Return to Roots - May 22

Had a serious breakfast courtesy of Roberto y Martha. He made his famous 'trigo' pancakes with Cuban Honey. We also had a torta (egg omelet), cafesito, jugo de mango, papaya, piña, guayaba, mango, and dulce de coco, which I (nor J) had ever had before. Little shavings of coconut, sugar water and leche condensada all blended together... We discussed our family background at the table. Roberto was excited to share his thoughts and ideas with us since we we were Cuban. "it's in your veins", he said, "politics shouldn't dictate how we feel about our roots." He got misty- eyed when he mentioned a song we should hear - ME DICEN CUBA. He explained the arduous process on how to obtain a visa to visit the US, and because of the length of time it takes, amount of money and uncertainty of actually being able to get one after all the work, he doesn't have ay desire to go. He said his son tried, spent months waiting for an appointment for an interview, spent almost 500 CUC, and they denied his request. He's angry with the embargo and the restrictions the US puts on Cubans to travel there. He doesn't want to live there, he would never leave Cuba. Why would he? He has a beach house and constant entertainment from tourists! But I understand his point of view. Anyhow, he fed us well and filled us with knowledge and off we went to the little shops down the street. They had a lot of the same things but still cute souvenirs for the family. I bought a leather baseball for Belo which I engraved 'TIGER' on it. Bought some sandals for myself, along with a photo album. A leather lighter holder for my mom. While I was going through the many many rows of artisanal shops and making conversation with the artists, I managed to lose my sunglasses. I noticed at the end of one of rows and J suggested we head back to the casa to see if I left them there. Nope. I dropped off the stuff I bought and Roberto assured us that if a Cuban found them in his or her shop, they would hold them for me. And if that were to happen, I should compensate them. Well, back we went, talking to every vendor I had already talked to before asking if any of them had seen my glasses. None of them had, but, like Roberto said, they assured me that if I did leave them in their shop, they would have held them for me, or should I find them in a neighboring shop, they would hold them. I loved how much faith they all had in each other. I honestly felt like I lost hope but was inspired by how highly they regarded each other. J also had kept faith alive and reassured me to keep looking, so on the last row we spoke to the last vendor we bought some pot warmers from and she said yes, she found some glasses and knew they weren't hers so she saved them just in case the owner would come back to claim them. Can you believe that? She refused to take the 2 CUC I was offering but I insisted along with a huge hug of gratitude. I just loved that attitude. Very cool. From there, we jumped in a taxi and went in search of Hotel Internacional, which my grandparents talked about in the video before leaving Miami. It was being demolished but still holding on, I took pictures anyway. We were then dropped off at Club Marlin, which used to be called Club Nautico. This is where Abi & Belo met and danced together for the first time. We took video and pictures of everything. I wonder what their reactions will be seeing all these places again. From there, we jumped in a cocotaxi - these things are like a motorcycle/go cart hybrid. Looks like a yellow coconut on wheels. Six CUC's took us back into town to find food. We walked for a bit and didn't find anything appetizing. Most spots looked like they were run by the 'estado', which means they were all unmotivated in there and bored out of their minds. We asked Roberto and Martha and they recommended a negocio privado called Super Machi down the street. We said goodbye to our Costa Rican friends who were headed to La Habana and said hello to our new friends, Hansel and his girlfriend who were from Havana and off we went to Super Machi. This little spot was steps away from the beach and served a mountain of rice, plus half a chicken, potatoes, and fresh lemonade for 70 CUP which translates to less than 3 CUC!! So good and insanely cheap. I felt like I was robbing them. I met a couple there from Czech Republic and Italia who were in love with Cuba and we shared that sentiment in a short conversation. With full belly's and sleepy eyes we hit the beach. We found a hut with some shade, J chose the shade and I scooted my towel slightly off into the sun and we passed out for a couple of hours I think. I don't know. That's another great thing about this trip. I don't have a watch/phone on me, so I'm rarely conscious of time, which is very liberating. We woke up and Aramisito and Estrella called us to make sure everything was going ok. (Ok, we had HER phone that only allowed calls between them and us so they could know we were ok, so that's the only purpose it served). We told them about our day and they were happy to hear about it. From there we jumped in the ocean until the sun was setting. Delicious. This beach town is heavenly.

We're back in our room after an amazing meal at SALSA SUAREZ. I did not expect that. Roberto said to try it tonight and I"m so glad we did. We had a fish croquetta appetizer with a rosa sauce (mayo + ketchup, seriously) so simple yet perfect. Then we shared a penne pasta with crab and garlic sauce. We were still kinda full from our lunch so sharing worked. It was so effing good. This was also the first time we had cortaditos in a champagne flute and it was also SO GOOD. Our dessert was a brownie a la mode. UGH. 5 stars for everything. Including impeccable service. All that for 25 CUC. Tip included. Unreal. We were supposed to go to Havana Cafe for some party Hansel told us about but when he said they were mostly going to play Reggaeton, that scared J off and he was trying to get out of it since before dinner. So once we left the restaurant all I heard was how uncomfortably full he was and so we walked home and called it a night. What a viejo. To be honest, I didn't care to pay 15 CUC for a party I wasn't crazy about either but I did want to experience the nightlife a bit. Just wish it was salsa or son. Apparently, there's a party on the beach tomorrow from 10-4pm so that should be fun. And he can't get outta that one.