Ah, my favorite kind of travel day!

Food day!

The food walking tour started at 9:30 this morning and, honestly, I wasn’t so sure I’d wake up for it.

After a long nap into the early evening last night, I managed to go to bed at 1am this morning.

Would I wake up in time for the tour?

Well, obviously I did because, ah, the blog title is Food Day so, yeah, not really alot of suspense there…

One on one

At 9am I headed to the tour meeting point.   It was a balmy 26C and the humidity was at a ridiculous 91%.   Back home, it was -12C.

I signed up with the Strawberry Tours Food Tour and, wouldn’t you know it, I was the only one to show up.

As with my tour the other day when it was just Lee and myself, it always feels a bit weird being in such a small grouping.   Usually I find time to kind of blend in the back and make some notes or mark things I’m interested in on my map.

When it’s one on one, there’s not really a chance to do that.

Of course, in this instance, the pros far outweigh the cons.

A one on one food tour turned out to be perfect.

Right from the onset I let my guide Shelman know about my gluten allergy but I told him that, despite that, I wanted to see everything he would normally do on a tour and if I couldn’t eat the food, well, I couldn’t eat it.

Being one on one also allowed us to act more like a couple of friends chatting while walking down the street instead of guide and his group.

We talked about so much more than food and at one point we stopped in a coffee shop and spent a good half hour just talking about everything from politics to history to LGBPT activism.

Easily one of the best couple of hours I’ve spent on a walking tour and that’s coming from someone who has been on over 100 of them at this point.

An old lady and her bandaids

An interesting thing happened along the way today.   Not surprisingly, my makeshift bandage and tape slowly peeled off my knee leaving my lovely wound exposed.

A little old lady stopped us and spoke something in Spanish.

Now, normally, I’d just say “no, gracias” and be on my way assuming that she was asking for money or something.

And if that was the case, I would have missed a genuine feel good moment.

You see, she wasn’t asking for money.

Instead, she was offering to give me some bandaids she was carrying in her purse.

I even offered her a 100 pesos for them and she flat out refused.

Thank God Shelman was there to translate but, I’ll tell you what, it motivates me that much more to learn Spanish before I visit any other countries in Central or South America.

Can I get by only speaking English?

Yes, of course.

There’s always going to be people who speak English and, if that fails, there’s always Google Translate.

That’s not the point, though.

Without knowing Spanish, I miss out on conversations like one I could have had with my taxi driver the other day or the one today with this lady just trying to be kind.

And, for someone who is all about the unique experiences and adventures, it’s a shame to miss out on these.

Cuban farming

The Cuban people here are nice, but, man, the government really messes everything up.

It seems that every decision they make is made to weaken the population rather than bolster it.

You’d think with this climate, farming would be in abundance and agriculture would be their number one industry.

Well, it’s not.

Far from it, in fact.

The infastructure here is lacking and farmers don’t have what they need to be successful.

Instead of tractors, they still use cows pulling trows to plow the fields and there’s no chemical fertilizer, just the real thing.

There’s also no incentive for people to be farmers and toil all day in the fields, and those that do aren’t incentivized to produce more than the minimum required of them.

It’s so ass backwards that they actually import alot of things from other countries instead of producing it themselves.

Monthly supplies

Each month, every Cuban citizen is entitled to certain amounts of staple foods.   They have to take their card and go to the supply store, or Bodega, to stand in line to get their goods.

For each family member, they get:

-5 lbs of rice
-5 lbs of beans
-1 lb of chicken
-5 eggs (yes, just 5)
-1 package of coffee
-1/2 a bottle of cooking oil

They also get 1 slice of bread per day.   So, you’d think they could pick up all 30 slices at once, right?

Nope, they literally can only get one slice of bread every day and it’s not like you can get yesterday’s bread today.   You have to line up every day to get your one slice of bread.

The government will also give you milk if you have kids under the age of 7.

And that’s all you get every month.

Anything else you need you need to either buy from private stores that pay taxes to the government or through the black market where people sit outside their homes with a little table offering up their goods.

Naturally, everthing bought that way is at a much inflated price and, ironically, people sell this way to make some profit so, they in turn, can purchase anything that they also need.

