Living in the Pearl of the Antilles

Excerpt from the book "Inside Cuba"

Jair Mon Pérez - A Feast of Spanish Tiles

Reproductions of several works by the famous Spanish painter Francisco de Goya and some passages from Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes' masterpiece "Don Quixote" are found among the thousands of tiles that decorate the walls of the Casa Mon. These colorful tiles from Seville, depicting bullfighting scenes and heraldic motifs, are repeated almost ad infinitum inside the house, which was originally built in Havana's Vedado district in 1928 for a Jewish jeweler, today it is owned by Jair Mon Pérez, inherited from his father. From the street one can see a riot of tiles on the planters in the front garden and on the steps leading to the porch. They continue along the façade where the main entrance and two windows are surrounded by tiles, which form a wainscot recalling the magnificent Alhambra palaces in Granada, the so-called "palacios nazaries." The entry vestibule leads to the spacious dining room which is also decorated with grand wainscoting around the windows. But the star of the show is another hallway, where a marble staircase with elaborate wrought-iron railings is lit by an arched stained-glass window - a fantastic display of many jewel-like colors!

Heladería Coppelia - The Hottest Spot in Town for Cuban Ice Cream

"Coppelia" is not only the name of a beautiful ballet, it is also a brand of famous, internationally acclaimed Cuban ice cream. It is the only rival in Cuba for the hedonistic trio of cigars, rum and coffee, and its quality has been compared to that of Italian "gelato.""Heladería Coppelia" is a landmark in the heart of La Rampa, in Vedado. Since it was built in 1966, it has been the most popular spot in town, a unique gathering place where youngsters hang out, lovers date, and students and friends meet. It was the backdrop for the first scene of the Oscar-nominated 1995 Cuban film "Fresa y chocolate." Designed by Cuban architect Mario Girona, it was conceived as a huge, lightweight concrete structure surrounded by gardens in the center of a city block. The design consists of two structures connected by a bridge: the secondary one is a service block, and the main one is a circular structure covered by a single slab and crowned with a truncated cone; this ring has a tinted-glass clerestory and anchors the exposed concrete girders that cover six drum-like dining halls subdivided by wood and glass partitions on the upper floor. The whole ambience is open and very Cuban.
Jair Mon Pérez House in Havana: The sober tiled walls of the kitchen contrast with the colourful mosaic of Goya's 1792 work "Muchachos trepando a un árbol", visible in the background.