Our first stop in Havana may have appeared to be the Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro, but really, I think we were taken there to see the cigar shop, La Triada. We met Jose Castelar Cairo, aka “el Cueto,” who holds no less than four Guinness World Records for rolling cigars. He broke his own record last year, rolling an 81.8m (268 ft 4 inch) cigar. He was in good spirits when we arrived, the shop crammed with tourists, and was in even better spirits after two of my mamacitas sat in his lap for photos. Those will be posted privately on facebook shortly After all, I do love me some blackmail photos…
Our guide then took us to see a relative who works in the cigar factories and could sell us cigars at half the cost! Wow! This can’t possibly be untrue… heh. Yes, every guidebook warns against it, but it made for some good photos as I sat in the back of the hot kitchen, watching the action and practicing my stealth mode.
It’s funny. On the one hand, hiring a driver was a much better idea than taking a tour bus where we would get to stop for a few minutes at a dozen places and have no control. On the other hand, I encountered resistance from both sets of drivers to really take us to where we wanted to go.
Little things stick out in my mind. On our first trip to Havana, we all expressed interest in Cuban food, and somehow ended up in an overpriced Italian restaurant. On the second, I wanted to re-visit the Cristóbal Colón Cemetery as well as the University of Havana campus (occupational hazard, that one) and our guide worked hard to convince us they were too far away. I was quite sure he just wanted to get home, and as we were hot and sticky and desperate for one last swim in the ocean, we really didn’t argue.
Next time, I think I’d rather stay in Havana for a couple of days before moving on to a beach resort. Stay tuned to see more of the city!