Robaina's plantation

Thursday 31 January 2019

Taxi Rutero (Havana) Minibus

                  There was a time when only one means of transportation was available to a tourist, other than renting a car, a taxi. When I say a taxi, back in those days, it was one of those yellow taxis that only tourists were able to afford. We weren't allowed to use a Cuban's mode of transportation, a bus or a local taxi. Times have changed but I don't remember exactly what year that was. I started traveling to Cuba in 2003 and just a few years ago local Cuban transportation has become available to tourists. That means that a whole array of vehicles are now available for our use, it's harder than you think....and I'm still trying to figure it out. I'm one of the lucky ones, I live on 5ta Ave and can easily walk to 3ra and catch one of the several modes of transportation that will take me into the city. You see, there are routes scattered all around the city and I have a long way to go before I'm able to know where all of them are. I do know the one on 3ra but am still trying to figure out the different variations of it. The one mode that's more plentiful than the rest are the Almendrones, they are the classic jalopies that you see a lot of around the country. However, the laws have changed in the new year making it difficult for their owners to earn a living. I'm not going to get into the politics of the changes that have been made but the result was a widespread strike. The government had said that they were adding many of the mini buses (Rutero) to the existing routes to makeup for the lack of taxis that they predicted would be the case in the future.
                  The minibuses or Rutero are a cheap and convenient way to get to your destination....that is if you are close enough to one of the routes and they're going where you are. The cost to travel across the city in this minibus is only $5 Cuban Pesos or 25 centavos (in CUC). However, be aware that they pickup and drop off passengers along the way and if it's busy it might double your travel time. In a country where time means very little, it's a cheaper and more comfortable way to get around....supposedly there's no standing and each bus is equipped with air-conditioning. Having lots of time on my hands during my last trip into Cuba I was more than happy to try out the different modes of transportation but if I'm there for only a short time, my preferred way to get around would be a taxi.
                  It's perfectly safe and you shouldn't get lost, they usually end up in Old Havana at some point....just ask the driver. pay on your way out, not upon entering....they accept CUC (25 centavos) as well as CUP ($5).

Wednesday 30 January 2019

Hotel Conde de Villanueva LCDH (Havana) One of My Favourite Cigar Shops

                    Anytime I'm in Havana I always come here and visit my old friend Reinaldo Gonzalez who's name I've been spelling incorrectly for all these years. I met Reinaldo around 2005-6 and have been coming here ever since. The shop is smack in the middle of Habana Vieje where most people don't even know of it's existence, which is fine by me. It's never full except during one of the festivals and Reinaldo is almost always there, unless he's off on one of his vacations.....speaking of that everyone knows, Reinaldo has not left the country for good. It seems that many people thought that he had left Cuba for Mexico after having seen many pictures of that country posted on his Facebook Page. Reinaldo is still at Conde but minus his roller, it seems that Jorge has left the country or retired and he's having to do all the rolling himself. During the 2 months I was there I visited 4-5 times, sometimes just for a coffee and to buy a cigar and other times for a while longer, to relax or to get out of the rain. It's a perfect spot within the old part of the city to get away from it all and forget where you are. If you're ever in the area you have to pop in and pay him a visit....this is where some of the best cigars in the city are rolled.

PS.....there's almost always a soccer game shown on the big screen tv. If a game is being played at that time, it will be shown....everyone here is a soccer fan, Barcelona specifically.

Hotel Conde de Villanueva
Calle Mercaderes #202
Esq/  Lamparilla
La Habana Vieja
Telephone: (537) 862 9293

Tabarish (Havana Restaurant) It Has Finally Re-opened

              In 2016 I visited this restaurant when it was on Calle 20 y 5ta in Miramar....but I didn't have a chance to eat a meal there. I thought that when I returned to Cuba that I would go back there and have a bowl of borscht that I had seen on their menu. However, when I returned several months later, the restaurant had shut down. I was pleasantly surprised to find it re-opened 2 years later in Old Havana and of course I wasn't going to miss this opportunity to grab a meal there. Tovarishch, tovarisch or tovarish (Russian: Товарищ) is a Russian word meaning comrade, friend, colleague, or ally. The 'V' in Cuban is pronounced as a 'B', hence the spelling.
               I walked by the restaurant at least once or twice during one of my walks without realizing it was there, the signage isn't overly visible. It wasn't until I leafed through an advertisement that I noticed 'Tabarish' had opened up again but this time in Old Havana. So I decided to come here with my wife one afternoon after doing some chores. The decor, with it's touch of Russia scattered around the place, isn't near how overtly garish it was in it's previous location which had Russian newspapers & posters in various spots as well as the flag and colours. The new location looks a little more like an international restaurant if you don't look too closely. There are two levels, the upstairs was empty during our visit,  the main level downstairs, wasn't too busy but it was 3 in the afternoon. The restaurant is located on a prominent corner of the old city opening onto the street. The area has seen some renovations recently making it more accessible to tourists. A sightseer's comfort zone has expanded through the years.
              The menu is reminiscent of a Denny's in North America, lots of pictures, I like it. A mix of Russian, International and Cuban dishes makes this place palatable to everyone. I had my Borscht to start, looked exactly as it should and was served with a side of sour cream....that was a surprise. It tasted as it should but the meat was a little hard....that was no surprise. I would have it again. I finished with the Pork Ribs, one of the best I've had in the city for my taste. My wife started with the Cream of Pumpkin soup which she claimed was the best she's ever had....she's a very picky person. Her main course was the Fish of The Day, Pargo Filet on the grill. She thought it was ok as did I but I wasn't crazy about the piece they gave her. With 2 beers and 2 soft drinks the total came out to $37.55 before gratuity....not bad. The service was pleasant but not the most professional, a young lady who didn't pay a great deal of attention to the 2 tables she had. I will definitely return and probably have the Borscht again....let's hope the place is still there when I come back.

Calle O'Reilly #465 e/ Villegas y Aguacate,
Habana Vieja,
(+53) 7801 4009
Open: 11am - 12midnight
Cash Only