Sunday, March 29, 2015

Trinidad Cuba

In the morning, we take a short bus ride to our next destination - Trinidad Cuba. Along the way we pass a modern Cuban sports complex and more billboards, but these appeal more to tourists rather than political sentiments. Jon explains the farther we travel from Havana the less obvious is the government's influence.
Cuban sports center

Billboard for Trinidad's tourist attractions

Trinidad is a fascinating time capsule heralding from the heyday of the sugar trade around the Caribbean. The town was founded in 1514 (a year before Havana) by Diego Velazquez de Cuellar. In 1988 UNESCO declared Trinidad a World Heritage site. Immediately upon arriving, we're struck by it's ancient charm and narrow cobble-stoned streets.
Two tour buses barely pass on these narrow streets

We pass so close to German tourists, I can almost touch them.

Jon warns us to be careful exiting the bus as this part of Trinidad is teeming with all kinds of traffic. I meet an older man with his horse and wagon. Several of our group take photos of him and thrust coins in his hands.  He looks a bit bewildered with his 15 minutes of fame. Still we are all glad to give him extra spending money.
A CoCo Taxi buzzes by as Leslie exits our bus

Love this old man & his horse

Crowded streets of Trinidad

Jon and Meylin lead us to the pedestrian part of the old town encircling the Plaza Mayor (central plaza) where the buildings date from the 18th and 19th centuries.  In the plaza we come across another quinceaƱera girl getting photographed. With the fancy dresses, photo shoots, plus large parties, these affairs must be rather costly for the girl's families.  It's odd we keep running into these photo shoots in what we consider to be a poor country. Maybe there's more wealth in Cuba than first meets the eye, or families are willing to go to great lengths to get their daughters married off well ... or both.
Lovely old home

Quinceanera photo shoot

Bronze dog at opening to Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor Trinidad Cuba

Right across from the plaza is an art gallery that we all visit.

Sales girl waiting for crazy gringa (Eli) to make up her mind

We like this one

View from upstairs
Young man courts his sweetheart

Lori carries her new treasure over the cobble-stoned street

Jon strikes a pose

Rooftop view from art gallery 2nd floor

Our next stop is the Placaio Cantero, the private home of one of Trinidad's richest sugar barons. It was originally built by Don Jose Mariano Borrell y Padron in 1828. It has been lovingly restored.
Entry into inner courtyard

Such a sassy fellow - quite the dandy

Main dining hall

Since the climate of Trinidad is quite warm and humid, the house was built to maximize air ventilation with the passing breezes - doors have slatted sections to let air through, the roof allows air in around the edges, and windows are almost always left open. Quite a clever design for the days before air conditioning.
Slated door

Ceiling with air vents

Open windows

Daily life was labor intensive before such modern conveniences as plumbing, electricity, and cooking with gas. For example, to take a bath water had to be heated in the kitchen and hand carried up to fill the tub. Then afterwards all the water had to be scooped out and hand carried back out of the house. Servants/slaves had busy days in making this household run properly.
Nice tub, but no plumbing

Wood/charcoal stove

Getting ready to leave

Meylin and Jon lead us back through the Plaza Major towards our lunch stop at Restaurante Museo.
School kids on lunch break

A helpful tourist tries to push a dead Russian Lada

A gator points to Paladar Nueva Era

Wow - Restaurante Museo really knows how to put out the welcome mat

The owner greets us with shots of aged rum

Tables with the family's Baccarat crystal

The owner welcomes us inside and points out our seats

John gives a Texas-sized toast

Angela returns with her rum daiquiri

Seafood lunch

Towards the end of lunch, the musicians move inside and start playing again as Diva Girl dances and pulls us out on the floor to join her.

Still smarting from my shoulder, I wander back to explore the kitchen and back patio.
It's amazing the meal they cooked for us in this kitchen

Love the fridge

The patio would be wonderful in sunny weather

After exploring Trinidad a little more, we board the bus for a short ride to our hotel the Las Brisas Trinidad del Mar, a Cuban beach resort popular with vacationing Europeans and Canadians.
The driveway into the hotel

Nice lobby

Waiting in line for our rooms

We get settled in our room and then we're off to explore the beach. Too bad the weather's not cooperating, it really does look like a fun-in-the-sun type of beach.

Instead of hanging out on the soggy beach, we content ourselves to exploring the grounds.

By late afternoon, we all end up in the bar. After the fantastico lunch  we had in a privately owned paladar, the government owned and run hotel bar drinks and dining room food pale in comparison.
Hotel bar before the Happy Hour crowd arrives

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Retired and enjoying life.