Calle Musica (Street Music)
After a long sleep we went up to the rooftop restaurant for breakfast. It proved to be the most comically unorganized buffet I’ve ever experienced. Instead of having a single buffet station with a single line-up going in a single direction, they had multiple buffet stations with multiple line-ups going in multiple directions. The food was tasty though. Fried eggs, sliced sausages, fresh fruit, fresh baked rolls, black beans, potatoes, and the finest machine-made automatic coffee I’ve ever had (although I don’t drink much machine-made automatic coffee).
After breakfast we walked down Calle Obispo, a street frequented by locals and tourists alike. It was absolutely packed! We visited an open air craft market but mainly took in the sights and sounds. Have I mentioned how amazing the architecture is yet? Towards the end of Obispo we came to La Plaza de Armas and the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palacio_de_los_Capitanes_Generales
). It served as a home to Spanish Captain Generals, Cuban Governors, and US Military Governors. It featured some fascinating historical artifacts and had peacocks wandering about the grounds. While there I also learned how the staff made some extra pesos off the tourists. As you wander about looking at the sculptures and relics they say “Hola” and ask you where you’re from, then they say something about showing you something special and remove one of the velvet ropes and wave you in with several “rapidos”. Once you’re in the “no trespaso” area they offer to take “very romantic” photos of you and of course expect a tip for their trouble. It was cute the first time, but it became more annoying with each insistent blue blazered woman.
We had lunch at a restaurant just outside the plaza. A band was playing but they had to stop because a they were drowned out by street performers. Stray cats, dogs, and chickens wandered about between the tables. After lunch we found the Catedral de San Francisco and Plaza Vieja. We had a few hours before the Electroacoustic concert so we had a few patio beers and listened to another restaurant band. We liked this one much better and bought their CD. Apparently the restaurant doesn’t pay the band, so after their sets they go from table to table for contributions or try to sell their CDs. The restaurant had one of the coolest methods of serving beer I’ve ever seen. They deliver these massive tall tubes with a tap at the bottom to your table. There’s a tube of ice in the middle to keep it cold. They call them metros.
After beer we listened to the electroacoustic concert. There was only one live act where a man played saxophone (two at a time for the first song!) and a woman mixed electronic textures in surround sound. One piece had a video aspect too. Definitely interesting stuff, but not for everyone.
We then returned to the hotel for a catnap (afternoon beer made us sleepy) before going to a restaurant called La Abadia for dinner. Great food and drinks, dirt cheap, but half the stuff we ordered wasn’t available. The walk there and back was very dark. There’s a lovely pedestrian walkway between Paseo del Prado and Paseo de Marti lined with trees, but at night it’s almost pitch black. Along the Malecon we realized from the lights on inside that a lot of the buildings that we thought were abandoned were actually occupied. We witnessed a woman walk out of one building to a burst water main gurgling water onto the sidewalk. She then filled up a bucket and walked back inside. After returning to the hotel we had beer and a cigar on the rooftop patio.
The next day we went to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes where they have an amazing and varied collection of Cuban works. We were particularly taken by the work of Wifredo Lam (www.wifredolam.net/en
) Afterwards we went back to the restaurant with the metro beer pillars for lunch because we wanted to try their hamburguesa con huevo and get another metro. We also tried to get money exchanged at a nearby bank to save on service fees, but neglected to bring our passports which are necessary for currency exchange for some reason, and changed our money at a Cadeca.
We then crashed at the hotel for a bit before returning to the Museo De La Bellas Artes for another electroacoustic show. This one featured more live acts and was more inspiring than the last one. After the show we went to the posh Yaletown-esque hotel across the street from our hotel for dinner. Pizza with wine and we payed with a credit card. How un-Cuban!
The recording in this song probably came from the band at the restaurant near Plaza De Armes but there’s a chance it was the one that played in Plaza Vieja. Either way, I recorded a band in a restaurant to create “Street Music”. You can hear cutlery and chatting from the general ambience of the restaurant before the vocals and guitars strike up.