I’d read about a state-owned ice cream parlour so we decided to give it a go. La Coppelia is actually a huge flying saucer-like building taking up a whole city block and has been a Cuban institution since 1966. We wandered round the open air building on the ground floor, were accosted by a guard who tried to get us to go to the tourist section (where you’ll be served the same but will pay the same in CUCs as you’d pay in MNs so 25x the price) but I told him in Spanish that we had some local Cuban pesos so he allowed us to go to the main part. I’d read there were lengthy queues at weekends so being a Thursday night it was less busy but we still had to queue…..there were several different ones so we chose one and waited and watched what to do. There was an old sign showing what was on the menu- basically three flavours of ice cream, vanilla, strawberry and pineapple, in different combinations, although in reality there was only one flavour available and the people I saw were all served the same five vanilla scoops in a plastic oval platter. It came to our turn in the queue and we were sent up a spiral staircase and seated on a table with a mother and her 7 year old daughter.
They’d come here for a treat after the daughter’s dance class before getting the bus back to the suburbs. Looking around, it seemed we were the only foreigners but it’s a great way to meet and chat to Cubans because everybody shares a table……pack ’em in and serve everyone the same! We ordered the ‘ensalada de helado’, (as suggested in the Compass Guide) and added pasteles (cakes), not really having a clue as to what might appear!
We chatted with the mother ; her daughter, Amanda, was quite shy but did tell us she loved her dance classes. The glasses of tap water arrived (I drank the water with no ill effects though we did drink mainly Cuban bottled water.) The 4 large bowls of ice cream arrived, 5 scoops per person, together with a plastic dish of plain sponge cake chunks. The ice cream melted quite fast in the heat but it was creamy and tasty.