Robaina's plantation

Monday 30 April 2012

Adagio (new Bar-Restaurant Havana)

                   Havana is a wonderful city full of little surprises. Lately there has been a whole bunch of new restaurants and bars opening up. Adagio is one of those places. I found it open on my trip at the end of February but it wasn't there the first week of January. One day an empty space and the next there's a Bar, Restaurant or Art Gallery. Since anything that doesn't belong to a citizen belongs to the government, it's easy for them to convert empty space into something that may make them money.
                    Adagio is located right next to the Opera House (Gran Teatro), between it and the Hotel Inglaterra across Parque Central. It has a lovely patio which has a lot of traffic going by it. It's a little noisy but if you like to people watch it's a perfect spot. The restaurant itself is modern looking with images of ballerinas scattered around the room and a decent bar selection. As far as the food goes, I didn't eat there. I can tell you they have Filet Mignon @ $15cuc, Lobster Tail @ $15, Filet of Sole @ $12cuc and Pork Loin @ $10.50cuc. The prices aren't bad but I don't know if I would eat there. It seems to me that it would be one of those typical government run restaurants. They will be adding more main courses in the near future.
                     For the first few weeks the live entertainment played traditional Cuban music. Someone decided that it didn't suit the name or decor of the restaurant. Being next to the Opera House, which is the home of the Ballet of Cuba, they decided to have the live entertainment play Classical music. What a mistake that was. Who wants to hear classical music in Cuba. Tourists want the Cuban music and the fact that the place is usually empty should tell them that. This post is not to tell you to go, only that this place now exists. If anyone has any input, please let me know.


Tuesday 24 April 2012

Ramon Allones Small Club Coronas (cigar review)

            This is a great little cigar and I'm sure those of you who have smoked one will agree. I have yet to speak to someone who has smoked one who says otherwise. This particular one has an Oct.06 box date.
             Nice box press and as hard as a rock. It had a smooth, veinless, dark cafe latte coloured wrapper. Once lit, it had a perfect draw with strong wood flavours, a little stronger than a medium. The burn started a little uneven but straightened itself out after a little while. A third into the cigar I tasted coffee and after flicking the ash I was left with a perfect triangle.
              When I was down to my last third the cigar continued to maintain it's strength and I was picking up hints of chocolate. The burn was even and I never had to touch up this cigar. It was an absolute dream to smoke and I couldn't put it down. Finally when I couldn't hold it any longer I gave up.
               This is a short review, it's a short cigar. This is a perfect size when you don't have time to smoke something big or just anytime you don't know what to smoke. I always keep one in my travel humidor for that occasion. It never lets me down. I strongly recommend this cigar and the price is great too. I believe I paid about 65cuc for it in Cuba. I have had several boxes of these cigars through the years and have never been disappointed.

Friday 20 April 2012

Carlos Manuel Guzman Hernandez (artist)

              Many are the qualifications that can be added to the works of Art of Carlos Guzman, one of the most imaginative and creative artists in Cuba. Why? It's obvious. His ample work opens up a side of himself that's a mixture of the real and surreal, past and future and where time gives a hand to a special magic that invents the fate of machinery, objects and situations. He transforms them with his talent and creates works that strangely attract you like a potent magnet.
               This was a rough translation of an excerpt from an introduction to one of his Exhibitions in Oct.2009 called 'Cena Molecular'.
               Carlos Manuel Guzman Hernandez graduated in 1985 from the Elementary School of Plastic Arts 'Paulita Concepcion' and in 1989 from the Academy of Plastic Arts 'San Alejandro'.
               Art Instructor, Director of Art Galleries and Professor of Drawing and Illustrations of Elementary Level, Polytechnical and University Schools. Illustrator of Books, Magazines and Postcards and other publications. He has participated in numerous projects for the tourist market within Cuba. He's donated Murals he has created personally and has participated in other Collectives for Major Health Care Institutions, the Office of the City Historian and other spots around the city with altruistic purposes and with peace being the theme. He has displayed his works all over the country as well as throughout the world in personal exhibits and collectives with others. Some of the countries he's shown his work in: Brazil, US, Mexico, France, Holland, Spain, Venezuela, Italy, to name a few.
                He has been in his current studio on Oficios, above the restaurant 'La Mina', for the past 2 years. He's married and has three children. He's a pleasant and somewhat shy man who delights in creating works of art that are a pleasure to view. To see his works on line visit
                Pay him a visit if you happen to be at Plaza de Armas in Old Havana, he's very welcoming. He's on the third floor, going up the spiral staircase. There's usually someone sitting at a desk on the second floor happy to give you directions, just ask. He was very happy to give up some of his time for me as I'm sure he will for you. His Art is also for sale.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Hotel Copacabana, Miramar, Havana

