At the back of Cathedral Square towards Havana’s promenade is Tacon, a permanent street market, that is well worth checking out. It’s not the biggest in the world, rather compact, but absolutely crammed with work of local artisans. Instinctively you know to hang on to your valuables as the passage between stalls is tight and it’s difficult to stop to browse without obstructing other shoppers. In the end, we had to accept that people needed to maneuver around us otherwise we wouldn’t have stopped to view anything. Within seconds, a guy brushes past us muttering meaningfully "Sir, do you want fine cigars?" before disappearing into the hoards of shoppers. This approach became all too familiar as we wended our way around the market and several salesmen suggested if I didn’t smoke that they would make ideal presents for family. In fairness, the cigars looked pretty good, but I was reminded that it was always dodgy to buy on impulse on the street and secondly that such deals were frowned upon by the local police.
There were a lot of carved wooden automobiles in the market and, of course, much to do with smoking. Fine-looking cigar boxes at a fraction of the shop price, ash trays, cigar cases etc.
Rum was another theme with mock advertising memorabilia and other, often tacky, decorative ware. Momentarily, we were tempted with some fine ethnic statues around 10 inches tall with a fine ebony finish at a price of three for 10 pesos. I heard my wife utter those dreaded words "they’d just go with…" and decided it was time to find a distraction somewhere else in the market.
"Look at these handbags," I uttered. This was a suitable distraction but a close call as she handled the cheap leather bags considering that they "might be good enough for work!"
The Cuban stalls carried straw sun hats by the score and I did hear a Canadian voice offering to negotiate his baseball cap for some items off a staff. Now that’s proper bartering for you! Unfortunately, I was whisked away and never did find out how well he’d done.
Leaving the cluttered stalls of t-shirts behind us, we take time to gaze at one of Cuba’s ancient fortified ditches where barrels of old cannons appear to have been ceremoniously laid out. It’s a bizarre but interesting sight
Just opposite the market is a street café, D’Giovanni’s, where we went for a mid-morning snack and coffee. It really was nothing special and the baguette was "not a patch on" the one we’d enjoyed at El Floridita, but the service was friendly enough and it was well positioned for a spot of "people watching". As is standard with Cuban cafés, there’s no hurry so you’re not discouraged from sitting and watching the world go by. What better way to rest those weary feet and restore the batteries before the next bit of sight-seeing?