Trinidad. Cuba. Let’s Salsa!

Arriving in Trinidad was a different experience. It’s a cobbled city. Quite small with lots of coloured houses which gives a festive feeling.

It was raining when we arrived. The hot days are often punctuated with a downpour that lasts an hour or so.

It gave us a chance to check in and have a little rest.

The house we are in is on a street with lots of painted houses and some have a sign outside indicating they are a casa particular. They rent rooms to tourists. It makes such a difference to the lives of the people – making an income to supplement their government wage. Salaries are so low here. The owner of our house is an engineer who was paid 28CUC (about $28 a month). Renting a room, he can make about 20-30 CUC a night.

Our owner Reginald pulled out all stops in decorating our rooms. Ours is a beautiful blue and Marg’s is pink.

When the rain stopped we headed out to the cobbled streets walking towards the main square (and wifi spot!) it’s quite a busy little town and is known for its salsa clubs. Can’t wait to visit one!

We passed a few craft markets seeing things of a Cuba style. I just had to buy a bell for my collection.

We saw the Trinidad equivalent to the Spanish Steps. It was littered with people (mostly young people) on their iPhones taking advantage of the wifi.

Alex guided us around the town pointing out the best bars and coffee places.

We ended up for dinner on a roof top in another casa particular. It was a feast with far too much food. Simple cooking but nice ingredients. So far we’ve been fortunate to have Alex point out the best places to eat. The Government run restaurants look quite ok but are not good to eat at (according to our guide).

Walking back to our casa stumbling over the cobbles, we called into few craft places and I bought some cute ceramic earrings.

It couldn’t be the end of the night without a rum drink so as our casa also had a bar (in the kitchen!) we ordered a pina colada to enjoy before bed. It came with something pink floating on the top and was heavily laced with rum. Sleep came easily.

Today we headed to the beach. White sand clean water. Mojito.

Now we’re exploring the cobbled street of Trinidad and getting ready for salsa tonight.

A great dinner in a restaurant Alec suggested then off to salsa.

Some hot moves on the dance floor. There were a couple of men there to dance with the ‘lady tourists’ for tips I take it. Everyone seemed to be having a great time.

There was one girl. Turns out she was from Sweden and she was mesmerising to watch. She swayed and swung her hips. Her hands rotated above her head and we were entranced. Another had a lesson with a big guy with white trouser who swivelled those hips! We thought we’d like to have a go but thought we needed another lesson or 6!

Sorry. Photos hard to load!

Fantastic Fusterlandia

I love discovering places a little off the radar.

Our guide Alex suggested a place called Fusterlandia. What is it you ask?

It’s a ‘Gaudi ‘ style creation.

It’s a street , a park, an area. And if it stands still it’s covered in mosaic tiles.

Needless to say I loved it. I love mosaics and this is mosaics in the community.

Our lovely taxi driver knew about it and drove us there, told us about it and then waited for an hour or so while we explored. It cost about 40 CUC for his time and well worth it.

Leon the driver was a great character and was so friendly and helpful.

The local kids were playing on the chairs scattered along the street!

It really 2 streets with a park and some walls around an oval each house has decorated their own fence or house.

It’s quirky, it’s fun, it’s communal.

I think all communities could embrace something fun like this. The more entrepreneurial people had set up little craft or food stalls.

Some of the walls were devoted to other Latin American countries. So creative.

The art works we’re great.

And the cars matched the fun.

Later that evening our visit to the Fabrica de Arte was not so successful. Despite enquiries we got there and it’s closed till June. Never mind. No art no party salsa 💃🏻 tonight. So we had a lovely dinner before returning to the old town walking around and enjoying the lighting on some fabulous buildings. And dropping into the hotel Floridita. Hemingway’s drinking bar. We’d seen it on the movie we watched on the bus. So we drank a final Pina Colada and salsa – ed our way home. We were slightly disappointed there wasn’t salsa in every open plaza : square. That would have been fun!

Che Day

Today it was all about Ernesto Guevara. Or Che as he has become.

Our hotel last night was great and we had a lovely breakfast in the dining room. A smooth Alex arrived and gave is the run down on today’s activities.

We were to drive to Santa Clara about an hour away, but before that we visited the town plaza. Around a central garden stand some very grand colonial buildings. They are painted in different pastel colours and have colanades running along them which is handy in the hot sun.

We went into the arts co operative and loved the various arts and crafts. So bright and happy. Cuba certainly is colourful.

Then we tried to climb the building on the edge of the square with a high tower and a look out. Only problem no one arrived at 10 am to open up!

Next up was the theatre. It’s a really lovely building built by a wealthy sugar farmer back in the 1890’s. It’s still used for performance each weekend and us open to view for $5.

Unfortunately it’s been subject to the same decay that so buildings have been in Cuba. There hasn’t been the money to pay for restoration. So even though the whole square is Unesco listed they are in bad condition.

Last stop was the church. Very plain and in need of paint.

