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…
Day 2: Sightseeing, antiques and surprises
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.
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.
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!
Fancy watching the entire thing, just click play!
Day 3: Trekking and thunder storms
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!
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!
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!
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!