|The long wait for ice cream|
Our itinerary snaked onto another page.
As a visitor it is hard to understand the willingness to wait for hours for ice cream. Familiar Nestle favourites are yours for around $2 straight from the ice cream cabinets that have sprung up in shops and private restaurants: no waiting necessary. Even Coca Cola, once a 'no-no', is making an appearance to rival the Cuban brand 'tuKola'.
When you remember that the average salary is $20 a month in Cuba, which would make a $2 ice cream cost the equivalent of about three days' salary, the waiting becomes easier to fathom. Ice cream at Coppelia costs a few national pesos. It is a cheap, sugar-packed treat.
|Bird's eye view of Coppelia from the Focsa building|
|Taking some home for later|
|Too much of a good thing with Alexis Cardenas|
I won't deny it, I ate all six scoops of ice cream buried underneath those cookies, but boy did I feel sick afterwards. The use of the word 'salad' does not confer any redeeming features on what is simply a huge bowl of sugar and fat.
Don't let me put you off! The ice cream was lovely, but no matter how cheap, you might prefer a smaller helping. Or, even better, I wish I'd scooped half of mine into our neighbour's tub.
|Memorial to Celia Sanchez at Coppelia|
In its heyday, Coppelia served upwards of 26 flavours of ice cream. The number has wavered to reflect differing times and differing struggles. It dipped during the 'Special Period' with the collapse of communism in Europe and, at only two or three, is at a low now. Throughout that time, the cheap ice cream must surely have been a crowd pleaser and a crowd appeaser.
Amongst Cubans now working in private enterprise, Coppelia seems to be considered 'old hat', but it's a legendary institution, a part of Cuba's history. Perhaps its ice cream has even helped hold the fabric of Cuban communist society together.
All of that has to be worth queueing for.
And that prompts a confession. Five o'clock on our last afternoon in Havana, time slipping away ... I'm afraid, with the aid of a small payment, we jumped the queue. It was that or not go in. Part of Cuban life? Undoubtedly, yes. Proud of it? No.
|A stroll around Coppelia|