A Travellerspoint blog

May 2013

Toronto, Canada (27th - 28th April)

Next was a 24 hour pit stop back in Toronto. It was cheaper to do that than to fly from Cuba to Argentina (where we were headed next). We stayed with our friends Mark and Kathryn (who we'd been staying with for a couple of weeks before heading off to Cuba). We met them at a travellers' pub meet thing when we were living in New Zealand for a year and they were amazing friends to have during our time living in Toronto. From using their address and credit card, to staying in their spare room, we were very grateful for all their help. So it was great to have a final catch up and chill out with them on our return from Cuba. They made us an awesome dinner, plus Mark cooked up a pancake breakfast feast. We'll miss them (and their cats!).

Posted by chantalpatton 14:08 Archived in Canada Comments (1)

Santa Clara, Cuba (25th - 27th April)

We left Trinidad the same way we arrived - by bus. At the bus station I needed the toilet. Alas, using public toilets in Cuba is a bit of a pain. They tend to be watched over by a toilet guardian who holds the toilet paper and will dispense a small amount to you in order to gain monetary reward. Because of this I'd carry my own supply around and thus avoid having to pay to wee. However, on this occasion, after I'd shown her I didn't need paper and I'd successfully made it past her and used the facilities, she still came into the bathroom as I was washing my hands and seemed to be demanding money regardless. I literally had no money on me, which I tried to convey and was able to then make my escape. But yes, using public toilets in Cuba is best avoided as much as possible. Even aside from the toilet guardians, there generally won't be a toilet seat, plus the doors are barely big enough to provide adequate cover and don't always lock. To then have to pay for the privilege seems a bit much.

Anyway, the journey to Santa Clara was about 3 hours and all fine. Again we were met at the station, though this time by a couple with a taxi and not the casa owner himself. They weren't displaying my name very prominently and didn't realise they were waiting for a couple, so it took us a few minutes to find them. We stayed at La Casona Jover and were met there by the owner Dennis. It was a really nice place and very different again to the previous 2 casas. It's an old colonial house, with high ceilings and such like. There was also work under way to merge it with the neighbouring house and add a fancy courtyard and possibly a small pool. We had dinner there on the first night and I went for the chicken fricassee. There must have been the equivalent of a whole chicken on my plate! I ate as much as I could, but there was still a large meal's worth left on my plate.

We only had the one full day in Santa Clara as there's not a huge amount of touristy things to do. The main thing we did was go to the Che Guevara memorial. There's the external monument, plus an internal memorial (with the eternal flame), as well as a small museum. All very tastefully done and all free! For dinner that evening, we ended up in a random pizza place, just because there were other people in it. It was decent enough, though my beer was so cold it had ice crystals in it!

The only negative aspect to our time in Santa Clara was when we were feasted on by mosquitoes as we slept. We were generally really good at keeping ourselves doused in spray, but we'd been a little lax that evening and sadly paid the consequence.

The Che Guevara memorial:

Posted by chantalpatton 17:39 Archived in Cuba Comments (2)

Trinidad, Cuba (22nd - 25th April)

On the Monday morning we got a taxi to the bus station and then a bus from Havana to Trinidad. It was about a 6 hour journey. At the bus station in Trinidad we were greeted by a big crowd of people blocking the exit and waving signs and photos in our faces. Some of them were waiting to greet specific people, but the others were trying to get people to stay at their Casas. Thankfully I spotted my name on a sign and we were able to break through the crowd and meet up with Javier. I was quite excited - I'd always wanted to see my name held up on a sign!

We were staying at Hostal Javier. It was just a short walk from the bus station. Our room had its own private entrance, as well as a dining table, TV, fridge stocked with drinks (not free drinks, but cheap) and ensuite. We could also access a covered courtyard area where we could have meals. On our arrival, Javier sat us down and gave us a map of Trinidad and told us all about the various sights in the area, which was really useful. There was also a Lonely Planet we got to use while we were there.

Breakfast and Dinner were both available at the Casa, so we bought both. Breakfast was basically the same as at the previous Casa, except the fruit was in larger pieces and the omelette came with random green beans. It was slightly more expensive and the coffee wasn't as nice, though I did prefer the omelette. Dinner was good value for the amount you got, plus it was really good - definitely the best meals we had in Cuba. Jamie got a variety of veggie meals and I got to try some new meats. On the first night I had African Pork, which was really nice. On the second night I knew I was having meat cooked in a traditional Cuban way, but I didn't know what the meat actually was. It was like a stew or casserole type thing, really nice, tender meat. I tried to place it from the taste and was torn between lamb and beef. Turned out it was antelope! Definitely recommended. Then on the last night I had buffalo. That was nice too, but a little tough.

Trinidad's a pretty small place, divided into the old town and the new town. Weirdly the new town seemed quite run down and not so nice, whereas the old town seemed quite well maintained and had a lot of charm. It's obvious that they're reliant on tourism though - almost every building seemed to be either a Casa or a restaurant..

The Old Town:

During our time in Trinidad, we walked all over the town itself, plus spent an afternoon at the beach. In the evenings there's always live music and salsa dancing going on in the old town, so we went there for drinks on a couple of evenings. On one of the evenings we were also befriended by 4 stray dogs that decided to form some kind of protective barrier around us. The sausage dog was very cute and it took a lot of restraint to avoid making contact in case of disease. If we'd been in Trinidad a bit longer and if it hadn't been so unbearably hot, it would have been nice to have checked out the National Park and the waterfalls, but it's always nice to have a good excuse to return.

The beach:

Posted by chantalpatton 11:40 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

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