Saturday, April 15, 2017

Trinidad, Cuba

Music is everywhere and participation is encouraged.
Christine joined for some salsa! 

The "Spanish Steps" like stairs to the Casa de Musica right
behind our Casa Particular apartment

A close up near the top of the stairs

Finding a nice place to eat is easy!

I'm not sure how long I have on wifi here in Havana. It's really surprising how much I miss having access to internet. So far on this visit we've had it only once three days before this. So I'm publishing this entry in segments so at least something goes out. Trinidad is very beautiful and there is music everywhere - and it's excellent. We had two nights in a beautiful Casa Particular (a future post will list all the places we stayed with Airbnb, restaurants and travel arrangements - along with advice on how to avoid the grifters) with a roof top terrace overlooking the city down to the sea. Our apartment in Trinidad was very charming with two terraces, 3 stories (pretty much one room per floor made up our apartment). The first terrace was tucked in between rooms on the third floor and was where we had our breakfast. The second encompassed the entire roof top. From there we could see over the entire town down to the sea. Melenia was the caretaker and took  care of us very well - the breakfast in the morning was perfect (the owner, Barbara, was in Rome). Our only critique would be the unequal nature of the two bedrooms - one was larger and adjoined the only bathroom. And as mentioned in the reviews, it was quite noisy at night - less the music and more the very loud party people.
Our first afternoon we took Melenia's advice and ate at a very attractive restaurant on the square just below our house. The band was good and Christine ended up joining them for a dance.
Leading out of the square a long flight of stairs ends up at the Casa de Musica with an outdoor lighted stage. Chairs and tables dot the stairs with some people just sitting on the ground. Bands rotate continuously throughout the afternoon and way into the night. That evening we sat and enjoyed mojitos with the crowds. The first band was the same as at lunch and they all waved to us! Afterwards we walked around the most historic area and chose La Terreza Restaurant due to the cascades of bougainvillea over the tables. The two women singers were quite good and sang more modern tunes, a nice change.
Melenia had organized a taxi to take us to and from La Playa the next morning. The beach was quite lovely with still clear water - Larry & Christine enjoyed a long swim. Scott and I walked the beach. There were a couple of small hotels back from the water but it was all very low key - no bathroom/shower facilities and just one simple cafe.
Back in Trinidad after a nice lunch out on a patio behind a restaurant we set out to find the Cubanacan office. In Cienfuegos the Cubanacan employee couldn't sell Larry the tickets to Viñales but told us to get them in Trinidad. The office was locked shut but luckily a nearby vendor alerted the agent who was having coffee and he opened up. BUT he didn't appear to know anything and denied that the agency even had a bus to Viñales! We were about to give up when a resident next door told us where to find another agent. This man was doing business in an arcade. He gave us some good advice (but couldn't sell us tickets). He suggested we try to buy them at the Hotel Plaza in Havana the next day and if that didn't work, show up at 8 am for the bus and try to buy them from the driver (in the event that failed, hire a taxi with anyone else in the same predicament - I guess this happens frequently).
Christine and I did some shopping on the way back and both bought red bead necklaces and bracelets. I found the souvenirs here more expensive than at the big tourist market on the harbor in Havana. After a siesta we were back walking the streets looking for a place to have dinner. Trinidad is packed with tourists, both foreign and local. There were lines at many places. Finally we chose one where we were able to wait at the bar and really enjoyed watching the bartender make drinks. He was very good and meticulous. He introduced us to the Trinidad favorite cocktail - the Canchánchua (lime juice, honey and rum, traditionally the very crude unfinished rum called Aguardiente), delicious. The food and service were great although we were all getting pretty tired of basically the same choices - fish, shrimp, chicken or pork with rice and a small salad.
Our last morning, after another great breakfast, Melenia organized a man to come with a wooden hand cart. He piled on all our luggage and tied it down. We set off at a trot as it was late. The bus was comfortable but it was a long trip - six hours with a brief stop for a snack. Larry was able to buy the tickets to Viñales and Scott managed to purchase 11 tickets to the Ballet for Sunday at the Grand Teatro.
We took a taxi to our Casa for that night and had a nice driver. He stayed with us while we tried to get in. The owner's aunt was watching TV and didn't hear us. Some of the other tenants in the building helped get her attention. More when I can get some faster wifi.

Heather bought a red bead necklace from this
really nice vendor, copying Christine who had
bought one earlier.
This is our apartment building - our bedroom was second
floor far left.
And this is our roof top terrace!
I love the tile detail on this restaurant!
It's common to see flowers are for sale 
Great combination of tile, painted murals and color
Scott, Christine and Larry at La Terraza Restaurant
Christine and Scott silhouetted in a patio 
This library was more notable for the building than for the
number of books - but it's impressive that this small town
had a library at all. 
Late evening in one of the pretty squares around town
Scott with Melinia and our luggage piled high in a hand cart
This was the scene across the street from our Casa Particular in the early morning as we left Trinidad.
Souvenir stands line the street - they all sell
pretty much the same things everywhere.
The view down from our terrace across tile roofs to a man
on a horse, a common sight.
A complimentary drink at Esquerra Restaurant on the Plaza
Many of the restaurants are in old colonial homes and still
contain some of the furniture, and often pianos.
Christine and Larry stroll down the Plaza Mayor with the
Church of the Holy Trinity in the background.

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