Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Casa 1932

Cuba is a conundrum, if nothing else. A country that is known for being advanced in the development and production of medicines and vaccines, yet their medical facilities look like something you would imagine finding in Sarajevo (without the markings of war) on campuses of grass that has never been cut. One of my favorite foods is Cuban, yet when I started reading about Cuban travel, many blogs talked about the best Cuban food being in America and what visitors often found was bland and boring. The food is rationed to the citizens and their market shelves are bare.

So instead of staying in a state run hotel (all the hotels and restaraunts are run by the state), my daughter had booked us in a casa particular (the Cuban equivalent to a B&B). The government loosened its reins several years ago and allowed private homes to host up to two rooms of guests for a fee. Of course the owners pay heavy taxes to the goverment to do so. However, it is a great way for the enterprising Cubans to make some money and for visitors to really see and enjoy Cuban culture.

So this was how we came to stay at Casa 1932 and get to know its owner, Luis Miguel. When our taxi dropped us off (after having to back down the oneway street since the other end was blocked off with a cable stretched across the end with plastic grocery bags tied to it) I must say the street had much to be desired. (This is the actual block Casa 1932 is on, looking across the street.)

But the facade to Casa 1932 stood out. And Luis graciously welcomed us in wearing his orange Hawaiian bathing trunks, Cuban team shirt, flip-flops (with socks) and his every present Cohiba. The interior of his home was well camouflaged by the scene outside. We stepped into an extremely well appointed elegant 1930's fine home, with antique furnishings, stain glass, and crystal chandeliers.

The coup de gras came when his cook, this adorable old Cuban gentleman shuffled into the room wearing his crisp guayabera shirt and an apron carrying two crystal goblets of ice cold water. God, I felt for the poor bastards who were paying to stay in a four star hotel.

Luis showed us to our room, with twenty foot ceilings, a private bath, a refrigerator to keep the glass pitcher of water chilled at all times (the crystal goblets were located on top), antique furniture, and crystal chandelier. "Theese will do?" We assured him it would. "Dinner will be at eight tonight. OK?" He closed the door and we settled in for a nap.

Luis' cook could do much more than serve refreshing cool water. When we entered the front room for dinner, we found a table formally set with Rosenthal china, silver, and crystal. Then came the food, course by course. So much for the bland boring Cuban fare. We dined on lobster in a tasty Cuban sauce, plantains, a traditional fresh Cuban salad, crusty fresh bread, creamery butter, and some of the best ice cream I have ever had.

All, I can say is that those bloggers did not eat at Casa 1932. And, we were just beginning.

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