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  1. I landed last Tuesday, and have not really had time to do this until now! The currency situation makes things more complicated here. I have no idea yet how uninitiated travellers ae managing it. Some others on my flight changed money at the airport, though not many. So the word is out. A friend picked me up the airport, so no money needed, and another friend called around to my place that evening and we changed money. We spent 20 minutes counting out he 170,000 pesos. A sizeable brick of cash. I got new wallet last month in Spain, spent a bit of money on the Moroccan leather, it’s now stretched to f***. The euro fluctuates, it came down a little last week here as there is now some more coming into the country as things open up a little. It had been up to 90 pesos to a euro but came down to 85. It’s varying between 83 and 88. People on the street come up to me and offer me 70. More of that stuff than normal but still quite few tourists around. I’m hearing 70 pesos to a USD but I can’t confirm. Euros are a better deal here at the moment anyway. I have bought cigars with a credit card in shops. The rumours of cigar shop prices being advertised in USD, but then the euro amount charged, are untrue. Prices are in USD, I don’t know how they get away with that. Anyway, for example, I bought a box of cigars and two custom rolls from Arnaldo in the Melia Habana. The total was $95 USD, I checked my bank statement, I was charged 86 euro. Taking my bank’s commission into account, that’s fine. Odalys from Partagas gave me a tour of the new Partagas store, work is progressing, it’s a great location. The shop will have a very similar layout to the old one, they even brought the same spiral staircase. The new shop will be a little smaller. Work has been slow. They were hoping to have it open this month. I would guess it’s 2 months to two years to completion. That’s an accurate guess for here. Melia Cohiba hotel and shop closed until February. Comodoro open and there are cigars, Alex is still away. They have Santiago 11 year old there. Price has gone up to 47.95 and the bottle has a new label. It doesn’t look like 7.95 worth though. Melia Habana open. Good stock in the shops here, still some San Cristobal regionals around. Though fewer since I got here. Some Cohiba though not many. No Siglo VI, I have not seen Esplendidos or Lanceros either. The weather has been changeable, often showers in the evening which makes organising a night out difficult. I promised my wife I’d stick to outdoor venues and that has been largely successful. 1ra y 70 is the spot for very late nights, about 7 beach bars there, most open 24 hours. We left at 6 am this morning. Saw the sun-rise there last week. Pinar del Rio, I visited Salvador Carvajal. He is not planting until next week. Criollo 98. He says that’s what he always tries to plant. Hector Luis Prieto planted last week, seedlings in the ground. The weather is causing some problems. Too much rain and the young plants getting damaged but not a huge issue. Hector’s old roller, Miguel, now has his own place down the road. A little B&B, growing his own coffee and a very nice smoking spot in his garden. Pancho Cuba (Francisco Milian) died this year. Not covid, a pancreatic issue. He was not a young man though. Sad all the same, a very kind man. I was going to call to Hirochi but the road out to his place was dug up by tractors and we couldn’t get the car down. I wasn’t up for the 1 mile walk off the main road in the afternoon heat. Lunch in Papo’s place next door was great. The harvest this year was as good as last year’s. Both better than the previous three years. After a concert on the roof of La Guarida on Saturday, I had a brief chat with Oscar Riconte, Habanos Director of Quality. He’s optimistic about upcoming supply. Of course. I’ll be meeting some more of those lads at a dinner on Thursday. I’ll find out what I can. Factories are all open, some with fewer rollers. The black market has exploded. Lots of evidence that more people got involved in order to survive the pandemic. Unboxed, banded cigars shipping in bulk to Canada (then into US) and Spain. I think it at least partially explains some of the supply issues. Yarini is the new restaurant in Habana Vieja that everyone is talking about these days. Very nice rooftop place, palm trees in pots and cool music. I went afterwards to a dive bar called Melodrama, on Obrapia y Villegas, to see someone I know playing there. More my cup of tea, though not for everyone. I have been hanging out quite a bit with some European distributors, in town for work and kicks. I’ve had a few sun-uppers with them. No power cuts (other than local lightning-related) , no lines for gasoline (currently). The town is quiet but getting busier by the day. I’m having a great time but not enough time to see everyone. Having dinner with Machin tonight in Bone’Ma around the corner from my place. Some quick notes to follow for anyone planning on coming here. Bring a few face masks, it is the law here to wear one all the time including outside and in your car. Don’t try to beat that rule, it’ll just waste time spent talking to a uniform. Though very little Covid here now. Still.. Bring euros if you can. Some things are more expensive here. I paid 25,000 pesos for a bottle of Havana Club 15 year old in a nightclub on Friday, I thought the waitress said 2,500. It was late and lesson learned. We still used it for cubatas. Really nice cubatas. But most things are a similar price as before, with the good rate. If you don’t get a good rate, things are 2 – 5 times more expensive. I was out for dinner last Wednesday with a very close friend here, she nearly cries when she sees the bill amount. She has a 16 year old son, “how can he ever take a girl out to dinner”. So she’s out of here as soon as she can. She has a new US-resident boyfriend so that should help. At that dinner, the last president’s grandson “El Cangrejo” was at the next table with his entourage, living it up. My friend was fuming, I’ve never seen her that angry. If you remember that viral video of Fidel’s grandson, Sandro, in a Mercedes e-class last year, that was an older (maybe 15 years old) w211 model. El Cangrejo had a fleet of new w213s. Hotel food and drinks are bizarrely cheaper now. A Nacional Ham and cheese sandwich was 6cuc forever, now it’s 150 pesos, the official exchange rate. But with the euro rate, that’s less than €2. Beer in the hotel, 100 pesos, just over a euro now. Although, the Nacional had no beer and no cola of any description last night. So it was mojito or sparkling water. I’ve never known the Nacional to run out of beer. Bring mosquito repellent. Dengue is in Havana now and there is less fumigation than before. I’d guess about 20% of the people I know here have had it or a close family member has. Not pleasant. I’m being eaten. It’s perfect weather for them now. Bring lots of paracetamol and Ibuprofen for people here. I brought 2,000 of each and wish I had tripled that. Some places are not open yet, FAC, Floridita, Monserrate. Though most places are. Some with reduced hours. We were kicked out of El Sauce at 10pm last night. Espacios open until 3am, Mio y Tuyo 5-6am, etc. For anyone sending me private messages, sorry if I don’t reply right away. I’m on 200-500 messages a day with stuff to do here and other questions. I’ll have more information when I get a chance in the next few days. Some pictures, if someone could fix the upside-down ones, that would be great, I'm in a bit of a rush. Brick of cash Melia Habana, Arnaldo Ovalles and stock Santiago in Comodoro, 11 year old not pictured Tataki in Santy, still good. Club Habana and Miriela Espacios prices Sunrise on my first morning. A quiet Nacional. Of course they dug up the driveway the week the travel restrictions were loosened. Conde de Villanueva closed Restaurant Yarini Bar Melodrama Carlos Balino factory open Partagas progress Odalys of Partagas New Havana Clubs Coffee at Miguel's Salvador Carvajal Hector A lancero at Papos Marlin tacos and moonlit jazz in La Guarida. A Sunday afternoon panel tasting of some 1982 Punch Nectares No. 2. The verdict is that they are very nice. Out with my old neighbours from Jaimanitas in 1ra y 70

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