Well, as you can tell from the title, the rain we had the day before barely let up overnight and washed out this day.
Our plan for the day was to head back to the center of Havana to check out some shops and continue on our historic tour around. Well, we never made it because the universe had other plans for us.
We woke up to gloomy skies. The first morning without sunshine on this trip. We had a morning plan to swim again till noon, but with the skies so grumpy we thought otherwise. ‘We’ meaning my husband and I, as our girls did not care to skip swimming. Their mindset to swim is strong.
Breakfast this day was basically the same, with some minor differences from yesterday. We were served a traditional Cuban juice to start this time, which of course, I took a smell of but did not taste. Everyone tried a sip and gave the “why did I drink that?” face. I watched it immediately settle in front of my eyes into a murky brown drink, so no way was that going down my throat. Following were crispy fruit turnovers served with pineapple marmalade and our coffees and milk. The marmalade and pastry were beautiful. My husband requested no fruit on this morning. For my husband, a fruit junky, wanting no part of them… they must’ve tasted horrible. Next to make a breakfast appearance was the yummy basket of toast, where they asked about cooking our individual eggs. Then we were given a platter of tomatoes with hotdogs. Hotdogs. Yes, I said hotdogs. They were more like a würstel, a Vienna sausage. I only know what würstels look and taste like because in Sicily, where I have been many times growing up, it is liked as toppings on pizza.
The kids flew up to the pool right after eating. They swam gleefully for a long time. They were having fun diving, calling for us, and screaming for the dog, Brenda, to join them. That girl was not having it, she was old. Then the rain started to fall. The girls did not care, so they continued on swimming. My husband at this point went to talk to the manager about what things we could explore locally before heading to Havana later. She gave him a map with a few fun spots on it. When we looked at it together, we made the decision to check out a local antiques dealer. Thinking the rain was either going to pass.
The girls swam for two hours! We grabbed them from the pool for a snack and drink, before getting dressed. The shop was about a fifteen minute walk away from our casa particular. As we exited our room we saw that two large golf umbrellas were left for us. Score! We had packed ponchos for this trip, but figured the rain would be compliant.
The place was only down the street right?!
We went on our way. The street our casa was on was interesting to say the least. Geez, the neighborhood, at this point is safe to say, was interesting, too. Our casa and the villa across the street were these exquisite mansions on top of this steep hill. Beautiful in every detail imaginable. As you would leave the homes to go to the street it was like you were in a war-torn country. The roads were ripped up. Trash collection areas were overflowing with what looked like a month’s worth of trash, with cats hanging out all over them. Which on the bright side, we NEVER saw a mouse or rat, or cockroach, or anything of the like! There was an explanation for the roads, but still it was pretty crazy to see. The streets were all ripped up because there was a neighborhood wide water pipe replacement in process. But a week prior to our arrival, a tornado hit the other part of Havana. The workers were instructed to the tornado torn areas to get them back in shape before returning to work on the water pipes. Crazy right?!
As we were dodging potholes and the like, the skies remained gloomy but hopeful; there seemed to be a spark of light behind the clouds trying to break through. Just as we made it down a pretty steep hill, like five minutes from our casa, that hopeful thinking sank. The skies grew dark then opened up to a heavy rain with an extreme gusting wind. We walked as much as we could. The winds were just whipping too much. We thought to take some refuse under a tree with the umbrella. While there it was tolerable to stand. As soon as we thought it wasn’t terribly bad to keep walking, the rain changed from heavy drops to literal sheets! Trying to figure where we were within the distance to the shop on the map under all the wind and rain was hard. It was so noisy, blustery and wet that I couldn’t hold my wits together.
Yes! The rain and winds picked up so much at that moment that concentrating was difficult! I looked up from where we were to see a large house like building with a porch and a plaque on the fence with the word escuela faintly printed on it. Ahh, a school! So I grabbed the girls by the hand, yelled to everyone to head up onto the top of the stairs of the school where there was better shelter. We made it. Standing there, we were all hopeful that the rain would scatter soon as it did the night before.
Nope. It didn’t!