It’s actually insane when you think about how the system works but, for most Cuban people, that’s just the way it is and they have no idea how things operate in the rest of the world.

What about the food?

Oh yeah, this was a food tour.   Almost forgot about that!

Like I said, Shelman and I talked for over two hours about all kinds of things while we went from one place to the next.

But, naturally, there was also food…

Coquito (corn and sugar snack) (60 pesos, 25c)

Strawberry soft serve ice cream (30 pesos, 15c)

Papaya and Guava juice

Plantain chips (100 pesos, 40c)

Tamale (120 pesos, 50c) and Corn Friters (100 pesos, 40c)

Mamey ice cream (300 pesos, $1.10)

Peanut brittle (170 pesos, 70c)

Hamburger (sadly, without bun) (300 pesos, $1.10)

A relaxing afternoon

After the tour, I just kind of hung out at the hostel in the afternoon.

I had to figure out how I was going to get to the Viazul bus station at 6 in the morning tomorrow.

The station is about a 45 minute walk from here and I sure as hell ain’t walking that much so I had to figure out how I was going to catch taxi at that time of day.

From what I gathered from the woman at the front desk was that it’d be hard to find a taxi at that time of day.


Well, I hadn’t planned on this little curve ball.

In the end, I decided I would just forgo my non-refundable bus ticket ($17) and just take a collectivo for $25 at 11am tomorrow morning.

At least I’ll be able to sleep in.

Around 3pm I headed out to just explore the streets around me and maybe find some more street food for a late lunch.

I’ve been down many of these streets so far but, this time around, I made a concerted effort to go back and forth from one street to the next peering in every open doorway for people selling food.

After going down several streets, I actually ended up on the main pedestrian one and found places we had gone to earlier.

So, lunch today was more corn fritters and another hamburger.

Total cost was 400 pesos ($1.60) which is a far cry from the $20+ meals I’ve been having the last few days.

I grabbed the food and walked over to a nearby park and just sat there and ate watching all the people stroll down the street going about their day.

Late dinner

I returned to the hostel at 5:00, and after a much deserved shower, I just hung out in bed catching up on my blog.

At 8:00, it was time for some more food.

Although, I had a more basic and cheaper meal for lunch, I wanted something a little more substantial for dinner.

The other day I had gone to a restaurant further down on the other end of Old Havana for lunch and it was good so I wanted to head back there again.

I had noticed they had a poke bowl on their menu and I remember at the time that I was torn between that and what I eventually ordered so I was going back just for this.

It was a good 20 minute walk but thankfully the humidity had reduced somewhat so it was an alright block.   It also gave me a good chance to explore a new street.

When I got there, the place was full and I reluctantly took the only seat available at the bar top.

And then, I recognized why it was full.

I guess they we’re doing some sort of Japan night with maki rolls and such.


Can I even have sushi?

I know back home alot of sushi rice has gluten added to it to make it more sticky.   Was it the same here?   Besides, did I really want sushi in Cuba?

In the end, I headed back out and off to explore for a new place.

I know, deja vu from last night where I walked around forever before going to my usual restaurant back near my casa.

Instead of heading straight back down though, I decided to head over to the main street a few blocks away and go down that street instead.

If for nothing else, it’d be an area of town I hadn’t explored yet but, possibly, I’d find somewhere else to eat as I went.

Turns out it was a smart decision.

After walking a couple blocks, I stumbled upon a little 7 seat restaurant with their menu board outside written in chalk.

And there it was…

Ropa Vieja.

It’s a traditional shredded beef dish from Cuba that I had yet to try and have been on the lookout for for a couple of days.


A little restaurant which I always opt for and the traditional dish I was craving.

The dinner, by the way, was amazing and everything I had hoped it would be.

After dinner, I continued my walk back to my casa and arrived back around 10pm to an empty dorm room.

Nice, so very, very nice.

By 11:00 I was in bed.

Tomorrow I leave Havana behind and travel west a few hours to the smaller town of Vinales known for their tabacco farms and just laid back lifestyle in general.

Should be a fun few days…

Cuba Trip 2024, Trip Journal, Havana, Cuba
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