Cigar Anyone?

Trip Start Apr 13, 2011
Trip End Apr 20, 2011

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Flag of Cuba  , Pinar del Río,
Friday, April 15, 2011

I was surprised by the unique beauty of the Unesco-protected Vinales Valley where we hiked among the mogotes (karst hills) and tobacco fields. On a family tobacco farm, we learned about how tobacco is harvested and dried. The farmer demonstrated cigar-rolling, and when he finished, he promptly lit it and passed it around for the group to try. I politely declined (cough, hack), but a few of the others tried a puff. The farmer's wife gladly took it over after the group was done. When I asked her how many cigars she smokes each day, she held up 5 fingers and flashed me a toothy grin.

 We had lunch in Pinar del Rio at a paladar - a family-run restaurant based in a private home. The kind of out-of-the-way place I never would have found on my own. Our guide had called ahead the day before to make the reservation, since an invasion of 14 people was going to fill the place, and food had to be bought & prepared. The woman who owned the restaurant was gracious and warm, welcoming us with open arms. We were entertained by a guitar/singer duo while we dined - remember what I said about never dining without music? 
The food was delicious, from the ajiaco (vegetable soup) to the grilled lobster with salad and rice & beans, and finally a uniqe dessert of preserved oranges.  I was told not to expect great food in Cuba, so the quality of this meal was the nicest of surprises. 
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