                Due to the rising costs of Air Canada flights from Toronto to Havana, I've searched for alternate ways to get there. There were very few alternatives into the city of Havana in the past and only 3 for the Playa Santa Maria area 20-25 minutes outside of Havana (still considered part of Havana). The kilometers long strip of beach is actually beautiful but the all-inclusive hotels aren't that great and neither is the food. I was wanting to book a week through New Years and wanted to avoid the resorts so I decided to take a shot at the flight-hotel packages for Havana. I wasn't really expecting anything so I was surprised to find a whole bunch of places that were available. I decided to book the Hotel Copacabana right on the water on the 1ra Avenida (1st Ave.) in the Miramar district of Havana. I heard some good things about it.
                 The hotel is nothing special but it's not that bad, the location is great. It's close to many great restaurants, clubs, cigar shops-lounges and a few tourist attractions. It's only about a 10 minute cab ride to Vedado and a little longer to Old Havana, maybe $5cuc one way in one direction and there are a few things to see if you go in the other direction, maybe $10cuc one way. You can walk to a few of the restaurants in the area but otherwise it's a very short cab ride to most restaurants and clubs.
                  The hotel lobby has it's usual variety shop where you can by souvenirs, drinks, a few cigars and munchies plus the tourist kiosk where you can book tours. Not a whole lot but the essentials plus there's a bar that's open 24 hours with a fair size seating area where the prices are a little higher than on the street but not too bad. The service at the bar and reception was always cordial. We had an excellent relationship with whoever we dealt with. There's also a Cadeca (money exchange) and of course telephones to make your calls to back home. The main restaurant is also located here. Breakfast was included with the package but before 11am. The food wasn't that great, juices were hit and miss, the milk watered down and the coffee horrible but the omelettes that were prepared as ordered were tasty and there was always fresh fruit, which wasn't that sweet and toast bread with butter. That's enough for me. I paid for my coffee, which was espresso, and had it at the lobby bar. It was almost always good but at least better than the restaurant. There's also a Pizzeria on the property closer to the pool that's open from 12 noon until 12 midnight. It's not the best pizza but I've had much worse. The price was very reasonable, $5-6cuc per pizza if I recall and they will deliver it to your room as well. All in all, clean, well kept with pleasant people working. In the evenings there would always be some kind of activity the hotel would organize for the guests.
                     The rooms were comfortable and everything worked, tv remote, tv, air-conditioning and everything in the bathroom, toilets, shower.... I got us a room with a balcony so I could smoke my cigars and the view was great, overlooking the ocean. The weather wasn't to good but it made for a nice show with the waves smashing against the wall. The pool was a decent size and there was also a salt water pool which was actually in the ocean. Take a look at the pictures to see what I mean. I didn't get a chance to use either due to the weather and the pool bar wasn't in use because there was no one at the pool. I imagine in the warmer weather that would be up and running.
                      I would do this trip again and wouldn't be adverse to staying at Copacabana but I think I will give the Hotel Comodoro a try next time. I read they even have a tiny strip of beach. Flight and Hotel from Toronto, Canada was about $800. I was paying more than that for a flight only with Air Canada. The only draw back is that they fly into Varadero and bus you to your hotel in Havana. That's about a 2 1/2 hour trip one way. The Hotel Comodoro is about the same money and also has that cigar shop I love where Crisanto rolls some fantastic cigars.
                      Once again, the Hotel Copacabana isn't one of the best hotels you can stay at in Havana but the value is definitely there. I can strongly recommend this hotel to anyone who is on a budget. Don't hesitate to ask me any questions.

View from Balcony

View from Balcony


View from Balcony



Lobby Store

Lobby Bar

The Pizzeria

The Salt Water Pool