22 01 2011

Turquino Ice Cream Parlour on 18th Floor

Cubans must eat more ice cream per head than any other nation in the world. They make some wonderful flavours: mango, coconut, pineapple, pineapple/orange, banana, strawberry, guava, chocolate, plus fruits unfamiliar to Europeans such as zapote or guanavana.

There is a nationwide chain of ice cream parlours called Copelia. The branch in Santiago de Cuba is in the open air and was extended last summer. It seats hundreds. They are famous for their queues, but on the Saturday afternoon that I went there we were able to get a table straight away. Ice cream is available in various combinations, including with cake. Five scoops plus a portion of cake cost 4.5 CUP. (1 CUP = £0.03).

There are also, in almost every street, ice cream sellers known as copelitas (little Copelias). These charge 1 CUP for a cone. I have seen people eating ice cream cones when I went to the bakery at 8.30 am. You can see people eating ice cream all day long.

 There are also several ice cream parlours in the city, indoor venues that charge a little more than Copelia, but still seem cheap to me (e.g. a bowl with three scoops for 7.5 CUP). My favourite is on the eighteenth floor of a tower block, in a development called Centrourbano Sierra Maestra, but known as the dieciocho plantas (the 18 floors),with beautiful views over the city, the bay and the surrounding mountains.

 In one such parlour (Via Central), at 4pm on an afternoon with temperatures of 31C outside, I was refused admission because I was wearing shorts. One of my Cuban friends who was with us was denied entry because she was wearing flip-flops. Many Cuban venues maintain strict dress codes – no vests, shorts or flip-flops. Yet in a 5-star tourist hotel, being attired in such a manner, even for dinner, would not be a problem. Different rules apply to tourist venues. The tourists are probably considered strange and disrespectful, but as long as they are spending their foreign currency and are not using Cuban venues, they are tolerated, a bit like topless sun-bathing in countries with strict religious beliefs.

Similarly, at the university where I am studying, the male students all have long trousers and shirts or t-shirts, despite the heat (although the women can wear shorts, mini-skirts or vests). I have seen it said elsewhere that the sure way to distinguish a Cuban from a tourist is that the tourist will be the one wearing shorts.

NB Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as a “Cuban venue” or a “tourist venue”, in as much as a Cuban can – if they can afford it – go into a place used mainly by tourists and a tourist can – if they can understand the language and the way that things operate – go into a place used mainly by Cubans. However, as a general rule, a 5-star hotel such as the Melia Santiago will be used mainly by tourists; whilst a venue charging in moneda nacional will be used mainly by Cubans.



4 responses

23 01 2011
John Abbotsford

I also posted this on TT – “Leyton – Mrs Abbotsford insists I eschew shorts for the same reason that I not look like a tourist- so for 2-3 months in Cuba I generally obey. But of course she fails to concede that there are dozens of other visual/aural cues that would lead even the casual observer to distinguish which category I fall into! “

24 01 2011

When I was in Santiago this past December I almost *almost* went to the ice cream parlor atop “El Dieciocho Plantas”, but instead went to the one on the second floor of “La Avenida Central”. It was actually pretty good, it wasn’t crowded (I went the first time on a Wednesday afternoon, and the second time on a Thursday night). They had really good ice creams. Their “Sierra Maestra” was the best by far 🙂

24 01 2011

Also, when I went to La Via Central I was wearing flip-flops and so was my aunt….maybe you just got unlucky that day? :/

3 06 2011
Sierra Maestra « Tales of the Heroic City

[…] The view eastwards along Avenida Victoriano Garzon, with the tower blocks of the Centro Urbano Sierra Maestra on the right, known to most people in Santiago de Cuba simply as the “dieciocho plantas” (eighteen floors). On the top two floors of one of these blocks is a restaurant (see review from February) and an ice cream parlour (see picture and review from January). […]

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