Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Cuba Part V: Santa Clara and Index

Saturday morning we took off to Santa Clara, maybe an hour or so away. Ale called someone to get a car for us. We had already booked a place to stay there for Friday night, but once we decided to stay in Trinidad, we didn't have a way of getting in touch without internet. Oh well, hope they didn't mind that we didn't show! We had already paid.

Santa Clara is a university town, and not a ton of things to do that were on our list, except visit el Museo de Che. His army attacked the city and took over, pushing out Batista at long last. We had our driver drop us off near the complex. There was a place for us to store our bags while we walked around.

Tiny little flame, hanging on there in the rain.
We went inside the mausoleum where Che and other soldiers are buried. It was quiet pretty and quiet. No photos allowed. Worth a stop by.

We walked back out to the taxi area and didn't see a ton of activity. This guy was already waiting on someone, but he called a couple friends with cabs to make sure we had a ride. Cubans are great and so helpful.

We made it to the airport with time to spare. Enough time to even get a snack.

Back to Miami we went. It's a quick flight, and the pilot made it even quicker since there were some major thunderstorms. I think we were up and down in about 25 minutes. Back to America! Back to the land of wifi! And guess what - when I turned my phone on, I'd missed absolutely nothing of importance about the world, except for talking to my boyfriend.

Here's a recap of all my other Cuba posts. Happy to chat if you want help planning your own trip!
It only took me 7 months to write about it, but give me a break, I'm in grad school!

1)  Havana
2) Vinales
3) Cienfuegos
4) Trinidad

Monday, February 20, 2017

Cuba Part IV: Trinidad!

We made it to Trinidad. The streets are small and cobbled, and thankfully my Google maps had my blue dot (despite no cell/wifi signal) with our location, and I could zoom into the city map to guide our taxi driver to our airbnb. It was raining a bit when we arrived but it eventually stopped soon after our arrival.

We booked an Airbnb with Alejandro and Maritza, and they've got a nice place. Somehow they've got a wifi access point on their house (they got the tower in Mexico) and their son has a video gaming set up on the roof. You still have to pay for a card to access the internet, and your communications are very likely monitored, so I wasn't even tempted to break my no cell service streak.  They also have a great rooftop - they encouraged us to hang out up there and make ourselves at home. Great views on the city once the rains cleared.

They have a couple dogs - they were great.

Time to get out and about in Trinidad. It's the jewel of Cuba's colonial cities and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Streets have a colonial name and a new name.

This is the plaza of three crosses, where the Easter procession ends. The crosses on the houses are stops along the way.

Sergio and I had packed some goodies for kids to hand out during the week, but we hadn't seen too many. It was time to get to handing them out in Trinidad. We had gum and stickers. One of the kids would ask us daily if we had caramelos. Sorry, kid.

Trinidad is more touristy than the other cities we visited, so lots of restaurant options and lots of people outside of them with menus, trying to get you to come in. We settled on one of the many options with a rooftop terrace. The food was okay, but the view was lovely, and the music was fun.

I was still loving the local orange soda. 

Lots of artist shops around the city too.

Everyone in Cuba has these same chairs.

When we got home, Ale was still up. He offered us some delicious ceviche that he made. He brought it up to the roof for us. It was excellent. He chatted with us for a bit. He's a physical education teacher and his wife is a librarian. For a few years, the economy was so bad and they couldn't find work in their fields. He was able to go to work in Mexico doing wood treatment work. He has residency there, but the work became too physically tough, and he injured his back. He came back to Cuba and they do Airbnb as their main source of income. They have two sons and Maritza's mother lives with them. He does construction projects on their house, and you can tell they've put some good work into making their house nice.

On Thursday morning, Ale made us breakfast. More of the usual - fruit and eggs, but very plentiful. We ate outside on the patio.

Princesa hung out with us. She'd been a street dog that they rescued.

After breakfast, Ale walked us over to a friend's place where we could rent bicycles. It's just out of a guy's house, per the norm in Cuba. They were good bikes and it was $6 for the whole day. According to our Cuban visa, Americans aren't supposed to just go to the beach all day, and we're supposed to maintain a full-time schedule of educational activities, but we were entitled to one day, right? There's a really great beach near Trinidad, maybe 15km away, so we started out before the day got too hot. July heat is tough.

Gorgeous, eh?
We stopped for a couple photos but kept on going.

We made it to a beach area around 10am. As we pulled up, a guy introduced himself as the captain of the place. For a dollar, he'd watch our parked bikes and make sure we got a shady spot under a palapa. I was glad for shade. 

