After very little sleep, I decided to get up early and go for a walk. It was still quite chilly as I strolled through the streets, watching the armies of street cleaners setting forth (Cuban streets are always immaculate), people going to work and others standing outside their doors greeting their neighbours.
Today, however, had an air of excitement as it was Jose Marti Day (he is a National Hero) and there was to be a parade in which children dressed up in their favourite Jose Marti book character. (At least I think that was what has happening but something may have been lost in translation!) Mothers were doing last minute tweaks to their child’s outfit and proud parents and grandparents were taking pictures on their phones as the children posed outside their houses.
I was obliged to follow the children (Pied Piper in reverse) to the Plaza Mejor, where they were all congregating, and absorb the atmosphere. There were, of course, the ubiquitous Marching teams in addition to some quite fantastic costumes that seemed even more incredible given the few materials that are available to their creators. There were a number of painted backdrops set up, against which children could stand and pose for their photos to be taken by a professional. Most of the children were obviously having a wonderful time parading, although there were one or two of the smaller ones who weren’t too sure about it all!
After a while, I went back to the house for breakfast and then to meet Monica to ask if she could find me another room. This she did and later that day I was able to move into an entire apartment all to myself.
The rest of the morning was spent on the Internet, catching up on emails etc and sitting in the Plaza watching the people still milling around. After waiting for my new abode to be cleaned and moving my belongings, I went for a walk through the backstreets and up to a ruined church, which didn’t look as though it was going to be standing much longer as, if it didn’t fall down of its own accord, would be knocked down to make way for newer buildings.
In my meanderings, I was persistently asked for pens, soap and money. However, having distributed a few pens without so much as a thank you from anyone and then being asked for more when I had given them one, I gave up. There has obviously been too much exposure to tourists.
As I was heading back to The Steps for a beer and some people watching, I chanced upon quite an extraordinary restaurant called Museo Restaurante. Having ascertained that it was indeed a restaurant and not a museum, I spent quite some time marvelling. Each table was set with a different and complete set of china, along with silverware and stemmed glasses. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes as it was such a stark contrast and totally incongruous to anything else I had seen so far in Cuba. It was as if someone had gone around all the old Plantation houses and collected up their entire inventory of dinnerware. It kept me smiling for the rest of the afternoon. However, when I mentioned it to the Australians, there was no real interest. I would have loved to have eaten there (it wasn’t even particularly expensive) but there would definitely have been no volunteers to come with me in the group.
My walk ended at The Steps where I sat and had a beer, listened to the live band and people watched for quite some time. A very cheap form of entertainment!
Then it was back to my new house to shower and change before inviting myself to the Melburnians’ house for pre-dinner drinks, after which I met up with Deb and Mariana, who had been having drumming and dancing lessons, for dinner. It is always difficult to choose where to go where there is a vast selection and no way of knowing if the restaurants are any good. I had an excellent dish of Old Clothes (literal translation of Ropa Viejo), which was shredded lamb with a lot of cumin and spice.
Afterwards, Deb and Mariana went back to their room, whilst I went back to The Steps to listen to the music again. It had become very chilly and all the tourists listening to the band were huddled in their jackets when they weren’t dancing. I stayed for an hour or two and ended up talking to a German couple who sat at my table. They both worked at Microsoft and he had obviously travelled quite a lot so was quite entertaining. Once they left, I decided that I had suffered the cold wind enough and made my way back to bed.