Spanish lesson and salsa

After an excellent night’s sleep and breakfast, I was met downstairs by Alicia, my Spanish teacher for the next couple of days, who took me to her apartment up the road for a lesson. This turned into more of a discussion about Cuba and the outside world rather than learning Spanish but it was valuable, certainly to me and, I think, to Alicia who gleans her information from visitors, there being limited access to news within Cuba apart from that broadcast by the government.

There would appear to be some optimism and hope following Barack Obama’s announcements over the last few weeks that diplomatic relations are going to resume with Cuba. U.S. ministers arrived for talks yesterday and it is most definitely a case of ‘watch this space’ as far as Cuba is concerned.

Anti Imperialist Plaza
Anti Imperialist Plaza

After the lesson, I spent an hour or so back at the Casa, being entertained (if that is the right word) by the extremely loud and enthusiastic singing emanating from the church in front of my room. I was then collected by Jordan, a somewhat virile young man, who was going to attempt to teach me salsa.

He escorted me to the dance school several blocks away where a Scottish girl was already in the process of learning. After an hour and a half’s lesson, I rather feel that I have a long way to go before being able to dance and will need the help of one or three mojitos before I can appear in public. It must be rather frustrating for these young men, who are born to dance, to have to teach someone with no sense of rhythm whatsoever and whose feet are incapable of doing what the brain tells it. There are basically only 8 steps. How hard can it be?! Maybe tomorrow will be better!

View of old Havana from the Hotel Nacional gardens
View of old Havana from the Hotel Nacional gardens
View of the bay from the Hotel Nacional
View of the bay from the Hotel Nacional

By end of the lesson, I was starving but decided to go for a walk along the Malecon (sea wall) before heading for a very late lunch/early dinner at a restaurant recommended by Bertha. As it was Sunday afternoon, the population was out in force, walking, sitting around chatting or apparently queueing for ice cream at Coppelia’s which, if I understood correctly, is a Cuban tradition.

I also wandered into the grounds of the Hotel Nacional, which seemed very grand and had a lovely view of the Malecon, so I could sit and watch the cars and people for a while. The hotel, by comparison with the buildings in its surrounds, seemed to be very well maintained and somewhat incongruous.

Hotel Nacional
Hotel Nacional
Traffic on the Malecon
Traffic on the Malecon

The last stop of the day was at Restaurant Pancho Sanchez, where a large number of staff delivered fairly inattentive but cheerful service to the few customers. After a couple of beers and some much needed sustenance, however, I didn’t really care about the service. By this time, my legs were feeling the effects of the salsa (not of the beer), and I was happy to return to Bertha’s apartment and relax in my room.