political situation in Cuba. I was actually surprised that some of the stuff was allowed. It's definitely worth a visit. Just walk in and look around. There's a whole bunch of pictures hanging on walls as soon as you walk in & you can see the presses a little further down. No one bothers you. The prices should be marked & are quite resonable, if you wish to buy.
                  On one of the sides of the square you have the Bar-Restaurant "El Patio" & some souvenir shops. The restaurant has tables with umbrellas on the square as well as on a covered patio & indoors with an inner courtyard. I haven't had anything more than a cappuccino & cigar sitting at one of the tables on the square so I can't tell you about the food but I wouldn't eat there. They always have a live band outside so it's a pleasant break after all that sightseeing. Beware, there will be someone wanting to do your caricature. Deal with it how you want, they're always pleasant. I have lots of them, anything you give them is appreciated.
                   Let's not forget the remaining side of the square, opposite the restaurant. In front of the Palacio de Lombillo (built in 1618) stands the statue of Antonio Gades, a famous flamenco dancer from Spain. He was born in 1936 and died in 2004. Why is this statue here?? I have often wondered. He was a communist & defender of the Cuban Revolution. He had strong personal & political ties with Cuba. Fidel Castro was his best man when he married Marisol. He spent many of his latter years in Cuba & weeks before his death was presented with the order of Jose Marti by Fidel Castro. His ashes are kept at the "National Pantheon of Heros of the Revotlution" in Havana.
                   Well, that's about it. Give yourself more than an hour if you want to see it well & a lot more than that if you want to relax with a coffee at the restaurant. I believe this to be one of the top 3 squares to visit in Havana.

La Catedral

El Patio 

Souviner shop

Museo de Arte Colonial

The Statue of  Antonio Gades

Taller Experimental de Grafica

Friday 2 September 2011

Iglesia de San Francisco de Asis (La Habana)

              The "Iglesia de San Francisco de Asis" was originally constructed in 1719 & later reconstructed in 1730 in the Baroque style. The bell tower is 40 meters high & is topped with St.Helen holding the sacred cross of Jerusalem. The Protestant English used the church for worship while they ruled there in 1762. The catholics never used it again after that.
              The church & the convent next to it reopened in 1994 after restoration. The Cathedral is now used as a concert hall for classical music performances on Saturdays @ 6pm & Sundays @ 11am, September thru June. The convent next to the church houses the Museo de Arte Religioso. It's quite an extensive collection & I was very surprised of the quality & variety of the pieces. For an extra CUC you can climb the bell tower. Do it, you'll have a great view if the city, especially the harbour & Plaza San Francisco. The convent has a couple of courtyards surrounded by porticos with furnishings dating back from the time of its inception scattered around.
               The Church sits at one end of the Plaza de San Francisco right next to the Malecon. It's open daily to the public 9am-6pm with a 2cuc entrance fee plus another 2 if you want to use your camera. If you want a guide it's another CUC. I didn't use a guide and took a lot of pictures. It's a very large property with quite a bit to see. You could spend a good hour or more. I would go back and catch a concert one day.