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Sent: 06 February 2001 19:55
Subject: My Mojito at the Bodeguita

My Mojito at the Bodeguita

"People ask you why you live in Cuba and you tell them the biggest reason you live in Cuba is the great, deep blue river that you can reach in thirty minutes from the door of your farmhouse, riding through beautiful country to get to it, that has, when the river is right, the finest fishing I have ever known.

        Ernest Hemingway, The Great Blue River

On Monday, I joined a day tour to the Province of Pinar del Rio, a rather varied agricultural land. We sped westwards across sugar and tobacco
fields, as well as wild savannah lands, passing stirring billboards like "Venceremos"(We will overcome!) and "Patria o Muerte" (Fatherland or Death).

In the town of Pinar del Rio, while other fellow tourists were shopping for cigars (where I rushed through the obligatory factory tour, irritating workers with endless snaps), I wandered around this interesting town with its quaint one storey buildings with colourful pastel paint. Decided not to promote smoking but spent a few dollars on a bottle of rum instead - many non-smoking tourists to Cuba agonised over whether to buy its number one product.

Then we moved on to the Vinales Valley where limestone hills dotted the landscape amidst idyllic villages. Beautiful and serene but no match for
China's Guilin. Also visited a hillside where, with the roaring approval of the Great Leader, a gigantic abstract (meaning draw-anything-you-like)
painting of prehistoric Cuba was created by a famous artist over a 10 year period. You may call it art but it looks more like a blatant defacement of nature to me. 

Back in Havana, I dined in style at Hotel Inglaterra (Hotel England), one of the city's grand old hotels, with live music under ornate Moorish arches and French chandeliers. In the alleys nearby, salsa music roared with the Caribbean beat, while hustlers tempt tourists with cheap imitation cigars and hot local women. 

Tuesday was a most relaxing day. I have decided that $30 was not worth paying for taxi to and from Central Havana and Hemingway's suburban home, and settled for a walkabout along Malecon and Vieja Habana (Old Havana). I had coffee in the shadow of the monumental St Cristobol Cathedral and moved on to another Hemingway bar, La Bodeguita del Medio, for a glass of mojito.  As Papa once remarked, "My mojito at the Bodeguita, My daiquiri at the Floridita." A pity Hemingway offered no guidance on food. 

Tomorrow, I shall wake up at 4ish, to catch the 6:45am flight to Panama City. A Panamaian tourist brochure remarked, "More Than A Canal". I shall see. In any case, a leap from a former Banana Republic (that is in any case rapidly becoming one in all but name) to one that has been one for a long time... 

Adios, Next Time!


I love the revolutionary billboards!

 Country boys - modeling pose ?

Cigar rolling

Work and leisure mixes here?

 Cuban cowboys

The lorry-bus of rural Cuba

 The old town of Pinar del Rio

The ancient rock formations of Pinar del Rio

That (in-)famous wall painting...

Onward to Panama!

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