The rain turned to a literal tropical storm two minutes after we got on top of the stairs (when I shot that small snap video). The water that was falling flooded the street in seconds, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Some cars had to turn around because the flooding was so bad along the corners of the road! We were huddled in the doorway of the school behind the umbrella getting drenched by the rain being whipped around as we were watching this storm unfold before us. Each gust of wind moved us around to try to find dryer spots. My husband and I were at a loss because what were we to do with the amount of water on the streets and sidewalks. Not only could we not walk, but the idea to find a taxi fleeted fast.
The storm was crazy!
We were there battling the storm for about twenty minutes when all of a sudden the door behind us gave way, and we heard this sweet voice. A small elderly woman, who we think was a teacher passing by in the lobby, welcomed us inside the lobby in Spanish. What I could understand was she was asking us to come in from the storm then directed us to take shelter till the storm passed on. She even said a prayer for us. What a sweet woman. We shook her hand a million times saying thank you. Seriously, we were so thankful.
We were in an Elementary School! The lobby door was flanked by vintage glass panels, giving us a wobbly view of the storm outside from the inside. Every few minutes a parent would come to the door to pick up their child. These people were soaking wet as they must have walked to the school for pick up. Each opening of the door was harder and harder for the person, as the wind was blowing at a great strength. We watched every child walking to the door with their parents being blown from the stairs then rained upon through the window.
We were safe in the lobby. We sat around there for an hour or so trying to figure out our plans. My husband grew restless. Surprisingly, not the girls who were happily distracted playing; one on my phone playing Wood Block puzzle and our oldest playing old snap videos on her phone. I was just happy to be inside! My husband started roaming the lobby, it was open to a semi covered outdoor courtyard. By this point, sitting around for an hour and a half now, seeing that my husband was not up to waiting this storm out, I told him to take the umbrella to head down to see how far the shop was compared to where we were waiting. Take a browse and come back. The wind seemed better to trek through, and it looked as if MAYBE the storm was moving past. Us girls stayed behind as he went along.
After 20 minutes of being on our own, I grew nervous, naturally. Where was he? The storm died down a tremendous amount as we watched child after child being picked up. We all felt like the school was emptying out fast and we would probably be asked to leave at some point soon. Hesitantly, I took the girls off for a fast walk towards the shop address I memorized. I was fearful of getting caught in this storm without my husband, without an umbrella or without shelter. The roads were no longer flooded, and lots of people were walking by us. Just as we were crossing to the other side of the street, we bumped into my husband! He was safe and so happy to give us the umbrella. He did find the shop, browsed a bit and was heading back to grab us.
He walked us to the shop, which was someone’s home. That is how it is in a lot of family run businesses. They are out of their homes, which are set up like stores, just with a full kitchen at the end. This place was impressive. I only took these three pictures below, but the place was not only beautiful and colorful, but filled to the brim!! It was all so fascinating!
Once we went through this house, the antiques dealer’s assistant walked us across the yard, through the rain, to another house they owned that was also filled to the ceilings! Just wow. They had themed rooms throughout, too. There was a room of vintage kitchen jars. A room of glassware. A room of cookie jars. A room of propaganda. A room of metal statues. A room of local artists.. I can definitely go on and on!
We had a great opportunity to buy some antiques, so we did. Just a few unique items that you just can’t find here in the States. The dealer was a quiet man but friendly. He went out of his way to take us to the depths of the house looking at antiques. He sort of reminded me of my best friend Tony. The shop’s owner, house owner, however, was a more talkative man. He was real concerned during our purchase that we were walking back to where we were staying. He kept asking if we wanted a ride, but we kept declining. It was a super nice gesture.
