Viñales to Havana

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Our host, Midalys, was a single mother who worked hard to keep everything going at the casa. Nevertheless, she often found time to chat to us, and she gracefully tolerated our halting Spanish. Because she was always tending to the needs of her guests, we wanted to give her a treat for her birthday, so we invited her out to lunch at a local restaurant on the day we were due to leave Viñales.

Before lunch, we walked a short distance up the road to the Botanic Gardens. This is actually a private garden that covers about one hectare, and the current owners take visitors through for a donation. The garden was established 100 years ago by two women whose images are reproduced in grainy old photos that hang in the house. It has a huge variety of plants, and there was a small display of fruits and vegetables that are grown there. It was a lovely cool place to be in the heat of the day, as the entire garden provided a canopy of shade.

We returned to the casa to collect Midalys, and then walked with her to Ólivo, as this seemed to be the best paladar in town. While we enjoyed a quiet meal together, we chatted about her love life. She was planning to visit her boyfriend in Argentina in a couple of weeks, and she was nervous about flying, as she had never done so before.

After lunch, Midalys helped us onto the bus and waved goodbye. The Infotur buses pick up and drop off passengers at major hotels, so we could get a ride right into Havana Centro and avoid the expensive and potentially scam-riven taxi ride from the Viazul bus station.

It took us little time to settle into our old haunt at Alberto’s, and before long we were wandering along the Malecón to Prado 12. There was no sign of our friendly waiter, Norje, but everything else was the same. We ordered ceviche and a couple of drinks and watched a group of boys outside practising parkour moves on the median strip.

The ceviche sufficed as a light dinner, so we walked back along the Malecón to Centro. Finally we settled on the balcony at Alberto’s where we drank rum and sang and played Johnny’s travel guitar as we watched the view transition through the hues of sunset to the night lights of Centro and Vedado.

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