Off to dinner

Okay, I can’t get any photos to upload on this archaic internet system.  Our room has free access, but it is dial-up.  For $7.50/hr, I can get wi-fi, but it isn’t appreciably faster.  So it looks like I’ll have to use words instead of pictures.

Tonight we went out to Hostal Doña Carmela, a paladar. Originally, paladars were just local peoples houses which they opened up to serve dinner, hoping to make a few pesos to augment their income.

What we have today is full fledged restaurants masquerading as family homes.  The one we went to tonight has a sign out front, tables for 20, their own email address (a rarity here where the ordinary population is prohibited from accessing the internet) and an obvious web of guides, concierges, taxi drivers and hotel doormen to keep the customers flowing.  We didn’t need a map or card to get there, the taxi driver knew the way to the famous Doña Carmelas.

Getting there was an adventure in itself in a Honda van with the worst windshield wipers you can imagine, the 7 of us and the driver peering through the mist trying to avoid the many people walking on/in the streets in the evening dark–darned few street lights here, and so few cars people just walk where they want.

Dining was al fresco, which was slightly chilly.  Temps in the mid 60’s tonight.  The setting was a lovely garden, with enough lights to be a Cuban Disneyland.

We had our choice of chicken, fish, pork, lobster, octopus or a combination plate.  I had the combination plate, the better to try everything.

The meal started with salad, then eggplant, then rice and black beans, served family style.  Just as we were getting full, the entrees came.  My red snapper was perhaps the best I have ever had.  The pork was a smoked chop lightly grilled.  I had the octopus salad in garlic–really fantastic, and something you won’t see much of in the states.  Gail had the lobster, which is a warm water variety not quite as savory as what we are accustomed to from Maine.

The others had wine–there was a choice of Spanish and Chilean varieties, and since a bottle of each disappeared quite rapidly I guess it was the good stuff.

We declined dessert, being glutted from an enormous dinner, but the waitress still insisted on bringing a single flan and seven spoons–actually eight since the taxi drive had reappeared to bring us back to the hotel.  My two spoonsful of custard were the perfect amount to finish the meal.

Another scary semi-blind ride home along the sea wall with the waves crashing over and into the street, and we got back to the hotel in one overstuffed piece.

All this set us back about $50 apiece.  Cheap by California prices, exorbitant by local standards, I’m sure.

We had quite a discussion about when to get going in the morning and compromised on 8:45. I was rooting for 9:30, but that’s life.   More tomorrow

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