Here are some of my favourite photos from my Cuba holiday. It is a fascinating, friendly country with a bizarre combination of Latino spirit, Caribbean cool and communist control! We went from Havana to Santiago de Cuba, Trinidad, Santa Clara and back to the capital via many Casa Particulares, several Casa de la Musicas, a few buses, a beach, one terryfying (for Caz at least) horse riding trip, town plazas, waterfalls, ice cream, hundreds of eggs, castles, a black virgin and a whole lot of salsa. Details on the full trip to follow!
Santiago de Cuba
We flew from Havana straight down to Santiago de Cuba in the cutest plane that I have ever seen – complete with painted on beach and palm trees. Our brief hosts in Havana had humorously described Santiago as hot, in more ways than one. The men, we were told, are good for a night, and not good for much more. Intriguing if nothing else!
Santiago de Cuba is an easy-going relaxed colonial town, we pottered around a few museums and galleries, visited the unassumingly beautiful Cementerio Santa Ifigenia and its bizarre Monty Python style changing of the guards and relaxed in Plaza de Dolores and Parque Cespedes conducting important research into Cuba’s finest beverages; Cristal (a light, tasty lunchtime beer), Bucanero (a slightly stronger beer with those of hardier tastes), the Mojito (a Cuban classic drinkable at literally all times of day), Pina Colada (personally I don’t see the necessity of spoiling the run with so much fruit but the other’s liked them) and finally the Daiquiri (see Pina Colada)!
It would be impossible to speak of Cuba without mentioning dancing and music in the same breadth. There seemed to be some kind of band playing wherever we walked during the day and so finding some live music in the evening was certainly not hard. In the Casa de la Musica we were hijacked by a huge family of Cubans’ distributed among the older men for dance partners and eventually ended up in another bar drinking neat dark rum with the band’s two bongo players, salsa dancing and in my case speaking increasingly more recklessly confident Spanish. The next morning the lady who owned the Casa Particular (private house) we were staying in, brought us two thermos flasks of coffee looking highly amused!
Before leaving Santiago de Cuba (and our already beloved 4pm mojitos in the Casa de Te on the main square) we hired a car for a few hours. The car was an extremely battered piece of engineering in which was squeezed Rafael, a quiet guy with a stomach the size of Mount Olympus which he liked to expose to the elements, rolling up his t-shirt and letting the brown mound bask happily in the sun.
Rafael and his stomach drove us down to the Castillo de San Pedro del Morro, a seventeenth century fort built overlooking an endless expanse of ocean. We walked along the battlements and attempted to decode the Spanish stories of pirates, invaders, Corsicans and bandits of Cuba colonial past. We also took a small boat over to the nearby island of Cayo Granma where the only afternoon activity was a serious game of dominoes taking place on the main path.
Our other excursion out of the town took us to Cuba’s holiest site. Communism and religion aren’t usual bed fellows but since the Pope’s blessing in the past decade Christianity has apparently persisted under Fidel. The Basilica de Neustra Senora del Cobre is a fantastically situated church nestled among green hills and houses the Yoruba godess of dance and love. Cubans come here to pray and if those prayers are answered return to leave tokens of thanks. These tokens, all on display, included everything from locks of hair, graduation scrolls to olympic medals.