The 10 days we spent on our eastbound bus journey visiting five cities—from Havana to Santiago de Cuba—were spellbinding, even on the days when we wished the road time was a little shorter. I didn’t bring along my kids (ages 14 and 12) and honestly I’m glad I didn’t.
No Happy Meals in Cuba
I’m not sure they’d be such good sports about the unreliable plumbing or the limited menu offering in most restaurants. Tasty chicken and beans and rice were generally available at restaurants, but the lack of variety and invariably slow service could be challenging to kids that depend on the easy availability of mac and cheese and spaghetti—stat. Cuba has no Happy Meals.
One delicious exception was the ice cream at Coppelia’s (a Havana hot spot made famous in the 1994 film “Strawberry and Chocolate”) where two scoops of guayaba flavor, the only selection still available that night cost a mere 20 cents if you paid in local currency known as Moneda Nacional. which we did (The same item cost nearly $2 if you paid in the tourist currency C.U.Cs referred to a “kooks.” )
Another restaurant heads up: even steak that is listed on the menu may well turn out to be chicken when it arrives on your plate. That’s Cuba.
Professional Baseball Games in Havana
What would have enthralled my kids was our evening outing to a professional baseball game. In a country with a noticeable light bulb shortage, it was striking to see that night games were as well-lit in Havana as at Wrigley Field. But the Castros have always been huge backers of the sport. Anyway, while we had high expectations for the home team Industriáles, a perennial powerhouse, they were getting clobbered by the visitors from Villa Clara.
The stadium itself was notable for its simplicity: no advertising or sponsorship of any sort—just pure baseball. But there were outfield billboards attesting to the values of “strength” and “justice.” The steady drums and horns in the stands kept the crowd energized. Concessions amounted to little more than candy and peanuts in a paper container.
Former Time Magazine correspondent Wendy Cole is the managing editor of REALTOR Magazine.