TRINIDAD & PANAMA

T R I N I D A D 

After 8 hours of travelling on a bus (I’d recommend the Viazul coaches if you plan on travelling around Cuba), we reached Trinidad and were welcomed by Louis, he was standing at the bus stop holding a piece of cardboard with our names on it. When you stay with a family in a town/city – they’ll arrange for their friends to look after you in the next place you visit and so on- they work on a network basis. Our mama in Havana, gave us business cards for all of her friends casa particulares in the places we were visiting and our mama in Viñales arranged for us to stay in her friends homestay in Trinidad (a stunning house with a beautiful courtyard and terraces).

Trinidad is a perfectly preserved sixteenth century colonial town whose clocks stopped ticking in 1850.  It was build on huge sugar fortune and its pre-war fortunes are illustrated in its single story mansions furnished with French, Italian and Chinese antiques. Trinidad’s was declared as a World heritage site by UNESCO and its cobbled streets, traffic free centre, 19th century vibrant pastel coloured mansions, terracotta tiled rooftops, antique shops, mountainous landscape, relaxed pace of life, rum-drunk locals dancing to the Cuban beats in the afternoon, lively and atmospheric Casa de la Música and the sound of horse hooves galloping along the cobbled streets taking farmers from A to B are a few reasons why Trinidad was my favourite Cuban town!

Day 1: Cobbled streets and cocktails

We met the family we were staying with, unpacked, freshened up, put on our SPF 50 and went for a wander around Trinidad’s cobbled streets…

...and around the corner from our casa, I made two new friends: Two rum-intoxicated Cubans! I'm wearing a playsuit from Urban Outfitters and Birkenstocks!
…and around the corner from our casa, I made two new friends: Two rum-intoxicated Cubans! I’m wearing a playsuit from Urban Outfitters and Birkenstocks!
Wooden shop doors and Cubans in cowboy hats riding on horse backs, Trinidad certainly has a Wild West feel to it!
Wooden shop doors and Cubans in cowboy hats riding on horse backs, Trinidad certainly has a Wild West feel to it!
We sat down to have a couple of daiquris and piña coladas with a couple of Dutch travellers we met in María La Gorda.
We sat down to have a couple of daiquris and piña coladas with a couple of Dutch travellers we met in María La Gorda.
Before we knew it, one or two became a lot more! The music got louder, the venue got busier and performing on stage, were incredibly talented Cuban singers and dancers – the atmosphere in the Casa de la Música was brilliant! I am drinking a Trinidad born cocktail, the canchánchara which really reminds me of a great cold remedy: The Hot Toddy! If you fancy making make yourself one of these sweet citrusy delights, just mix 2 shots of Havana especial, the juice of 1 lime, some honey, crushed ice and a dash of soda water!
Day 2: Sightseeing, antiques and surprises
The following morning, we sat with in the beautiful courtyard and nursed our sore heads with a big breakfast!
The following morning, we sat with in the beautiful courtyard and nursed our sore heads with a big breakfast!
We then climbed up to the top of the Trinidad towers and admired this magical view!
with green rolling hills in the distance on one side…
and the deep blue Caribbean sea on the other!
He scrubbed up pretty well! Jack is wearing a Farah hat and shorts, a belt from ASOS and boat shoes from Dune!
He scrubbed up pretty well! Jack is wearing a Farah hat and shorts, a belt from ASOS and boat shoes from Dune!

Around the corner from the Trinidad towers was Don Pepe, Trinidad’s most raved about coffee shop – it was certainly one to write home about! Don Pepe’s extensive and unique coffee cocktails (4 pages long!), velvety chocolate, friendly staff, modern graffiti decor, courtyard setting shaded by vibrant mango trees and the occasional mango falling down into your lap quickly made Don Pepe one of my favourite places in Trinidad.

I'm drinking no 34. hailed coffee with Kahula liquor, ice cream and milk cream-¡qué delicioso!
I’m drinking no 34. hailed coffee with Kahula liquor, ice cream and milk cream-¡qué delicioso!
Coffee cocktail menu

We wandered around the local markets and I bought a $6 bag, handmade from gold can rings.
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I’m wearing a crop top and skirt from Liberated Heart and the well co-ordinated car beside me is an Austin A30!
We continued to wander around the streets and admire Trinidad's Spanish influenced architecture!
We continued to wander around the streets and admire Trinidad’s Spanish influenced architecture!
Jack is wearing a Penfield bucket hat and shorts, a t-shirt from Zara and boat shoes from Dune!
We found a stall on the street that sold ice cold beer for 30p!

Jack and I visited Dr Juan Carlos Carles Zerquera house, an incredibly humble and welcoming cardiologist with an extensive and impressive collection of antiques dating back hundreds of years, we knocked on his door and asked if we would be able to see his famous collection. He kindly invited us into his home and gave us a tour around each of the rooms which were stacked from floor to ceiling with antique bikes, baseball flags, china, instruments, pharmaceutical equipment, clocks, jewellery, paintings, furniture, ornaments and many more.  He also showed us two original Picasso paintings and a Papal gold cross which had been gifted to him and his family.

