WALKING AROUND AT CALLE OCHO
Although we have been a few times to Miami, we had never visited Little Havana. Then on last Sunday, we went there to discover a little of this historic and quirky neighborhood.
Our first stop, and the main reason that led us to Little Havana, was at Azucar Ice Cream Shop, OMG! Later , in the Wine & Dine section, I’ll dedicate a special post to the amazing homemade ice cream that they create.
Ready with our ice creams in hand, we started to explore the famous Calle Ocho!
Right next to Azucar Ice Cream, is the Little Havana Cigar Factory and Lounge, a family-owned cigar store with one of the largest inventories in the country and a luxuriously embellished saloon incorporating deep leather armchairs where you can relax with a fine cigar. We utterly loved spending time at this place.
Just for you information, you will find cigar shops all along Calle Ocho. Prices can vary between USD $1.00 at the dollar stores to over USD $30.00 at the factories. You will get what you pay for, the US$ 1.00 cigars will probably be made with the sweepings. Although these establishments seem to offer Cuban cigars, and they are indeed made by Cubans, the tobacco may have come from the Dominican Republic or Honduras.
Across the street (15th. Avenue), which is the centre of activity for Viernes Cultural (Cultural Friday), decorated with colorful mosaics denoting dominos and other Little Havana memorabilia, is the Domino's Park.
Here you will find many old guard Cuban exiles playing their main pastime, dominoes. The park is open from sunrise to sunset and contains permanent domino and chess tables. Look at how intent the players are. Stop by a table and learn how the game is played. Play is fast and furious, and each game takes about five minutes to complete.
On the wall behind the players is a large mural depicting the presidents and prime ministers of all the nations that attended the Summit of the Americas here in Miami back in 1994.
Beyond the McDonalds, the only one to my knowledge that serves the famous and delicious Cuban coffee, check out the large mural on 14th. Avenue. It honors the Cuban singer and icon Celia Cruz. You will also notice stars on the sidewalk, the Latino equivalent to The Hollywood Walk of the Fame. All these are Latin American entertainment and sports personalities.
At 13th Avenue you come to the Cuban Memorial Plaza. Facing Calle Ocho is the monument with the eternal flame to the fallen comrades of Brigade 2506 who participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. Regrettably the counter-revolution failed, and the Castro brothers rule the island with an iron fist up to today. The line of monuments on this avenue commemorate Cuban heroes such as Antonio Maceo and Jose Marti. Behind the small white statue of the Virgin Mary is a magnificent ceiba Tree.
We left Little Havana with good vibes. Next time, we’ll have lunch or dinner at Versailles Restaurant, from the movie Chef (with Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara and Jon Favreau), which promises be the world’s most famous Cuban Restaurant!