The whole trip to Cuba had a slightly unreal feel to it, mostly in the good way, of “Holy @#$%! am I in CUBA?! YES! I’m in CUBA!!!! Holy @#$%!!!!”, but there were also times it swerved over towards surreal. Visiting Coppelia was definitely one of the more, if not the most surreal experience of the trip.
As you may know, I look for ice cream when I travel. Well yeah, ice cream happens at home too, but it’s a fun side note when I go new places. My last-minute guide book purchases mentioned Coppelia, and then it turned out to be within walking distance from the place we were staying in Havana. One of our first times out Laura mentioned we would be going by the ice cream park. Yes, it takes up a whole block.
One thing and another I didn’t get there until the day before we left. With it being so large there were multiple entrances and lines and it wasn’t super clear where to go so we were just going to look around a bit and try to figure it out. Then one of the attendant/security guard type people came up to us and indicated that we should follow him. He took us down one of the paths, up a flight of stairs in the main building, and into a small, overly air-conditioned cafe area. There were several tables, but other than the server, we were the only ones there.
Ah, the tourista area. Yes, this is where you can pay with CUCs. (the tourist money) Our own little world. It was brightly colored, and there were pictures of dancers on the walls. There were 3 flavors: chocolate, vanilla, and vanilla and chocolate. The other choice to make was how many scoops you wanted, and then it came served in a glass dish like a sundae, with honey and a cookie. Not super rich, but creamy and tasty. The honey was a nice touch.
The server said the facility had capacity for 1000 people, and (average?) they served 13000 a day. (Although, now that I’m writing that daily number it seems high. Anyway.) On a busy day the wait in line (for Cubans) could be 2 hours. I like ice cream, but… Well, I guess if you don’t have anything else to do…
After we ate I still wanted to look around some more, Zigy also stayed, the others took off. We snuck into the main building, getting yelled at in the process, although the staff seemed fine when we said we’d already had ice cream in the tourist lounge and were just looking around.
I’m not sure what they were thinking with the building – quasi-futuristic something or other – that was part of the surreality, then the whole two tier system, and being whisked off to our own cafe. Then even the rest of it there were different seating areas upstairs and downstairs in the main building, then other cafe/kiosk areas scattered about and I never did figure out what the difference was between the different areas and if you picked or just stood in line and got directed somewhere. Then there were other people from our group who went a different time and were in a totally different part of the park and had other flavor choices and as a cone, not the sundae thing. Who knows.
To top it off, Zigy tried to liberate a political slogan sign from one of the bulletin boards as a souvenir. He thought no one had seen him, but a guard caught up with him, asked for it back and wasn’t going to negotiate the point. Good times.