We stumbled across this Cuban restaurant – every table was dressed in antique china.

As I was enjoying a couple of cocktails in the Casa de la Música, one of the local performers asked me to come up on stage to take part in the next act. So…as instructed, I sat on the table, let them blindfold me and then (in Spanish) one of the dancers whispered into my ear ‘Open your hands and when I ask you to close them, close them tightly’..so I did!

I had no clue as to what was going on, I could feel the levitation…these guys were lifting me up with their TEETH!
Finally, the blind fold was OFF…this was my reaction when I realised what I had been holding for the past 4 minutes. The next day when I was walking around the streets, multiple people said ‘You’re the snake girl!’ – brilliant!
Finally, the blind fold was OFF…this was my reaction when I realised what I had been holding for the past 4 minutes. The next day when I was walking around the streets, multiple people said ‘You’re the snake girl!’ – brilliant!

Fancy watching the entire thing, just click play!

Day 3: Trekking and thunder storms

After a 45 minute trek down Parque Guanayara, we reached the Salto El Rocío waterfall and Poza del Venada (fresh water pool) which we all jumped into to cool down from the midday heat!

I'm wearing A mix & match bikini from H&M
I’m wearing A mix & match bikini from H&M

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Whilst Jack sprinted to the top, I jumped on a horse…he still beat me! I’m wearing a H&M halter bikini top, missguided shorts from ASOS and NIKE iD free runs.

 

Day 4: Bright backdrops and salsa dancing

It was out last day in Cuba, we roamed around the streets soaking it all in one last time, went for a salsa lesson and discovered our favourite restaurant (why did it have to be on our last day?!)


After a action packed 9 days, we finally managed to squeeze in a 1 hour salsa lesson on our last night! Cuban’s dance on an endless ribbon of salsa and it really is true what they say, if you’re Cuban and you say you can’t dance…you’re either lying or you’re not Cuban! Jose was a great teacher, he taught Jack and I the Salsa basics which we can’t wait to put back into practice at our annual Hogmany ceilidh!

Here is a short clip of our salsa lesson!

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I even got a lesson on the Obispo in Havana whilst waiting for a Cuban pizza (the lesson was fun, the pizza not so much!)

After 9 days of meat, rice and black beans or ham and cheese toasties – the Cuban’s love ham and cheese toasties but unfortunately instead of a couple of slices of ham and cheese – you’ll be served an entire block of cheese and about 10 slices of ham in between your two slices of bread! We were delighted to find a restaurant with fresh salads, stone baked pizzas, sizzling platters, everything reallt – a taste of home is just what the travellers ordered! Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos because we ate it all before either of us had a chance to click away! From its fantastic food, buzzing atmosphere and crowd, live jazz band, rum cocktails to its collection of antiques, firearms, bladed weapons, old banknotes, shackles and a mill, Taberna la Botija was a winner! I can’t believe we only discovered it on our final night, if the phrase save the best till last is anything to go by…we were certainly living by that ethos!

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First drink with strangers...last drink with friends!
First drink with strangers…last drink with friends!
DAY 5: Havana to Panama to Curaçao

We were up at the crack of dawn for a 7 hour bus journey back to the capital –  we went straight to Hotel Nacional to refuel, we went for a quick dip in the swimming pool and freshened up before it was time for another journey! Around 9pm we flew into Panama (it was a bit of a terrifying flight we could see and hear thunder and lightening from our plane window – the tropical thunderstorms are pretty incredible!)

 

We didn’t get a chance to look into a hotel in Panama, so we asked our airport taxi driver to recommended somewhere reasonable/central. He dropped us off and after we checked in and freshened up, we headed straight to Tantalo for food and drinks (more mojitos on their roof top bar!) and went for walk around Casco Viejo (Panama old town). Our night was cut short as we had a 7am flight to Curaçao the next morning (the U.S embargo has restricted many travel routes to and from Cuba), so what could have been a 3 hour journey (Cuba to Curaçao) turned into a 18 journey! 

We shared some beef carpaccio, a greek salad, dragon roll sushi and a sizzling mixed meat platter - and every single crumb got hoovered up!
We shared some beef carpaccio, a greek salad, dragon roll sushi and a sizzling mixed meat platter – and every single crumb got hoovered up!
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I’m wearing a playsuit from Topshop, a kimono from and sandals from ASOS and my bag is from Siem Raep night market in Cambodia!
From Havana to Bacardi mojitos!

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It was day 12 of our adventure, we were up bright and early for our next flight – it was time to relax on the beach, dive with dolphins and check into a boutique hotel – check out my next post: Curaçao!

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