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Hemingway Adventure

Havana, Cuba (sixth day)

Havana, Cuba 
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Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureHavana is full of music and musicians, especially after dark. Not just in clubs but in the streets and in the bars and in the restaurants. There is no hiding from them. The bands will seek you out, wherever you are. Tea for two can easily become tea for twelve. No nook or cranny, back room or dimly lit alcove is safe from a few choruses of ‘Guantanamera’.

The lobby of the Ambos Mundos Hotel is no exception.

Every evening a portly tenor and his even more portly accompanist thunder out their operatic repertoire as the life of a busy hotel lobby goes on around them.

This evening is particularly busy and the only table we can find is next door to the lavatory. A big middle-aged Cuban lady sits patiently on a chair outside and occasionally acts as a guide to very drunk tourists who can’t find the entrance. She also has to go and look for them when they don’t come out. We all like her, but Basil has taken a particular shine and tonight she confides to him that she was once a pretty fair opera singer herself.

Encouraged by us all, she waits until the portly tenor has crescendoed yet again, and as he mops his brow and looks swiftly round for any response, she rises from her seat, draws herself up to an impressive height and silences the lobby with a heartbreaking Spanish love-song. Leaving not a dry eye in the house she graciously acknowledges the thunderous applause and resumes her seat beside the lavatory.

Later, we eat at a paladar. Owing to a serious shortage of restaurants, the authorities have licensed an arrangement whereby families can charge for providing meals in their homes, as long as they are limited to twelve chairs and staffed only by members of the family. It’s an odd sensation to be giving our order to the waitress at one end of the room, whilst her grandfather and two children are watching television at the other. Our menu has an English translation and includes Hot Entrances and Cream Soap.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Havana, Cuba (sixth day)
  • Country/sea: Cuba
  • Place: Havana
  • Book page no: 220

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