Today, we return to Havana, but not without some fun along the way. After loading up the bus, we went just a few blocks to a cigar factory. We can now attest, when they say Cuban cigars are hand-rolled, they are. Workers have piles of tobacco leaves from the 3 parts of the plant and combine the filler, the binder and the wrapper to create the cigar. They make about 150 a day (and can take home 12 a week).
We traveled by bus next to Las Terrazas, an artistic community in a UNESCO Biosphere reserve. We had a local guide tell us the history, where the trees had been clear-cut at one point to create charcoal. The area then had over 1 million trees planted and managed ecologically. We had lunch at a restaurant there.
We then went to the outskirts of Havana and watched the Compas Dance Company perform. Mostly young women, it was another time when the spirit of the Cuban people provided hope for their future.
We returned to the Hotel Plaza, where we had been for the start of the trip. It wasn’t easy to return, because the hotel is not in the best shape. Our hotel in Pinar del Rio was much nicer.
There was a farewell dinner, but many chose other options. Ellen and I decided to make this our special anniversary dinner. We ate at La Guarida, perhaps the nicest paladar in Havana. We took a pedicab there, enjoying the bumpy ride. The paladar is on the 2nd floor of a building in pretty bad shape in a not-so-nice neighborhood. You had to walk up marble stairs with iffy handrails to get there. But once we made it, it was all worth it. We had a meal that would have been delightful anywhere. We started with cheese ravioli. Ellen had suckling pig, I had snapper in a delicious sauce. We had dessert and coffee/tea, and the meal came to just 85 CUC including tip. We ate leisurely, as our pedicab driver was coming back to meet us in 2 hours.
Almost all in the tour were ending the trip with a night featuring the Buena Vista Social Club band. Legendary Cuban performers take turns singing songs, walking through the crowd. Our Cuban tour guide had told them it was our anniversary, so about half-way through, we were brought flowers and they announced we were there celebrating our 30th anniversary. We were surprised and very honored. The concert ended at 11:30, and we walked home for our last night sleeping in Cuba.