I couldn’t write a typical vacation review, I couldn’t just type away merrily about the architecture steeped in a colorful history as little of what I write would match the vivid reality of Havana. Why such literary greats like Hemmingway and Victor Hugo resided in Cuba is apparent once your there. It moves you. Cuba is such a juxtaposition as I look down from our Havana rooftop terrace, in a refurbished apartment the mixture of new world money and the abject poverty is immense. You can smell the desire and ambition from a people who are desperate to make something of themselves. The way they go about daily life is better than any reality TV show. In the last 5 minutes I have watched men lay a Tarmac street in less than 30 minutes none them resting, I’ve watch a young girl giving salsa lessons to two young boys on a rooftop. I’ve seen 5 live goats carried out of a house and loaded on a truck. A fun run has just passed the apartment with close on 500 people taking part. The classic old cars tooting their horns and ferrying people about the city. The 8 children none of whom are over the age of 8 crammed into a little shack of a building all wearing rags. The tourist with the camera. The city is alive with change, life and although run down and possessive of the poor, there is a welcome a smile, even while walking the streets back from a restaurant last night at close to midnight gangs of people did not make us feel uneasy. You see in the UK, US or even Grand Cayman when you see a group of young people gathered speaking a different language you automatically go on the defensive. It’s unfamiliar so you don’t trust it. As a white 6ft+ gringo with a blond wife we stick out like a sore thumbs people look at you, but it is not with mal intent. It’s with a curiosity and wonderment.
This country still has people leaving/fleeing poverty by makeshift boats searching for a better life. We are able to come and go which must be deeply upsetting for someone wanting to leave here. But instead of getting angry at those who come to visit they welcome them hoping that we will be the voice of change as the government opens up its boarders once again. Internet is not freely available this should be the first change allow freedom of expression through social media – allow closed minds to see the outside world has much to offer. But with all this said Cuba is a wonderment. The establishment of some fine eating establishments and the warm regard of it’s people mean the future is bright the future is Havana.
The following words will normally fill a man with dread – “Honey can we try the sustainable food restaurant on Sunday evening” “Sustainable food”? I ask, “Yes” she said – it serves mainly vegetarian dishes, you eat off wheat based cutlery, oh and it does a great Lionfish curry. It must have been a weak moment for me because normally I would be clamoring for a Sunday roast or at least a meat based hearty affair washed down with a nice red wine. Alas, as good husbands do from time to time I simply said “sure, why not”. Although I could think of a million reasons why not my head was saying, but she wants to and you always eat what you want.
So with very little enthusiasm (from my part) we set off for a new sustainable eating restaurant called Vivo, it’s based on north west point road in West Bay Grand Cayman. Only a 5-10 min car ride from seven mile beach. Its located in a popular dive spot/hotel. Upon arrival I was not bowled over, metal chairs no cloths and a take out style inner room. However you sit outside looking over the ocean which surprisingly is not that common as only a few of the restaurants her come with ocean views. Our server Lori, greeted us with a warm smile and “sit wherever you like guys” which I immediately warmed to. It made me realize that look, dinner doesn’t have to be stuffy just go with it try something new and relax! Lori immediately bought over the iced water some table mats and asked had we visited Vivo before. She explained what the restaurant was all about and made some recommendations for the starters which we took her up on, plus a couple of glasses of bubbles for good measure.
The appetizers of falafels and egg plant roll arrived with a mint dip and another dip that looked like honey but actually had a nice spicy bite to it. The egg roll was like a Quesada and was delicious and the falafel was actually pretty tasty and more like a samosa. Both were filling without making you full and I was impressed! Other diners were enjoying their food also and plenty of yums and wows are being heard. For mains I had the Lionfish curry (Lionfish is an invasive predator fish to Grand Cayman and needs culling so it is sustainable) and my wife had the vegetable curry, simply put both were fab.
Plates finished wine drunk and some happy banter with our waitress Lori who made time for everybody in the restaurant. We asked her to thank Chef Marie who had whipped up our food in no time chatted some more then made our way home happy in the knowledge that we would come back here.
So the morale of this tale – Those moments you keep missing by sticking to the norm, this could have been one of them! Take a chance on something new. I am always berating myself for predicting the outcome of something based on preconceived ideas which have no foundation, just because I’m not a vegetarian in this case. But even then sometimes the food doesn’t matter but the time you spend in the company of someone you find very important.