Robaina's plantation

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Partagas Selección Privada Edición Limitada 2014 (cigar review) unbanded pre-release

                   I was lucky to have had these gifted to me on my last trip to Cuba and surprised that they're going to be released in the next couple of weeks. This cigar is a Double Robusto and weighs in at 50 x 160 (6.3"). They will be packaged in Dress Boxes of 10 cigars.
                   The ones I was given had a darkish coloured wrapper that was smooth and oily but showing a few little bumps. The construction looked quite good. The pre-light draw tasted like chocolate but once lit it was all earth with a hint of roasted coffee bean. The draw was perfect and the burn pretty good nearing the first inch. So far it's a medium body cigar. Past the first inch and the burn is a bit off. It's still earth with a touch of wood.
                    A quarter way through the cigar and the burn was off enough for me to do a touch up with my's all earth now and continues to be medium body. And so it went to about the last quarter. I had to keep touching it up, it went out several times and I had to relight it. I noticed at one point it was burning hotter through the middle. None of this affected the taste of the cigar. It got a little stronger through the last quarter and finally it was too small for my taste to be relighting it again, so I let it go.
                    It needs time to rest but I was actually surprised at how well it smokes now. It reminds me of the Montecristo 520 & Cohiba 1966 but without that in your face power. Definitely toned down in comparison to the two but similar in flavour. Very unlike the usual Partagas profile. I liked it and I'm going to have to buy a box or two for putting aside. I recommend trying this cigar.

Saturday 27 September 2014

Plaza Vieja (Habana Vieja) A Pictorial

                  This Square has had many names, the first one being 'Plaza Nueva' in 1559 when it was created. The buildings within the Plaza were once large mansions owned by wealthy Cubans (most likely Spaniards with financial or political interests in the country). Today they serve as: museums, art galleries, souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes and hotels. During it's heyday the Plaza bore witness to many events: executions, processions, bull fights and parties or festivals of all kinds. It was originally used for military exercises before Plaza de Armas took over that role. It became a busy market after that until the early 1800's and at one time it even contained an underground parking lot (if you can believe that...because looking at the square now you can never imagine that someone would do that or that it had ever been done). The parking lot's demise and the beginning of the enormous restoration program began in 1996.
                   The pictures below have been taken over the span of several years. I've been coming here for about 10 years now and I've noticed the changes in the Square, especially through my pictures. I've always liked this Square and the Pub in one of the corners (they brew their own beer) has always been one of my favourite hangouts.

Plaza Vieja
San Ignazio y Mercaderes
Teniente Rey y Muralla

La Taberna de La Muralla (The Pub)

On Calle Mercaderes just before entering Plaza Vieja

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Carlos Varela in Concert with Chambao (Havana) May 2014

                            I have never seen this musician prior to this concert. Actually, that's a lie, I saw him on my first visit to the Robaina Plantation in Pinar del Rio as he was leaving, about 8 years ago. At that time I had no idea who he was. It wasn't until after he left that I was told about him. I guessed him to be like the Bob Dylan of Cuba. I was also told that because of the words to his songs (talking about what was wrong with the government/country) he was prohibited to sing at large venues. They had limited his live shows to smaller places like bars and clubs. However, everyone I knew either really liked him and/or talked about him in a good way. This concert in May was somewhat of a historical event in some ways. A famous band from Spain, Chambao (flamenco-electronic genre), was invited to play in Cuba. The band accepted but only if Carlos Varela could play with them....the Cuban government accepted. The venue was the Karl Marx theater on 1st Ave. in Miramar. A relatively large venue for Cuba and certainly a much larger space that Carlos has been used to of late. The spectators were an eclectic group of people from all ages....someone even brought a baby (How insane is that?). I knew the group Chambao prior to this concert but had never seen them live. I enjoyed the concert immensely. I didn't like every song the groups played either alone or together but the two different styles of music being played in one concert by seasoned musicians, with a historical twist, made this one of the most memorable concerts that I've had the pleasure of attending. Varela started the concert with his band playing some of his greatest hits with Maria del Mar Rodriguez Carnero (aka: La Mari) joining in afterwards on vocals. They did a few songs together and you could tell they were having a great time. Shortly afterwards Varela and his band left the stage to be replaced by the rest of Chambao. They played their flamenco chill style music for quite awhile before the finale when Varela joined Chambao for a couple of songs. I certainly got my money's worth, at $10 (tourist price) it was the best value I got for a concert in my life.

What WikiPedia has to say about Carlos Varela:

Carlos Victoriano Varela Cerezo (born April 11, 1963) is a singer-songwriter of nueva trova from Havana, Cuba. In the 1980's he joined the Nueva Trova musical movement, a political and poetic musical genre connected with the Cuban Revolution.
Silvio Rodríguez, one of the most famous persons in the world nueva trova founders, "discovered" him and helped the "nomo" [Gnome] (nickname coming from the way he dresses) taking him on a tour to Spain. His first CD "Jalisco Park" was published in Spain. Nowadays Varela's music is known for its open criticism of the status quo, though it is still considered Nueva Trova, which itself began as a reaction to the unjust conditions that led to the Revolution.
His song — "Una Palabra" [A Word]— was used in the film Powder Keg (2001) di-rected by Alejandro González Iñárritu starring Clive Owen and again in the film Man on Fire in 2004 starring Denzel Washington and Dakota Fanning. He has managed to integrate his music in several Cuban films as well, such as Las profecias de Amanda and Video de familia among others.

Below is a clip of Varela taken from an excellent site; Havana Cultura

Here are some pictures from the concert: