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On the Road in Cuba

January 17 -- It's mid-morning, sunny and green as our plane taxis into el Aeropuerto Jose Marti in Havana. We get through Customs okay, look for a place to get some local currency and spot a lonely ATM. It's broken... right, this is Cuba, all right.

Havana looks a little worn, beat up and familiar, kind of like an old shoe. Our taxi driver is impressed that we've both been to Cuba before. We chat about The Motorcycle Diaries, the film about Che Guevara which we'd seen a month earlier.

The best way to see Cuba is to stay in little family-owned guesthouses, called casas particulares. We were always were taken care of, and made to feel welcome and at home. Mind you, we returned to a couple of casas we stayed in during our visit three years earlier, so that made it all the more fun and comfortable. It's always good to see old friends.

Our old friends Marta and Horacio were waiting at their casa in Havana, greeting us with stories, questions and coffee (always coffee, good strong Cuban expresso). We'd had our share of adventures since our last visit, so there was lots to tell.

Havana has its share of attractions, and our favourite destination is the Plaza de Armas in Old Havana, la Habana vieja. This old colonial quarter of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in various stages of restoration and repair. The big attraction for us has always been the music, and it didn't take long for us to get settled into one of our favourite bars, the Café de Paris, on Calle Obispo.

Obispo is a walking street, filled with good music and other distractions, including of course the endless parade of street hustlers offering "good cigars, cheap price". Yup, we're in a different world here.

Our original plan had been to head off to the Vińales Valley in the west, but the weather was cool in Havana and we knew it would be cooler up in the hills. This is not what one looks for when escaping a Saskatchewan winter, so we decided instead to head down to the town of Trinidad, on the south coast.

There were two women from Australia, Alison and Rebecca, staying at our casa in Havana as well, and the four of us packed into a taxi and hit the road. Cuba has a pretty good bus intercity system, but if you've got four travelers you can go for the same price, stop where you want and set your own schedule. It's faster too.

It was the right choice: Trinidad de Cuba is another World Heritage Site, a sleepy and colourful little colonial town, cobble-stone streets with an abundance of local music.

Come on along on a visit to Trinidad

©2005 Gary Robins "On the street in Trinidad"
On the street near our casa in Trinidad. You can settle into community in the easiest way in this town.
©2005 Gary Robins "El beisbol cubana at Sancti Spiritus"
An evening of beisbol cubana in Sancti Spiritus. Cubans are enthusiastic about their baseball, and we caught a tight, well-played game. No commercial breaks either!
Terry Fox sticker, Vinales,Cuba
No shortage of surprises in this country. We found this sticker by the front door of a house in Viñales, in the west of Cuba. It's interesting to note how far Terry's fame and memory have spread.

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