Monday 17 September 2012

Cuba Day 3: Mojitos and Sandwiches

Breakfast in Cuba was confusing me. As I mentioned in my last post, the variety is there, nobody should have any reason to complain. What I found confusing was the steaming tray of sloppy Black Beans that sat beside the pancake tray. Now,I admit, I am new to the Bacon and Pancake thing, sweet and savory, but you have to draw the line somewhere. Come on, who wants mash potato, black bean and a slice of toast? Maybe people do? Maybe I am the odd one!!

Anyway, after breakfast, we decided to head back to the Partagas shop. I was going to have a better look and ask about the cigars I was searching for.

As soon as we went outside the Hotel, Nelson and his Posse were there to greet/annoy us. He was offering another tour, cigars, whatever we wanted. It was early in the morning, I politely turned him down.

When we reached the Partagas shop I was amazed with the amount of staff they had outside(sic) Everyone seemed to work in the store and they could all get me the same cigars at half the price. Once again I turned them down, one by one, each one less politely than the other.

Inside, there was one woman behind the counter. I was looking for a few different Gran Reserva and Edition Limitada Cigars that are VERY expensive here in Dublin. I was told that these Cigars were very rare in Cuba and a lot of the expensive product is exported to Europe. No cheep deals for me.

During our conversation the shop started to get busy. The lady went to deal with her customers while I continued to browse around, a little bit dismayed. As I have said before, the shop consisted of Monte's, Cohibas and RyJ. I am not knocking these brands. I smoke all of them and if I had the cash I would have bought a box of everything on display but I wasn't looking for an everyday smoke.

Once the lady got a spare moment I asked her if she had any 8-9-8 in stock. Her eyes lit up, it seemed not everyone asked for them. I inspected the box and the cigars inside. They smelt great. I bought them straight away. As I received my receipt, the lady gave me a single unmarked cigar. I asked what it was and was told it was the house blend. House blend from the Partagas factory? I didn't know there was such a thing but I wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. I thanked her and left.

We dropped the cigars back to the hotel and then made our way towards "Calle Obispo". This is the name of the busiest shopping street in Havana (apparently). The street in lined with restaurants, markets and nic-nac stalls.

The Mrs loves markets so we spent our time making our way down the street, purchasing bits and pieces along the way. We eventually made it to our main destination. La Bodeguita del Medio.

This is a bar, like Floridita, made famous as the place where Hemingway enjoyed his Mojito's. Unlike Floridita, this bar was not large, spacious and air-conditioned. I was a small bar, jammed with tourists separated from the street by wooden banisters. There was a band in the corner as we have come to expect from most Cuban bars but there was none of the niceties and classy touch you would find in Floridita. 4CUC for a Mojito and there was no waiting around. The service was fast and simple.

It may sound like Floridita was a nicer bar and in every way it is. It is a salubrious, comfortable and very classy. It is also boring. In Bodeguita there was no air-conditioning, the walls,counter and roof were covered in scrawling's from tourist, the bartender didn't have time to chat to you (he was too busy). We were lucky enough to get two stools at the bar right beside the entrance. We sat in the sweltering heat, refreshed by our Mojitos, listening to music and watching the throngs of tourists come and go. I loved it.

Hemingways said :
"My mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita"

I could forget the daiquiri if I could sit in Bodeguita every day.

Reluctantly we walked back to the hotel, on the way dropping into a Cigar store where I purchased A box of Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure Especial and a couple of Montecristo 'A's.

At the hotel we freshened up and went back out to take a bus tour of Havana. The tour only cost 5CUC and leaves every 30mins. It lasted over two hours and took us all over New Havana, Mirimar and other places I cant remember. The commentary lacked in information but it was still enjoyable and made us regret the Horse & Carriage tour we had taken the day before.

After the tour we took another walk down the Calle Obispo and ended up in Plaza Vieja, a lovely square surrounded by bars. We took a seat outside Factoria Plaza Vieja.

Here I ordered two liters of beer, on tap, for the sum of 12CUC. The waiter looked at me strangely when I ordered one just for me, he obviously didn't know I was Irish. We also ordered some snacks. I had the Lobster (again) and the Mrs ordered a Cuban Sandwich. When the food arrived I almost laughed at her for ordering what I though was just a big Ham & Cheese sambo. How wrong I was.

The Mrs asked me to try some and I bit into the sandwich without any expectation or feeling what so ever. If was been wearing socks they would have been knocked right off. It was a TASTE SENSATION. It baffled me how they turned a simple sandwich into something so moreish. I called the waiter and ordered a second for myself. Since we have returned home, that sandwich has been one of the things we miss the most.

After spending a few hours drinking, eating and people watching it was back to the hotel for us. We both repacked our suitcases in preparation for the journey to Varadero, after which, we went to the lobby bar. We had a couple of cocktails and I enjoyed a Punch Corona.

Once I finished my cigar we went to the rooftop pool bar. There was a lightening storm in progress. We sat on the pool loungers watching the storm for a while before heading back to the room to get some sleep in preparation of our journey the next day.

Sitting there, watching the lightening, listening to the thunder,I knew right then that I was going to miss Havana!

Box in a Box

8-9-8 Varnished

Partagas 8-9-8

Partagas House Blend

La Bodeguita
Hemingways Creed


Ready to go
I left my mark
HdM Epicure Especial

Another Box

Monte 'A' - Its massive
Plaza Vieja
The Mrs and my Beer


Taste Sensation

Punch and a Mojito


  1. Sounds like a great day! Am enjoying following along on your vacation. On our day trip to Havana we too visited La Bodeguita del Medio. I remember it being small and crowded...and I remember the writings on the walls, etc. Although it has been 10 years since our visit so the memory is a little faint/foggy. Can't wait to hear about the Sandals...10 years later! Sounds like quite a collection of cigars you will have to bring home with you...jealous indeed! I need to get back to that island!

  2. Thanks for the blog. I like the look of that Monte A. Just love a Lancero. I think you give G a run for his money with your traveling companion. And that is a beer!! Never seen a contraption like that.