Sergio and I took turns going into the water. I got some good reading done, and finally around 2pm we decided we should head back to beat the afternoon thunderstorm that would roll in.

It took us about another hour to actually leave, since we had to get some fried chicken from the little stand nearby. The guy had a little freezer with some drumsticks, and he fried them up with potatoes for me.

We were back on the road around 3pm. Brutal, brutal heat. I thought I was going to die. There was lots of stopping for drinks of water, but when the water is really warm, it's not so refreshing. This was hard.
We completed a circular route back to the city. This side of the circle on the way back had zero shade. I had my hat on, but the heat was burning up my arms. Didn't seem to bother this guy who was hauling large things on his bike!

We finally made it back and returned our bikes. Ale made us frozen mango juices when we got home, and that hit the spot so much. Why don't I make those for myself in the summer? I really should. I took a cold shower and tried to nap during the rainstorms. Ale made us more food - some little fried corn things for a snack. Then we ventured out for the evening. I'd seen a ceramic shop that morning, so we popped in. I loved everything and wanted to buy it all! I eventually purchased 5 pieces. Love all the color!

We took my fragile items home, then wandered around. Sat on the city steps and had a beverage. All the nearby hotels and bars have waiters out there - we got asked if we needed a drink every 2 minutes.
I bought another art piece on the way home. I really like these faces. How would I get it all home?!

Sergio was on the lookout for a guayabera, so we hit lots of shops. We came home and hung out on the roof again with the other dog, Laika.

We were supposed to leave Trinidad on Friday morning and head up to Santa Clara for a day, where we'd catch our flight back to Miami. But we loved Trinidad so much! And Ale and his family. We asked if they had room for us to stay another night, and they did. I was so glad. Trinidad is great. And we didn't even make it to the National Park that's nearby for hiking and waterfalls. Next trip!

Friday morning Ale made us breakfast again and we chatted about life in Cuba. He told us stories of growing his hair long to be a rebel, sneaking out his short wave radio to listen to American rock 'n roll, and how it took him many years to get his degree as a PE teacher. He basically had to qualify with proficiency in many major sports. He also likes to sit outside on the porch in the evenings and listen to Deepak Chopra.
Such a character.
We spent Friday going to the many museums of Trinidad. There's one on archeology, architecture, and a couple more historic homes.

One thing I loved about Cuba is that everyone lives their lives out in the open. It seems strange when I think about it, since I'm used to closed doors and driving in my car everywhere, but Cubans sit outside, walk everywhere, share stories with neighbors, and everyone knows each other. I kinda miss that.
We just about helped this guy get through a door with a cake.

We stopped by the Santeria temple and talked with the priest there - he's the head priest for the region. Santeros wear white and have a mix of African mythology and Catholicism. It's an interesting religion.

This guy was quite the character, walking through the streets. I saw him give the last of his popsicle to his donkey. Cute.
Inside the main cathedral of Trinidad.
Jesus or Nicolas Cage?

More handing out stickers and gum. It was really fun. Take stuff for the kids if you go to Cuba!
Stealth photo of this guy who was selling fans and baskets. I love it.

It was quite hot and we needed a drink. We stopped at a place that we'd seen the night before - it had signs that it was a bar. It was actually a bar inside someone's living room. They had a couple tables in the front room, so we sat down and ordered a soda. The man of the family runs the bar out the front window, and his wife waits on the tables inside. He had to leave for music practice, but said his band was very good and we should come back and listen to them later. The woman was super nice - she showed us these crazy avocados! She also brought us a plate of sliced mangoes.

We were just hanging out in their restaurant/living room, and one of their older parents was on the couch, watching soap operas or something.

We walked a little more and then found a place to beat the rain and get a full meal. It was in an older colonial building on their back patio - decent food and lots of it for cheap. Fish, beans, and rice.
And another poor excuse of ice cream.

We found a Beatles bar.

Classic Cuba. We took our cigars for photo ops.

We climbed some tower for some great views.

Final dinner in Cuba. Another touristy spot. I ordered the ropa vieja and it was pretty disappointing. Food isn't great here, and my number one recommendation is to take snacks!

Really fatty meat and not very tasty.
More art on the walk home.

Little Laika.
The family! They're so awesome and made us feel right at home. If you're headed to Trinidad, I'll give you their info so you can stay with them.

Adios, Trinidad. Off to Santa Clara....

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