Thursday, April 30, 2015

cienfuegos y trinidad, cuba day 4

after spending three days soaking up the sights and sounds of havana, we were excited to take a ride out to cienfuegos and trinidad for more exploring! 

the morning started with a talk from a deputy ambassador from the EU which everyone really enjoyed. after our discussion, the group boarded our bus and trekked the 4 hours to cienfuegos and trinidad. prior to our trip, I had done some research on havana but didn't have a chance to look up cienfuegos and trinidad.

as it turns out, the perfectly preserved spanish-style town of trinidad has been a recognized UNESCO world heritage site since 1988. our short trip to trinidad provided some of the best memories of the trip [certainly the best shopping of the trip] and I'm so glad we had the opportunity go visit these smaller, yet equally exciting cities.

trinidad's square on the top of the hill

I snapped this photo with my cuban barbie dream car before we boarded our bus to cienfuegos. the taxi area in front of our hotel in havana was constantly full with gorgeous taxis - I loved the pink and my mom had her eye on a purple one.

we drove three hours through the rural cuban countryside before reaching the city of cienfuegos. we were all so ready to get off that bus! our first stop was a quick briefing about UNEAC, the union de escritores y artistas de cuba [national union of writers and artists of cuba]. after our talk, we roamed local art galleries and stands.

we met a really cool artist [wearing a dodgers shirt + world series hat, by the way] who made small canvas pieces with significant meanings about culture and contradiction by combining cuban symbols with common global consumption icons such as the nike swoosh. my mom's favorite piece was the cuban flag depicted as a rubix cube. the artist explained each piece in detail as we asked questions, my mom bought a few canvases and we all began a walking tour of cienfuegos.

before leaving cienfuegos, we enjoyed an a cappella choir group, canticus novus. we all gathered in a poolside hotel lobby bar with the wind blowing through the open hallways. the group was fantastic and sang several songs including my cuban cha cha. time seemed to stand still.

after the choir, we boarded the bus for an hour long drive to our final destination of trinidad.

immediately we noticed that trinidad was quite a departure from havana. the town is much smaller, with narrow streets and spanish style construction. our bus barely fit down the thin, curvy streets. we checked into our hotel, another iberostar, and met back in the lobby for a night out on the town.

unlike havana, there were hardly any bustling cars on the streets of trinidad. instead, there were horse-drawn carriages and pedi-cabs. trinidad's side streets are all cobblestone instead of paved roadways like havana. as we meandered through the alleys of trinidad, it truly felt like taking a step back [an even further step back than havana] in time.

for dinner, we settled in at los conspiradores on the square in the central area of trinidad. the square was so quaint and such a change of pace from havana, people were leisurely relaxing at bars and on the steps of the square. there was no hustle or bustle about it, very refreshing. 

we snagged a table outside while the other half of our group dined inside. outside we listened in on the music from the next door casa de musica and the inside table enjoyed a live band. certainly a beautiful setting for our first meal in trinidad. below the restaurant, there's the art gallery of yami martinez which we perused after dinner. the pink and white art piece below is the signature symbol of casa de los conspiradores, the gallery featured small table top pieces in all different colors.

of course, the table settings at los conspiradores got me again. I vowed to replicate the ambiance at home. after enjoying our meal at los conspiradores, we walked next door to casa de musica to enjoy live music for only 1 CUC a person. 

[side note, there are two currency systems in cuba: the cuban peso for locals and the cuban convertible peso or CUC for tourists. this dual currency is creating an unequal economy as cubans working in tourist industries earn tips in CUC while cubans who don't work in tourist settings rarely have access to CUC. a person working at a hotel can earn the 30x the monthly government stipend that a non-tourist industry employee makes.]

we had a few cervezas and chatted with a waiter who told us that they work 7 days a week with no salary, only tips. as I continued to ask questions about cuba, it became difficult for me to continue on with a meaningful conversation due to my spanish language skills. I speak moderately conversational spanish, which generally served me well in cuba [shout out to sylvia, my spanish tutor!], but the waiter didn't speak english. we learned what we could, smiled a lot, and tipped well since I had asked a lot of questions in my somewhat non-sensical version of spanish. 

mom and I finally decided it was time to walk the cobblestone streets back to the hotel after an enjoyable evening of live music and beautiful weather.

click here to read on to day 5! more tales of trinidad...

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