Day 5: Trinidad de Cuba or Trinidad, as it is more commonly known, east of Havana, is like no other place I have been to, it is vibrant and colourful with a preserved Colonial old town, full of cobblestone pedestrianised streets, so, sensible shoes are definitely advised for walking, otherwise you may find it challenging, as I found even in flat sandals!
But what can I say about this town? there were picturesque vistas at every turn, centuries-old colonial houses, pastel buildings with rust coloured rooftops, horse drawn carriages on quaint side streets, music houses, bars and plenty of live music playing on its squares. It just is very rustic and unpretentious with a rugged charm that grabs your attention right away. This was by far the highlight of my Cuban trip- My Casa, Real 54, was just a stone throw from the Plaza Mayor, the central square which is a major hub of activity in Trinidad. This square and its surrounding buildings are largely preserved from the 18th/19th century and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There you have several museums: Architecture, Archaeology and Museo Romantico, which used to be the Brunet palace,when the Spanish ruled. Plaza Mayor is also a meeting place of sorts, especially a few metres away in front of the Casa de la Música, an outdoor music venue, which, you guessed it, has live music playing every night.
On my first full day, I took an official walking tour of Trinidad old town with a guide, Maily, who is a teacher but gives walking tours, she was quite happy to show me the sights of her hometown. We started off in the old centre , along Calle Maceo and ventured into some of the newer parts of town as well, but the historical old centre was where all the action was. There we were never far away from live music playing, either inside a venue, but loud enough to be heard or right on the street with people dancing away without a care! I even momentarily joined one of the bands in a music playing session on the little square opposite the former St Francisco de Asís church, playing the maracas. That was an enjoyable moment to treasure, before doing some dancing of my own.
Busking on the streets of Trinidad:)
We paid a quick visit to the Museo Romántico, which used to be the Brunet palace and has a vast collection of China and other period pieces from the 18th century, we also spent some time at the Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima , which houses a relic, the ‘Christ of the True Cross’, something which Cubans are quite proud of and ascribe great spiritual importance to, it is said that the cross was originally bound for Mexico but that all attempts to get it to Mexico failed and that that was a clear sign that it was meant to stay in Cuba. From there we moved on to La Canchanchara, which is part music venue, part cultural centre and most importantly of all, where the Canchanchara cocktail, a rum-based, honey and lime mix, served on ice in little clay pots was made popular. I had to try it of course and it was so refreshing, if a little sweet. We enjoyed the live band that was playing and checked out books and souvenirs on sale at La Canchanchara.
Later in the evening, I ‘somehow’ found myself at a Paladar, after being convinced by Ana to give her restaurant a try. Essentially paladares are private restaurants run from people’s homes; these are very common across Cuba, the service feels more personal and they are thought to be generally better than government run restaurants. I cannot confirm one way or the other. Nevertheless, in this case the restaurant, Trinimar was on the rooftop of Ana’s apartment building, which had views of the Trinidad skyline. The food was decent, not great, but it provided a chance to regroup and plan the rest of my evening. After dinner at Trinimar we moved onto a bar that played exceptional live salsa music and danced the night away.
To round things off, I transferred to Varadero on day 8 for some much needed rest and relaxation. I knew there was no better way to end things than to spend my last few days in Cuba enjoying the beach and relaxing at a resort with no excursions, so I planned accordingly. The transfer via Santa Clara took around 2 hours.. Getting to the RH hotel, on the main strip of Varadero, the grounds were superbly looked after and the private beach was simply glorious, with powdery white sands and pristine blue waters that stretched for miles, the beach was calming and absolutely beautiful. I could not really fault the ambience. We got served drinks on the beach and the waiting staff went over and beyond aiming to please, I mean what more could a person want?:) The hotel had several dining options which was a welcomed departure from the limited options in my first week.
I indulged in lazy days on the beach, reading, watching something or listening to a podcast. It was truly relaxing and as nice as the hotel pools looked, the beach looked much better! I have concluded that I want to this more often, just being, without worrying about the next thing to see or do on my future travels. Don’t get me wrong, I do still love my city breaks and discovering and learning about new places, but I think I now have a soft spot for beach holidays too, thanks to Varadero.
Lazy beach days
My final thoughts on Cuba post to follow.