We left the shop talking about all the cool stuff we just saw and bought. It was still raining, much more tolerable drops, but we now had heavy bags. There was a big tree out front of the shop which was perfect to help shelter the girls with the umbrella, as we flagged a cab. The streets were not flooded, but we were having the darnedest time hailing a taxi. The whole city of Havana is chockers with taxis, but the one time we would welcome some harassment from a taxi driver we find none! Figures! After about ten minutes, we heard someone whistle over to us. It was the shop owner! In his driveway outside of his car! He demanded to give us a ride back to the casa particular. We didn’t think twice really, because riding with him for six minutes was a much better scenario than us trying to hike up the steep hill in thee rain that we easily came down before in dry weather. He was a very sweet man, even talked to us in the little English he knew. Apparently, he was good friends with the owners of our casa! He kept saying it was is pleasure to drive us, which I believed. He seemed sincere.
Seriously, the people of Cuba are quite wonderful. 🙂
By the time we got back up to our place, it was getting dark. We had spent an entire day out and all we did was shop at one location!!! OHMY! We went right to the main house to make dinner reservations at a place they had suggested to us earlier. We made reservations for 7PM, and a taxi was going to pick us up at 6:45PM. Which meant we had an hour to kill.
Did someone say daiquiris on the patio?!!? Oh, that was me.
We got freshened up for our dinner in minutes after drinks. It was rainy still, so even though I changed, I didn’t want to lose the cap! Our taxi came to pick us up on time. When we gave him the address, he smiled because the ride was short. So short that he offered to pick us up after dinner for a total fee of $6 CUC, because he said it would be more worthwhile for all of us. I mean, that was super nice, right? Our reservations were for La Fondita Heredia. The taxi driver brought us to the restaurant’s door, handed us a business card, then literally parked across the street. Whether he waited the whole time, we aren’t sure, but he was there in seconds after we called for pick up.
The restaurant was so much fun!!! We walked in to this beautiful modern space to find it decorated with red and white balloons for Valentine’s Day (it was the eve of). We were seated by the bar where you walk in. We were greeted by our very nice waiter. He spoke English very well, and greeted us with a complimentary drink of our choice. We got a round of drinks, which were so fancy and delicious. A canchancharra for my husband, a sangria for me and the girls’ usual drinks, a pina colada and a frozen lemonade. Right as we started ordering our main dishes the restaurant got busy! In a matter of ten minutes sitting there every table, both floors filled up. A lot of people were out to celebrate VALentine’s Day.
We ordered a round of appetizers to share, a chicken tamale casserole, talk about amazing!, and plantains stuffed with tuna. I didn’t eat the tuna appetizer but they all raved how fantastic it was. Talking to our waiter was a lot of fun. We ordered another round of drinks. Then our meals arrived; ropa vieja, chicken chimichurri, pork tips and shrimp enchilada. This feast came with a side of tostones and moros & cristianos (rice cooked with black beans) family style. We ended the meal with a round of flan for my crew. I just couldn’t fit another bite of food in, so I had to pass.
This meal was so comforting and delicious. You could just see the attention to the dishes, and the flavors. It was the best meal of the trip thus far.
Our waiter let us use his cellphone to call the taxi, who arrived in seconds. Was he sitting nearby? I mean, we were dining at this place for about 2 hours, or even more! He was so joyful picking us up, and got us back up to our casa particular safely. Driving these crazy ripped up streets was so nerve-wracking in the daylight, but at night-time it was scary!!
We arrived to our apartment full, happy but utterly tired. We changed into pjs then hung out on the beautiful leather couch in the living room watching a murder mystery. It was a great way to end our rainy day
My review of the day.
What a soggy and blustery day! While we were watching TV tonight, all I could think about was the kind hearts of the people we encountered today.
The elderly woman who let us in from the storm. She didn’t have to do that; she had a school to take care of. We were strangers to her, but she saw us struggling and opened her heart. The antiques shop owner going out of his way from the comfort of his home to driving us in the rain, up the largest hill I had ever seen in a city. He opened his heart. The taxi driver at the end of the night. He did not have to help us out with a good price for a two-way cab ride or wait for us, either. He didn’t have to do anything even close, but, he opened his heart.
What better gesture on Valentine’s Day Eve is there than opening your heart to someone? I can’t think of any. ❤︎
Next Cuba post will be Day 6– We head off to the beach of Varadero, and go out for a special Valentine’s Day dinner!! Does the rain stop??