Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Cuban Countryside

After 4 nights in a Havana hotel, our tourbus took off for the countryside. We stopped at the Bay of Pigs, got a history lesson, a swim in the bay, and a fabulous lobster lunch while listening to a lecture on the ecology, wildlife, and wetlands of the huge National Parque Cienega de Zapata.

Playa Larga is on the Bay of Pigs. If you're our age - 60's - and American, those 3 words mean something very bad, and very secret. We were just kids when the Invasion at the Bay of Pigs happened, and it is tied, in my mind, to the Cuban Missile Crisis as well. So, hearing "Bay of Pigs" conjures up images of war, secrecy, and nuclear annihilation.
What a trip to go for a swim in this lovely Caribbean water called the Bay of Pigs!
On the Road, nearing the Bay of Pigs: "Here was a Decisive Battle for Victory"
Beach at the Bay of Pigs
Going for a swim in the Bay of Pigs
After our visit at the Bay of Pigs, our group (23 people) got back in the bus and headed toward Cienfuegos where we would stay for 3 nights. For accommodations, our group divided up into 5 groups of 4 to stay in “Casas Particulares” or private homes turned into B&Bs under the new guidelines for private enterprise. The proprietors of our B&B welcomed us with open arms, and cerveza! We had to struggle a bit with language since they didn’t speak much english and we don’t know much spanish, but you can feel warmth and friendliness.
The B&B - aka Casa Particulare - where we stayed in Cienfuegos, Cuba

From Cienfuegos, we took a day trip to Santa Clara and Che Guevara's tomb. A complicated man, revered and despised, but with statues, billboards and pictures of him EVERYWHERE! We heard that the movie Motorcycle Diaries is a good one about Che. We found it on Amazon and watched it as soon as we got back. It's about Che's early days - college age - with a wanderlust traveling thru South America. He didn't seem so different from many friends I know. I need to see a sequel to understand how he turned into a revolutionary.
Memorial to Che Guevara in Santa Clara, Cuba
New Challenges, New Victories, propoganda billboards
A concise overview of Cuban history and culture. Click to enlarge and read.
Cienfuegos city has a beautiful waterfront and town square.
Cienfuegos, Cuba has a beautiful waterfront

Church at Cienfuegos town square.
The crown jewel, at least in my book was the last day's trip to Trinidad, Cuba. This is an old colonial city with cobblestone - no make that just stone - roads, narrow streets, and mountain views all around.
Even the drive there was the prettiest. And there were good roads.
A rest stop on the way to Trinidad
Views along the way. Supposed to be good diving out there too! Gotta come back someday.
Typical street in Trinidad, Cuba
We climbed up these steps ...
To see this view of Trinidad, Cuba

Gotta have a selfie!
A special stop in Trinidad was at the Casa Particulare of Lia and Paci, the Cofradia Duo. They showed us their home, told us all about their lives - Lia spoke English quite well - and they even sang for us. Watch the video and enjoy! I LOVED them!

In case I forgot something, here are the notes that our tour manager, Jocelyn, sent us:

  • TUESDAY Dec 8th - departure at 8:30am... en route to Cienfuegos... lots of great commentary by Ilen Rodriguez-Chou!!  Rest stop on en route (5 pilars of rest stop.... coffee, drinks, ice cream, shopping, banos).  Playa Largo on Zapata Peninsula and lunch at Enrique's Casa on the beach.  Lecture on ecology before lunch, on the terrace of Enrique's home.  Time for a swim in the Caribbean!  Playa Giron and Bay of Pigs Museum visit.  Arrival in Cienfuegos' main square for start of Casa Particular Adventure.  We were lucky to have some Spanish speakers on this trip to help bridge the gap with our Cuban hosts!  Dinner at your casa particular.
  • WEDNESDAY Dec 9th - morning pick-ups by 9am, drive to Santa Clara (rest stop en route). More educational commentary by Ilen!!!  After a stroll along city streets our first stop was at The Senior Center for a wonderful visit and interaction.  We didn't want to leave!!  Lunch was at Aldaba B&B and Restaurant.  Afterwards we visited Che Guevara's Memorial.  Siesta Fiesta en route back to Cienfuegos..... we strolled the pedestrian street and stopped in various shops, a visit to Union Hotel, then enjoyed an uplifting performance by Cienfuegos Childrens' Dance Group in the main square.  We were lucky to be able to visit Roberto's Art Gallery (thanks to Helenmarie and John for sharing!!) before walking to El Largarto on the waterfront for dinner.  Return to our casas in time to fall into bed.
  • THURSDAY Dec 10th - Early morning pick-ups from Casa Particulars... drive to Trinidad (rest stop en route, of course!)  Tour of main square and cobbled streets of this quaint town.  Visit to cooperative Crochet House.  Time to explore Trinidad's sights.  Visit to private B&B with Lia and Pace.  Treated to a sample of their music and tour of their home.  Before leaving Trinidad we visited a family ceramics business then returned to Cienfuegos.  In another part of the main square, The Cienfuegos Choir amazed us with their talented singing voices......  We had (a little) time to freshen up before our farewell gathering..... thank you to Guest House Maguey for working with us on such short notice to plan such a special evening!
  • FRIDAY Dec 11th - Morning started with a visit to Benny More Arts School, with presentations from several music and dance students.  We toured their art studios as well.  Ilen took us through the Farmers' Market of Cienfuegos and we had more time to get those last minute purchases taken care of before heading to Finca del Mar for our farewell lunch.... celebrated Pat Cummins' birthday.... tasty cake, too!!
Remember, there's lots more pictures in the Google Photos Album - 2015 December - Cuba Trip

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