I head out for the day, wondering how it will greet me. It’s amazing the difference daylight makes. Rather than sinister, the streets are full of life. I head today to check out the Plazas, of which there are plenty zig-zagging northwards.
Boys play soccer in Plaza Vieja, and gleaming renovations display the magic of Havana. Tourism is changing the face of Cuba, and no doubt finances so much of the desperately-needed renovations. However, some of the results seem absurd: a planetarium in Plaza Vieja?
In and out of art stores I go: I love Cuban art, and have a couple of requests from home to fulfil. The art is marvellous, especially the naive paintings, using varied materials from canvas to cardboard to paper.
Walking on, I reach the waterfront, lined with taxis, coco-taxis (odd half-shelled cabs on motorised bikes), tourist buses and cycle-powered cabs.
Another, an attractive young black guy, greets me with a “Where are you from?” I smile and shake my head; he knows I know his game. Cuba is famous for its jinteros, or touts, who hassle tourists for a living. Surprisingly, I am only offered cigars once today.
After lunch, I make for a loo stop. An old woman delicately hands me the equivalent of 2 sheets of toilet paper. I reel back in horror: doesn’t she know us foreigners are not that economical? Notwithstanding the poor equipment (at least there is soap) I am expected to drop a few cents onto her plate on the way out.
I resolve to embark on future outings with my own supplies.