Paint can be hard to get apparently. Alex has bought an apartment with his wife and is trying to do it up. He can’t find any paint. He’s got the money but there just aren’t the supplies readily available.

Victor arrived with the bus and we got on for the hour long ride to the Che Guevara memorial. During the hour we watched a documentary on his life. He was certainly charismatic and driven and in the minds of the Cuban people he would be forever young.

In my opinion he seemed attracted not just by the cause and helping people overcome dictators but driven by the adventure.

We visited the museum and the memorial and it was quite moving.

Back in the bus we stopped next for lunch at a hotel. Quite attractive with a large empty pool.

Then it was across the mountains through sugar country to Trinidad.

The forms of transportation are varied – not many private cars, just taxis , tour bus, bikes and horse and cart.

This tower is not a church. It’s a tower that was used for watching slaves.

Until next time. Leave a comment!

sorry if the photos haven’t loaded. V slow internet.

Vinales to Bay of Pigs

Vinales is a lovely quiet little town where the pace is slow, the people friendly and the food surprisingly good. We were told the food in Cuba was plain and rather ordinary and while it’s not Michelin standard so far it’s been fine.

Lots of rice yes! Last night we went to an eco restaurant on a hill on the outskirts of Vinales. All the food prepared for us was grown or raised on the farm.

We walked in the gardens – vegetable garden beds bursting with healthy plants and looked up at the house with breezy verandas.

The house faced the hills and the sun was just starting to set. It was quite beautiful.

The food started with a plantains and taro crisps & delicious vegetable soup then out came plates of roasted vegetable, chicken thighs, roast pork and shredded beef. Much more than we could eat!

We finished with creme brûlée and mint tea. No wine but we had a pina colada type drink with special herbs in it.

Today we left early, 8am and we knew it was going to be a long day as Alex planned a movie for us on the bus and Victor our driver was wearing a tie. Serious driving today.

We headed back in the direction of Havana and then in the direction of Giron and The Bay of Pigs. To give us some background Alex told us some history of the political life in Cuba including their heroes Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and what led up to the 3 day Bay of Pigs invasion by the Americans in 1961.

For a small country this is a big story. It is strategically placed only 90 miles from Miami and was wanted by Spain, America and Russia. Fidel led the revolution through the Baptista years. The country was crawling with Mafia types, communists and became a socialist country under Castro.

Then there was the ‘special period !’ In the 90’s when life for the Cubans became hard. It was anything but special. They were hard times. People were starving. Alex who is 34 said he remembers it well as there was so little food.

We arrived at the Bay of Pigs and had a swim. It was warm & tropical and lovely after sitting in the bus for several hours.

Next stop was the museum in Giron (passing Australia on the way)

to see the Cuban account of the Bay of Pigs invasion. Such a bad period of time.

We watched a short film and wondered what the American tourists would think.

There was a photo of JFKennedy who inherited the Cuba problem and didn’t seem keen to invade.

The Cubans are very pleased it wasn’t Trump in charge then!

We arrived at Cienfuegos and visited the former Palace. This small city is by the sea and in its former glory would have been lovely. The buildings are colonial style but many are in a state of disrepair.

We enjoyed our pina colada on the roof terrace before checking into the lovely old Union Hotel.

Tomorrow is Che day. All about that romantic political figure Che Guevara.

Wandering in Vinales

We’re staying in a casa particular. A house owned by a local. We are in a little row of rooms at the back of Maria and her husband very modest house.

It’s a way the locals can make a little money. They set up a little bnb type of thing. Sometimes in their house or as in this case behind it. The owners pay the Government about 100CUC a month and can rent it for around 20-40CUC a night.

So the better ones would rent well.

Vinales is a small town in the Tobacco growing area a few hours from Havana. It’s in a Valley with Jurassic Park style mountains around. It’s popular with young people ( as Cuba is generally) who travel and who like to climb.

Our hosts gave us breakfast on their terrace and were so accommodating. Fruit, omelette & toast.

Then we set off to the Main Street with Alex to meet our local guide.Pero turned out to be a lovely, earnest former English teacher. We set out down one of the side street with Pero stopping every few minutes to point out the fruit trees or the plants growing in the gardens. Pero loves all things botanical.

We continued down the path passing colourful houses , oxen carts and locals riding horses.

We walked along the shaded country road until we reached the tobacco farm.

Pero explained the growing system, the type of leaves , the government control 90% of the crop goes to the Gov for a fairly low price. The farmer keeps the rest which he can the use to produce his own cigars but he can’t label them. So he can’t make too much money no matter how hard he works.

We heard about the drying, stripping, bundling and rolling. We moved into the barn to see leave hanging- for a year.

then into the house to meet Clara

and her husband who rolled us a cigar. What fun.

Then we were taught how to inhale and away we went.

I enjoyed the process as you can see here!

Now I’m recovering before our salsa class this afternoon.

After Salsa it was dinner at an eco restaurant. More later.

Internet hard!