After a long delay in Miami, and then yet another long delay in Havana immigration, Dave Savona and I finally made it to the Hotel Melia Cohiba, our base for the next five days. It was almost nine o’clock. My day had started at 4:30 a.m. But hey, man has to eat. And, what’s a first night in Havana without a dinner at El Aljibe. The locals say it isn’t what it used to be, but Dave and I shrugged our shoulders and said, let’s go.
It’s a 10 minute cab ride from the hotel out to El Aljibe, a large open air restaurant. While it’s a complete menu, there’s really only one thing to order—the Pollo Asado, and it comes with rice, black beans, a cucumber and tomato salad and French fries and deep fried plantains. The tab? About $15. We ordered a bottle of Spanish Albarino, a delicious, tart white wine. When I asked for the wine list, they simply said, follow our sommelier and off we went to what everyone says is the finest cellar in all of Cuba—it’s temperature controlled. He said they had bottles from 15 to 1400 in the local CUCs, the local convertible peso. It’s about .8 to the dollar.
The chicken arrived. The rice and beans were perfect. The French fries crisp. The wine, a perfect accompaniment to the food. We ate our fill, and managed to avoid all the other temptations, including dessert. It was back to the hotel and, of course, what’s the first day in Havana without a cigar and a glass of rum? We headed up to the El Relicario cigar bar in the hotel. We both ordered a Havana Club 7-year-old, one of my favorite rums in the world. And we picked out two Punch Punch from the humidor—just the right size for a pre-dreamland smoke. It took about 12 seconds and we looked at each other, smiled and said, “What could be better than this?”
So, our first four hours in Havana were almost over. We were both about ready to drop. But there’s no doubt about it. We are in Havana. Can’t wait for tomorrow.