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Places to Puff

In Havana, One Can Smoke Just About Anywhere, But A Few Time-Honored Haunts Guarantee A Memorable Experience
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
The Cuba Issue, May/Jun 99

(continued from page 1)

Relicario Bar
Hotel Meliá Cohiba
Calle Paseo entre 1st and 3rd
Vedado, Municipio Plaza
Phone: 33 36 36
Although it has a similar feel to the Partagas cigar shop, the Relicario Bar is much smaller and darker. Either the place is full of cigar aficionados or it's empty. The best time to visit is usually in the evening before the bar crowd leaves for dinner and other nightly pursuits. There's always a great selection of individual cigars to buy.

Hotel Nacional
Calle O esquina 21
Vedado, Plaza
Phone: 33 35 62, 33 35 64
Among the many dignitaries and celebrities who have graced the hotel's grand, beautiful halls is Winston Churchill, who stayed here probably for the joy of relaxing in the glorious lobby or strolling in the garden while smoking a cigar. Built in the 1930s, the Nacional is not as exclusive as it was in Havana's glory days, but it's worth a visit. The cigar shop one step down from the lobby usually carries a decent selection of smokes.

La Casa del Habano
5ta Avenida esquina 16
Phone: 24 11 85
This is the one of Havana's top cigar shops but it lacks a bit of ambience; there's seldom more than five people there at one time. Nonetheless, a cigar aficionado or two can be found at the bar in the afternoon. If you have any cigar questions, Pedro Gonzalez, the manager of the store, knows his stuff.

La Bodeguita del Medio
Empedrado No. 207
La Habana Vieja
Phone: 62 44 98, 61 84 42
When not filled with tourists, La Bodeguita is a great place for a quick mojito or beer. Ask for your mojito with three-year-old Havana Club rum because the usual cocktail rum verges on rubbing alcohol. Although the drinks are expensive and poor and the bartenders are normally unfriendly, you should still pay homage to this famous drinking hole whenever you're in Havana.

La Roca
Calle 21 esquina M
Phone: 33 45 01
This dive bar is a must for anyone looking for the feel of the Rat Pack era of the 1950s. But forget eating in the restaurant; the food is not the draw. Bring a sweater or jacket since the air conditioning is set at arctic temperatures.

Cafe del Oriente
Plaza de San Francisco de Asis
La Habana Vieja
Phone: 66 66 86
After milling around the old book stalls in the Plaza de Armas, it's always a pleasure to stop at the Cafe del Oriente and partake of a coffee or cold drink. The food is poor but the cool neodeco atmosphere and live piano music are relaxing.

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